Have you ever asked yourself “Now What”? I know I have, many times!
Let me give you an example. I’m one of those people who hates traffic lights and I consider them a waste of everybody’s time. Getting stuck behind a red light because a car ahead of me is going slow makes me especially mad.
One morning when I was late to work, I was trying to get in front of this car and cut him off, but once I did that, I saw the red, white and blue lights flashing behind me. Of course, I got a big fat speeding ticket for it. Even though it ruined my clean record of 4 years, I must say it was exactly what I needed (minus the few hundred dollars I spent on the ticket). I figured the police officer just wanted to meet his monthly quota and I wasn’t really going that fast (20 above the speed limit is nothing, right?), but it made me realize something very important about myself. A pattern in my behavior and attitude that I had never noticed before. The mindset of always winning and skipping the present to get to the never ending future.
There was a period in my life that my only purpose and goal in life was to achieve my goals. Nothing else really mattered when every day was the same until I had achieved the goal in mind. But as I checked goal after goal off my list, I was never satisfied or at peace with myself. I always thought people with “it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey that matters” mindset were lazy people who had lost the game and just wanted to make themselves feel better about it. For me, getting what I had my mind on, from small things such as passing the yellow traffic light before getting stuck behind the red light to getting my dream job at this big company, was all that mattered and I was willing to do whatever in my power to make things happen. Soon, it became an obsession to always be the best. Goals started to be less about improving myself and my life and more about proving my potential and hitting a certain number in mind. I started choosing goals that I knew for sure I could achieve in the short-run. I became my worst critic in life and nothing could meet my expectations. When I was having dinner with friends, I was already thinking what other fun places to go next week; when I got a new job, the next day, I started interviewing for other jobs, seeking something uncertain that only mattered to me and my big ego!
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with goals and planning and being determined, especially if like me, you are a highly result-driven individual and a bit ambitious. But when you go too far, goals start to lose their real purpose and nothing can make you happy because you are always looking for the next best thing.
It wasn’t until this one interview I had for my dream job that I realized I needed to change my attitude and my way of thinking- if I ever wanted to be happy again! The interviewer asked me a cliché question that being through many interviews in my life, I should have had a cliché answer for it- something like “I see myself in a great company that can provide me personal and professional growth!”. But when I tried to answer his question of “where do you want to be in 5 years?” With a bit of honesty, I had no response for him. I didn’t know where I wanted to be in 5 years; I didn’t know where I wanted to be in 1 year or in a week. I just had bunch of goals in mind that I wanted to cross off my list! Of course, after my big awkward pause and my not so great answer, I had no chance in getting that job!
When I was young, my dad told me “sometimes, you need to take one step back in order to move forward.” Back then I never realized the true meaning of this. Sometimes in life we need to stop and smell the roses. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to work hard and at times be selfish and aggressive. But sometimes the line between success and happiness gets blurry and at times like this, we need to take that step backward so we can see the bigger picture and remind ourselves that success is indeed a state of mind. Planning goals and achieving them should be for a better version of yourself and a happier life. If it’s any other case, then you will need to rethink and revise your goals. Of course destination matters, but so does the journey. If you make it so hard to enjoy the journey, you may get to the destination, but at what cost? So instead of choosing one over another, I’d say let’s set a goal, work damn hard for it, and enjoy every moment of the road!