There are certain things we are conditioned to see as objectively and wholly good.
Success is one of them.
We imagine that finally arriving at a big goal we only ever once could have dreamt of — making a certain amount of money, owning property, landing a job, or being in a relationship — will absolve us of our mortality and allow us to effortlessly float through the rest of our lives.
This is not how it works.
It is often when we are on the cusp of the most significant success of our lives that we become more anxious, uncertain and self-doubting than ever before.
This is extremely jarring to people because they don’t see it coming. For years, they believe crossing the threshold into a new, more accomplished existence would be the solution to their anxiety and fear, not a trigger of it.
This is because most people consciously or subconsciously “cap” the degree of success they will allow themselves to have.
Your brain works constantly to affirm that which it already believes. You have a host of cognitive biases that are serving mostly as a filter through which you see the world. What this means is that, most likely, you have built your comfort zone around being unsuccessful. You have gone out of your way to justify your lot in life, and when that changes, so does your sense of security and inner peace.
Think about it this way: When you’re struggling financially, you unconsciously villianize people who make a lot of money. You see this happen a lot with public figures: those who are the wealthiest and the most successful are often also the ones who are most hated, and assumed to be amoral and ethically corrupt.
Sure, some people who are wealthy are bad people. But so are those who don’t have a lot of money, either. The point is that when you seek to justify your place in life by associating “money” with being a “bad person,” you’re creating an internal resistance. You won’t want to receive that which you have previously weaponized against other people to make yourself feel better.
The reality is that in life, we are not seeking happiness, we are ultimately seeking comfort. And it is surprising to discover that sometimes, the goals that we imagined would bring us the most joy leave us the most uneasy. This is only because they are foreign, and they are new.
You have to build a new comfort zone around what you want to have, not what you are trying to avoid.
You have to understand that no matter how good and right and ultimately impressive your accomplishments may be, until you are accustomed to them, you’ll resist them.
In the movie Room, Jack — the little boy who was held captive in a backyard shed for the majority of his life after his mother was abducted — asked when he could return to their “home” after they were freed. Horrified, his mother told him that they would never, ever go back there, and he cried.
This sheds light on such an important element of the human condition: that we grow to love that which we are used to, and that we ultimately seek that which we know.