There are many different roads to success, and each and everyday billions of people are searching for the right one. Everyone is searching for the path that fits them best, whether it’s by following the crowd or creating their own path.
Many people focus on the journey – and even less focus on the destination – but very few focus on the journey after the destination. Life truly never ends, and while every beginning has an end, every end means a new beginning.
This is what I call the “Now What” Paradox.
Many people have a huge awakening when they graduate college, and that’s when they really ask the question: Now What?
Your path is Elementary School -> Middle School -> High School -> College -> Degree, and then…
…now what? Many people result in getting a job because of debt and social circumstances, without truly thinking of what they want to do with their life.
But then this journey begins, and here’s the big question everyone eventually asks themselves: What makes me happy? What will make me fulfilled? If I could do one thing for the rest of my life, what would it be?
The extremely difficult part, from a psychologically perspective, is that this is neurologically backwards. What people are saying, essentially, is Once I am X then I will be Y.
“Once I have more money, then I will be happy.”
“Once I quit my job and pursue my dream, then I will enjoy waking up again.”
Shawn Achor famously talked about this in his world famous speech The Happiness Advantage. In it, he explained that in order to truly be happy and do fulfilling work, you have to express gratitude for where you are, then focus on where you want to go.
The main issue, especially for most people, is that they think – for example – once they have a lot of money they will be happy. And then once they do get a lot of money, they aren’t happy. And that causes a dilemma. This phenomena can be noticed all across the board, from financial reasons to career choices to relationship lifestyles.
The truth is, as I’ve said many times on this blog, if you don’t enjoy the journey to the destination you’ll never reach it.
I’m not saying this is easy – trust me, I’ve struggled like crazy becoming a DJ/Music Producer. At the same time, however, I’ve used a variety of psychological tricks to enjoy every step of the way no matter how difficult it is.
Here are a couple tips to avoid the now what paradox and truly increase your happiness.
Like I mentioned above, expressing gratitude is huge for increasing happiness – regardless of your situation. Everyday, focus on 3 things, no matter how big or small, that you are grateful for. By continually doing this, you’ll engineer your mind to enjoy the present moment (as oppose to looking in the future).
It’s the same thing as an extremely tough workout. The best athletes I know can’t wait for their workout to end – because it’s so grueling – but they love every move and enjoy the struggle. Being grateful and enjoying the journey can make the destination – and the journey after the destination – more enjoyable and fulfilling.
It’s extremely common to set goals, as this is one of the best ways to succeed in life. Too many people, however, set finite goals without future goals. Life isn’t a quick sprint – it’s a never ending marathon with various checkpoints along the way. Your goals should be checkpoints, and you should hit as many as you can throughout your life time.
This is a very common used within personal training. For example, if you’re instructing a class on doing a push-up, you always start with the easiest variation first. You say something like “Alright, so we’re going to do push-ups on our knees. If you’re feeling really good, you can do a full push-up.” Either goal is a strong accomplishment, but you allow people to be fulfilled first – then you can push them to accomplish harder moves.
Many times in life the Now What paradox happens because we’re not sure what to do next. For me, I always ask myself this question when in that dilemma: What would my 60 year old self tell me to do right now? If the old version of myself could relive this current moment, what would my future self do?
Sometimes, although counter intuitive, the best way to move forwards is to jump ahead, only to backtrack to where you are right now. You can never know 100%, but it puts you in the right thinking mode about who you are and what you want to accomplish with your life.
This is one of the most important questions that very few people ask. I personally know people who are seeking higher degrees, yet have no idea what they want to do with them. Now don’t get me wrong: You can never know what’s going to happen on the other side of your destination, but understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing is critical.
What I’ve found is that many people will do things to distract themselves from thinking about their life and what they want to accomplish. I’ve even had people say to me “I work as much as I can so I don’t have to think about my life and what I want to do.”
Sitting down and really thinking about what you want to do is huge, and one of the best ways to constantly be fulfilled no matter what you’re doing. Constantly asking yourself Why will give every decision meaning, and with that meaning will be a genuine confidence that you’re on the right path.
The truth is, you can never know 100% if you’re on the right path. The best you can do is guess, because just about everything in life is completely uncertain. The key in life isn’t to figure out how to have more certainty, it’s figuring out how to be comfortable within uncertainty.