Day 14: Alternative Paths

Challenge: The world buzzes about goals and visions. Focus. Create a vivid picture of exactly where you want to go. Dream big, then don’t let anything or anyone stop you. The problem, as Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling Upon Happiness, is that we’re horrible at forecasting how we’ll really feel 10 or 20 years from now – once we’ve gotten what we dreamed of. Often, we get there only to say, “That’s not what I thought it would be,” and ask, “What now?” Ambition is good. Blind ambition is not. It blocks out not only distraction, but the many opportunities that might take you off course but that may also lead you in a new direction. Consistent daily action is only a virtue when bundled with a willingness to remain open to the unknown. In this exercise, look at your current quest and ask, “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” They’re always there, but you’ve got to choose to see them. 

I have a history of being obsessive. When I was younger, I was obsessed with losing weight. That one still comes and goes, but it's become more of an over-arching goal of just keeping healthy and not outgrowing my clothes. 

In my teens and early 20's, I was obsessed with boys, and finding the perfect relationship. That made for a lot of drama, a lot of craziness, but also a lot of fun. Once I got that taken care of, I was obsessed with finding the perfect job. That was a long, hard, self-doubting process, but it happened. Now that I have a great job, I'm obsessed with the idea of becoming an artist. I think this one is going to last a while, but it's starting to go from being torturous and self-doubting activity to being a fun, if difficult, one.

None of my past obsessions have turned out exactly the way I expected them to, but they turned out well. I think I know myself well enough to guess at how I'll feel 10-20 years from now and to know that if I'm wrong, I'll adjust. I've thought about what happens if I fail at my current goals. What happens if I'm never any good at being an artist? I don't think it matters. This time it really is more about the process, and the enjoyment of learning. My goal is vague -- I want to get better, and preferably good, but I don't really have a concrete plan for what happens from there.

If I'm successful, maybe I turn it into more of a career. If I not, I continue to enjoy it for myself. Earlier on, I couldn't have said that -- it was success or nothing -- but if I make it that serious it's no fun anymore. I enjoy what I do now, and I feel very lucky for that -- if good things come in the future, it's icing on the cake. If what the future holds isn't so good, I'll deal with the curve balls as they come. That's all I've ever done, and all I know how to do.