Have you ever reached a big goal only to feel completely let-down and anticlimactic?
Been there. Done that.
I spent much of my early career thinking, “I’ll be happy when….” And when “when” actually happened, I wasn’t happy at all. In fact, in one case, it felt like the worst thing that ever happened to me.
At the time, I knew one reason why that happened. To reach my goal, I had to spend all of my time and energy on tasks that I enjoyed, but wasn’t particularly good at or passionate about. Achieving that milestone did not change that dynamic, much to my surprise.
In hindsight, I would add two more reasons for that happiness-turned-trauma. First, I know now that happiness is a choice we make every day, whether we’re celebrating or struggling. An external event or fancy toy may influence my happiness, but in the end, it boils down to making a choice for happiness each day, each minute.
Second, part of my happiness requires that I have a meaningful goal. In the absence of meaningful goals, I’m merely settling for the pleasure I derive from my life and past accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong – nothing wrong with enjoying those pleasures. However, for me, I must always be working towards something meaningful, else those pleasures feel somewhat hollow. Dad learned this lesson when he reached his major life’s goal too. Interesting.
The image above explains this dynamic. In the end, life boils down to the balance between hedonia (feeling good) and eudaimonia (doing good). One without the other simply feels incomplete and imbalanced. Expecting to feel happy and fulfilled with only one, and not the other, just doesn’t seem to work.
Where are you on this grid? How do you find the right balance between doing good and feeling good?