I lost 20 lbs of bodyfat in the last 8 weeks. I’m incredibly proud of myself, I think this is a huge accomplishment – but I’m not finished. When I look down and see the chiseled 6 pack that isn’t there yet, I observe simultaneously the radical changes my body has undergone so far, as well as the feeling that I can’t rest on my laurels. I can’t quit half way even though half way feels good.
This mix of happy confidence and wariness got me to make a distinction in the way I view goals and attainments.
One can feel fulfilled (and should), but never should one strive to feel satisfied.
‘Dukkha’, the classical Buddhist term domestically translated to ‘suffering’, is equally valid as being translated to ‘unsatisfactoriness’. So the understandibly bleak Noble Truth:
‘All is suffering.’
Is appropriately reinterpreted as:
‘Nothing is ultimately/permanently satisfying.’
In Shakespeares’s Julius Caesar, the curse of Cassius’s character was that he was never fully satisfied, never sated with his station in life, always looking to the bigger dog, unhungry for his own bone.
Steven Covey’s last manifesto saw him ‘living life in crescendo’, an ever increasing cacophony of sound and power, but without a summation – without completing the song.
And of course the Zen story of the man hanging from the branch, facing certain death from tigers above and below, plucking and eating a strawberry – being utterly fulfilled for the moment.
So the distinction is made: Striving to be permanently fulfilled ends in jealously, tunnelvision and ‘eating up the world’. The cup’s function is to be filled – then emptied. Likewise, fulfillment comes and goes with the times, and must neither be belittled or clung to.
So how is this notion applied in life?
You have to focus on the transitory fulfillingness of something attained or accomplished, otherwise the pervasive (and appropriately human) hunger towards the next goal will blot out the joy of something done well. Likewise, this hunger for more I leave the point with a quote by Max Ehrman.
‘Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.’