It’s funny. We watch commercials on TV. We see the team holding the trophy, we see the man with the completely jacked physique, we see the rapper killing it on the mic. But for some reason, we rarely see the processes that go into producing these results.
We’re never shown the team doing repetitive menial drills during practice, we never see the man eating salad while the rest of his friends eat pizza, we never see the endless hours the rapper scribbles rhymes in his basement, but does that make those moments any less relevant?
As a culture we’ve become addicted to setting goals, and producing results. Nothing wrong with that. The problem is we don’t understand goals are only a means to an end.
Pick up artists think it’s the girl that’s going to make them happy. Businessmen think it’s the money. Jugglers think it’s going to be landing a certain trick. They’re all wrong. I was wrong. We’ve all been wrong.
It’s been said that there’s two ways to improve your level of being. To work within your model of reality, and to work on your model of reality.
If you set goals for yourself, and are actively working to improve yourself you’re already working within your model of reality so let’s instead focus on working on your model of reality itself.
Self-Acceptance Vs Self-Improvement
When we first acquire beliefs they always serve us. If they didn’t we’d never acquire them. I don’t know your circumstances so I can only share my experiences, but here’s what I’ve found.
People who think achieving things, or acquiring material possessions will make them happy often come from a background in which they didn’t have an ecosystem of positive emotions. As an out of shape, socially clueless video game addict I didn’t have anything that made me happy in life.
I was attempting to escape reality through video games. Eventually I discovered personal development, so like most new personal development enthusiasts I began setting goals. And as time passed I became happier.
But was it getting 6-pack abs, or learning to juggle 5 balls that made me happier? No. The achievement of goals simply became a new version of hope for me. Personal development became my new escape. I had this vision that when I’d acquired “x” blog subscribers, or learned “x” juggling trick, or got “x” girl to fall in love with me I’d be happy.
It was always cool learning new juggling tricks, but as soon as I’d learn one trick I’d then convince myself that I’d be happy when I could do “x” trick. Or I’d convince myself that it was cool that “x” girl liked me, but I’d be truly fulfilled when I could get “y” girl to fall in love with me.
What I didn’t realize this whole time was all of my goals were simply a means to an end. I’ve previously talked about material possessions being a means to an end, but I’ve since discovered that goals are the exact same thing. Achieving goals isn’t what makes you happy.
Fulfillment comes from the process. I never realized that I was arbitrarily setting goals to give myself permission to be happy, when I could simply choose be happy. It’s not mastery that bring fulfillment, it’s walking the path of mastery that allows you to be happy.
There’ll always be a bigger mountain to climb, but that’s no reason not to enjoy hiking up the one you’re currently on.
Fulfillment comes when self-acceptance and self-improvement meet. I may never be a master, but because I’m walking the path towards mastery I can accept that.
Picture is from my visit to the Milwaukee Public Museum earlier this year. And yes, it’s a real butterfly!
Blog post on how to drop beliefs that no longer serve you coming Thursday.
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