hedonic treadmill

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I recently accomplished one of my major life goals. ‘What do I do for work?'

I successfully got into Radiology training and will be working towards specialising in the field.

For the past few years, this has been the overarching ‘goal’ professionally. All my training has been directed towards this. I am grateful to have discovered a ‘calling’ in that sense, providing some structure and meaning to work.

Now that is all over, a new journey begins. Like Sisyphus, I’ve managed to roll the boulder to the top of the mountain, only to watch it graceful roll back to the bottom.

Some look at this in a nihilistic depressing way. They curse ‘the hedonic treadmill’. Why even try, if you always return to the baseline? What’s the next goal? So you just keep on achieving till you die? What’s the point?

The Sisyphean pursuit to me is beautiful. The journey has been everything. To watch one change, to grow, to meet interesting new people, to learn constantly every day. These are all internal - not clearly visible to those outside. I imagine Sisyphus to be a deeply contented man.

Why?

Purposelessness is harmful

Let’s look at the opposite. Having no boulder. To have no meaning. No struggle or long term goals. This often leads to purposelessness and a lack of direction. This isn’t a bad thing, because in reality, there is no direction, no meaning, no overarching goal. They are simply stories you tell yourself as a human being. In the perspective of the ‘universe’, you are insignificant. But more often than not, lacking purpose in your 20’s, leads to mental and spiritual crisis.

Is it possible to get by without purpose? Of course - at some level, being present focused and free of ‘the self model’ involves a lack of purpose. No story. No self model. Simply sensation arising and passing away.

This is contentment and peace. The loss of a sense of self. Total immersion in work, in play, in movement, in creation. One must imagine part of the reason Sisyphus is content is this lack of self rumination.

But one stage in getting to this realisation of ‘purposelessness’ is paradoxically picking a purpose. Realising that it is a story, but a useful story. The mind then has to hold those two together. To Do and Let go .

This goes back to the previous post of Autotelism

One must pick a purpose and a goal. Strive towards it. But all the same time, realising that it is simply scaffolding, and the whole structure will burn down in the end. The pursuit itself is to be savoured.

Therefore, cultivate the ability to hold this paradox in the mind. Hold onto meaning. You need meaning and purpose. But hold onto it lightly, realising it is a story you’ve made up. Then maybe, you will slowly take everything much less seriously. Including yourself.


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