The Question I Started Asking Myself Everyday

Stop thinking about your goals, start thinking about your memories.

Photo by Nick Abrams on UnSplash

Voices were fading in and out around a gas fire pit. A guitar was passed around and I absent-mindedly shook a tambourine to the melody.

I’m pretty sure someone had a banjo.

Friends were laughing, exchanging memories, and talking music. Harmonies were lifted, future guitar rifts were planned out — “should it go to a minor here?”

It was a perfect night of friends sharing a love of music and enjoying each other's company. But I didn’t want to be there. My mind was consumed with something else.

I am overwhelmed by the frustration of not moving forward in the goals I desire to accomplish. In a moment that should be delightful and memorable enjoying the company of others, I was not present. My mind was absorbed with myself and my inadequacy.

My mind was absorbed with the wrong questions. The questions circulating in my head are a constant spiral of “is this enough?” and “What should I be doing next?”

We are told life is short. It’s a phrase that packs a punch, but its overuse has stolen the weight of its meaning. We know life is short, but that high-level knowledge does little to change the way we live.

I am afraid our culture's obsession with accomplishment and success is stealing from us the perspective of what a good life really looks like.

At the end of our life, we may be grateful for the things we accomplished, but our memories likely won’t rest on those. Our memories will cling to faces. Our memories will be highlight reels of firepits and harmonies and messy guitar riffs.

I can’t imagine myself being 80 years old and retelling stories of my time in the gym. I won’t lean back in my recliner and look back on the times I started work early or stayed late. I have goals and there is nothing wrong with that, but their importance needs to be physically wrestled into place.

Whether I succeed or fail, if I spend my life only dwelling on what I can accomplish my life will be empty, lonely, and unmemorable.

“What Would Make a Good Life?”

I ask this question now. Any moment I drift from the present, I pull myself back with this thought. The answer is always of the same theme. It’s always people. A good life is always a life involving others. It’s memories of being there for other people and letting them be there for me.

If you struggle with being present, I encourage you to ask this question to yourself as well. Or maybe you need to re-work it a little to suit you. Do that. Whatever you need, find a mantra that pulls you out of the self-focused goal obsession and back to what really matters.

Wrestle, fight, and demand that your pursuits of good things do not rob you of the most important thing. We can spend our whole lives chasing beautiful, wonderful things and in the end, still, realize they were incomplete pursuits.

I still strive for things. I still have goals and I chip away at them daily. But a little higher on the list is this question. A little above my pursuits is this reframing.

I want to live a life full of chasing after good things and working really hard, but also allowing for interruptions. I want to pause in the pursuit of a better self to enjoy the company of a friend, hold the hand of a hurting stranger, or share a laugh and memory with my family.

I want to figure out that guitar riff and join in on the harmony and honestly, I hope there is always a banjo.

Take a break. Text a friend. Live a good life.

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