Once we've set goals we are excited about, we may become frustrated that we aren't there yet.
Even if we intellectually understand that working toward the goal comes before achieving it, we get sucked into an awareness of how we are lacking the attainment of the goals now, as we pursue them. This frustration stems from losing sight of all of the blessings and advantages in the present moment.
Take actors, for example—I speak with some experience here as I previously pursued an acting career and have friends who are still in the industry. Many actors spend the beginning of their careers wanting an agent. That's natural, but there are advantages to the early career stages, too. For example, when you freelance you don't feel any external pressure to audition for projects that you aren't excited about.
This dichotomy continues as goals are met. Once an actor lands an agent, he or she might dream of working on a highly rated sitcom. But, I know of an actor who landed one of those coveted roles right out of grad school. Even though he was happy for the success and the paycheck, he grew tired of playing the same character year after year and didn't always love the show's writing—especially in comparison to the wonderful texts he worked with when he was training.
Success can feel just as good (if not better) than we ever imagined it would feel. But, the present moment offers us benefits, too. If we open ourselves to appreciating the positives, we will have a more joyful experience along the way to realizing our goals.
As you begin the new year, make a list of 3-5 goals which you are pursuing. Now, make a list of positive aspects of your life now as you work toward achieving each of them.
For example, you want to go to college. Maybe you like the fact that grocery shopping isn't your responsibility. Maybe you have a few good high school friends whom you enjoy going to school with. Maybe you like driving your car and plan to attend a school where a car isn't encouraged. Maybe you appreciate having your own room. Maybe a part of you actually enjoys the excitement and mystery of not knowing where you will matriculate. Some days it is just enough to know the sun is shining. Some days it is just enough to know that it is a new day, a fresh start.
Everybody will have something different that they feel grateful for, but the point is that fostering gratitude—and, yes, gratitude is something that you must attend to consciously—will not only help you become attuned to the things that you appreciate but also help you appreciate your life as it is right now.
When you can appreciate the present, it makes the journey to where you are going feel so much better. Moreover, right now is the moment that takes you to where you are going—if nothing else, feel grateful for that.
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