You don’t have to know the offside rule or even pretend to, to understand the universal experience of moving the goalposts. We get what we want, or achieve what we want, and then we want more or want to do more and be even better at it. Enough is never enough it’s a drought.
To extend the football analogy, even when we get what we want- the promotion, the house, the holiday, the “good” school catchment area, you won’t find us pulling our sweaty t-shirts over our heads, bear-hugging our teammates, air-punching with fists of triumph, and screaming “back of the net! Yessss!!!” before knee-skidding across the turf.
Not only is it unseemly, but it is particularly un-British to ostentatiously celebrate our triumphs. Instead, we master the art of one downmanship: i.e. yes, I got the promotion, but it means crazy hours and a lousy work-life balance, so don’t envy me, pity me and my 30 grand a year rise.
Our personal best must be muttered with an air of mild embarrassment, to say yes you’ve done well, but it’s sheer luck, and if you do the “crass” thing of blowing your own trumpet, it will all evaporate with the bad karma that comes with self-congratulation. Don’t tempt fate or it might become a stalker, an online troll or set up camp in the loft conversion rent-free.
And so we move the goalposts: we’ve done well, but with effort, self-discipline, more work hours, we can do even better, and even then, we’ll keep it quiet. So when is good, good enough? Seemingly, never, and to want to do better is no bad thing, but neither is patting yourself on the back or going out for a mini celebration when you’ve worked hard to achieve your goal.
Remember, football is a game of two halves. It’s up to you what you do with the other half, and be mindful to do it not for your fans, but for yourself. But here’s the caveat – know yourself sufficiently so you will know when you’ve hit the bar you’ve set so high and can enjoy the view up there before dismantling it and saying there be fog.
Here are a few tips to help add purpose to the present while you struggle to get somewhere where satisfaction crooks its finger.
- Start to notice small day to things that make you happy. Birdsong, getting a seat on the tube, someone else doing the washing up, hearing from a friend – just notice and relish.
- Build in bliss points so you have something to look forward to every few hours – i.e. the first cup of good coffee, delicious lunch, a walk in nature, reading a good book, hot bath, hot chocolate in bed.
- Think about the emotion you wish to achieve that’s behind what you are striving for. I.e. top sports car, great holiday or promotion might be status, liberation and recognition. What could you do right now to bring that feeling into the here and now?
- Set an alarm on your phone or timer for 15 minutes and in that time do something each day that really matters to you
- What do you want your legacy to be? Write it down and think about what you are doing now to get to that.
- Keep a gratitude diary. Write down three things each day which you are thankful for; no matter how small.
- Decide to just be.