Most days in most cities in this country, people are driven to accomplish. For many, a successful person is one who has risen to the top of the proverbial food chain, whose salary now is substantially more than it was “back then”, who has purchased a house, and who has well-adjusted and responsible children. In this country, this is further heightened by our incredibly toxic tendency towards individualism: “I (an individual) have accomplished (of my own accord) some incredible things.”
What is incredibly telling about the whole thing is that we seem to despise more of the process of achieving this success. We trudge unwillingly to work most mornings, we fight traffic, we battle deadlines and duke it up for the best positioning on the corporate ladder.
For some reason, at least for part our lives, we’re told to believe that this is the way it is.
I have a friend who often says that he hears that “some people go to work every day and actually enjoy what they do.”
Why are we burdened by these processes? Why do we hate them?
In a cultural coup d’état this same angst, permeates all of the passages of our lives. Whether we’re fighting traffic on the way to the park, or anxiously awaiting news about a potential raise, or dreading the “travelling” in travelling home during the holidays, or trying to shed a bad habit, our minds are transfixed on outcome, on accomplishment.
When you’re scanning the horizon, you’re bound to miss incredible details right in your path.
I recently watched (for the nth time) a talk on TED.com by Adam Savage, the Mythbuster. In this video, Savage talks about two of the obsessions of his life as a creative model maker. First, an obsession with the legendary Dodo bird and acquiring by any means possible a replica of the Dodo skeleton and, secondly (and perhaps even more obsessive), a quest for an as-accurate-as-possible replica of the Maltese Falcon as described in Dashiell Hammett’s book of the same name.
Savage recounts spending countless hours, and resources, and finances, and brain power pursuing these projects – completely obsessed with building the perfect models.
Only, as he wraps up his talk, he comes to the realization that the “accomplishments” never were what these projects were about. Quite the contrary – for Savage it’s the pursuit.
It is the pursuit that teaches lessons about living, that stretches the mind and the soul, and that finally wins the hearts of our desired. It is the pursuit that we remember, that we value.
Accomplishments, then, are merely milestones in a perpetual pursuit – temporary targets that have our attention only for a short while until the pursuit brings us to a new place.
And this is why there ought to be no end to the pursuit – because there is also something more enriching, more worthy of the chase and the effort. This is also why when we stop pursuing these milestones begin to crack and disintegrate.
Marriages go unfulfilled when we are not continually pursuing our spouses. When we feel as though we’ve reached some goal, when we feel vows are simply eternal in and of themselves, what was once love begins to wane.
Self-confidence begins to fail when our career pursuits become stagnant. When we’re in a place that we don’t want to be, when we see no way out, it’s so easy to sit and wallow in self-deprecating despair. But it’s the pursuit of something different, something new, something better, that renews our energy.
Crave the pursuit. Value the pursuit. Keep an eye for these milestones that we all have and that we all aspire to, but seize the moments of every day to learn from the processes of our lives, the journeys.
Because pursuit is what it is all about.