Most people live in a self told narrative of discontent. We are lost and searching for meaning in our lives by embracing unhappiness and the lack of satisfaction for our current self. We are who we are, not because of what we’ve become, but because of who we are not.
We struggle for a meaningful life, or ignore the opportunity to find it because it takes uncomfortable self searching and discovery. So we give ourselves and our lives a meaning with a negative spin:
“I don’t look good enough when I compare myself to other people. I need to punish my body and deplete my enjoyment.” Hence the meaning becomes to not be our current self.
“I don’t make enough money. I need to work myself to the ground, sacrifice happiness and health to climb the ladder of success.” Hence the meaning becomes the first ladder that we can grasp.
“I don’t get enough recognition in what I do. People don’t know who I am and the skill that I have. I need to sacrifice my happiness for recognition.” Hence the meaning becomes to please others for recognition.
While we sacrifice our happiness for the feeling of discontent we forget, or choose to ignore a unshakeable fact of life. None of the above things truly matter. In a three, a maximum of four generations after you’re gone it’s likely that no one will know who you were or what you did.
In the year 2117 they don’t know, or care, how amazing you looked in the wind while walking through the cornfields in the hot summer sun. They don’t care how long hours you worked at your office to make it to the top. They don’t care how many blog posts you spent crafting on your website.
Unless you happen to be the next Martin Luther King or Marie Curie and have a major positive (or negative, if, say you’re the next Stalin) impact on the wider world, no one will know much about you. Probably not even what your name was.
To prove a point, name one of your great-great-grandparents. Who were they? What did they do?
Go on, I’ll wait.
Accepting this becomes liberating
We have to be content with all that. This is not meant to be a negative thought, but a liberating one. It’s not sad, unfortunate or depressing. It’s just a fact of life. When looking at the larger picture of history (and hopefully the future) we are here only for a fleeting second. Things will keep going to a one way or another.
Most of the things that we make a problem out of don’t matter. What others think of us doesn’t matter. Yet we tie ourselves to these problems and thoughts because they give us something to hold on to. This doesn’t means that all our problems are irrelevant. But often we let irrelevant things consume our focus.
What matters is that you can live in the present. That you live according to your values and have a positive impact on those around you. If you positively affect someone’s life today there will be a ripple effect that carries through. It might last a long after your time. And might still be at a full swing in 100 years. Even if not a single person knows who you were.
Who knows, maybe the decision you made yesterday on your toilet break will lead to the discovery of turning the hydrogen and helium of Jupiter into a solid, colonizable planet? In 150 years. And you get no recognition for it.
The challenging part? You have to be content with knowing that you made a difference without never getting a full, or any recognition for it.
(Ok, so Jupiter was far fetched, but it did add to an engaging story.)
Most of us think that we are the most important person on the planet
What’s the point if we are not hailed for our work? Should we keep striving if no one is laying down rose pedalled roads for us to walk on?
For most doing something without recognition is rarely enough. And we can blame our egos for that. Because our ego holds us back from being content. It’s telling us that we are not good enough, not having a big enough impact or making enough of difference.
We want the recognition, we want to be accepted and showered with praise for the work that we do. Sadly we often drown ourselves in meaningless recognition from others instead finding contentment in ourselves.
It’s our culture of selfies and me, me, me that has made everyone think that they are more special than anyone else. Every ‘like’ we get gives us that little boost from the well of “I am important because people like the photo of me swinging my dick in the wind.”
It’s not only until we take a step out and pause from reading our newsfeeds that we realize how none of this is a real connection. Social media amplifies the meaning of meaningless. It’s like a radio built of false, shallow relationships of nothing.
Is it all just so we can collect empty likes that adds to nothing but our shallowness in the world? Are we all racing against each other without ever getting anywhere?
It’s all an illusion. Only you care about you more than you do. Well, maybe with the exception of your mum, no one goes to bed thinking about you more than you do.
This is not an excuse to become stagnant
None of this means that we shouldn’t have the drive to do better. Let’s keep striving for improvement, to make an impact, to leave a mark. Life that only revolves around you is in the heart of being discontent.
As we do so we must accept that we might not get the acknowledgement for the work we did. At least not the recognition that we think we deserve. And at that point we need to do some self-searching to figure out would we be happy to do what we do, even if we’d never get acknowledgement for it?
Being content starts with your thoughts. It doesn’t arrive with getting a big raise, writing a another blog post, having a better job. Or buying a new Volkswagen and a pair of leather pants to go with it.
And if you are content now you will enjoy your training more, your eating habits are likely to improve. Who knows, maybe you’ll let go of stress that defines you and will enjoy your job more.
Without thinking that it’s always about you having to get somewhere.