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“If you perform this well whatever you do, I can only imagine you reaching the end of the rainbow.”
My high school teacher meant well. I remember thinking “the end of the rainbow… where is that?” The answer, that it didn’t exist, was at the back of my mind already back then but it took me a long time to accept that it was true and an even longer time to stop looking for it. Sometimes, I still catch myself searching for it.
The end of the rainbow; we should strive to get THERE. To arrive. Whatever you do, you need to get there, to the goal. Then you have succeeded. That idea is so ingrained in us that we hardly notice when we’re striving for it. For many of us, it is striving for some kind of achievement that verifies one’s worth. We’ve been told that we aren’t good enough as we are so we need to make ourselves better. For some, this is achieved by getting a family, a new fancy car, the perfect body, or a perfect career. It can be anything that one can achieve or attain in the future. What we really want though is what that thing will make us feel. When we get that thing then we will feel good about ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with having something to focus on. On the contrary, it’s healthy to have goals, purpose and to consciously set a direction of where one would like to go. We all have a part to play in life, a duty to perform if you will, and to participate in life. The point is though not to focus on the reaching of it and to strive for something based on how one thinks it will make one feel once one gets there. Doing something because it aligns with one’s values and because it’s the “right thing to do” is something separate. Distinguishing between the two motivations may be a tricky thing and a learning experience many of us only get by experiencing some kind of midlife crisis.
Alan Watts summarized it so eloquently.
“.. and all the time this thing is coming, it’s coming, it’s coming, this great thing, the success you’re working for. And then when you wake up one day about 40 years old, you say “My God, I’ve arrived! I’m there!” And you don’t feel very different from what you always felt. And there’s a slight letdown because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything by expectation…
… we think of life by analogy with a journey. With a pilgrimage that had a serious purpose at the end, the thing was to get to that end. Success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing and dance while the music was being played. So then, this is as I’ve said, my basic metaphysical assumption which I won’t conceal from you, that existence is musical in nature. That is to say that it is not serious, it is a play, of all kinds of patterns.” - Alan Watts
An old colleague of mine asked; “So, going into coaching - how do you feel, is this it?” The question threw me off a bit since a part of me felt tempted to say that it was, and maybe I even did. The truth though is that there’s nowhere to arrive at.
As Jon Kabat Zinn said; “wherever you go, there you are”. The only thing that changes is how we look at things and when we can consciously choose how to do that, to choose to see it as a musical thing if we’d like, to take off our shoes and dance to the music, then maybe that is finally arriving at success, at least according to my current definition and understanding.
What’s coming up for you as you’re reading this?
What’s your definition of success?
What are your answers telling you about what you REALLY want?