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When I was 15 years old, my grandmother took me to a Honda motorcycle dealership one day and bought me a moped. I believe it was called an Aero 50. That was one of the greatest days of my life at the time because, for at least the previous few years, I had been lobbying my parents for a moped and they had never gotten me one. Then, one Friday, my grandmother came over and I tried the same lobbying approach on her, and by Saturday afternoon, I was riding a new moped. When I got the moped, I could not believe it. I reckoned I would likely keep and enjoy it forever.
“You like this now, but in a year or two you are going to want a car,” she told me.
I remember looking at her as if she were crazy.
“No I won’t!” I told her. “How could someone ever want anything more than this great moped?”
I was completely serious. At the time I could not imagine ever wanting a car. However, as I am sure you probably have guessed, I did decide I wanted a car eventually. In fact, not much time had passed before I went from being completely satisfied with the moped to wanting a car. And then later, once I got a car I moved from wanting one car to wanting another, and so forth. As I got older this pattern continued to play itself out with various aspects of my life:
It seems that people never really get satiated with anything. Everyone I know is like this to some extent. You are almost certainly like this. We get satiated and then we want something different from what we currently have. Some people do this with wives and husbands. Others do this with drugs. The point is, however, that most of us are never satiated with what we have and we are continually seeking more and more of what we do not have. Once we are satiated with one thing we decide that we now want something more. Most of us move through life like this, constantly on the search. In many respects, we are like babies. If a baby is crying and you give her/him a bottle, she/he will be happy for some time. However, the baby will eventually start crying again and want something else. She/he may want to be held, for example. A baby is never completely satiated for long and neither are we adults.
The need for satiation comes from a tremendous sense of lack that we all have. We believe people, material possessions, and things outside of ourselves will make us feel complete. And we continually seek to feel completed in one way or another. From the moment we are born, we are continually crying out for more and more. It seems this is simply a part of life.
I recently heard a story about an old gambler. One day the man fell over and died. This gambler had had a very difficult life and had, like many gamblers, spent his life chasing “wins” and continually felt like a loser because he was ultimately never able to beat the house. All the losing he had experienced in the casinos throughout his life had caused him a great deal of pain. His dying wish was to somehow be able to come back as a young man and win every hand at every game he ever played in the casinos.
After dying, the man wakes up in a giant suite in the nicest casino in Las Vegas. It is the nicest hotel suite he has ever seen. The man looks in the mirror and is surprised to see he is young and good looking. He takes the elevator downstairs and starts gambling, winning over and over again. Everyone is congratulating the man with each hand, since it seems that every game he plays he wins. Next, he walks into the casino steakhouse and has a great dinner. Afterwards he gambles some more, and each time he gambles he ends up winning. Everywhere he goes people are congratulating the man. He meets the most beautiful women in the casino and they walk around with him from table to table.
That evening when he goes to sleep all of his new girlfriends are next to him and the man proclaims he has had the best day of his life. Having won hundreds of thousands of dollars, and since everything he had ever hoped for has come true, the man decides that he must be in heaven. He is in an absolute state of bliss.
The next day the gambler wakes up in his hotel suite and goes downstairs into the casino. To his astonishment, he has the exact same day again, winning every single game he plays. Everywhere he goes a large crowd follows him and congratulates him for continually winning every hand.
The next day the same thing occurs, and the next day, and then the next as well.
Pretty soon the man gets very angry that he keeps winning, that his life is so predictable. He prays and an angel appears. The man explains to the angel how every single day is the same and he keeps winning. He tells the angel that he is mad that Heaven is so predictable.
“You are not in Heaven,” the Angel tells him. “You are in Hell.”
In this story, since the man could have had anything and everything he wanted, he began to experience extreme pain. It seems in truth, that as a result of this, he was not getting everything he wanted.
