Yesterday I wrote about how leadership creates community, which, if you persevere, leads to living freely and by your values and experiencing deep emotional reward.
Your life improves by doing so. It creates effects I can only call problems, but they are problems you want to have because they help you learn and grow even more.
The “problem” with knowing how to make your dreams come true — in making your fantasies reality
As you develop your skills in leading others and creating the social worlds you want, you learn that your deepest emotional reward comes from your relationships with the people closest to you, including yourself. As a leader, you find yourself surrounded by people you mutually appreciate, respect, love, support, challenge, open up to, and so on — family, friends, romantic partners, colleague, and so on.
You resources to achieve your goals increase. You find yourself increasingly achieving goals you thought unreal, unachievable fantasies. You find you checked everything off the list of things you wanted to do in life. You realize you’ve traveled to every place you wanted to see. You sit down to have coffee with someone and they offer you your dream job when you didn’t even know it was available. And so on.
In other words, you realize you’ve created all the emotional reward, happiness, value, and so on you know how to in life.
Doesn’t sound like a problem, does it?
Then you realize the problem with knowing how to make your dreams come true.
You’re limited by your own imagination.
Being limited by your own imagination is an interesting challenge, when you realize your childhood fantasies limit you instead of inspire you. It might create a feeling of crisis, though you know you can find your way out of it and that doing so will make you bigger and stronger.
It forces you to look outside yourself for inspiration, to realize how much greater your community is than you are alone. It humbles you. It forces you to look up to everyone around you as sources of inspiration. It forces you to give and to receive. To share. To ask instead of answer.
The “problems” with being able to achieve what anyone else can
Parents and people trying to inspire and support people often say you can do anything you want or anything you set your mind to or anything anyone else can.
I don’t think people who have achieved their dreams say things like that. I think people who haven’t achieved their dreams say that. Being able to achieve anything you want isn’t simply a matter of having a great job, getting written up in the paper, or even having great relationships.
Being able to achieve what anyone else can forces you to examine your values and keep saying no to things. That’s not so obviously a benefit until you learn to handle it. You might envy people who don’t try to achieve their dreams and just accept the dreams society tells them to have.
The first time you value someone’s achievements and achieve your version of it you feel great. Same with the next time, though you start to realize that if you did it twice, you can probably do it a third time. After a third you start to realize you can do it as much as you want.
It still takes time, effort, and other resources. When you’re working on one thing you can’t work on another. You don’t just want to keep achieving things just because other people did it.
The “problems” are that
- You have to stop finding things you can achieve
- You have to keep upping your achievements
- You have to keep declining to do things you could do
- You have to stop finding people to emulate
The solutions to these “problems” are that you learn to value living how you want and to learn your priorities. You stop looking outside yourself for achievement.
You learn that, despite people saying you can achieve anything you want, you find less reward in achieving things. You find outcomes less important than activities. You find reward in living according to your values.
(I know some fool reading this is thinking, “Of course, Josh. Everyone knows it’s the journey, not the destination.” Sigh. Whatever.)
Pick any great leader in history. Did they achieve what they wanted? They probably achieved a lot, but their greatest goals they probably couldn’t achieve. Did Martin Luther King expect equality and mutual respect in his lifetime? Did Gandhi expect no fighting between all Indians in a unified nation? I doubt it.
Again, I doubt people who say you can achieve anything you want achieved anything or everything they wanted. It’s too complicated an outcome to describe so simply. Life has only one finishing line — death — and you don’t get to look back after it. For everything else you have to keep on living and you have to find out what to keep living for beyond transient achievements.