When I was a kid, I didn’t really enjoy school. I felt burdened with the subjects, homework, and all the expectations of me. I thought once school is done, I’ll be free.
But in my 11th and 12th, I pursued something else— cracking the competitive exams and getting into a good college. I worked towards that singular goal. Getting a seat at a prestigious institute meant everything as it guaranteed a well-paying job and a secure career. I got into BITS, Pilani and I felt I had finally done it.
But the elation quickly evaporated, and I soon found myself drowned in the coursework and assignments. And a sense of worry about maintaining a good CGPA, a metric that would assure placement at a reputed, well-paying company. Later, I did end up at a great company, but by then, I already wanted to get into the IAS. In the next few years, I worked towards it and believed that once I get in, I will not have any problems whatsoever.
I finally succeeded in getting into the IAS and just before going to LBSNAA I thought, this is it. It was going to be the best phase of my life. In fact, it was a great time at the academy, but it was not without any worries. I injured my right knee, and I couldn’t walk properly in all of my Foundation Course. “This knee injury is stopping me from truly enjoying my time here,” I used to tell myself.
You get the point. In all these instances, I thought that freedom and happiness are found in the next rung of the ladder. “Damn, if only I can get this, I will be truly free forever.”
But my experience so far has taught me that it doesn’t work that way. We work towards a goal, thinking that it’s the perfect solution to all our problems. But once you cross a milestone, it quickly becomes the new normal. Your original issues and worries will be replaced by a different set of issues and worries.
What we believe to be true
What is actually true
Taken from the book: The Happiness Equation
Don’t assume that the next shiny new gadget or a pay rise or promotion will solve all the problems forever. In fact, the joy we get in achieving something is rarely in the act of finishing that task.
Think of the happiest moments of your life. Eating a super-delicious meal. A fun day out with friends. Watching a beautiful movie. Reading a fabulous book. The joy in them was never about finishing or ticking them off the list. It was in relishing it. In the words and sentences of a book, in the tiny little delicious tastes of the meal, in the little jokes and banter with friends. When you are playing a game, if we are constantly worried about the scoreboard, we will not win the match. And certainly, we will not enjoy the game. What’s the point of playing if we don’t enjoy it?
To have a goal is essential, but to think that achieving it provides lasting happiness or meaning or identity is faulty thinking. We will always have problems and issues to solve. Ask yourself, would you want a life with nothing on your to-do list? I don’t think so.
We must always try to aspire, learn and grow. But we must also choose to find joy and happiness in the present moment and not postpone it until we reach an imaginary milestone. The joy is always in the journey. While climbing towards the summit is important, sometimes we must remind ourselves to look around and enjoy the beautiful view!