Everyone has a dream – make a million dollars, go around the world in a car, become a successful actress, participate in the Olympics, sell your company to Facebook or perhaps IPO on NASDAQ.
Good dreams. Right? Well, I tend to think that having a dream like one of the above can actually set you up for a massive failure no matter if you achieve it or not. This is thanks to our friend catch-22.
Let’s pick a dream. Most founders would like to have an exit – be it an IPO or a sale of their company, so let’s go with that as our example.
From here – there are two scenarios that most of us focus on, even though there are many alternative paths. One – you reach your goal and sell your company. Two – you do not reach your goal and become bankrupt. What I aim to show you is that both – are bad.
What happens if you do not reach your goal
This one is rather simple, and I think most of you would agree. Should you fail to achieve your goal – you will naturally feel miserable, and if this was your main goal in life – there is a good chance for you to become clinically depressed. Sometimes – suicidal.
We have all gone through a variation of this when we failed to attain something that we strongly desired.
After a certain time, you will pick yourself up, but that does not mean that this will not be a major shock to your system.
What happens if you do reach your goal
This is the opposite of the failure that you might have experienced otherwise, so you might think that you will become eternally happy and satisfied, and will not have to lift a finger to maintain your happiness level from this moment onward.
Well, guess what, your life continuous after success, just as it does after failure, and achieving your dream might have a consequence to that said life. The most important consequence is the appearance of this one simple, yet fundamental question: “What now?”
Here you are, with 999 972 000 dollars in your bank account (You spent a whopping 28 000 on a celebratory party), and chances are – you really do not know what to do next. Far fetched? Not really.
This happened to Notch, the founder of Minecraft, who famously tweeted about his depression to the whole world. It happened to Scott Belksy, after he sold Behance for $150 million. It happened to countless others, and it is likely to happen to you if you become “successful”.
These are not exceptions, unlike Unicorns, they are the norm. We are talking about Psychology 101.
It is based on the same principle your Facebook feed is. Once you get that hit of dopamine and it expires – you need more, but what if there isn’t a source of it anymore? It’s not like you can get another dream company started in a matter of minutes or days. Well, thankfully – there is another way.
Beyond goals and dreams
What I outlined above is the catch-22 of living your life for a “dream”. If you get it – you feel empty and lonely as you do not anymore have something to aim for. If you do not – you feel like a failure, even if you did your best.
Many say that there are ways to cope with this – starting charities, traveling, giving it time and figuring out a new “goal” – you name it. Yet, to me, all of those are simply addressing the face-value symptoms and not the underlying problem. There is another way, and I call it – “following your path.”
“It is about the journey, not the destination” – we have all heard this phrase a countless number of times, but I think that we did not really pay attention.
Most of us view this quote as a directive to simply enjoy the journey and not the results of your activities. Yet, I think, therein lies the fallacy.
The true point of the quote is to remove the need for having a destination altogether. Completely. Zero expectations, zero thought about where your life might take you. Complete presence of mind in the present.
What we all need is a general direction, if you will, that will be there no matter how much money you have, no matter where you live, no matter what happens to you – if you have found your “true path”, then you can always continue working on it.
Ludicrous! Impossible! I hear you scream, but let me assure you that this is very much possible. Not only that, it is the biggest source of freedom I have ever found. Let me give you a few practical examples:
- To make people smile.
- To unite as many people as possible.
- To improve the worlds education system.
- To make people aware of their true paths.
- To help others help themselves.
Think about it for a second. With these kinds of “paths” – no amount of money can prevent you from doing it. If you have zero money, you can continue making people smile. If you have 100 billion dollars, you can continue improving education. No matter what happens to you – you can still remain on your path.
This does not mean that you should give up on all goals. All that this means is that you need to choose the ones that are attainable with certainty and that are in-line with your path.
The trick, of course, is to figure out what your true path is versus what you might think it is. Here are some things that can help you in your selection process:
- True paths do not have an end-goal.
- When you are not on your true path, you generally have an on-going melancholic feeling to your existence. If so – adjust, try something new.
- When you are not on your true path – choices are difficult. For when you are, they either help you on your path or they do not and the choice is thus – simple.
- True paths are difficult to find, and generally come from this inner voice that tells you quietly to be “an artist” or “a writer” and you ignore it for years.
I know mine, have you found yours? Do not worry if you have not, paths find those that look for them. The key is to start looking. How? Simply by taking action. Not repeating the same pattern of life as you have yesterday, adjusting, changing.
Personally, I love to learn from those around me, so if you have a path, a question, or would like to share how you are looking for one – please share below.
At this point, I will leave you with a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche:
“He, who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.”