It is becoming very predictable now that a period will come in my life where I am more concerned about how well ahead I am in life and how desperate I am to force things to happen. Things here mean what people can perceive as success. Those times are usually the most frustrating in my life.
Now, this is not the desire to do better than I’ve done before; that is a good desire. I mean the pressure to get ahead. This is a situation where I look at everything (success level) in my life and I feel I am not where I should be yet, and more importantly other people are doing better than I am.
This is where the big deal is. If it were just about not being where I should be, I can find my way around that. But when it comes to being left behind by my peers and colleagues or not being ahead, there is usually a huge pressure.
The Two Types of Getting Ahead
Now, both the dissatisfaction with where we are and the dissatisfaction with how far we’ve gone compared to others are all termed, “getting ahead”. The difference is just what you are trying to get ahead of. While one focuses on growth, the other seeks to compete. Now it is becoming less blurry. While one is a blessing the other is a curse. While one motivates the other depresses
There are lesser cases where I am pressured, like pressured to the point of depression, because I think I am not so much better than where I was last year.
Yes it is dissatisfying but I usually find my way around it; like explaining to myself where I’m coming from, how far (no matter how little) I’ve gone considering the challenges I faced, identifying what I need to work on, strategizing for another level of growth, etc. Once I do these things, I’m usually fine.
But pressure is built up when I place myself in perspective in the Moving Ahead Market (chiefly, the internet). My little progress becomes greatly insignificant. My efforts begin to look like the stunts of a novice trying to show the pros he is worth anything.
Who cares about you, after all? You are just a struggling duck and you know you can't fly. Please stop trying, you can't match up. Sit back and mourn while you watch us play this getting ahead game. Getting ahead is not for you.
Now I wish I could just accept that last line that getting ahead is not for me. But who will? Who doesn’t want to get ahead? And it is a great desire!
The Blessing of Getting Ahead
In fact, the loss of the desire to get ahead in life is what has been fancied as depression. By design, humans are created to want to get ahead. It is this desire that makes life worth living.
The moment you feel there’s nothing more to desire in life, your life will lose meaning to you and you begin to desire the grave. It is healthy when no matter how much you have or how well you are living, you still want more.
Only that this desire is not the Getting Ahead Arcade (the race or competition with others). It is the Getting Ahead Casual (doing better than your previous and current).
If you are always wanting to be better than yourself, you will grow up but if you are always wanting to do better than others, you will blow up.
The Curse of Getting Ahead
But why is the other a curse? I think the most disastrous part of playing the Getting Ahead Arcade is that it stops you from actually getting ahead.
You become more concerned with your perceived stand in the market than where you really are. But to truly grow, you need to remain in touch with where you are coming from and where you are to chart a feasible course to where to go next.
Trying to get ahead of others robs you of this. Instead of focusing on where you are, you are now focused on where they are— trying to do the things they are doing and get the results they are getting regardless of whether that is the next step from where you are.
In the end, you are stuck. You don’t get where they are or get ahead of them because you aren’t following the roadmap and you don’t get ahead of yourself because you aren’t following your roadmap. You only get more pressured and sing the Struggling Duck poem to yourself all day.
Luckily, if you can successfully manoeuvre your way and get ahead, you will discover that you only got ahead of three people at most. There are still 3 million others to get ahead of. Oh! Let’s cut it down to five. So you begin another journey to get ahead of those five and the pressure begins to mount up again.
I’ve been playing this Getting Ahead Arcade for over two years now and I am as dissatisfied and pressured as I was when I had 30 followers now that I have 300 followers. And I can remember saying if I could only cross 100 followers. Now I am saying if I could only cross 1000 followers. So it is not about the followers— it is about me.
The Right Way To Get Ahead
Even when working on getting ahead of yourself, you can still be caught up in chasing the numbers. While I explained that we were created to always desire more and that’s what keeps our lives alive, satisfaction in life doesn’t come from getting the “more”.
It is desiring or chasing the more that is the life of life. In another sense, the joy doesn’t come from the event of achieving the goal but from the process of getting the goal. If you postpone your fulfilment until you get the goal, it only takes 1 second to get the goal.
The day you get it, that’s it. Your joy doesn’t start— it ends! Since the process of getting the goal is where you will be 99% of the time, if you’re not excited in the process, you won’t be excited for 99% of your life.
So you will always feel empty no matter how better or ahead you get if you don’t learn to be satisfied with yourself now. I have noticed that some people are trying to get as ahead as I am and I don’t care about them. The people who I am trying to get as ahead as are also trying to get ahead and don’t care about me, and so on.
This discovery is a game-changer for me. Everybody is so busy getting ahead that they don’t have time to see how ahead you have gone. If they are ahead of you, they aren’t looking at you and laughing at how behind you are.
They are looking at how much more they have to cover and are probably as frustrated as you are if they are also playing the Getting Ahead Arcade.
Oh, I wish we could actually believe the words of the Struggling Duck poem and not just sing it to mourn our situation!
Who cares about you, after all?
Since nobody cares, quit playing the Getting Ahead Arcade and commit to growing as an individual. Commit to being and doing better than you were and did yesterday: knowing where you are coming from, the challenges and limitations you face, and how you are actually making progress.
Now sing the Struggling Duck poem with some new lines and new understanding:
Who cares about you, after all? You are just a struggling duck and you know you can't fly. Please stop trying, you aren't to match up. Sit back and enjoy becoming a better version of yourself. The Getting Ahead Arcade is not for you.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.