This is a fascinating article by Mark Manson. The Disease of More.
He raises the following questions/thoughts/perspectives:
Why pursue “the next level” - is there even a next level to get to? Do we really need to hire a coach to help us see our blind spots?
The Disease of More, coined by Pat Riley, basically says that champions are dethroned not by other teams but by internal forces. More money, commercials, accolades, endorsements, etc. changes the psychological composition of a team and what was once a perfect chemistry of bodies and minds becomes toxic with players feeling entitled to more, ultimately leading to failure.
Prior to the 80’s, Psychologists studied (almost exclusively) not Positivity, but rather what fucked people up, what the cause was of mental illness and emotional breakdown and then they went on to explain how to develop coping mechanisms.
Eventually a study was conducted measuring people’s happiness on a 1-10 scale (this was recorded by 000’s of people across every sort of day-to-day activity, with their ranking supplemented by details about what was happening in their life at that time to justify the ranking). Net-net of the study - everyone was a 7 with predicable up/down swings depending on circumstances, but everything averaged out to a 7. Basically, people are just Fine. And that it’s our brain that tricks us into believing that “fine" is not satisfactory and that if only we had just a little more, we would be an 8 or 9 or 10. Need a new job, a new car, a new house, a new diet, a new lover, a beach vacation, a pina colada, another…. etc.
As such, Manson concludes we need to be motivated by something greater than ourselves. Sure, we could (and often do) spend time analyzing our desires and values and end up with impressive sounding lists of arbitrary personal improvement goals. Yet over time these seem to lose their meaning. And just because we can pursue this self improvement, it doesn’t mean we should.
He argues that improvement as a pursuit is not the problem, it’s the WHY that’s motivating the improvement effort. Compulsive self analysis for the sake of improvement could be construed as narcissistic which will probably lead to further disappointment.
His caution: careful of adopting new dreams and goals that could harm the success of happiness you’ve already built for yourself today.
His final point: life is not a mountain to scale.
This last point really struck me because life has always felt a lot like that - at least metaphorically speaking. So if it’s not a mountain to scale or a river to float or a game to play, then what is it?
Asked another way, what do we strive for in life? If there is no mountain to climb, then what do we do, what do we want? And I mean beyond what feels like basic wants of shelter, food, security, health, friendship, to leave a legacy (be remembered), etc.
Personally speaking, I believe at this point in my life I am seeking a degree of enlightenment, whatever that means. It's a hippy-trippy concept thus subject to personal interpretation. I speculate that enlightenment is a physical, mental and emotional mind state that enables people to be fully present, self expressed, and clear minded. I imagine this almost like an invisible cloak providing a warm calm and soulful ease that feels inside-out bulletproof.
My quest for enlightenment is not to say that I am living a life on anxiety’s edge. I own responsibility for all the decisions I’ve made up until today. I can also attest to the fear and worry and shortcomings I have felt over the last 47 years - which are not likely to disappear as this is part of being human. But no, I’m not living with perpetual anxiety, but I am cognizant of and often distracted by the challenges presented in life. Financial hardship, professional struggle, relationship breakdown, health issues, disaster, etc. Relatively speaking I have suffered little in these areas, but our own dragons are imagined by us and they’re ours to slay. More importantly, when these challenges present themselves, they can trigger emotional responses that hijack your logical thinking or mute your instincts. Staying true to your ‘gut’ or your heart starts to feel near impossible. This is why I pursue things like meditation, yoga, writing, self reflection, stillness, open spaces, etc. They give me the profound impression that I am getting closer to that mind state. The irony is that there really is nowhere to get to - there is only now. You and only you are the one putting on your final act. You’re in your outfit, the mic is on, lights shining, scene is set, time for action….
Because its the actions you take, untethered from your emotions, that will dictate how you experience your here and now.