I’m writing this post in a lawn chair, sitting in the full sun and listening to the birds. I couldn’t be happier right now. I’m doing work that I love, and I get to be my own boss. I finished a leisurely 10 km run yesterday, a distance that would have had my legs aching two years ago.
In other words, things are going pretty good right now.
But despite being happy with the way things are right now, I want to do more. I used to believe that the purpose of self-improvement was to escape discontentment. If you weren’t happy you read self-help books, build discipline, overcame your fears and worked hard until you reached a point where you were happy.
I was wrong.
As I see it now, ambition isn’t the opposite of living an contented life, it’s part of a contented life. In the moments I’ve stopped being driven by an interesting goal, I’m not happy, I’m bored.
Early Rising and the Meaning of Life
I’ve been in constructive free-time for the last three weeks. But I’ve still been waking up around 5:30-6:00 am to go jogging each morning. Waking up early is a good way to get more stuff done. But it’s also a good way to get more living done.
I enjoy sleeping in, but I can’t stand it as a regular habit. To me, it’s like eating too much candy. The first few pieces taste great, but the rest just give you a stomach ache.
Have Your Cake and Eat it Too
Some people would like you to believe the way to improve is through pain. Struggle, hardship and agonizing discipline. Ambition takes it’s price out of you. If you aren’t willing to pay that price, you need to settle for a less ambitious lifestyle.
But the surprising thing I’ve noticed is that this has never been the case for me. I’ve always achieved the most when I’m happy. Being happy with things cuts out the painful distractions and let’s you focus on your ambitions. When you feel depressed, you don’t have enough energy to go beyond the routine.
Ben Franklin once said, “There are two ways to become rich: increase your means or lower your wants. The best way is to do both at the same time.” Being happy with what you have and working hard to get what you want don’t have to be opposites.
This is a pretty self-indulgent post, so I’ll try to post something more useful tomorrow. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the sunny day.