That’s something I’ve been living by for the past few years. I like this life philosophy because it inspires me to improve in the long term, but also reminds me to be content with my current life. Contentment is hard in a world obsessed with more.
I didn’t have that short-term contentment in the past. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to have a better life.
- I wanted to get more degrees
- Read more books
- Earn more money
- Visit more countries
- Put on more muscles
- Run more miles
- And so forth
It was always more, more, more. When I got my high school diploma, I didn’t care. I said, “College is the real deal.” So I went to college and got a degree, and still, I didn’t care. “Got to get a post-grad degree.”
It was weird because I was the first college graduate in my immediate family. My family came to the graduation ceremony and my parents were very happy.
I’m not the kind of person who likes to celebrate things most other people like to celebrate. To me, it was just part of the process. While others were celebrating their graduation, I was mostly preparing for the next big thing.
At the time, I was trying to continue my educational career. When I received my master’s degree, I didn’t care at all, and I didn’t go to the ceremony. I had started a business and to me, that was more important than celebrating a piece of paper.
You can be happy today even if you’re ambitious
I’m not the only person who’s always busy with the next big thing. It’s a common trait of ambitious people who want to improve their lives.
While it’s part of my character to not care about most things in life, I overdid it in the past. Sure, I still wouldn’t celebrate the way other people celebrate things. If I did everything all over again, I still wouldn’t celebrate getting my degrees.
However, that mentality of never being content with where you are is not a good thing. I trained myself to be more content with where my life is.
Whenever I feel that I’m going “too fast” in life, I like to stop and think about this quote I read from Seneca. In his book, On the Shortness of Life, he says:
“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.”
Going after the next big thing can become a habit that we neglect to appreciate what we already have. And that’s just natural because it’s easy to feel competitive against other people who could be doing better than you.
That’s just the fact of life: There are ALWAYS people who are doing better than you.
The easiest thing in the world is to be discontent. It’s why the insecure person has to buy a new car that’s better than the one his neighbor just bought.
I used to think that you need that “edge” to do well. This is something that western culture emphasizes. You see it in movies, you hear it in music, you read it in books.
To be great, you need to be hungry. You need to go hard. You need to hustle and get after it!
True. But you can also be okay with your life just the way it is.
Long-term goals are for the long run
Sounds obvious, but trust me, most ambitious people forget that the moment they set a goal or think of something they want to achieve.
You might want to buy a bigger house, write a best-selling book, make a Netflix documentary, or win a gold medal at the Olympic games. But you don’t have to be unsatisfied until that happens.
And let’s face it. What if it doesn’t happen? What then? You just spent your life being discontent, waiting for something to happen, then it doesn’t happen, and you’re even more dissatisfied.
That’s the recipe for a wasted life.
Try to keep your long-term goals the way they are meant. Achieve them over the span of multiple years, not months or days. That’s very difficult to imagine because we’re all so short-term focused.
That’s precisely why we need to pay attention to this concept. If it was easy, we didn’t have to mind it. Do you ever think of breathing? No, it’s automatic. It just happens whether you think about it or not.
But if you don’t think about your perspective, you always revert to the base: Short-term optimization.
As you go through your days, try to remind yourself that you’re content right now. When you combine that with a long-term ambition, you have the best of both worlds.