Before we get into the last article of 2017, I want to acknowledge a little faux pas. If you’re on the subscription list, you’ve received some rogue emails during the past couple of months. I’m really sorry about this; Squarespace did some updates, and, well… you don’t care about the details or excuses. Just know that I believe wholeheartedly in not overcrowding your inbox, and I take the privilege of having your email address seriously. So thank you for being patient on my evolving digital transformation. Now that that’s out of the way, onward…
Last week, I was frantically searching for some tax calculations, which I precisely remember writing last year. I can tell you exactly where in London I was sitting when I wrote them and even the mood I was in. However, this is doing me little good, as I cannot remember which notebook contains them.
I began my search for said-notes with a stack of old work notebooks. No luck. Next, I attacked a pile papers, containing business model sketches and ideas that I’d scribbled down during lectures in Paris. No luck there either.
I never found those numbers, but I did find something else…
Brainstorming, financial projections, and objective analyses, written by my 2016-self. They all pointed to one thing: a compelling argument to convince myself that it was time to create a new professional beginning. Seeing these notes a year later – and revisiting the emotional state I was in then – made me want to throw up, laugh, and cry.
The next day got me even more uncomfortable, as I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Tim Urban. During the interview (starting at minute 55, if you’re interested), they discussed a topic that cut right to the heart of my discomfort: searching for happiness.
Tim Urban argues that motivated people constantly seek accomplishments, physical objects, idealized spiritual states, etc. Those of us who are ambitious want to do more; so we set goals, take action, and then acquire these targets.
The downside? We fall into a cycle where we’re never happy. We build “mountains” of things, literally and philosophically; stand on top of our mountains; and then make the mistake that continues pushing happiness just out of our reach: we keep looking up.
Without glancing down once in awhile to internalize what we’ve already built, accomplished, and acquired, we keep our eyes fixed upward and neglect the mountain on which we’re already standing – the mountain that we thought would make us happy in the first place. We keep looking for the “more.” The “what’s next?” The “when I get to x, I’ll be happy.” Our skyward expectations increase, and our current mountain of reality suddenly doesn’t mean so much.
Tim Ferris says that discontent (the inverse of happiness) can be metaphorically quantified by this equation:
Discontent = expectations – reality
If our expectations increase, and our reality doesn’t top-up at the same cadence, our discontent increases; and thus, our happiness decreases.
Which – is all nice and philosophical. But what’s the connection to my 2016 notes and confused emotions?
I’ve noticed over the past couple years that all my yoga and meditation haven’t been enough to fight a daily battle: I am fixated on “what’s next?” Every single day (no exaggeration), I struggle to see, feel, and appreciate the mountain I’ve already built. The one on which I’m standing right now.
One short year ago, my current reality was my “sky of expectations.” And in the past year, I have made leaps toward capturing this next thing; it’s everything I said I was going to do in that pile of 2016 papers. I’m standing on this mountain, yet again, I’m back in the vicious cycle of already obsessing over the new sky. (And in case you’re wondering, this makes me an exceptional business hire and a very difficult wife).
So I’d like to end 2017 by acknowledging the mountain on which I’m standing. It’s not a brag (please don’t hear it that way). It’s an effort to pause, look down at what I’m building, and be proud, content, and happy. This also allows me to tell you that when we speak again in January, this site will look different: new brand, refreshed style, and evolving content, as I kick off a new phase of my career.
In turn, I’d like to ask you (yes, you): what have you done in 2017 that you’re happy about? It can be big or small, professional or personal. I’d ask all of us to acknowledge and find happiness in the mountain on which we stand today before we look up to the expectations of 2018.
PS – Do you think that 2017 was a fulcrum year?