This year, when I went home after my third year MBBS university exams, I finally got to spend some quality time with my grandmother. In a very candid chat with her I inquisitively asked her how a person could be both ambitious and content at the same time. This question had been nagging me for a long time and I could never find a convincing answer for it. She smiled, and said that being content in the present by reflecting on your achievements and experiences of the past, as well as having the desire to grow and move forwards in life are two sides of the same coin. Both are equally important and can co-exist amicably. And this can happen only when your focus is on the journey not the destination.
This statement hit me really hard, made me introspect and changed my whole perspective towards looking at my life.
I was reminded of a 17 year old version of me, entering a prestigious coaching institute to start preparing for a national level entrance exam, where every single day, the importance of ruthless competing and making a place for yourself in the unforgiving world was reinforced.
After then, the days always felt like they were about what was next in life, and feeling content was something to look down upon and regarded as a lack of drive or being complacent. I never took out enough time to focus on how far I’d already come; but rather always concentrated my attention upon all the things that are left to be accomplished ahead — bigger and better. I realised that everyone around me was going through the same rigmarole and that’s why I’ve decided to share my view on it.
The process of adulting can feel like a never-ending continuous comparison game, and this is something that we are all painstakingly aware of. We’ve talked enough about how this constant need to hustle can initially feel like a driving force to perform better but eventually ends up limiting our potential, taking a toll on our overall self-esteem and quality of life.
But today, I’d rather be highlighting the topic of how this measuring game has trivialised our life’s experiences to those limited milestones that we’ve been taught to set for ourselves since childhood.
A coveted educational degree, a dream job, a lavish wedding, a swanky car, a palatial house and the list is endless. We tend to define ourselves by these considerably “significant” events. Planning and working relentlessly towards accomplishing that significant task and ticking it off our bucket list once done. And then again, we lie in wait for the next accomplishment to happen to us.
But have we taken out the time to pause and realise, that in the whole lifespan of a human being (which is approximately around twenty seven thousand days) these milestone events happen only on one day or over a couple of days? And yet, we invest a vast majority of our time and energy obsessing over them. Being completely ignorant to and dismissive of all the little everyday moments that are adding up to make up the major chunk of our life’s experience.
Our life is NOW. It starts as soon as we open our eyes in the morning and it’s happening in every passing moment; in hurriedly getting ready to not miss that 8 am class, the lectures we bunk for a rejuvenating time at the beach, all the sunsets and evening walks with that one special person, the surprises and compliments from our loved ones, or the same 5 songs in our playlist that we play on loop everyday; ordering our favourite dish that can fix any bad day, the anticipation of an upcoming long weekend, the sense of nostalgia after meeting an old friend, rising above all those challenges that we believed we would never survive and all those moments that make us love ourselves and our lives a little more.
Having said this, I don’t mean that we should disregard the need for ambition, drive or setting goals for ourselves either. The big moments surely provide us with a sense of purpose, motivate us to wake up every morning with utmost zeal and add value to our lives by persistently moving forwards with the vision of a fulfilling future. But I truly believe even small events and achievements deserve the same recognition and appreciation as our other pre defined “Milestone Events” of our life.
I consciously try to inculcate this mindset in my everyday routine by having at least 30 minutes of “me time” every night before I sleep no matter how busy my schedule gets. This includes maintaining a gratitude journal, being mindful of everything that made me smile during the day or going for a walk and just observing everything around me without being judgemental about them. What also helps me is building up on my hobbies like dancing and reading or just calling up a friend narrating my whole day’s experiences. All these insignificant sounding activities have helped me raise my happiness quotient considerably, making me move forwards in trying to create a sense of order in this chaotic world.
The choice of defining our lives by our everyday state of being is a powerful one. This evenness in our attitude in life not only helps us to have a smooth ride, without much of upheavals — here & there—but also in taking a step towards a more content and abundant life, enabling us to fully embrace this beautiful journey that we’ve been put on.
Written by Udita Khanna for MTTN
Edited by Ishita Sharma and Aditi Atreya for MTTN
Featured Artwork by Haylee Morice