Credit for today’s beautiful metaphor goes to the highly-recommended book mentioned in the PS at the bottom.
You’re staring at a mountain in the distance.
The steep rock face ascends from the earth into the clouds, pulling your eyes upwards.
How incredible it would be to climb, you think to yourself.
Look at the view from down here — imagine what it’s like up there?
You woke up on the wild side today, so you actually decide to do it:
You rent some gear, hire a guide, and start scaling the mountain.
A few hours later, you’re caught in some brambles, gasping for air, covered in scrapes and bruises.
“What was I thinking,” you moan, “climbing sucks!”
Then you remember exactly what you were thinking:
That’s what you did it for; that stunning, majestic view that had you so captivated back on earth you climbed a freaking mountain for it.
So you look around…
…And see nothing but rock, trees, bushes, and a narrow glimpse of the valley below.
Your heart drops as you realize your mistake:
The view of the mountain is not the view from the mountain.
In fact, you can’t even see the mountain from the mountain — you’re so close to it that it blocks your view.
The valley looks pretty cool from up here, so that makes you feel a bit better…
Until you realize you were just in that valley, looking up at this mountain, thinking about how cool the mountain looked from down there.
That old saying rings in your mind…
“The path is the destination.”
And you finally begin to realize what it means:
To chase a reward for the sake of the reward is to chase an illusion.
You climbed a mountain for the sake of the view, rather than for the thrill of the climb — until you realized the view you thought you’d enjoy doesn’t exist.
And so it is, all too often:
We pour our lives into an activity we think will bring us a reward, only to get the reward and realize it isn’t what we thought it would be.
And even if it is what we thought it would be…
If the view from the top really is spectacular — if winning the championship really is the greatest moment of your life — if reaching the goal really is that satisfying…
It’s only satisfying for a moment.
Then, we climb back down — we start a new season — we set a new goal — and realize that, functionally, our lives aren’t very different from before.
So what gives?
Why even bother in the first place?
What’s the point of spending years pursuing a goal if you’re just going to enjoy it for a moment or two and then move on?
The point, of course, is the pursuit itself.
The path to the goal is the goal — the pursuit of the reward is the reward.
So enjoy the path you’re on, or find a new path that you actually enjoy.
(don’t climb mountains just for the view if you don’t like actually climbing mountains)
To do anything else is to chase after something that doesn’t exist.
That’s a complete lesson in and of itself, and an important one…
But a deeper question still remains:
If we all know that the path is the reward, why is most of humanity still racing down paths they don’t enjoy, chasing rewards that never come?
In a word:
This simple molecule is the key to unlocking human behaviour, and tomorrow it’s going to teach us one of the most important insights the inner path has to offer.
I’ll see you then 🙂
P.S. Today’s metaphor (and tomorrow’s lesson on dopamine) was inspired by The Molecule Of More.
“Once you realize that the road is the goal and you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.” – Nisargadatta Maharaj