Making it was once described to me as chasing a carrot, dangling forever a foot away from your face. You’ll never grasp it. But you’ll sacrifice everything in the present moment to get to it, and yet you never will. I often think of achievement from that vantage point. It’s like an ever-evaporating horizon line that always seems to be there until you’ve arrived…and then it has vanished.
I’ve made these mistakes a few times over. I’ve convinced myself that everything would feel better once I got that gig in that city. I’ve told myself I’ll know I’ve made it when I see a stranger out in public reading my book. I’ve said that if I get to a certain fitness level I’ll feel comfortable in my skin.
Dreams acted as doorways to a better version of myself. But they’re not.
You are the same person on this side of an achievement as you are on the other side of an achievement. They won’t fix you, change you, or make you. If you expect that, you can basically guarantee that they will let you down and leave you damp with disregard.
I feel very fortunate to have figured this out early on, and not because I did anything better. And not because I’m wise. But because I had the fortune of a perfect storm of events, of achievements, to understand that on both sides – before and after – I’m the exact same person and that expectation that the realized dream brings happiness, actually delivers the exact opposite.
From that lived experience, I surmised there’s a different way. Most religions practice it. The wise elders have it down. Happiness researches have the hang of it. Meditators grasp it. And that’s the simple counterintuitive question of what will bring me joy today? How can I give myself a happy hour, a happy afternoon, a happy day?
The answers are small. They’re simple. They’re feasible. They’re in-tune with reality. And they don’t ask you to leverage all your happiness for a “one day,” which you have absolutely no control over.
Sure, you can still plan for the future. Yes, you should always consider long-term consequences to your actions. And no, living in the moment is not an excuse to YOLO your life into debt or destructions.
Rather, asking what will bring me joy today allows you to live this day like it’s your whole life. Because it might be. Because no one and nothing are guaranteed. It forces us to choose simply, to choose differently, and to choose intention.
When I ask myself this question, the answers are so easy. They’re so clear. They don’t require a vision for my life. They don’t require confidence. They don’t require change or attainment. They don’t even require me to already be happy to benefit. They just require that I find simple ways to have an incrementally better day by not going with the motions, and instead choosing the brushstrokes that color the canvas of my life.
Choose joy. Choose small. Choose now.
Woman on xx