Our Greatest Reward
When I was a kid I always dreamed of winning an Oscar. I was always trying out and acting in plays and thinking about the future. That Oscar statue was the ultimate dream. That dream was also the same for most actors I came across when I moved to LA.
Growing up in Idaho, I would watch the Oscars every year in my room and I would give a “thank you” speech, usually during the commercials. I loved acting and pretending to win. I would be overflowing with joy for that couple minutes to the point that it felt real. As I watched the show I would also choose who I wanted to win in several categories and when they would win I would often act as though I had won. This is quite embarrassing to admit actually… Maybe for you, it was dreaming of winning a big game, or a dream job, or the lottery… or maybe I was just a kid with an active imagination.
I know it seems foolish but I want you to think of a reward you really want right now. Think of becoming a New York Times Best Selling Author, winning a Grammy, gaining a prestigious title, being the MVP of a sports team or winning a big game, becoming president– there’s no limit with this exercise just pick something like this that would bring you that acknowledgment you’d want most. Warning if you don’t want to frighten people I would do this alone in a bathroom or bedroom.
Go ahead, take a minute to feel what that win… jump up and down, smile-basking in the feeling of it, yell with joy (into a pillow if you have roommates). Do what you need to feel how it would feel. Give a speech, thanking the people who gave you the award or position. Go on for a minute or two. If you are somewhere where this exercise isn’t possible, like in public, just close your eyes and imagine it and resume reading after you’re done.
Sit quietly in the feeling for a moment quietly…. then scroll down…
Floating back to reality….
And here we are, back to our reality. The thing that would happen whenever I did this was I would be left with a subtle feeling of “now what?”. After achieving such a big dream (even in our minds) we often feel that sense of joy crash quickly. It’s kind of like a sugar rush that initially is full of energy until we come back down needing more to achieve it again. The high of achieving for ego sake will always lead to the “what now?” crash. We will be left looking ahead for the next rush, sometimes right after you get what you wanted.
When the end goal is all we chase, we can become obsessive in our pursuit of it. Too often people will take shortcuts to get there, which will often backfire. Competing with so many others can cause otherwise great people to become ruthless. You have probably seen this playing sports or in an office setting, sometimes people will do anything to win. Little feels emptier than winning something when you know you don’t deserve it. When you made someone look bad for the purpose of making yourself looking better or cheated to get it, you become a villain in your story of victory. Some athletes who took steroids to win have been candid about this.
If you find yourself turned off by the work you would have to do, to earn your goal the honest way, the thousands of hours it might take to master your chosen field and achieve excellence, then there’s your answer– that path isn’t for you. Once you figure that out, you work to find where to put your precious energy.
Winning awards is a great thing and incentives can help people achieve amazing things but personally, the best incentive I’ve found is knowing that what I do today may help someone. Shifting your focus to what you’re giving will help you achieve miraculous things throughout your journey.
Goals that are rooted in ego will not be rewarding in the end. They will feel empty, unless they help others; thus giving, before receiving. I wrote about this topic in particular in my post Goals vs. Soul Goals and again when I wrote a separate post on Setting Soul Goals. Soul goals will bring you a lasting feeling of happiness because they align you with your purpose.
The end goal can be so exciting that it gets a lot of attention but when we don’t focus on what brought us the recognition, we forget that to achieve greatness we must give something great to deserve it. The talent we can share and inspiration we can give others will live on much longer than the high of winning something will.
Instead of focusing on what you gain, focus on what you can give and in time the world will reward you for the good you do.
I leave you with this final thought-
The runner doesn’t focus just on the finish line, they focus on each step that will bring them closer to it. Focus on the run, not the reward and you’ll go so far.