How To Discover What You Really Want in Life
In the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, Siddhartha and Govind are two best friends who seek enlightenment.
When they can’t find it at home, they travel far and wide, eventually separating when they meet the Buddha. Govind becomes a follower of The Enlightened One while Siddhartha becomes a successful businessman, gets close to a woman, and finally leaves it all to join a boatman who lives on a riverbank.
As time goes by, Govind hears about a wise boatman who knows the meaning of enlightenment and sets out to meet him. This boatman is none other than Siddhartha, who takes over the role after the boatman he lived with passes away.
When Govind recognizes Siddhartha, he confesses that he never stopped searching for enlightenment. Then, Siddhartha explains the difference between seeking and finding to Govind as:
“When someone is searching, then it can easily happen that the only thing his eyes see is that for which he’s searching. He is then unable to find anything or let any thoughts enter his mind because he always thinks of nothing but the object of his search. He is obsessed by a goal; searching means having a goal. But finding means: being free, open, and having no goal… In striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, even though they are right in front of your eyes.”
Now I will admit it’s good to have goals. A goal can give you focus; without it, your thoughts will get scattered and circumstances will dictate your attention.
But an obsessive focus on your goal can make you forget to stop and check whether you’re moving in the right direction in the first place. It can also make you miss something you like along the journey.
Think about how you felt when you searched for something you thought might make you happy—love, success, money, power, or status. Did you get it?
Bright chances are the answer is no. And in the rare instance that it’s a yes, was it really what you wanted?
Even the happiness we feel after getting what we badly want is fleeting because our wants never end. We search for something else. And something else. Often, these wants are nothing but ideas borrowed from society. And when reality doesn’t match our expectations, we get trapped in the vicious circle of misery.
The Difference Between Seeking and Finding
Seeking limits us. We fixate on a target and waste time and energy on it. In turn, this makes us less likely to achieve it and more likely to feel miserable.
Now take a moment to remember how you felt when you found a $20 note in your jacket. Or when you stumbled upon a beautiful place after you lost your way while going to a particular destination. Or you unexpectedly landed a job that turned out far better than you expected.
If, as Siddhartha said, you were free, open, and had no goal, you most probably enjoyed the experience. In the process, you also discovered aspects about yourself. Thoughts hidden within you revealed themselves, and you understood yourself better.
Knowledge is inherent in man; no knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside. What we say a man “knows”, should… be what he “discovers” or “unveils”; what a man learns is really what he “discovers”, by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge. — Swami Vivekananda
The answers you discover are knowledge. Apply it in your life and what you get is wisdom.
This wisdom will help you discover what you want rather than seeking what society thinks you should have. You’ll stop letting the fear of pain hold you back. Your idea of success won’t align with society’s definition; rather, you’ll discover what success means to you. The same holds true for happiness and love.
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frank wrote:
“Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”
What he meant is that you can find success and happiness (or love) only when you stop seeking it. When you stop seeking, you set yourself on the path of finding.
Open your mind, stop fixating on goals, and set yourself free. You will discover your true self and live a first-hand version of your life.
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