When you set out to start anything, what is your goal? Is it to fail? To be unsuccessful? To lose?
We all want to do well. It’s an innate desire that’s hard-wired into our DNA. Not only do we want to “do well”, we want to WIN. Do you know someone who is guilty of defining their life success by their victories? Or someone that isn’t satisfied until they’ve checked off the items on their to-do list? I do. I see him everyday when I’m brushing my teeth because he brushes his teeth at the exact same time (hint : think “mirror”).
It’s instilled into us from a young age. We’re taught to work hard, set goals and accomplish them. Ace that test. Win that softball game. Practice often so that when it comes time to take the test, or play the game, you’re prepared to do well and be successful. The most successful people in our society are praised for their intellect, work-ethic and willingness to make sacrifices to be “successful”.
The question is; “How do you define success”? I believe that we all view success a little bit differently and because of that, we place value and therefore time and energy into different areas of our lives. For example; Someone who see’s success and the amount of money in their bank account will place a lot of value in their work and accomplishments. And that is important. The harder they work, the more productive and successful they’ll be, and the more they’ll be rewarded with money and praise. That’s a great thing because we can all agree that being successful with our careers makes life more comfortable. Until it starts to interfere with their lives at home, or their ability to be present for their family. If we obsess with work to the detriment of the time with our loved ones, they start to feel neglected. And then stress and frustrations start to surface at home, which leads to one of two results. Either we become aware of a problem, pull back some energy from work and refocus on our family, or we double down at work to escape the stress / discomfort of those relationships and continue feeding the imbalance. And we can all imagine where that ends up.
The same thought process can be applied to someone who places a lot of value in their emotions, a primary one being happiness or fulfillment. Especially in the moment. As humans, all of us crave comfort and gratification. As humans in 2020, all of us expect comfort and anticipate immediate gratification. In most cases, this makes for a pretty cozy life for most of us, especially if you’re reading this on a laptop or smart phone. Life just isn’t that uncomfortable anymore, and when it is, it’s because of stress, anxiety or conflict which is short-lived. We place a lot of value in being happy and comfortable, and getting whatever we want when we want it. When we think about something that we want, being able to “have it” feels like a win, when not having it feels like a loss. The sooner, the better.
It’s not a bad thing to win regularly, or to expect comfort. I love Amazon Prime, and I love that I can get something I want/need typically in less than 48 hours by pressing a few buttons on my phone. It can be dangerous, though, when this leads to inappropriate expectations or a fear of discomfort. It is a slippery slope when we only keep score with what kind of car we drive, or how much we value happiness in the moment without thought of the future.
It feels good to earn a lot of money, without attention to your health. Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.
It feels good to say “yes” to the glass of wine, or the soda and ice cream in the moment. You and your body know that it will be happy and fulfilled for the next 3-5 minutes. And for most of us, that’s a good enough reason to say yes. Because we’re conditioned to say yes to things that make us happy, and pursue wins where we see value.
For as long as you count wins and associate value with what makes you happy in the moment, your future self will look back with regret. If you start seeing value in the areas of your life that aren’t fleeting, you’ll start seeing an evolution of your future self. When you start to choose temporary discomfort in the moment with an awareness that you’re actually getting “wins” for your future, you’ll start to see progress.
If you keep only keep score with work, or experiences, or satisfaction in the moment, you shouldn’t expect progress with your health, or fitness. When you start to understand short, temporary discomfort is a choice you make in the moment for your future self, then you’ll start developing yourself into the person you deserve to be. The person that your spouse and kids expect you to be. The person that will look back not with regret, but with pride at the journey you’ve made, and the hard choices that have shaped you.
Make hard choices. Find value and pride in temporary discomfort and know that you’re casting votes for the best version of yourself. The future you deserves it, and you’ll be better for it.