Why Achieving Your Goal Can Never Fulfill You
Greed and gratitude cancel each other out.
I decided to go to study in Scotland when I was thirteen.
None of my Czech classmates and family relatives fully believed me — this dream was six years in the future, my English was quite bad at the time and I was “still a child.” Moving to a completely different country before reaching twenty sounded ridiculous.
“Let her dream her dream. One day, she’ll come around.”
If there’s one thing I learned as an aspiring teen, it’s that baby boomers just don’t take children seriously.
How sweet it felt when I arrived in Scotland six years later, accepted to a university for a 5-year degree, with a certificate saying my English was at a native speaker level. I couldn’t believe it. I made my dream come true. I showed them all.
I worked hard to get the best grades possible and to massively improve my skills in not one, but two languages because I applied to study French.
For six years, my goal was to study there. It manifested as a constant thought at the back of my mind, as the subject of all daydreaming, as my ticket out of the Czech Republic, out of an environment I felt so alienated from. Getting to Scotland was everything I strived for.
If I didn’t get there, my life would fall apart.
I’ve lived in Scotland for two years now and during that time, I’ve struggled. A lot. I had achieved my goal. What’s next? What am I going to do now? What is my next dream, how can I go and get it, what should I fixate on?
Turns out, achieving my goal satisfied only a part of me — that part that still cherishes the fact that I made my dream come true.
When it comes to my overall happiness in life, though, moving to Scotland only opened a new door leading to new sources of dissatisfaction, fatigue, not having enough money, not enjoying what I do… in short, it only showed me new ways to complain.
My mind isn’t focused on getting to a university anymore. Instead, it thinks:
“I’m so over uni. I don’t much enjoy it. I wish I already had a full-time job. I wish I already had a book published. I wish I already…”
The wheel spins on and on.
I’ve come to realise that my goals can simply never fulfil me, at least not in the way I imagine.
Even when I become a full-time writer, even when I have five books published, even when I’ve travelled the world and I’m married and I have a beautiful child, even then my life won’t be perfect.
It will be quite neutral overall.
Something will bring me happiness, something will make me angry, I’ll have to go grocery shopping when all I want is to watch Netflix, I’ll have to write when I’m not in the mood, I’ll have problems to deal with, bills to pay, days when I feel blue.
If I’m stuck in my current mindset, I’ll simply never be happy. Ever.
Obviously, I don’t want that.
Why goals are great
I love goals. I love progress. Goals are an amazing way to grow as a person, to become better at what you do, what you know, who you are. I don’t know where I’d be if I wasn’t in Scotland, but I’m certainly glad I don’t live in that parallel universe.
When you make your dream come true, it can feel like an ultimate high. You’ve achieved that important milestone in your life, you’ve passed that particular finish line with flying colours, you’ve proven to yourself that you can do it.
Your immediate response is to think:
“Wow, I can do this thing. What else can I do?”
And you’re back at it, establishing another milestone, another goal that will make you grow.
And that’s a good thing.
If you don’t count on it as your main source of happiness. Because that can mess you up. The satisfaction that comes from reaching a goal is fleeting. It doesn’t take long and this success doesn’t fulfil you anymore. You’re already chasing a new one.
Gratitude instead of greed, please
What should make you happy if not making your dreams come true then?
Well, at the risk of sounding cliché and repeating basically everyone ever, let’s say it together: feeling grateful for what you already have.
There’s a reason this mindset is so popular. Sometimes, mainstream things are mainstream simply because they actually work.
I’m greedy. I always want more food than I can eat. I growl when my boyfriend stops stroking my back after 10 minutes of repeatedly doing so. I keep looking at my Medium stats and the higher they are, the higher I want them to be.
It drives me crazy. Just recently, I got excited because my new article got published in a big publication and curated in two topics, just to later feel down about the whole thing because my read ratio was low.
“Can you just be happy without letting the bad things cloud over everything?!”
I want to pound in my head.
My head says no.
I wish I could punch it with frustration, but my pain tolerance is too low.
How to be grateful
There are many ways to make your gratitude stronger, which should theoretically suppress greed because those two basically cancel each other out.
The ones that come to mind are for example:
- Journal about what you’re grateful for.
- Walk around your house, pick five things, press them to your chest and say something cheesy but effective, like: “Thank you for being in my life.” I would typically do that with books or plants.
- Watch birds flying in the sky. I don’t know what it is, but they’re truly captivating.
- Go through your pictures and think about all the great memories you have with your close ones.
- Look in the mirror and repeat affirmation words that work for you. Stuff like “I’m enough”, “I’m my best friend” and “It’s okay to be imperfect” can literally make me cry.
For people obsessed with Medium stats: Look at those stats. Look how far you’ve come. Look how you’ve managed to build some following, how you’ve written on here regularly, how creative you are.
One of my favourite YouTubers, Unjaded Jade, always talks about casual magic. She films sunsets, flowers, rays of sunlight, and she shows how she’s grateful for these small things in her everyday life.
Noticing casual magic around you can massively improve your capability to feel grateful because thanks to all those details, you re-connect with the planet and with yourself. You just sit, breathe, exist… and you’re content.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” — Eckhart Tolle
Greed isn’t always a bad thing. You have to be at least a little greedy if you want to go and achieve your goals. There should probably be a bit of dissatisfaction with your present reality that can play a part in driving you forward.
If we were always happy with everything, we’d never go out of our comfort zones and we’d never grow as individuals. There’s also nothing shameful about wanting some money to live a more comfortable life. What’s more, it’s always great to want to be better, go farther, climb higher, expand in all directions.
However, we should remember that what we already have is good, too. As long as you have food, water, a place to stay and one person you can rely on, you have something to be grateful for.
Be greedy a little bit and grateful lots. This way, the forces will meet above zero, and your happiness will be positioned on the positive side of things.
You exist on a planet rich with life. Sometimes, realising how amazing it is to be alive is more fulfilling than achieving any goal.
Look at that sunset. Isn’t it beautiful?
Originally published on medium