Perhaps it’s human nature, something we’ve inherited from our hunter-gatherer forebears, but the desire to chase things in life is strong. Yet, if we make poor choices over what to chase, our failure can cause dissatisfaction and discontent.
That’s why you should think carefully before trying to hunt down any particular goal in life. Such a desire may never bring you closer to what you truly (if not yet consciously) want.
To ensure you avoid such futile quests, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common.
Let’s not pretend that money doesn’t play an important role in the everyday lives of ordinary people because it does. Despite this, there is almost certainly too much of a focus on the accumulation of ever greater amounts of it.
We constantly strive for more wealth because we believe it will solve all our problems. The truth is, once you get past a certain level of income or money in the bank, the benefit you feel from each additional dollar is minimal.
Some people seek to acquire power and influence over others as a means to achieve a fulfilling life. The belief is that where you have power, you have greater control over your own destiny, being able to bend others to your will.
But power is illusory in that it never really exists in the traditional sense. It is an intangible force that shifts over time, and it is this ephemeral quality that makes it a poor aspiration. Power is rarely something you can keep hold of for long, and the losing of power is nothing but a great source of emotional pain.
For some, the urge to be the very best at something is what drives them on. They pour their heart and soul into becoming the greatest at a particular skill or craft.
While this may seem like a noble cause, it can lead to much torment and despondency should they fail to reach the pinnacle. Neither does perfectionism stop at a skill, it can cause people to see themselves through distorted eyes, as if they are gargoyles in an otherwise beautifully faultless world.
It’s far better to seek improvement within practical limits; setting realistic visions of what you can achieve.
A basic definition of success is the realization of a particular goal, but more broadly, it is something far harder to pinpoint. We may judge others for their lack of it, or berate ourselves for not attaining it, yet success is utterly indefinable in the context of life.
Because success means something different for all of us, and because these views can change over time, we shouldn’t try to chase it, whatever it is. There is no succeeding at life; nor is there any failing.
The misguided quest for happiness is something we at A Conscious Rethink have discussed before (just see our whole post on it here). Happiness is simply not something one can pursue because it is actually a by-product of other things.
Happiness may come naturally at times, but it may be utterly absent at others. You cannot and should not try to force it into your life, for it will not be forthcoming if you do. It can only spring from life itself.
The arrow of time points forward away from birth and towards death. As gloomy as this may be, it is the truth. So with the passing of each day, month, and year, you should not yearn for what has come before.
To try to cling onto the fading glory of the past is a pointless exercise. By all means savor the memories, but accept your aging as an inevitability. You can be young at heart and young of mind, but know that you will not always be young of body.
You wanna go where everybody knows your name? Oh. Wait. That’s the Cheers theme song…but it could just as well be the mantra for the many fame-seekers out there.
Alas, fame is rarely all it’s cracked up to be. It certainly doesn’t guarantee wealth, success, or happiness. Conversely, fame often backfires on those who attain it, with personal problems not uncommon among the famous.
8. Material Possessions
Consumerism is rife among most of the population, yet few people ever stop to ask themselves whether or not the things they are buying bring them anything but a momentary buzz.
Too often we surround ourselves with material possessions that do nothing to enhance our enjoyment of life. We pin our hopes of lasting contentment on the next purchase only to see them dashed almost as soon as we’ve got the thing home. It’s a pointless, if expensive, exercise in trying to find internal peace in external things.
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Interpersonal interactions and relationships play a huge role in our evaluation of life. We yearn for people to like us and to approve of the choices we make, but this can lead us down a dark road.
To have a constant need for approval puts your happiness in the hands of other people; if it is withheld, your mood suffers. Never rely on the agreement and support of third parties; this is your life, so live it how you want to.
Aspiring towards a relatively steady and stable life may seem like a sensible approach to take, but the shadow of unpredictability will always be there in the background. You can certainly plan for some of the possible eventualities, but you’ll never know precisely what the future has in store for you.
It is wisdom, indeed, to be open to change in all its guises. Whether positive or negative, events that are ultimately out of your control will shape your life to some extent. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that things will forever stay as they are now.
We all want to enjoy the fruits of a true and meaningful friendship, but you can’t pursue them where they do not naturally form. Trying to force it is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole; it just won’t go. You may think that you can change (to become a round peg so to speak), but being someone you are not is an act you can’t keep up for long.
Yes, you can seek out new friends, but you cannot turn any old person into one. Just like any relationship, a bond will only last if the right ingredients are present.
As with friendship, so it is with more romantic entanglements. Genuine, heartfelt love cannot be searched for and found in the traditional sense; it has to grow between two people where the conditions are right.
Again, you can put yourself in the position to allow such love to prosper, but it won’t always mean that it does. Maybe it’s not the right person, maybe it’s not the right time, but forced love is not real love and is unlikely to last.
Someone suffering from a gambling addiction will often chase their losses by wagering higher amounts of money, and a similar mindset can be seen in other areas of life too.
When something doesn’t go as you’d have wished, it can be easy to try and compensate by chasing new, ambitious goals. This may seem like a spirited approach, but it binds you to these new outcomes just as tightly as the first. If, instead, you accept what has happened, you can move on with your life free from these particular attachments.
14. Anything You’re Not
Many of the previous points could be summed up by saying that you should not chase anything that you are not. If you have to rely on external entities such as wealth, power, possessions, and other people to fill your life with meaning, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
These things, and what they stand for, are not who you are. You are you and this is all you can ever really be sure of. Don’t pretend to be someone else because you will live to regret every passing moment that you do.
15. A Destination
Perhaps most important of all is this: don’t think that there is one, glorious end goal in life and that reaching it is the soul purpose of existence. Life is not a destination, life is a journey and each step is as important as the one that came before it.
Every moment that passes is life. You cannot ever be anywhere other than where you are right now, and when you accept this point, the whole notion of a destination becomes absurd.
Are you chasing any of the above? Has this article convinced you to give up that chase? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.