I used to write poetry and, a few years ago, I wrote a poem called More. It was about my hunger for a bigger, better, fuller life and how I worked incredibly hard to achieve it. I wanted to make something of myself and have a great career that other people would envy. I was ready to climb that corporate ladder and everything was geared toward more: Work more, get more results, become more important, make more money, just more.
And I was proud that I was "making it". I was getting more responsibilities at work, more career opportunities were opening up, I bought a bigger home, nicer clothes, fancier dinners. I was finally "getting there" and I was at the doorstep of that coveted life of more. The life I always wanted, or so I thought. One evening, feeling like I was suffocating yet again, the poem fell out of me. The last two lines were:
"I am incredibly proud of the life of more I have created
And secretly terrible unhappy"
Although I didn't see it at the time I wrote it, letting out the thoughts behind the poem was the first step to changing my life. Somewhere deep inside I realized that More wasn't the answer for me. Because while I laughed with colleagues at the weekly happy hour, I was secretly soo unhappy and just wanted to hide under my covers at home.
My hunger for more was primarily driven by wanting to live up to other people's expectations. I felt I needed to match at least the exciting life that other people seemed to be living. In hindsight, I'm not surprised this manifested like that for me. I come from a household where ambition and academic studies were the ultimate goals and then I immigrated when I was 18 from the relaxed Caribbean to the time-conscious West Europe. Striving was ingrained in me.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think being ambitious is a bad thing. I am still very ambitious with the things that I do and strive to improve myself every day. But my mistake was basing that ambition on what I thought other people wanted from me. I never took the time to think about how I wanted to live my life and what I needed to feel fulfilled. I realized that when I try to do too many things, I end up doing a mediocre job at everything.
Slowly, step by step, I started to make changes and little by little I choose to let go of more. Sometimes, friends and family ridiculed my choices. Like when we moved from the bustling Amsterdam to a tiny 500-inhabitant village. I had to learn to let those judgments go and also not to judge those people in return. It didn't matter that they wouldn't make the same choice, in fact, that was the beauty of it. The choice was right for us and only us. Several years later, we are still as happy as ever that we made the move.
I learned to be honest with myself again and to look at the essence of what I really wanted. Instead of striving for more, I started to strive for less. What are the core things that make it worth jumping out of bed for in the morning? Just like a good visual design or a written text is much more impactful with a single focus, so is my life much more fulfilling once I started to strive for less.
Wishing you a lovely flow today,