I'm assuming I'm not alone in having often heard the phrase, "Life's a marathon, not a sprint." It implies we're trying to get somewhere, doesn't it? And with a lot of effort (even marathons are pretty effortful, no?). So, that begs the question, where are we going? Where are we trying to get? If we're putting in so much effort we must really want to get there. But where is "there?"
And, as I have also experienced, accompanying this feeling of trying to and needing to get "there,” is a low-grade anxiety or sense that at any given moment we are either moving forward toward “there” - “success” - or we are falling into “failure” (defined as anything not towards “there”).
So, we’re propelled (by fear) into action and have a strong sense that we should be “doing something” and “working hard” to get “there.”
But, because the “there” is fuzzy, so is the how - the causal link between our actions and how it will get us “there.”
We’re not entirely sure what we should do.
And the things we do never seem to satisfy us and make us feel how we thought they would. “There” seems to move, always out of our reach and to be obtained in the future if we just keep going.
And so we can feel confused, lost, stuck, or just persistently dissatisfied and stressed.
Are you with me? Does this (maybe part if not all) sound familiar or true for you? It’s confusing, right? So what's all this about?
I'm not saying we can't have goals or things we want to move towards, but getting some clarity around what they are, why we want them, and what we think we'll get by achieving them is important. It's important to take a look at and figure out what "there" is to you.
And looking at this will also likely shed a lot of light on why we're feeling lost, stuck, and stressed.
The thing is that often the real “there” we are trying to get to is to a feeling. It can be different for different people, but often what we’re trying to get to is a feeling that we are good enough, are safe, are worthy of acceptance, are worthy of love. “There” is often feeling these things. And we are using achievements or the obtainment of things in the physical world to try and make us feel them. The mind says there is a problem and that problem is that I am not good enough, not safe, not worthy of acceptance and love unless I achieve success - do or have XYZ.
But the truth is that achievements and physical acquisitions are completely untethered from your worth, your safety, or your lovability. And you will never get them - get “there” - by thinking they are. Or by "working hard."
There is no problem. And you don’t have to get anywhere. You’re already “there.” You are enough, safe, and worthy of acceptance and love just by existing. To think there is anything in the material world - a certain job, a house, a car, a bank account balance, a relationship - that can change that just isn’t logical and is actually pretty crazy when you look at it up close.
If we can become aware of this, we get the rest of our life back. We don’t need to spend it tirelessly chasing safety and enoughness through doing and achieving things that hold no enjoyment or value other than their utility in propping up the illusion that maybe they will help us get “there.” Instead, we have the freedom to do anything we want with our life and career.
If we can become aware of this, then we can have an opportunity to discover who we truly are, find a life authentic to us, explore our gifts and desires. And we can still make goals, but they’ll be for things we really choose and want for our life, rather than goals dictated by fear or insecurities. Our careers suddenly have so many options and opportunities and potentials. We can find and do what we love. We can define for ourselves what success means and get it on our own terms.
And we can get to those goals or what we see as success with a lot less of the energy of pushing and forcing and laboring like a marathon. Because a lot of that energy comes from us needing those goals to happen in order to feel ok. But we already are.
Heck, if we can become aware of this, then we even get to bow out of the whole marathon altogether - because you’ve actually been standing at the finish line your whole life. I know we probably don't remember ever signing up, but we can consciously take ourselves off the registration list. Then we get to have fun and play and take whatever route we want to wherever we want.
Sounds good doesn’t it? Sign me up - for the un-marathon.