This is one fight to win at all costs.
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The room is dimly lit. Candles on the table. The ambiance declares this is a conversation worth investing in. Everything appears to be in order to finally strike beyond the outfield fence — the one that’s always sat just a few feet too tall.
I’m on the edge of my seat, unsure where to place my hands, doing my best to ignore the awkwardness that’s lurking beneath the surface — desperate to rear its ugly head at a most untimely moment.
I’m nervous, yet committed. I want to see this dinner through. I want to surmount what the past says I cannot have. I want this and all this is supposed to symbolize.
They say you cannot know someone without loving them. And though it’s extremely early in the process, I see the possibility of loving her. And with that, I inch closer.
But something’s clearly in the way. I can’t quite distinguish it, but it’s getting noticeably louder as she speaks.
It’s been five minutes now — she’s still talking.
Every sentence she utters, as her excitement brims, I shrink. The more she talks, the smaller I get.
What is that thing? What has me feeling this way?
Resentment and spite are now knocking, as she’s been sharing herself for ten minutes now — not once has she asked about me.
This is it. This is the battle.
This is the one I have to win.
There is no battle with her. No, this is a much nastier battle — the battle that says I require a certain spotlight. The battle that says I need attention, acknowledgement, and affirmation.
This battle, my friends, is with the insatiable desire for significance.
And far more than just my life depends on the outcome.
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It’s not easy to live as free as our Declaration says we are. It takes mastering the insatiable desire for appreciation, recognition, and personal fulfillment, which isn’t exactly a stroll in the park. I’ve failed miserably for years and continue to stumble along my journey of creating something bigger to stand for.
At the drop of a hat, I can lose the sense of being with someone and drive up a mirror in between us — so I can stare at myself and all my imperfections, all that I’m lacking, all that I’m not getting.
Why is this such a detriment? In short, it keeps me from being of any value to life whatsoever. The focus is solely on me — meaning it’s absolutely nowhere else. Life passes me by, and yet another sandbag is placed in front of the door to making the world a better place.
I get that this article will make no difference, for that insatiable desire (let’s call it I.D., for short) shows up in many forms — designed to keep the attention on everything happening internally. The I.D. keeps us from listening, from serving, from considering any alternative outside of the first thing that shows up — the thing most readily-available for self-preservation. The I.D. is our own righteousness — responsible for judgment, ridicule, and dismissal.
Finally, I get that nothing can be done about its presence — it will continue to be the shoelaces we trip on, the car in our blind spot, the chair that fails to support us.
And while the insatiable desire for significance will always be at play, the power it possesses over your contribution to the world can most certainly be weakened.
I don’t know for sure, but here’s three things that have tipped the scales in the direction of who I want to be, versus who I simply end up as when left to my own devices.
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I’ll be straight with you: there are some days I am just flat-out insecure. I seek validation and praise like a five-year old requesting his drawing be tacked onto the fridge. I often do this by virtue of writing (pretty easy to distinguish this based on my tone), posting on Instagram, or sharing my accomplishments via trumpet-calls and humblebrags with the people I most admire. This usually results in a modest version of what I’m looking for, but here’s the kicker:
If you’re fixated on what you’re getting, it will never be enough.
I can snap out of this a number of ways, but reinforcing my own personal security is a fantastic way to do it — interrupting my egomaniacal identity that’s nothing more than a bottomless pit of need.
Here’s the reality: I don’t have any “needs” outside of food, water, sleep and maybe a little exercise. That’s it. If I have that, I’ll survive — point blank.
The minute I start making stuff up to add to that list — this, that, whatever else — is when insecurity creeps back into the picture.
You, my beautiful friend who’s read this far, are a-okay. You are golden. You’ve made it this far and will continue to make it even if you don’t change your formula for success one freaking iota.
Have the courage to tell yourself you’re fine — that you have everything you need — and flip the conversation towards something more empowering.
When you’re okay, the I.D. is essentially talking to a wall.
Pro tip: It doesn’t like that.
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Another easy way to lose sight of the entirety of life and get stuck on you and your own significance is failing to make the connection between what you’re up to in the short-term and what you actually, eventually want to cause.
Lots of people go to college, and lots of people drop out — myself included. I did so because I made it 100% about my short-term happiness (pretty sure I fashioned a heartstring-puller like “my heart wasn’t in it”), totally and completely blind to the fact that my education could actually make a real difference in the future state of the world.
At any moment in time, we’re playing for something — we’re essentially always saying “this” is better than “that”. What we’re playing for controls our actions, thought processes, everything. Unfortunately, if you don’t play big enough and often enough, the game is pretty damn underwhelming.
Without deliberately creating the connection between what you’re doing now and the biggest game you can think to play, it’s inevitable to get stuck in small conversations. It’s over before it starts. The I.D. thrives off a small game, for it knows it can compete with things that don’t stand the test of time.
The easiest way to kill off the I.D. in this context is to play a big game — one that beckons a call like, “No freaking way — could we really make that happen?!” The bigger the game, the lesser the chance the I.D. survives.
Put simply: Stand for something bigger than the I.D.
For if you do, the I.D. will tremble in its presence, and quietly back down.
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This one is my favorite.
I haven’t the slightest clue how this is all going to go — this thing called life. Perpetually feeding myself with information will barely make a dent in my quality of life. Racing to gather the answers won’t help. I may gain some insights, but I’ll have to expend twice as much energy to actually apply them — effectively giving way to the illusion of control.
Wisdom won’t come from something I acquire. Wisdom will arrive when I create something to put my faith and trust into.
Regardless of how much we “know”, we still don’t really know. It’s all a matter of interpretation. And the further you chase down the rabbit-hole, the more meaningless it gets.
So given this, it would seem wise not to put stock in the frivolous, superfluous, and nonessential — and save our energy for what’s really worth standing for.
The freedom that comes with this stand is remarkable — devoid of any fear of “not enough”.
The question must be asked to clear the space, however:
The question called, “What is there to give up?”
It could be a point of view. It could be needing to have things go a certain way. It could simply be giving up basic stuff like resentment, regret, guilt, jealousy, or anxiety — all critical staples within the I.D.’s toolbox.
The quicker we surrender to life, the quicker we get back to enjoying it like the children we once were.
So give up.
Really, give it up — whatever you’re holding onto that keeps you from being with people. That keeps you from making a difference.
And together, let’s realize all the magic that being alive can possibly deliver.
You cause that, and you’ll have more significance than you know what to do with.
And you won’t care.
And it will be everything.
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