We often assume that once we “make it” — get to that place, achieve that thing, find that person — that everything else will magically fall into place for us.
The truth is that when many people finally reach that high point in their lives, they are surprised to discover that they’re not as elated and floating through the clouds with beacons of sunlight streaming through their hair, as they thought they’d be. They learn that with higher accomplishments come a new set of problems to be overcome, risks to be reckoned with, and new comfort zones to be overstepped.
If they had not taken the time to learn to be happier while they were rising up (and yes, happiness can be learned) they inevitably find that their success didn’t automatically change them into a happier person. Success was not a cure all. In fact, it highlighted all the weaknesses they always struggled with, but now the stakes were much higher, and as a result they were just as stressed as they were while they were trying to get there.
Here’s the mind blowing thing that I’ve discovered: Underneath it all, what we really want, isn’t just success — it’s the feeling we think we’re going to have once we get it.
All we’re really after, is a feeling.
No matter what your picture of personal success looks like, you probably want some version of a few of these feelings:
Fulfilled, worthy, excited, accomplished, confident, proud, amazed, impressed, joyous, free, productive, and in love.
That’s what we really want.
Here’s a hypothetical: What if I told you that you could have everything you ever dreamed of — both material-wise and accomplishments — but you could not have any of those feelings that I listed, and in fact you’d just be feeling dull and troubled most of the time?
Most people wouldn’t see in the point.
What’s the point in having everything if you don’t get to feel good?
Just to clarify — I’m not telling you to give up on your dreams and just learn to be happy with what is.
What I’m 100% saying is to go for your dreams as hard as you can, while learning to be happy and feeling good with what already is.
Yes, we can definitely do both!
So how can we be feeling good about our current place when we also know that we have bigger hopes and dreams for ourselves?
“How can I be working hard, busting my ass, overcoming obstacles, getting out of my comfort zone, taking risks, facing uncertainty… while feeling good about it?”
While there are many approaches to this, one that I’ve recently taken a liking to and been putting into practice is something I call The Afterglow.
We are all so driven by visions of Our Big Glory — getting that starring role, seeing big numbers in our bank account, having an endless wait list of high-profile clientele, seeing that big project become a success, and basically arriving at the point in our lives where we imagine everything will feel great and fulfilling and easy.
In contrast, the afterglow isn’t that big glorious moment where all of our dreams have come true; instead it’s small glorious moments that come after we do something that was worth doing for ourselves.
It’s that happy buzz and energy boost we get after physical exercise. It’s the gratitude, joy, and excitement we get after we accomplish something that points us in the direction we’re trying to go. It’s the adrenaline that courses through us when we overcame our fears and did that thing we know we needed to do. It’s the relief and peace that comes from finally doing something right and well. It’s the quiet satisfaction from knowing that we didn’t listen to our fears and bad habits, and instead buckled down and practiced discipline and being true to the work we know we need to do.
These variants of joy can come from doing something seemingly mundane as cleaning up the house and basking in the aesthetic calm, to finally doing that intimidating thing you’ve been worrying about and preparing for, for months.
These moments of feeling good after doing something true to our path, is the afterglow.
The problem is that we often quickly brush it aside, because we start to compare it to our vision of Big Glory and think about how far we are from it. We don’t want to feel too good about our little accomplishments now, because it’s not our ultimate success.
I think we should allow ourselves to bask in the pleasure of our “little” accomplishments, because it is much deserved, and we’re growing and doing something good for ourselves, and we mustn’t write that off.
Allowing ourselves to enjoy the moment after a good work-out or finishing a difficult task is a beautiful and powerful thing, because it builds motivation and momentum for the future. Plus, we get to enjoy the present moment! And that’s all we really ever want.
So I’ve been allowing myself to notice and bask in the afterglow of whatever task I do in my daily work towards the big glory. I focus on what I have, rather than what-isn’t-yet. This little shift in focus make an enormous difference in the way I get to feel about myself and my work.
The majority of self-creation coaching is about how we are choosing to focus. Sometimes the tiniest of tweaks can make the difference between feelings of lack and feelings of accomplishment.
Feel good now! Continually choosing to fully feel the afterglow will undoubtedly lead to bigger and bigger glories.