What do you really want in life?

Does life ever feel like a never-ending quest for success? First you’re striving to get through school, then college, then succeed in your job, then find a partner, then raise a family, then prepare for retirement… Is there actually an end to all which we strive for? A moment when we look back and say “yes, I achieved what I wanted

When I was at university I had a goal of reaching a certain salary by the age of 30. I achieved that by age 26! So I shifted my goal posts and set myself a new target. I thought at the time I was just being ambitious, but I now realize that the financial goal posts will always shift if I let them.

A Lesson Learned

The quest for success is indeed never-ending if we don’t realise the end. The end only comes, when you decide yourself that you have met your ambitions.

I learned that there is no magic number, no amount of money, no number of things that will give you ultimate happiness. Satisfaction with life will not arrive if you are always striving for more.

As a society we put so much emphasis on financial success. We drive people to compete with each other financially, to keep up with each others spending habits, but we confuse the quest for financial success and quest for satisfaction and happiness with life.

It’s assumed the more money you have, the more successful you are, then the happier you will be. From my experience quite the opposite is true. In fact some of the most successful people I know are also the most unhappy.

So how can you achieve greater happiness and satisfaction with life?

I like to run a little exercise and it goes like this…

What do you want in life? List all the things you desire, cars, holidays, house, family… Imagine your perfect life and write out how it would look.

Now take each of these different parts, and go into some detail. Holidays? Well how many holidays do you want? who would go on them? how much of your life would you spend traveling, how far? how much would they cost? Most importantly, focus on how each item would improve your life. If you focus on how something will improve your life, you suddenly start to question certain things you thought you desired.

Thinking about this level of detail has two major advantages:

  1. You really start to think about what you want in life (and importantly what you don’t want) — take holidays for example, do you want to travel for six months a year, or six weeks a year? The two have very major differences in lifestyle, but which one would improve your life more?
  2. You put a price and timescale on your ambitions — it’s very easy to always be striving for more and more, but writing your ambitions down makes them seem achievable.

Now the most important part about writing your aspirations down is that you understand what you desire today, so you can recognise when you achieve it. If you don’t recognise what will improve your life, how will you know when you achieve it?

I achieved my salary goal when I was 26, but I was naive to think in terms of financial goals. The arbitrary number I set for myself was completely meaningless because I didn’t focus on how it would improve my life. I should have instead focussed on things that would enrich my life.

I was so stuck thinking about financial targets that I forgot that money is useless if you can’t use it to enjoy your life. Money comes and goes, but life experiences will remain with you forever.

For me, I have modest lifestyle targets now, but I recognise how far I have come and importantly I am satisfied with the what I have achieved so far. All I desire now are:

  • To have a nice family home with a family to fill it (on the way to achieving)
  • To be able to go on family holidays twice a year and short breaks regularly (already achieve)
  • The freedom to not have to work unless I want to (also on the way to achieving)

Start realizing that happiness and satisfaction with life come from within. The day you stop striving for ever greater financial success will be a very satisfying day.

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