In my post on life balance yesterday, where I recommended readers define their ideal lives, @brianball made the excellent point that we often don't know what our ideal is because we've not experienced it, and so it's difficult to imagine whether we would actually enjoy it or not.
There's a lot we can learn from the lives of successful people: those who set out to achieve something (fame, wealth, impact) and manage to achieve it. In many causes:
- They default to the same level of happiness they had before their big achievement
- They experience disappointment and a sense of lack
- They go on to pursue other goals, sometimes ones that their success enabled them to pursue (the common pattern being millionaires becoming philanthropists)
It's important to realize that no external achievement will lead to everlasting satisfaction. There is no destination to arrive at and stay at. Human beings long for development and direction. In fact, challenge is what keeps us engaged. Otherwise we'd probably die of boredom.
When defining your ideal life, it's essential that you:
- Develop an attitude of gratitude: to appreciate what you have right now. Otherwise you'll never appreciate whatever you may have. As the Islamic proverb says: "Materialism is like drinking sea water. The more you drink, the thirstier you become"
- Embrace challenge: Your ideal life cannot be challenge-free, otherwise you will lose engagement with life. But you want to move in the direction of challenges you care about and feel passionate engaging with
- Have more of what you know you enjoy: We often abandon our big goals because we get caught up in the little distractions of life (scrolling through social media takes the place of writing a book we want to publish). Defining your ideal life and having a clear picture of what it might look like helps to filter out the noise so you can focus on what truly matters to you
- Big goals, small steps: Small improvements are important. They make big goals possible. But we often settle for small improvements when we don't have a grand vision that allows us to step out of our limiting expectations of ourselves. Your definition of your ideal life should make you challenge your existing assumptions about yourself and what you're capable of achieving
- Be open to change course: It's true that what you end up doing may not bring you the joy you expected. Maybe you imagined yourself doing extreme sports or going on hikes, but hate every minute of planning, doing, and recovery. You have to accept what you truly feel about an experience when you get there, and be willing to define another pursuit for yourself. But your ability to get to where you set out to get is an achievement in itself, which you can appreciate and enjoy, and you are in a better position to understand yourself and your next pursuit
- Your ideal life is a moving target: Defining your ideal life helps you develop clarity on what to focus on now, but you will continue to refine your definition of ideal with newfound understanding and experience. That's completely normal and part of the experience. You will get to enjoy every leg of the journey, no matter where you go or eventually end up
Don't limit your destination by your starting point, but don't long for the destination without defining what your next step will be.
I wish you all success in reaching your destinations, and an awesome adventure along the way.