The path we implicitly sign up for in a professional career is one with continuous movement upward. A sign of progress is having fancier possessions and fancier titles every few years. With it comes an implicit promise of bigger impact. So, every once a while, I find it helpful to ask “what’s the point?”
Most of life’s pleasures are cheap or free. Sure, it is nice to splurge on a nice vacation every once a while. And, maybe some nice additions to our home would make life more convenient. But, for most of us, we probably have all the fundamental parts of Maslow’s hierarchy in place. Earning a lot more money isn’t going to step change our happiness. It might make things easier. But, since when has easy been better?
Furthermore, we learn, time and time again, that few things matter more than the people in our lives. And, again, for most of us, we don’t presumably make friends based on someone’s title. We make friends because they’re people we appreciate, learn from and enjoy spending time with. I have met with enough fancy titled folk over the years to realize there is absolutely no correlation between someone’s career accomplishments and my appreciation for them. The folks I’ve come to love are those who don’t care about any such race. They just deeply care about everyone around them, strive to grow through the daily struggle and work hard to make an impact.
So, what’s the point? If our fundamental assumption around progress is in question, where does that leave us?
My hypothesis is that asking this question can be incredibly liberating. We are surrounded by so much noise – none of which moves the needle in our happiness and fulfillment. And, most of this noise is surrounded with obsessing about our path forward.
So, here’s where I end up – never mind the future. Just understand which direction you are heading. Look at the map, but not too much. Look behind to learn from what happened – but, not too much. Enjoy the company of those who’re around you. Look them in the eye, smile and help them grow through the journey. Help those along the way who are less fortunate. And, critically, enjoy the now yourself.
In the final analysis, it is the happiness and impact you make during the journey that will matter. They aren’t waiting at a future stop.