In a recent Sharepost I suggested that the time we spend on particular activities (maybe a two-week vacation) is sometimes much less influential than the intensity of certain peak experiences (say a brief meeting with an old friend). This was in the context of obstacles to happiness and contentment. What I perhaps could have gone on to say is that while both experiences can be pleasant, only one might be more meaningful and memorable. In the context of reasons to make life changes it can be quite difficult.
Here’s what I’m trying to get at. Let’s say you come home after a good day at work. Like the day before, and the one before that, there were no problems you couldn’t deal with, you get on just fine with your colleagues and you’re good at what you do. So why do you still feel ill at ease – as though something still isn’t right for you? Might it just be possible that your current situation doesn’t really square with your values or your real preferences? Is it the case that somewhere inside you there’s the realization that you have the potential to change things in order to do what you’d really like but you prefer to rationalize that life is all about compromise?
This is something I can relate to. Having spent years climbing the greasy pole it struck me that I had reached a certain age and I really wasn’t doing what I wanted. I had a list of qualifications as long as my arm, a secure job, a good income and a loyal and supportive team around me. These were things many people would give their right arm for. I knew I could spend another 20 years doing this! It’s not that I didn’t like or care about what I was doing so much as the background noise to work for myself was getting louder and louder. I also felt guilty and a bit self-indulgent. I didn’t hate my job, well most of the time, but I increasingly felt a sense of distance from it. To cut a long story short my wife and I talked it over, I spent a few months in preparation, coordinated my departure with an early retirement package and left!
A central issue here is long term and sustainable gain. The buzz we get from a pay increase or buying something new only lasts a short time and we quickly become accustomed to acquiring little boosts of positive emotion from shopping expeditions, meals out, or breaks away. Sure, these are all nice things to do, but the novelty always wears off and so it’s back to making more cash in order to sustain the lifestyle. Well, that’s certainly one way, and if you’re content with this, it’s fine.
I suppose my own experience might be likened to a midlife ‘thing’. I shan’t refer to it as a crisis, because there was none. For me it was more the gradual realization less might be more and as it happens that’s just how things have turned out.
We all have our own paths to tread and there are plenty of occasions along the way where obstacles can be overcome. Our own self-critical thoughts or the sense we are trapped can add needless stress to our lives and these can lead to self-defeating acts that appear to validate these feelings. It’s a pattern of thinking that’s all too common but one that can be broken out of. Shopping, eating or other distractions will never resolve such feelings. Things may however start to change if you can focus outwards towards other options rather than the discontent that is frequently found simply by focusing inwards.