For me, being driven is important. Essential even.
I need the energy of dissatisfaction with the status quo to push forward and achieve the things I want to achieve. It’s been the fuel that has taken Videoprawn to where it is currently, and it’s the best way I know of making progress.
But it comes at a cost
When your mindset is focused on a shiny goal in the future, your worldview becomes one of perpetual planning, looking forward, viewing the current situation as a thing to be constantly improved upon.
“Experiencing the present moment to as high a degree as possible is the wiser mindset.”
The more I read on Buddhist philosophy and the more I take an interest in mindfulness meditation, the more glaring the disparity between these two mindsets appears.
On the one hand, I’m focusing on goals, strategies, the future. And on the other, I’m training my attention to sit in the present, not giving energy to events outside the current moment.
I know, in truth, that experiencing the present moment to as high a degree as possible is the wiser mindset.
However, if you lock yourself in your bedroom all day meditating, the bailiffs will eventually come knocking.
The reason I opted to start my own business was to create a life which offers me freedom, both financially and temporally. I was under no illusions that in order to live a life of relative freedom, I would need to earn money, and in order to do that I would need to be able to drive myself.
“If there’s no set point at which you can say ‘I have achieved today’s goals’, then your mind will never leave the dissatisfied state.”
So, how to navigate the middle path?
Is there a way to harness the power of dissatisfaction enough to achieve the necessary goals, whilst maintaining the ability to switch it off once it has turned from useful to unhealthy?
What steps can be taken to ensure that limits are put on ambitions and goals, so as to provide a cut-off point at which one can switch to a more mindful mode?
Because if there’s no set point at which you can say ‘I have achieved today’s goals’, then your mind will never leave the dissatisfied state - a recipe for terrible mental health.
This is the mindset a lot of entrepreneurs, business-people and high-achievers get used to living in - the ‘always-on’, ‘hustle’ mentality, championed by many influential voices online.
It’s the reason so many people suffer professional burnout; achievement at the expense of health, relationships, and well-being.
“What does achievement look like in its final form?“
I wonder then, whether a sensible approach would be to ask ourselves what the end goal is. What does achievement look like in its final form?
That could be on the scale of a lifetime or simply a day. What does a completely achieved today look like? Are we able to define it?
If we are, then it offers the possibility of a finish line, at which point we can let go of our dissatisfaction, switch off, and begin to appreciate everything our current circumstances offer us.
“More than just salaries and job titles - what is a well-lived life?”
And what about a lifetime? More than just salaries and job titles - what is a well-lived life? It might be helpful to view this question through the eyes of our 90-year-old selves.
Stepping forwards in time and looking back over a life yet to be played out may offer us the perspective we need to identify the important things we want out of our time here.
It may be that the goals we’re hell-bent on achieving now don’t seem all that important when viewed from this perspective. And perhaps, experiencing more of the present moment rises up the priority list.
For me, it’s a constant exercise of readjustment.
Spending a certain amount of time in the driven mode helps me ensure that I’m pushing forward to hit my targets and grow the business to a point that affords me a life of relative freedom.
However, it’s my ongoing challenge to always maintain enough mindfulness so as to ensure I’m able to switch off, enjoy things as they come, and not forecast my days away.
By Ben Eames, Videoprawn