Have you ever (like me) thought that once you finish your book/get an agent/become a published author/become a worldwide bestseller everything will fall into place? If so, I am here to crush your dreams (but I will do my best to build them up again afterwards).
Theorem number one: I will never be happy unless I live out my dream.
This is a plausible assertion in today’s world, where we are expected to “find ourselves”, to be unique and to kick butt at being just that. In the olden days, when people were expected to stay put in their village/class/profession, this was not so much the case. Lucky them.
Theorem number two: I will never be happy living out my dream unless that dream requires certain sacrifices.
This is also plausible. Have you been told that the best things in life are free? Well, you’re in for a surprise. The best things in life come from hard work, and the only reason they are so great is that you can compare your success to the terrible feeling you had working your way towards the goal. A vacation never feels as great as when you know you’ve deserved it. Receiving a raise is sweet because you’ve been paid absolute crap for years. We constantly compare ourselves to ourselves. Me now is better off than me two years ago = life is good. Conversely, if me now is worse off than me two years ago = life stinks.
Assuming that theorem number one and theorem number two both apply, what happens when we combine the two?
Theorem number three: I will never be happy unless I live out my dream, but achieving that dream will make me feel so crappy I go mad in the process.
The conclusion? Either you remain unhappy not living out your dream, or you become unhappy in the process. And, if all things fall into place after all, and you by some miracle manage to live out your dream without toiling yourself to death in the process, the prospects aren’t any better…
Theorem number four: Once I achieve my dream I will be unhappy because I no longer have a goal in life.
The Norwegian sociologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen has written about this, extensively. I have not actually read his book, but since I live quite close to him I feel I am competent to interpret his scientific findings for the use of this blog post without having done so.
What Hylland Eriksen is claiming is that in a society like Norway – where we have every material need we could possibly want – we have lost sight of the goal, because every goal we can possibly think of has already been reached. He probably has a more articulate way of explaining this, but again, I would have to actually read his book to know, and I am not planning on doing that. Besides, I am not trying to say something clever about modern societies, I am merely warning you that reaching the dream of writing books or being published might not be as sweet as we all imagined.
Now, don’t worry, things aren’t entirely bleak. There are two important life lessons to be learnt here. I won’t even put them in theorems, I swear (but italics are not to be avoided, I’m afraid).
First of all, have more than one goal. If it is your dream to go scuba diving in the Pacific, then fine, do that. But make sure that it also is your dream to have a family, or a big house, or a fantastic collection of rubber chickens. Otherwise, you, like the Big Bad Wolf, might end up realizing that your life has no direction the second you dive in.
Secondly, try to make the means a goal in itself. Sure, the road to fulfilling a dream might be paved with insanity, but only if you let it. If your dream is to write a novel, try to do it in a pace that suits you. Find your way, hopefully one that won’t make it impossible to also achieve other things in life (again, avoid becoming the Big Bad Well-Fed-But-Bored Wolf).
Third, don’t let your final goal be the ultimate goal. If your goal is to compose a symphony, chances are it won’t be the best symphony ever written. Besides, even if you are Beethoven, there is always the possibility of topping your own achievement. Try to make your next symphony even better. Or improve the one you already wrote by making the world’s top performers lift it to perfection. As long as your dream isn’t to be the first one to reach the South Pole (sorry, it’s already been done), there is always room for improvement.
I think I wrote an entire self-help book in one blog post. Now what will I do with my life?!