2 Lessons I Learnt After Achieving My Life-Goals
Tl;dr: happiness is a by-product of going after your life-goals. Achieving your life-goals will make you miserable.
When I was 7 years old, I established a list of four life-goals I wanted to achieve.
The first one was speaking English fluently. I had been learning colors for a while and it was fun to say that “rouge” actually was “red” in English.
I achieved this goal when I was 19 and left to live in Australia for one year.
I subsequently studied my entire higher education in English and wrote three theses.
It’s safe to say that even though my English isn’t (and will never be) as good as native speakers’, I did achieve my goal.
The second life-goal was to live in Australia for a year as a backpacker.
I got this idea when my dad went to Australia to assist in a car race in Perth. He had come back with a suitcase full of presents, among which giant calendars representing the beauty of Australian nature. That had fascinated me.
This idea never really left me and I realized my dream at 19.
The third goal was to play in at least one movie.
I had begun in the cinema industry as an extra at 11 and had progressively climbed my way to auditions for roles six years later.
I wanted to become an actor and I wanted it bad. By the time I got into my early twenties, I had played in ads, movies, and TV-shows, and subsequently quit after I realized it wasn’t the right path for me.
Finally, my last goal was to find at least one girl to be intimate with, which, while revealing itself to be difficult at the beginning, ended being fulfilled.
What to Do Once You Have Achieved Your Life-Goals
When I blew my birthday candle the year I achieved my last goal, I was confused. I had nothing to wish for.
I could speak English. I had lived in Australia and many other foreign countries after that. I had played in many ads and movies and cinema had become a dead wish for me anyway. I had met great girls that had changed my life for the better.
What was I going to do now?
I looked at myself, and it was bizarre. Something was off. I wasn’t supposed to feel weird once I had achieved my life goals.
I was supposed to be happy.
This is when it hit me.
Achieving Your Life-Goals Will Not Make You Happy
It took me some time to figure out what had been my inner desires behind achieving my life goals. I didn’t think that achieving them was going to make me happy per se. I thought that the person I’d have to become to achieve them would be happy.
As such, it wasn’t so much the achievement of a result that I sought, but merely the identity and competencies I thought I needed to develop to become someone capable to reach that goal.
I thought somehow that not everyone could just go live for one year in Australia. I thought this privilege was reserved for the tall, handsome, and overall perfect-looking kids of my mum’s friends.
I thought not everyone could just become fluent in English, that it was reserved for the cooler people.
I thought you had to be muscular and a bit of an asshole to have sex with girls.
And yet I definitely thought that I could make it as an actor because I knew I was good at it (go figure).
Through the achievement of my life-goals, I was looking for an identity that I thought would render me cool, happy, and fulfilled like people you see in advertisements.
I wanted that end-goal. I wanted that state.
English speakers seemed cool. Backpackers seemed cool. Boyfriends seemed cool. Actors seemed cool as well.
So I did all of these things because I wanted to be cool too.
And there I was, looking at my birthday cake, with my achievements under my belt.
The problem was: I wasn’t feeling any cooler nor happier.
Quite the opposite.
Don’t Waste Your Time Becoming Someone You Are Not
I thought I had to become someone to do something. That did not end up being the case.
The truth is that I already was who I had to be to do what I wanted to do. All that was left to be done was…doing it.
The mental map I had constructed as a 7-year-old kid was the following.
I am not happy nor cool → English-speaker; actors; boyfriends; Australians look cool and happy → if I want to be cool and happy, I must become like them.
And so I did.
When I look back today on this journey, I can draw two lessons out of it.
1. He who works towards his goals is happy
Believe it or not, happiness is not an end-state, it is a by-product stemming out of the process of going after a meaningful lie-goal.
If one of your life-goals is to walk to Jerusalem, you won’t be happy once you reach Jerusalem (you will in fact be miserable). You’ll be happy on your way to Jerusalem.
2. Achieving your goals makes you in fact miserable
As humans, we are driven by the need to achieve something (anything) which gives us a reason to wake up in the morning. Some people want to have a successful career, others wish to take care of their family, some dedicate their lives to their gods and others seek freedom through reaching financial independence. Some just want to love and be loved.
If you rob people of their goals, they’ll become miserable.
This is essentially what happens when you achieve them.
Suddenly, you don’t have anything to wake up for anymore.
The Bottom Line
As I blew my candles, I knew what I needed to do.
I had to find new life-goals.
I considered for a while visiting all countries on earth, but that was a rather empty and dumb desire.
I tried to go back to studying for a new bachelor, but I didn’t see the point of it.
I signed up to study for a third master’s, but it wasn’t an ideal use of my time.
Eventually, I did find out what I wanted to achieve next, but I will keep it for myself as you should never talk about your goals.
When I look around me, I like to compare people working towards their life-goals like Jesus walking towards Mount Goliath. They behave as if the ultimate destination mattered the most as if reaching their life-goals will bring them happiness and redemption.
They are not aware that the happiness they so desperately seek is already there.
Obsessed with their final destination, they forget the most important part of the trip.