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Success and Happiness

So for a long time I thought that accomplishing a goal was something to celebrate, something to rejoice in, and something that means you could now take some time off and relax.

I heard stories of guys like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, how the day after they win championships they’re getting up and going to the gym at 6:30 in the morning.  No time off, no big celebration, no relaxing.  I always thought that they weren’t allowing themselves to enjoy their victories and relish in what they’d accomplished, and instead being too focused on some other future target.

But that line of thinking came from not understanding about success, and how the path to success can lead to happiness.  I thought you were supposed to work towards something, then stop and enjoy, then work towards something again, and then stop and enjoy what you’ve done.

I feel like a certain part of this comes from the conditioning of society and the way that our working world is set-up; i.e. that you bust your ass in your job all month and all year long just so that you can go and take your two separate week long vacations in the Caribbean, and that is the enjoyment, that is what you had been working and sacrificing for: to lie around in the sun.

For me though, what I’ve learned lately is that life is about the practice.  Life is about working and growing and how you build towards this on a day-to-day basis. If there’s one thing that I’ve really internalized in the past few months of taking a very proactive, work hard approach, it’s that life and happiness is about learning, growing, and what you’re doing to accomplish your goals, not the goals themselves.

You can see it on the faces of kids who are learning how to walk or learning how to talk or learning how to do any number of things that are necessary for functioning as a human being.

And then you can see it in adults too, where those that typically seem the happiest with their lives are those that are constantly pushing themselves and growing and learning new things by overcoming obstacles; the ones who understand and value the importance of going through the day to day grind in the effort of a greater future whole.

On the other hand, the ones who turn off the learning part of their brain and don’t proactively try to better their selves or accomplish goals sink into the petty things and become unhappy and dissatisfied.

Over time this could lead to disillusionment, where people don’t know what’s going on because they’re no longer engaged with the world.  And they may be unhappy because life hasn’t given them what they want, not realizing that you need to be engaged with the world so that you can respond appropriately when you need to direct your life in the direction you want it to go.

I’ve now learned that although you should take pride in accomplishing a goal, completed goals are not stopping points, but rather just benchmarks along the path.  The true happiness comes through the act of trying to achieve them and overcoming the obstacles that come up, not finally having them achieved.

But then again I don’t want to make it sound like I think this is the only ‘correct’ path available.  It has its pros and cons just like anything else.  When you have this life set-up and you have these goals that you need to get accomplished, it’s going to cut into your social life.  You may find yourself at 9 pm on a Saturday night going to the gym just because you had made the commitment to do so and that was the only time you could fit it in.

Living this life you may at times make you wonder why you chose such absurdity, when just chilling with friends and hanging out would be so much easier and possibly more fun.  And different things work for different people.  I know that for me personally despite the occasional loneliness that can come with this sort of path, too much just hanging out with friends would leave me bored and itching for something to do.  And I guess that’s how you know which one is right for you.

And for anyone reading I wanna know what you thought!  Do you agree with what I said? What type of path are you on?  Are you happy doing it?  I wanna hear about it!!