Photo by Tore Bustad licenced under Creative Commons

This year, pursue nothing

Max St John
Jan 3, 2017 · 4 min read

It’s that time of year when we’re regretting what we ate and drank over Christmas and thinking about how we can be a better person in 2017.

And, thanks to people like me, and platforms like Medium, there are thousands of ways we’re being told we can be better people in 2017.

The 10 productivity hacks will explode your business!

The one thing that separates successful from hyper-successful people!

How pursuing meaning, not happiness, is the key to a good life!

I’m going to add one more directive to the list of underqualified, near-enemies vying for your attention.

Here’s my golden nugget:

That’s it, nothing.

Don’t pursue a better job.

Don’t pursue a meaningful career.

Don’t pursue happiness, wellbeing, better health.

Don’t pursue a safer world, a thriving planet, a halt to global warming.

Just stop pursuing anything.

Stop it.


Why? Because pursuing things is nothing but saying: this isn’t good enough.

And while you live in a body that’s not good enough, working in a job that’s not good enough, going to bed in a house that’s not good enough, next to a partner that’s not good enough, in a city that’s not good enough, in a world that’s not good enough, then what are you left with?

Pursuit means that what you need is somewhere else.

But that’s often not the case.

So instead, this year just listen.

Listen to yourself.

Listen to your thoughts.

Listen to your feelings.

Listen to your body.

Listen to your partner, your children, your parents.

Listen to your neighbour, the woman at the garage, your daughter’s teacher.

And not the kind of nodding-and-smiling-and-waiting-to-reply listen.

No, instead practice the I-am-happy-to-imagine-I-know-nothing-and-really-listen-to-what-you’re-trying-to-tell-me listening.

Be very quiet.

Make some space for something else.

Every time you feel your mind being pulled towards an idea of what you need to do next, to fix, solve, improve, avoid, just tune back into what’s really going on.

What’s happening in this moment?

What do those thoughts point to?

What feeling is that, poking at me?

What do I need, right now?

What is my son really wanting from me?

What is my partner really trying to tell me?

You may think that none of this is going to get you anywhere.

See, the thing is, every time you think there’s somewhere to get, you’ve created whatever problem it is that you think you’re trying to solve.

This is not spiritual nonsense, it’s pure pragmatism.

While it seems to make total sense to plan, scheme, cogitate, ruminate, strategise and vision, the reality is that the answers don’t come that way.

All that stuff is our brain’s way of shortcutting the big questions.

Before we’ve even given ourselves a conscious choice, we swerve difficult feelings and uncertainty by looking for answers to smaller questions.

But the smaller questions are limited in scope. They don’t have us looking wide enough, or deep enough. Because it’s far more safe to stay small.

The answers you’re looking for (not the ones you think you need, the ones you really need) are there, but they’ll only show up if you listen, quietly, without expectation.

So, this year, stop.

Tune into what’s real, stop pursuing what’s not.

This year, fill your time, your body and your mind with nothing.

I’m confident you’ll end up in a better place.


Want to learn how to listen more deeply? Ask better questions and find bigger answers? Check out some of the courses and workshops I’m running:

How to have Very Clear Ideas / January 17th / 09:30–16:30 / A one-day course on coaching people to clarity with the Very Clear Ideas process — details

Working with Needs (parents special) / January 28th / 09.30–17.00 / A one-day introduction to NVC especially — but not exclusively — for parents — details

The Art of Hosting Brighton (and Beyond) / 1–4 March / A 3.5 day learning journey on how to host and harvest conversations that matter – details


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Max St John

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Showing people the way home by connecting to what’s there and working with what is. Get clear, fight well, move naturally.


How to find your way to feeling alive, awake and free at work.