Forget New Year, New You. Embrace Who You Already Are.
Finding joy in just being you
Welcome to another edition of Beyond Self Improvement! Last Wednesday, I published Intimate Relationships Include Love (and Your Partner's Trauma).
Today’s essay is about finding joy in who you already are rather than who you long to be. If you’re new here, please subscribe to get my next essay in your inbox.
At the end of one year and the start of another, we find ourselves at a crossroads of reflection and anticipation.
The end of the year is often mixed with fond memories and a tinge of regret for what could have been. We look ahead, to set our sights on the coming year determined to fill perceived voids in our lives, to make up for missed opportunities, and to seek a fuller, more complete version of ourselves.
But there's a subtle trap in looking forward.
Most of us labor under the belief that we're one achievement away from lasting happiness. We see ourselves as unfinished canvases, forever incomplete until we paint the next big brushstroke of our lives. The present is reduced to a means to an end, a temporary state to be endured until we reach some imagined future utopia.
Every moment we fixate on the future, happiness is lost to the present.
Life, in all its complexity and wonder, is happening now. In a friend’s laughter, the dampness of morning air, hands under running water. These minor, seemingly mundane aspects of existence are the essence of daily life. Yet, they often go unnoticed as we chase future fulfillment.
Our ongoing pursuit can create a sense of perpetual incompleteness. There's always something more to be earned.
Climbing a mountain entails a series of false summits, one after the other, until you reach the top. The view from above is breathtaking and satisfying. But in daily life, contentment and well-being are not future destinations. Fulfillment doesn't reside at the top of any mountain. It lies in our ability to appreciate each step, to find contentment amid calamity.
For all its promise and potential, the future is merely a fantasy, a projection of our hopes and dreams.
Take, for example, a simple goal like avoiding sugar for a day. Achieving this might bring a momentary sense of accomplishment, but how enduring is that feeling? More often than not, the next day, we're back where we started, rationalizing our way back into an old habit. This pattern is a microcosm of a more significant human tendency—the endless pursuit of future goals under the illusion that their attainment will bring lasting satisfaction.
Now, imagine the epitome of success and luxury. Lounging by an infinity pool, the ocean stretching before you, every material desire at your fingertips. It's a dream shared by many, yet a glimpse into the lives of those living this life reveals a different story. Despite their material abundance, they often face the same existential discontent as anyone else.
This leads us to a crucial insight: enduring well-being is not a function of conditions. It cannot be earned or acquired.
So, what are we genuinely seeking in our relentless pursuit of a better future? In our constant striving for what's next, we overlook the richness of what is. We have to be careful to examine our motivations. Is our desire coming from a place of longing as if to fill a void in us? Or is it coming from a place of wholeness where we long to feel the fullness of life in all its abundance?
The real key to happiness may lie not in seeking more but in embracing what is, recognizing that the only moment we truly possess, and the only one where happiness can be found, is now. This isn't to say we shouldn't aspire to live better. Instead, it's a call to balance our future ambitions with a deep appreciation for the present. It's about understanding that while we may not be complete in the way we envision, we are complete as we are now.
Our lives, with all their imperfections and unfinished stories, are whole and always have been.
Instead of seeing life as a race towards a joyful future, we might see it as a path to be savored, one moment after the other, each with its intrinsic value and beauty. In this way, we can find a sense of peace and contentment that is not contingent on improving or fixing ourselves but rooted in who we already are, imperfections and all.
When you’re ready, I can help you transform chronic stress and worry into ongoing calm—making you feel in control in 90 days. Schedule a free, 30-minute discovery call today.
Or, if you want to grab coffee or tea, let me know whenever you're in Silicon Valley. ☕️