The Satisfaction of Setting Aside Striving Ambition and Achieving Success
Striving is just as elusive as perfectionism (see P) because as soon as you reach whatever nearly unobtainable goal you’ve set for yourself, you’ve already set the next unobtainable goal.
Daily effort outlasts striving ambition. You just can’t keep it up if you’re going to practice every day.
For example, I used to run a lot. As soon as I’d get in shape, I’d automatically make myself go further and faster. I had some Capitalistic idea of effort: bigger, better, faster, more. But then, I’d have a bad day and walk half my route. Eventually, I’d have another bad day. And then, without even noticing it, I’d quit. My subconscious seemed to think, well, if you’re not training for a marathon, why bother at all?
Then, I started experimenting with daily effort in writing and exercise. I committed to 40 minutes of exercise a day. That’s it. On the harder days, I could feel great about myself for getting out there and doing it, whether “it” was walking slowly for 40 minutes or a crisp sprint through the neighborhood.
The good days were the harder days. If I felt good, I’d think, okay, go further today. But that would have started up the old pattern — if I go 45 minutes today, 40 minutes tomorrow is failure. So, I’d remind myself, well, you’re going to be back out here again tomorrow and again the day after that and after that, so do you really need to push it today?
Why not be satisfied with meeting your goal today? And that was the turning point (see also L)—I could let myself feel satisfied. I did it, met my daily commitment. Pat on back (sometimes literally), and move on to the rest of life.
This kept things in balance. I could still serve in all my other roles in life rather than waiting for it all to stop so I could finally get to work as a writer or finally get in shape.
After months of daily effort, I could define “success” not as achievement or wealth or recognition, but as the simple accomplishment of meaningful tasks. Did I write today? Did I draw? Did I exercise? I am successful. All else that may or may not come from this is icing on a very nourishing cake.
The paradox, which you should read and then forget or you’ll sabotage yourself, is that as soon as you give up striving, you glide right into success. It’s not that you quit trying to improve, but you quit straining for some arbitrary finish line, and instead, focus in on the task at hand. This leaves you more energy to work, results in better work, and more of it accomplished over time, and therefore–success without you’re even thinking about it!