The fight inside the tunnel (vs the light at the end)
What gives you meaning and a reason to push forward in your life right now? We might answer by describing our goals, such as achieving a mission we care about, or our relationships with those around us. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking that what most people actually want is not our goals. Instead, we want to experience the fight and feel proud of our progress in overcoming obstacles. The dopamine arising from this experience is a function that increases in value as we get closer–so during the infinitely small moment before achieving our goal, our enjoyment and sense of living is at its highest. Then it is always on a decline from there.
This is similar to the discussion arournd Flow, where even an assembly line worker can find a sense of meaningful progress via improving the speed of his work.
We can also deduce this from what books humans enjoy reading. Pretend you are about to read a book. You can choose between one book where the main character goes about daily life with everythign perfectly figured out, and the other book where the protagonist is on a respectable mission with ups and downs in between.
Which one are you more looking forward to read? Which one do you think you will enjoy more as you are reading it? Lastly, which will you look back on as a better use of your time, with more stories and meanings to share from it?
Now replace the words in the above paragraph: “read” with “live,” and “book” with “life”. What kind of living experience do we prefer? From this perspective, it’s easy to tell that the most electric experience of living comes from the fight, not the win.
This doesn’t mean that we should stall and not achieve our goals, justifying it with “the journey is more important.” It means we should always identify new opportunities for goals that are within reach if we work hard, but tough enough that it’s a good fight. This meta-skill of knowing how to properly craft these opportunities is one of the most important skills we can learn. We celebrate wins because it means another interesting fight is upcoming.