On the Futility of Achievement


Every so often, but particularly when I’m feeling disoriented or overwhelmed, I’ll drop whatever it is I’m doing and try to remember: What is it that I want to achieve? What is it that I want to get?

Over the last year, however, that list has become perilously depopulated. Under the enforced simplicity brought about by running a tremendously demanding business, I’ve whittled down what’s important to me to just a handful of things: Yoga. Writing. Immediate family. A few select friends. There used to be so many other things, and I have a feeling that if room for them were to emerge yet again in my life, they would reassert their significance, but their ties to my sense of worth have been definitively severed.

The result of all this is that I sometimes wonder, with some disquiet, if I’ve…given up too early—if the utter absence of ambition in my life right now is evidence of some diminution of spirit. I try to think of what more I could possibly want, and the only answers I can come up with are: minor variations of what I already have at present.

Of course, none of this should be taken to mean that I’m content. Most of the time I’m not. This dissonance between the fact that I don’t want to obtain or achieve anything fundamentally new and the absence of tranquility in my experience of life is what has allowed me to truly grasp how I’m the exclusive source of my own happiness and unhappiness. And as I’ve told my friend J., the universe has granted me everything (really) I’ve ever truly wanted—for the sole purpose of instructing me that such constant attainment is not the path to joy.

Yet the only path there is is so very difficult. Which is perhaps why I’ve settled for the temporary gratifications provided by the dead-ends of goal pursuit and achievement. Unfortunately, the gratifications are becoming shorter and shorter-lived. I can no longer postpone the essential work that I have to do.

This is me, taking the long deep breath before the plunge.

Wish me luck.

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