Moving Targets

I remember when I was about 12 years old. My dream of growing up was that I would go to university, get a job and then live happily ever after. It turns out that in real life, happily ever after is just… tomorrow.

More interestingly to me, though, was that long before that initial ‘happiness target’ was achieved, I had moved on. My goals and aspirations had progressed to other, grander things. Thinking about that, I noticed that it was/is a trend that still continues in which every time I would set myself a goal, achieving that goal almost seemed to implicitly mean that I had already set my sights on new, loftier ambitions.

The problem with deriving happiness from the fulfillment of my life’s objectives is twofold. First of all, success isn’t guaranteed and I feel like I fail at things almost as often as I succeed. Second, even in success, the pursuit of happiness starts to look remarkably similar to chasing the wind, as goals evolve faster than they can be achieved.

In order to combat this feeling of being in a constant state of ‘almost there’, I have tried to adopt a system in which I tie my happiness, not to the completion of a fixed, yet ever-changing set of life objectives, but instead to the process of achieving these objectives: both my progress and my learnings. I also travel and occasionally jump out of fast-moving aircraft and off really high things because, y’know, daredevil l’omo.

I recently read somewhere, that parents tend to teach their kids that success in all endeavours is their ultimate objective. This is especially true in many middle class Nigerian homes where your report card at the end of the term or year was one of the biggest determining factors of whether or not you would enjoy that particular vacation. Kids are raised to believe that success is good, failure is bad and that’s all there is to it.

While on the surface, this might seem like a great way to raise winners and the leaders of tomorrow, it is problematic because it doesn’t teach them about the inevitability of failure that comes with being human. As it turns out, operating as a member of this species means that regardless of who you are or what you do, you will fail sometimes. Sometimes it will be your fault, other times it will be due to factors entirely out of your control and often completely opaque to you. I think it is much more important to learn to always put in an honest effort and to learn from our failures.

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