My whole life I’ve been an achiever. This year I realized the source of this drive to achieve, and it hasn’t been pretty. But it has resulted in a whole new way of approaching life for me. You see, for the vast majority of us achievers, the motivation, so deep-seeded and unconscious, is a drive for acceptance – to be seen as “good enough”, to be loved. When I realized this as the driving force, it was a liberating shock. I’ve often admired people who achieve a lot, particularly those that do great things in many areas – run twenty companies, excel at many sports, etc. With this new insight, I actually began to feel a bit of sorrow for them, realizing that in most cases, their octane achievements are built on this ache for love. I was a bit sad for myself as this all settled in too. “Wow, all these achievements are really a symbol of this desire for acceptance and love. That hurts.”
But now, I feel freed from that drive. I’m not seeking out new achievements. I’m seeking the things that bring me joy, and pursuing them, without the need to excel at them. The achievements still come, but their meaning is in the process of getting there. The end result seems so ephemeral to me now, like a cherry blossom that blooms full of beauty and then disappears. It’s been a shift for me to see that I am not what I do. But rather what I do is a reflection of what I am. I am defined by me, not by the achievements.
I finally got a copy of my new book in my hands. For a few days I would look at it, feeling, “Wow, here it is. I did it.” And then someone asked for a copy, and he was leaving for another country, and I just gave the only copy in existence to him. It was somehow symbolic of this new awareness.
I’m still pursuing a lot, but somehow, the things I’m doing I’m pursuing for the sake of themselves – the fun, or the intrinsic value of the action itself – rather than for the hope of receiving some recognition or love. I achieve things now, and sort of say, “cool!”, and then move on. I’ve realized that who I am has more to do with who I am and not with what I do. As a friend of mine said, you were a “human doing”, now you’re a “human being.” It’s been liberating.