The first way we learn to get our needs met is by experiencing pain. If you cried as a baby your needs were met. You would be fed and taken care of. However, without having experienced pain as babies, nothing would ever have changed; ultimately our needs would never have been met. Pain is something that drives us forward throughout our entire lives. We all need to keep experiencing growth and growing. We are programmed at a deep genetic level to continue experiencing pain, and to never be completely happy and content: When most of us get something we become temporarily satiated for a moment, or a while. Then, once we are through with experiencing the feeling of being satiated, we start searching for what will give us that feeling all over again.
Most of us learn early in our lives that if we achieve our dream, our lives will be completely and certainly fulfilled; however, when we do achieve our dreams, we often soon decide that this is not enough, and we decide we need something more. Essentially, we are never happy. How many things did you use to enjoy doing that you did a lot, and now are no longer so interested in? Eventually we may cease to find enjoyment in things, hobbies for instance, that we have partaken in time and time again. A professional athlete may not enjoy the sport they play anymore because they played it for many years. What was once a thrill becomes mundane. When we do something over and over again we take it for granted, and often forget why we loved doing it in the first place.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were having dinner with a well known actress who has played leading roles in Academy Award winning films (although she has not actually won any Academy Awards). During dinner the actress basically spoke about herself the entire time–about herself and her career and, since we so admire her work and the successful career she has had, my wife and I enjoyed listening to her every word. This woman’s primary concern, she shared, was that she was tired of acting and tired of Hollywood. She felt like she needed to move to some other new career. She believed that life is to be experienced and that she could never fully experience life by doing just one job. As tempted as I was, I refrained from mentioning to her the glaringly obvious fact that most people would die to be in this woman’s position, being such a famous actress. Instead, I took a look at this woman and thought about a job she could do, which would make the best use of her acting skills, looks, education, ability to sell herself and so forth.
“You ought to be a real estate agent,” I told her. “In Malibu or Beverly Hills, but probably Malibu. People would love having a movie star for a real estate agent. You would get all of the clients and make a ton of money and have fun.”
She absolutely beamed when I suggested this, and she related how her mom had been the most successful real estate agent in Dallas. We spent the next couple of hours talking about the next steps and what she would need to do in order to become a real estate agent.
It was an enjoyable discussion in all respects but she knew, my wife knew, and I knew that this actress would never really try to become a real estate agent. The point is, this woman was simply satiated with being an actress, and she was merely fantasizing about doing something different. Every one of us does this from time to time. We do it with our jobs, with our relationships, our possessions–with everything. We become satiated and feel like what we are doing and what we have is simply not enough. We want something more.
Even if we are a world famous actress.
We all need to grow and contribute. Everything in the universe either grows or it dies. Accordingly, no matter how good things are, we are all programmed to complicate them and not stay complacent with the way things are. For many people, problems are like an exciting drug that they inject into their lives from time to time; they seek out this drug again and again in order to feel better and experience some sensation of change.
As I was sitting there with the actress discussing how someone who makes millions of dollars per film was potentially going to try selling houses, I decided that this woman’s situation of discontent was like her drink over dinner. My wife, the actress, and I were all sitting in a dark Japanese restaurant on a Saturday evening sipping water as people around us were drinking Sake and having a good time fueled in some respects by liquor. We did not need any liquor, though. Instead, we had the dilemma of the actress to discuss. I realized right then and there that the problems we experience are all like drugs. We use these drugs to entertain us, to fill our time, and in some ways, make us feel good.
The point I want to make to you is that your problems are your gifts and, in a large sense they are like a healthy drug. You would not be happy in your life without problems. We all seek problems out and enjoy them, even when they are challenging. They fill our time and propel us forward into a future ripe with change. So bear this in mind: Your biggest problem (also your biggest asset in disguise), is the problem you do not think you are supposed to have.
Embrace your problems.
No matter what you do, you are never going to be fully and completely satiated. However, your inability to be satiated will drive you forward in your career and life. In order to achieve and get where you want to go, you need to stay hungry. Think about the last time you felt great. Your whole emotional and physical state changed. You probably have felt the best in your life when you were working through some challenge, with a solid goal in mind. This is how it happens for everyone. Problems are the fuel of our life.
Problems create energy and energy creates change.
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