Humans strive for happiness.

Just look at the many books, articles, podcasts and speeches dedicated to this very topic. Happiness, fulfillment, purpose and joy – that is what we want.

But here is the thing: Everlasting happiness might not be what we think it is. As humans, we are hardwired to dissatisfaction. Oftentimes, we jump from one goal to another, thinking it will bring us everlasting happiness. Just like the donkey with the carrot in front of it.

I have many of my friends telling me how they have not found their purpose, how they are not satisfied, not happy with current circumstances. If you are anything like my friends, I invite you to be taking a slightly different perspective on the pursuit of happiness.

Dissatisfaction and Human Evolution

Humans are wired to be dissatisfied. It drives us to achieve great things. Just imagine how life would be if humans would have always been content; Most technology would not ever have been invented. If humans would have been happy lighting fire in the dark, light bulbs would not be part of nowadays life.

If humans were happy traveling weeks to a destination; no ships, no bikes and no cars -and no electricity- would have ever been invented.

Being dissatisfied has brought so many inventions that we take for granted. Being discontent with a current situation allows for growth – and possibly new inventions.

Being dissatisfied is not a bad thing.  It made people reach for seemingly impossible things, like building spaceships or flying to the moon. Discovering earth and the sea. It has allowed whole civilizations to build and rise, to discover and connect. Maybe it’s time to change our perspective of what it means to be “happy” and “satisfied”?

Healthy Dissatisfaction is the prelude to progress” 

– Mahatma Gandhi

Why are you dissatisfied?

Can you find out why you are not happy with your current situation? Take your time to reflect on that one.

Many things may come up that we are not satisfied with – the most common are relationships, career, money or our body. 

Write them all down. Sometimes we create the dissatisfaction because we are impatient; We need to realize that certain things take time and I would like to invite you to change your perspective from product goal to process goal. 

During my studies to become a Personal Trainer with the National Association of Sports Medicine, learning about Behavioral Change was a big part of the program. And rightfully so. 

When it comes to exercise, unrealistic goals are likely to occur with new training individuals. Expectations are high, and even though I would say that everything is possible, it is also important to realize that most goals simply take time and practice.

And on the way to achieving these goals, we will be well off to concentrate on process goals instead of the product goal.

Let’s say Laura seeks out a Personal Trainer. Her goal is to lose 50 kg. An overwhelming sounding number.

She will need to break this down into smaller chunks:

Laura can healthily loose 1 kg per week, around 4 kg a month, so in about a year she will be able to reach her product goal.

1 kg a week really does not sound like a lot, right? But with consistency, she will have lost her 50 kg.

What does Laura want to focus on?

She wants to eat healthy, track her food, keep a food diary, work out, integrate more non-exercise activity, such as going for walks, gardening and more. 

Her product goal is big and may be intimidating, but by focusing on the smaller chunks on a daily basis, the goal suddenly is not so out of reach anymore.

I recommend  to always keep the big picture in mind, to always reinforce and remember the WHY; Why does Laura want to loose weight? Why does she track her calories? Why does she get up early to exercise? She is not satisfied with her current weight, she wants to feel healthy, maybe more agile. 

Lauras dissatisfaction allows her to grow on her journey towards a healthy and active lifestyle.

For you, me and basically everyone being dissatisfied the key point is to identify what it is that we are not satisfied with. And thinking about the product. Our end-goal: What would that be? Then path the way towards it by chunking it down into small processes. How can we realistically divide these small chunks and integrate them into our daily lives? 

Step by step we can achieve greatness. It just takes time – We need to stay dedicated and consistent. It may not be easy, so be prepared to actually work for it and not just wish for it.

Learn to enjoy the process

Great goals take time. So instead of focusing on the outcome, it is so, so crucial that you start enjoying the process. 

I used to be so obsessed with results that the journey has felt like an obstacle to me. I just wanted to “be there”. I wanted to win the fight, have my Degree, get that certificate,… And then I listened “The practicing Mind” by T.M. Sterner. That book has been a gentle nudge, reminding me that the goal does not need to be hushed. The beauty is exactly where we are now. 

Sterner makes a beautiful comparison to a flower; The flower is perfect. Exactly at the stage she is in. From the seed, to the growing and full blossoming. She is perfect, exactly where she is. 

We, as life long learners, are also perfect and exactly where we need to be. We may never be where we want to be. Take musicians or top-athletes as examples; The goals they had set when they started differ greatly from the goals they set themselves now. Sometimes, the goal is not more than an illusion. I am not saying that we will never be reaching a goal – it totally depends on the goal and the level we strive for. What I am saying is, that when we are dedicated and when we embrace the journey, not ever arriving at our destination may be the greatest gift. It allows us to evolve and improve constantly.

Day by day, step by step

This has become my mantra for years. 

Dissatisfaction as a drive can be helpful to create amazing things. It is crucial to remind ourselves that we are capable of anything with time and dedication. I can not emphasize it enough; Wherever we are right now, we are supposed to be, and we will involve with practice. 

One time, a visitor came to my previous Muay Thai Gym to do a first training session. She was a total beginner, and instead of being eager to learn, she said “Why am I not as good as you? I want to be so good also”, I told her that it takes practice, I mean I trained for many years before reaching the level I was at, and I still was not where I wanted to be. 

She did not see the stage she was in as a motivation, she just wanted to skip the practice and become “good at it”. Sorry, but that is not how it works. Never saw her again, by the way.

Sure, some people do have talent, but when it comes to talent vs. practice and dedication, the second one always wins.

You, I and everyone else, we need to ask ourselves: Are we willing to practice for what we want to achieve, day by day? Are we willing to take the steps? To be in the beginners mindset, fail, maybe look a little awkward in what we are doing? Do we want to dedicate time and effort? 

Because if we are not, then the so called goal is no more than a dream.

Closing thoughts

Dissatisfaction is often thought as something we want to eliminate. Get it out of our system, out of our life. We do not want to feel the discomfort of not being where we are. 

Instead of draining this emotion of discomfort, I’d love for you to take a different perspective.

Where does it actually come from? What is it you are not satisfied with? Can you change it? If yes, then see what you can do. See if you can go away from the discomfort by going towards what would make you feel good. Use discomfort as fuel. Let it nourish you. Be patient, take daily actions. Be persistent. You know that you got it! Embrace the beginners mind. And read or listen to The practicing mind. I have read hundreds of books on Self-Development and this one is such a quick and eye opening read, I totally recommend it to anyone. Especially those that are a little impatient (like me 😉).

Embrace the journey! And remember to meditate.

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