The moment you realize you care more about the outcome than about the process, is the moment you have to reassess how you spend your time.
If getting likes is more important than taking pictures.
If cashing the bonus is more important than the work you do.
If growing your audience is more important than writing.
If being acclaimed is more important than what you have to say.
If hitting the goal is more important than how you get to hit it.
That is the right time to look at the second half of your sentence, and honestly answer the question: “Am I enjoying that?”.
Most likely, you have mistaken a dopamine hit for actual pleasure and accomplishment.
It can happen, and you can do something about it.
Acceptance is not about taking what makes us miserable, shutting it in the closet, throwing away the keys, numbing the feelings that inevitably it will keep us giving, and pretending as if that does not exist.
Acceptance is taking what makes us miserable, understanding it, putting it front and center for a while, making friend with it, finding a way to go about our days despite it. Until eventually it will go shut itself in the closet by itself.
The former approach will make misery expand and take new forms. The latter will make it go away once and for all.
Two different ways. Two very different outcomes.
We idealize what we don’t know and we dismiss what we know.
Then we fill the gap with misery.
We should kill our ideals, not to put a stop to our ambition, but to appreciate that we already have all we need to be at peace.
Episode nine of the second season of Parks and Recreation presents a plot that many will find familiar.
The boss wants to win a competition and calls for the whole team to come up with ideas. Despite the general disengagement, each one of them presents a proposal; and when failing to agree on which one to put forward for the prize, they come together and combine them all into one. The result is a camel – in the sense of a horse designed by committee – that leaves them with slim chances to win, and yet it is a team effort. Unsatisfied and driven by possible reward, the boss calls the external consultant, who comes up with something that would most likely take the first prize. While further disengaging the team.
The point is that it is more important to achieve something together, anything really. This is how team, morale, and bond are built.
There are very few circumstances when winning matters more then the way you compete. Very few.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
It’s great advice. But if feels difficult, sometimes vague, often out of reach.
To make it more concrete, consider this.
You work at a company that fosters a toxic environment. Everyone is only focused on achieving a reward, to the extent that people barely greet each other when they meet in the corridors, actively hide information to get some edge, and only put a smile on their faces in the presence of a manager.
You can’t take it anymore. You are close to burn out, you are tired of being treated as a machine, and you dread the meeting to set your next goals way more than failing at them.
You have some options.
You can quit. Some do that, not many though.
You can muscle through. Most do that, and of course while doing that they lose energy, enthusiasm, well-being.
You can put up a shield of cynicism and sarcasm. I have done it myself many times. Become the one who has a witty response at the ready, a negative comment for every situation, a superior attitude that eventually will make it impossible for others to take you seriously.
Or you can reach out and ask: “how are you?” Very few do that. Despite the awful situation, very few understand that what is most needed in difficult circumstances is connection. Very few understand that they can be the initiator of something that is going to grow around them. Very few understand that they can indeed be the change they want to see in their world.
It is difficult. It can be done.