There goes the quest for significance

Verb^

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Oct 3, 2016
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I've always wanted to be useful, to be of importance, to represent something big. This desire drives me to pursue excellence. I want to be valued, to be appreciated, to be recognized; not only for small things, but for bigger things, for things bigger than life even. When I decide to run, I want to top ironman 70.3. When I think of a business, I aim big, as in really big. As you know, aiming really high also means failing miserably low. Imagine the fear that sets in when you realize inadequacy.

Others may say just aim for an intermediate goal, which I can do. But I really can't help but see bigger. My mind just crosses it - the intermediate goal tend to mean little when fear sets in. To compensate, I focus on strengths, when I am pumped up, that is. I strive for excellence in everything. It all happens in my mind. I see a future where excellence is achieved. I can see vivid details and so I've determined that everything should be superb. I'll need tools so I archive useful materials, I collect books, and procure tools that will help me and help others as well. I enjoy learning new things as well as enjoy thinking of new ideas. It fascinates me when I do that and mull on times when an idea just pops out. I believe good ideas are key to significant innovation. I know good ideas can make the future great. I take on tasks and go at it for hours focused on that one area. I collect materials further, archive, read, study, and think further…deeper.

I want to become very good at the subject so I can think deeper and connect topics further. I want to be able to discuss this with others intellectually. But time is scarce. I cannot finish all the reading that has to be done. There's little time to archive, to organize. I realize I've lost focus. It's very disheartening, draining. I fear failure is coming.

Oftentimes, I get trapped this way, trapped by my own strong points. I fail to complete the things I've determined to accomplish. Losing focus is very alarming. It all goes downhill from there. I see a failed future and that this “failure” pulls down my self-esteem. I'll have to think of an optimized way to achieve as much as possible. It's not as excellent as I've imagined, but it's the optimum that can be achieved with the time left. Mistakes. They derail me, it wrecks my style. Because I know it's not excellence, it's not significant enough to disrupt. Its mediocre, it's failure, it's fear realized. There goes self esteem.
 

Daryl Jace

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Oct 4, 2016
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I struggled with this same problem, I wanted to be the best at everything and I went hard every single day. I'm not sure why, maybe it was for approval, notoriety or even love. Eventually I slipped into feelings of depression, being overwhelmed, afraid, not good enough and paralyzed by the task at hand. Then I read a few books that changed my mindset 'We learn Nothing by Tim Kreider and Seneca Epistles. I realized that fear and hope were two sides of the same coin.

"I find in the writings of our Hecato that the limiting of desires helps also to cure fears: "Cease to hope," he says, "and you will cease to fear." "But how, you will reply, "can things so different go side by side?" In this way, my dear Lucilius: though they do seem at variance, yet they are really united. Just as the same chain fastens the prisoner and the soldier who guards him, so hope and fear, dissimilar as they are, keep step together; fear follows hope. I am not surprised that they proceed in this way; each alike belongs to a mind that is in suspense, a mind that is fretted by looking forward to the future. But the chief cause of both these ills is that we do not adapt ourselves to the present, but send our thoughts a long way ahead. And so foresight, the noblest blessing of the human race, becomes perverted. Beasts avoid the dangers which they see, and when they have escaped them are free from care; but we men torment ourselves over that which is to come as well as over that which is past. Many of our blessings bring bane to us; for memory recalls the tortures of fear, while foresight anticipates them. The present alone can make no man wretched."

- Seneca


I lived my life differently, I spent more time with friends, I gained more friends, I spent more time with my wife and kids. I improved my marriage and other relationships. I was less stressed and more relaxed. In that time however I made almost no money, accomplished quite little but I learned quite a bit. I lost a lot of discipline and spent much less time learning. I wasted a lot of time and spent a lot of days feeling bad about doing nothing. Feeling like a loser. I know that the pursuit of excellence just leads to a different kind of pain though. Seems like regardless of what I do I feel bad about my work. I feel bad about myself eventually. The happiness only lasts for a certain period of time. It isn't sustainable because eventually you want more, eventually you plateau, if not done correctly it fucks up your relationships too.


It seems as if your successes are never good enough for yourself, never appreciated enough. When I was a kid I said I wanted to become a professional poker player and I did, I've had no other job outside of that since or ever in fact. I've played and became friends with some of the best in the world and at different points I was recognized as a top player amongst my peers. I've learned so much about life and how to think and skill mastery from the game, I've gained valuable friendships but do I consistently feel fulfillment because of that? No, in fact I rarely feel fulfilled or accomplished. I often feel more like a failure or a has been in the game than a great success.


"We are plunged by our blind desires into ventures which will harm us, but certainly will never satisfy us; for if we could be satisfied with anything, we should have been satisfied long ago; nor do we reflect how pleasant it is to demand nothing, how noble it is to be contented and not to be dependent upon Fortune. Therefore continually remind yourself, Lucilius, how many ambitions you have attained. When you see many ahead of you, think how many are behind I If you would thank the gods, and be grateful for your past life, you should contemplate how many men you have outstripped. But what have you to do with the others? You have outstripped yourself. "

- Seneca


I guess my point is that you cant have high goals and desires without the downsides that come with it. You either need to accept the downsides and have the discipline to still get it done when you're going through it or limit your desires. The other potential route is to go after these big goals without attachment to the results, to make it all about the journey and not the end result. Not just the good stuff but the bad stuff too, the pain, embarrassment, the failures. To not avoid these but seek them out and view them as character building obstacles for you to overcome, rather than threats to your life and livelihood. This path isn't easy, I'm not sure if it's even possible. You can't rely on transient things like motivation, passion and inspiration. Just your ability to not give a f*** if you feel like doing it or not and to get it done regardless.


Perhaps you should experiment with a more laid back way of living. Perhaps your desire for excellence is really a desire for love and attention from others. Isn't that unhealthy?