“Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said, ‘Each man kills the thing you loves.’
And it’s true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at those who have failed to get what they want and feel we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal – when it was only a step away.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the soul of the world and you understand why you are here.
Paulo Coelho – Introduction to The Alchemist; 10th Anniversary Edition
This passage was terrifying. Though I have been prone to exaggeration at times, I picked the adjective “terrifying” with deliberation. It’s terrifying. Imagine working almost non-stop for the last two years, trying to heal my personal, professional, spiritual and financial life, succeeding at it, and then destroying it.
Imagine the job seeker who gets the job she always wanted and then forgets to be the person she was in the interview. Imagine the man pursuing the woman he loves, winning her, and then making her life miserable until she leaves him alone and empty. Imagine the aspiring student working for years to get into the college of his dreams and then not studying when he gets there.
Self-sabotage occurs twice: on our way to victory and when we’ve achieved victory. In my life, I’ve sabotaged my best efforts many times. I’ve been fired from jobs I loved. I was kicked out of school. I’ve damaged my finances. I’ve hurt people. Some of these things I’ve been able to repair. Others I was not.
Now I am experiencing a new life. Perhaps you are, too. Perhaps life has taken on a new meaning because it finally has a meaning. There are few things more stimulating than the pursuit of a goal. When I am pursuing a goal, I feel alive and present and joyful. Even with the inevitable difficulties, it is an amazing time. The problem is that when we’ve reached our goal, we think we have reached our goal. We haven’t. Each goal should be a step to the next goal. You should never completely arrive. Never. If you do, then you’re dead – spiritually or literally. Improvement or a forward movement should always accompany the attainment of goals.
When you get that job you’ve always wanted, you have to act as if you’re still applying for it. When you marry the woman you love, you have to continue winning her heart. When you get that scholarship, you have to work as if it could be taken away any moment or as if you could get it doubled.
Fear of loss is not the solution here. Awareness is. We need to be aware before, during, and after the attainment of our goals. This may not be the best news, but it’s the truth:
The battle never ends. When you win one battle, there will be a new one to fight. There will be new goals. There MUST be new goals.
This is not bad news. It is simply the truth. As long as I have goals, then I will have something to live for, something beyond myself. In The Secret of Shelter Island – Money and What Matters, Alexander Green writes, “(M)illions more suffer from a chronic melancholy that emanates form an entirely different source: a lack of meaning in their lives.”
What about those who have self-sabotaged just before the attainment of their goals? If they are wise, the will do one of two things. They will either try to undo the damage they’ve done and keep striving towards their goals. Or they will start again. They will learn to understand the source of their self-sabotage, embrace it and move forward. The next time they won’t ignore those feelings of unworthiness. They will look at them, accept them and keep moving forward.
This leads to the next question: Do we deserve to be happy, especially when so many are unhappy?
There are two ways to answer the question. The first is to realize that it’s the wrong question. The problem with this question is two words – “deserve” and “happy.” A better question is this: “Are we obligated to live meaningful lives?”
The answer is yes. We are here for a reason. It is not to be happy, though if we live in our purpose, we will find happiness most of the time. Our purpose resides deep, or not so deep, within our DNA. It aligns with our choices of the people we love, the careers we choose and the way we spend our time. We feel a sense of peace, joy, and accomplishment when we are in and when we stay in our purpose. When we wander outside of it, the wolf is waiting at the door.
There’s one other way to answer the question of deserving to be happy. The answer is yes. If you have worked towards your goals with diligence, determination, and consistency, then you deserve everything you get. So Get Started. Keep Going. Even when you’ve arrived. Especially when you’ve arrived.