I spend a lot of time thinking about my goals - and sometimes it feels like I’m never going to reach them - but what do we do when we have achieved them? If you’re anything like me, you start thinking about the next thing (if you haven’t already embarked on it) but my question today is, does that next thing actually challenge you?
It can be very straightforward to keep climbing the same mountain. We reach a peak, spend a short moment enjoying the achievement and the view but before we know it we’re scoping out the next stage and beginning another climb. It can be satisfying to develop and hone our skills, to feel we are reaching the top of our profession but where does it end? Is there a final mountain top? What happens when we get to it? Most importantly of all, are we developing and learning in a meaningful way?
I am starting to think that the search for genuine fulfilment comes not from getting better and better at the same things but exploring and achieving new things. Starting from scratch and getting out of our comfort zone. When we keep searching for a sense of gratification in the same way, the returns diminish and the scope reduces. To step right outside our normal experience is far more difficult than taking the next step in a linear career process. To try something that seems absolutely terrifying is very much more challenging than choosing the slightly above-my-pay-grade option in your existing life.
Facing something difficult – whether that is professional, personal, or emotional – means we start from the bottom. We have to learn, to face down our fears and accept that we are beginners. We may have to deal with things we really don’t want to deal with, we may have to look like an idiot or surrender control…. And that’s the whole point. When I talk to people at the Pluralists Club their greatest achievements are most often the ones that were the furthest from their comfort zone, whether that’s running a marathon or starting a business. The lows have made the highs higher and highs have given them the confidence to try yet more new things.
I know there are things I can and should do to make my life more interesting and fulfilled. I know that, having identified them, I need to find time and willpower. I know that I will have setbacks and make mistakes, that I will falter and wonder whether I have misjudged my abilities but I also know that it will be worth it and that success will give me new skills, emotional power and opportunities.
I would like to challenge you to think of the thing you most fear but also most wish to achieve. And then do it.