Amazeballz Stories Day 29/100: The Curse of Achievement

Jordan Whitfield for Unsplash

There are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who rest in hammocks with a glass of lemonade and those who go to the office and get shit done.

Those who care about being happy and those who care about what they accomplish.

You might think that you care equally about both. The problem is that we only can have one PRIMARY motivator and it supersedes the other.

Cialdini described these competing values in his new book PRE-SUATION.

Cialdini introduces the work of Laura Carstensen, who studied happiness in the elderly. She describes how older elderly people have an ability to live and function in a state of gratitude. They look at the world around them and they effortlessly translate their experience into what is good, what is positive. They live in an unconscious state of gratitude.

Younger people also experience gratitude, but usually it requires a slogging conscious habit. Younger people have gratitude practices in order to remind ourselves that we CHOOSE to be happy.

We all want to be happy. So why are elderly people so much more likely to just BE happy and full of gratitude than their middle aged or young counterparts? What flips the switch to experiencing happiness?

“Isn’t life grand!” v.s. “Life is goddamn grand. I know. I know.”

I want to be an “Isn’t life grand!” person. I strive to be an “Isn’t life grand!” person. But it is a goal. A practice. Another thing I am trying to achieve.

And there lies the rub:another thing I am trying to achieve.

Chialdini once again parses the quandary out for us. Seniors have a very steady life goal: emotional contentment. They want to enjoy the years they have left. Younger people also have steady life goals: learning, accomplishing, achievement.

When you are focused on pushing, learning and hustling you experience many more pain points along the path. We want to achieve in order to “be happy” but our focus is not on the happy, it is on the achieving.

I have dubbed this the “Make My Mark” Syndrome.

I see my Make My Mark Syndrome (MMMS) rear its unsightly head all the time — usually right as I am getting ready to feel happy about some accomplishment.

Look, I meditated 30 days in a row! That feels great! I’m getting good at this! And then my MMMS sets in and I realize that 30 days is a fucking blip on the radar of the universe and I am still pretty spotty in the quality of my mediation practice and boom, just like that, it’s not enough.

Or maybe I write a piece which gets picked up by a magazine and is getting published and I have four whole minutes while I bask in the glow of that achievement (Look! I’m legit. This magazine likes my writing!) and suddenly I remember that I still need to finish writing the next book and launch the next class and then I see someone else’s facebook likes and I feel like I am so far downslope on the great mountain of achievement that maybe I should go home and stop climbing. Boom. Make My Mark Syndrome has rendered me unable to be happy in the victory.

Too much MMMS makes me an asshole. I have been known to prioritize my work, my writing — my ambition above snuggling with my kids. I have chosen a consultation call over a concert. I have chosen work trips over a sailing trip with my husband. I have been frazzled and cranky and quick to snap — all in the glory of making my mark. It’s not pretty sometimes.

I want to be happy. Strike that, I want to be effortlessly happy. I am an insatiable happiness monster. BUT systematic happiness requires shifting my life’s focus away from achievement and on to just being. Being happy. Being at peace. No more striving. No more trying. No more hustling.

I’m not ready to give up Make My Mark Syndrome.

Hell, I couldn’t stop if I tried. I am a hustler. But I like my hustle with a heavy dose of acceptance. I am slowly refocusing.

I now notice faster when I am getting lost in the cult of hustle. I remind myself that behind the goal of achievement, hidden in the urgency of now, is the deep and abiding truth of happiness. I still want to be happy. I just need to remind myself of what lies beneath.

Right now I live in Achievement Land, but I look forward to taking many vacations in Happy Town. And some day, I will stop renting in Happy Town and I will buy a house there. With a hammock in the backyard.

Hi! I’m Mary — a chiropractor, a writer, a marketer, and a teacher.

I am the founder of The Art of Story Project, an online business which coaches speakers and content creators to use story to become more powerful influencers.

Press the ❤ below if you liked this story. It means a lot to me. Plus, it helps other people to discover it.

If you appreciated this post, you will enjoy “The Rest of the Story”. It’s a FREE weekly curation of the storytelling content. Join us now and boost yourself each Monday! Register to get the free “10 Stories to Boost Your Business” PDF today.