We adjust our expectations from life at record speed. That old dream, once achieved, becomes commonplace in our eyes. So, we move on to the next dream.
In high school, I dreamed of going to college abroad – ideally in Singapore for a variety of reasons. When that worked out, it became “no big deal” in no time because most of the folks I spent time with shared that reality. This happened at the next step and the one after that. Similarly, 9 years ago, just writing a long form blog post every day was a nod to my aspirational self. When that began to happen, I wanted to write better. And, when I felt I was writing better, my mind started wandering toward other things.
This is, of course, an endless cycle. Assuming you chose to work at it, unless you had a specific, incredibly low probability dream, you’ve probably done a decent job at getting to what you want to do and being who you want to be. Until that old dream became commonplace and you just began focusing on the next one.
It is important to to invest in tomorrow. But, life isn’t all about tomorrow either. As you think about how you’re doing today, spend time on that old dream. You are probably doing things and being someone that were once just aspirations. And, that’s a big deal.
Dreams do come true. It’s just a shame if we end up not appreciating that fact as much as we should.
So, every once a while, take the time to remember the days when you prayed for what you have now.
Venture capitalist Brad Feld had a deep post a few days back on the idea of non-attachment. He describes the states of attachment, detachment and non attachment as –
“Attachment is like the activity around a black hole. You are constantly fighting against getting sucked into it. All of your energy is focused on not ending up in the black hole.
Detachment is like being in no gravity. You are just drifting. Nothing exerts any force on you in any direction.
Non-attachment is like being in a swirling galaxy. There is stuff going on everywhere. You interact with it. But none of it pulls on you excessively. You are involved and impact some of it but a lot of it is exogenous to you.”
This is the first time I’ve heard this idea framed in this way and I found it particularly deep.
I think we put ourselves through unnecessary angst when we attach ourselves to outcomes and relatively meaningless measures like status. Thinking about outcomes inevitably leads to high expectations which, in turn, inevitably lead to disappointment. The more time we spend in this zone, the less time we spend creating. And, the less time we spend creating, the less chance we have of doing work that matters. This is just as applicable to relationships. As the lovely saying goes, if you love someone, you should be prepared to let them go. That is the idea of non-attachment in a nutshell.
I was reminded of a post from the wonderful Seth Godin from a long time ago titled “The Paradox of Expectations.” (Isn’t it amazing how some things you read just stick with you? I’d read this post in October, 2011 but recalled it as I was writing this) In it, he said – “Perhaps it’s worth considering no expectations. Intense effort followed by an acceptance of what you get in return. It doesn’t make good TV, but it’s a discipline that can turn you into a professional.”
In recent years, that idea has become ALearningaDay speak for – focus on the process. I didn’t understand it then. But, I do now.
Thanks, Brad and Seth, for sharing as you do.