Don't be fooled by your own achievements
You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.
— Lito Tejada-Flores
There is something I love about journeys to the airport. The early rise. Anticipation. Feeling as if you’re heading to another world after you ascend and descend from what can look like the heavens. Holidays were one of the most magical times as a kid because they certainly didn’t come around often. And this time, it was me driving to pick up my mother after a week-long retreat in Europe. Reflecting on why she’d chosen to go on one so early, already in 2023, helped me learn how to treat my previous and future accomplishments.
Between 2019 and 2022, I was pretty harsh with myself: I didn’t feel like I deserved a holiday or ‘break’ from my work goals until I’d made, what I had to feel, was a big enough step forward in achieving them. So much of myself needed to change, I felt. From the granular elements of my mindset to how I acted towards what I wanted (and didn’t want) in this world.
When Covid and lockdown hit, I practically turned into a hermit and used time and luck to pursue a new vocation, be clear on my passions and be myself, but better. Fast forward to now, and many of my promises to improve myself were kept, though I almost refused to acknowledge anything.
But I noticed the exhaustion—I can still feel it now at times—from pushing for so long. Accomplishing new things is ravishing, but recording the cost it took on you is also important. And it is even more important to take breaks, even when you think you’re totally fine.
When going through change or completing a life-changing goal, it is hard to actively remind yourself that your journey is more important than your destination. Accomplishments can’t do that alone. And the value of living in the present or treating yourself to enjoying the process of life is never something to easily dismiss.
I rarely took breaks, believing I would get to my destination faster. But what’s the rush? It only led to more problems and strain. Many lessons missed. For most people, we cannot learn something until we see it, success or consequence, for ourselves. And who knows how long that could take.
Along with those lessons, you may miss experiences and opportunities and compromise your health, happiness and relationships. All because you became too obsessed with getting where you wanted to go.
See it this way: accomplishments are a byproduct of the journey, not the other way around. The beauty of this is that you give more value to reconnecting with yourself—as it is more important than constantly doing something. What you put in allows you to learn who you are, what you want and what you value. It forms skills, talents, passions. It makes you realise that when you reach the glistening lake, all you’ll find is a reflection of your inner state of being.
For example, I have eyes on a couple of dream cars I’d love to own one day. But I know from hearing people who’ve already achieved this say that the joy was in the adventure towards this accomplishment. No matter what you dream or idolise in life, eventually, you’ll get there, and the excitement will fade away. It won’t stay as stimulating from beginning to end. You’ll always want the next thing. The rich and famous always say this, which is why journeys must be cherished more.
I realised lately that despite the bad, expensive, or outright stupid decisions I made as a kid in school and university—I don’t regret them now. I had so much fun. And I learned several things I carry with my values today, such as how I don’t stress as much as I used to or don’t take life as seriously. And my feelings towards these are constantly improving.
Rather than waiting for things to happen in future, I draw more satisfaction from focusing on what I have than what I lack. First and foremost, this means being open to learning and growing from my experiences—rather than resisting or avoiding them.
Identify how you want to feel. External goals are not worth “chasing”. They may or may not make us happy, so they are unreliable. What’s more important is creating positive emotions and states of mind that align with our values and purpose.
Set milestones and celebrate them. One of my happiest moments this year was seeing a close friend celebrate reaching a significant milestone by buying one of their favourite watches. It reminded me how important it is to break big goals into smaller steps and appreciate our efforts as we track them.
Establish a routine. Don’t let yourself wander in the dark. Everyone needs routine to facilitate their work. And it must include activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul to keep you balanced and motivated. It also creates habits as a byproduct to support your well-being and happiness.
What you don’t have doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that we look different, have less money or aren’t as funny. Or whatever it is that you may use to compare yourself. Let practising gratitude help you see how abundant you are, and it will naturally attract more into your life.
Learn to unplug from distractions. Moments where I put my phone down for a while (like now, as I write this to you) are some of the most serendipitous. It’s easy to forget how caught up we can be in our devices and other worlds. And this is why it’s vital to regularly take time from your schedule to reconnect with yourself, nature, and others.
Our achievements are rarely a reliable measure of our true worth. Success is easily influenced by luck, circumstances, or external factors. And rather than being complacent or arrogant about what we’ve done, we should strive to be great at moving on from them. Once celebrated, continue to improve yourself and contribute to the world. Because only then can we avoid being deceived by our illusions of greatness.