The End Goal
By Hannah Nott, Changemaker at Maggie Marilyn
For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with The End Goal. Not necessarily, dream apartment in New York and five perfect children, but that at some point in my life I would be 100% satisfied with who I am and what I’ve done and I will feel complete happiness. That, one way or another, my future will look better than my present, and future me will be better than present me.
My friends and family can attest that this has been an exhausting way to live my life. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a productive day at university or an evening spent with loved ones, when I lie in bed my first thought is never, “What did I do well? What did I learn? Whose day did I make better?”, but, “Where could I have worked harder? Done more?”, and then brainstorming ways that tomorrow might be better.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the worst trait to pursue self-improvement - but jumping from task to task only for that high of accomplishing something to last a split-second before thinking “This isn’t quite good enough...” means I’m never fully present and usually convince myself that I’m unhappier than I actually am. It can be a selfish mindset too - although stemming from insecurity rather than vanity - to be constantly worrying what others think.
A few months ago I decided it was time to do something about my unhealthy obsession so, on the advice of my parents, I began reading one of those self-help books. Something I love about my parents is the abundance of resources, books and podcast recommendations they dish out when my sisters and I are feeling a little lost. In the book was a quote by Grechin Rubin: “It isn’t goal attainment, but rather the process of striving after a goal that brings happiness.” After dissecting the rest of the chapter I soon felt silly for spending the better part of twenty-one years making dangerously critical comparisons between who I am and a future version of myself that doesn’t exist. I had, inaccurately, lumped happiness and satisfaction together, and convinced myself that the more I did or the harder I worked, the happier I would be. I reflected on Rubin’s quote and considered how seeing the world through this lens - one that recognises that happiness and success are, in fact, separate - might change the way I see myself.
My findings? Instead of going to sleep with feelings of guilt about what I hadn’t done well enough that day, I found myself practicing gratitude for all the ways I’d shown up in the world, and subsequently felt more satisfied with right now and less concerned with The End Goal. In a matter of weeks I felt more rested because I had created more space to enjoy myself and genuine moments of happiness in my life. I also had more space to be a better friend and daughter, and more space to be satisfied with who I am.
There is a beautiful quote by Yeats that I’ve been thinking about lately: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” I might put that on a t-shirt one day.