“She’s going places. He will go far. They’ve made it!” Everyday speech is littered with these apparently harmless phrases, yet they all hide something deeply disturbing. Something about the way we relate to success and the good life that poisons everyday living.
Behind the words
What do these little daily phrases actually mean? What ‘place’ are you really trying to get to? Where is this destination that is apparently so desirable? What does ‘making-it’ look like? The sad reality is that behind these words is an idea of the good life that is all about externally-measured achievement. That puts the good life outside of yourself, somewhere out there to be reached. On some pinnacle or mountain top in the future where you are supposed to find real happiness. Happiness, which you believe you cannot yet experience because you have not got there, because you have not yet ‘made it’.
But, why kick the can down the road and ignore where you are now? What do you not already have today, which if you did have tomorrow, would allow you to experience happiness? Is there really something so special in the ‘destination’ that it will suddenly change everything?
Is all this not an error of understanding that prioritises the wrong thing?
Box ticking and hoop jumping
It would be unfair to argue that all this is exclusively a malaise of modernity. For thousands of years, man has sought paradise in the future — if not in this world, then in the next. At the same time, the extent to which the modern human is hell bent on ticking off external achievements is perhaps unprecedented.
Locked in a paradigm that is obsessed with constantly measuring ourselves, we cheat ourselves out of the present. We cheat ourselves out of truly living because we are always looking ahead to something else — something bigger and better. Such that we create a cycle of seeking and seeking, but never finding. We have forgotten that the experience of each unfolding moment itself is a thing of beauty — a thing of inherent worth and wonder. So, the modern mind anxiously looks to the future, missing what is readily available now.
The good life is already here
As the philosopher Alan Watts aptly noted; “Making plans for the future is of use only to people who are capable of living completely in the present”. So, the good life that is postponed becomes an illusion that never really fulfils its promise.
The trouble is that modernity is so geared towards relentless striving that it takes special effort to break free! To resist being pulled into endless hoop jumping that only defers to the future what is freely available today. And, breaking free begins with noticing how you might have been misled. Misled into living by the subtle, but toxic, beliefs that hide behind these everyday phrases!
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.