“thinking a bit more about the gto club experience and something i heard the other day (in 'the subtle art of not giving a fuck').......
everything was based on planning / striving for a better / happier / more fulfilling future......
but that state of mind - wanting a better future - is in itself a shitty state of being
idk, just a random thought”
The above is part of a skype message I received from a friend earlier this week. Despite it being “just a random thought”, I think it’s profound and worth thinking about. Since I was younger, I have always felt trapped in a perceived cycle of “work hard now to enjoy it later”, that goes something like this:
Work hard at school (not fun) so you can get good grades and go to a good university;
Work hard at university (unlikely to be fun) so you can get a good degree and get a job (likely in finance)
Work hard at your job in finance (not fun unless you’re some kind of emotional masochist), so you can get promoted and earn more money
Have more money so you can…. Be more secure, I guess? I still don’t really understand what people do with money. Put it towards a pension?
Retire with your juicy pension so that you can finally enjoy life! At 70. Not to disrespect my elders, but they are naturally certain doors closed to a person at that age compared to someone who is younger.
And so, when my teachers encouraged me to work harder, all I thought was, “what’s the point? So I can have more money when I retire? I’d rather play video games now!” (at some point, the “I’d rather” turned into drink booze and chase girls). As a result, I never gave school or university my all, and I wanted to do everything possible to avoid the career in finance. Miraculously, I was somewhat successful - I have a job (sort of) that is not in the finance industry, or law, or any other rat race desk job which I’m convinced I would hate. So, in theory, I am not sacrificing boredom or pain now for vague promises of happiness and fulfillment in the future.
By my own logic, I should be the happiest I’ve ever been. There have been times in my past, where if I could look forward to the position I am in now, even I myself would assume I would be unbelievably happy. So why aren’t I?
The answer I think, is because if you want a “better” future, when you attain that future, you find that instead of being content with the present, you want an even better future. I have set goals in the past, under the assumption that I’ll be happier when I reach them, and having reached them, I’ve simply set new goals, barely pausing to even remember I’m supposed to be happy now.
I think a lot of people probably experience something similar to me, and are still going through the same cycle of setting, reaching, and redefining their goals as true happiness eludes them. I’m not sure if goals are inherently a good or bad thing, but it seems that the process is what is important, and what has potential to make us happy. One of my therapists told me that happiness is the path and not the destination, and it’s something I often forget.
Wanting things to be somehow better in the future feels like it might be naive, sadly. Saying “if I do this, then I will be happier for having done it”, almost prevents us from being happy now, as if we can’t be content without having completed the task. It’s a cliché that the present is the only time that matters, but as with most clichés, it’s true, and it’s something I need to remember more.
I still have goals for my future. But I’m going to try and derive my happiness from working towards those goals, rather than achieving them. And if I don’t achieve them, who cares? My life is still great, I have still already achieved many of my goals previously that I haven’t celebrated enough. I’m going to worry about the path, and not the destination.