If you’re an achiever, you probably prioritize growth over everything else. You set goals for the distant future that you think will make you happy and fulfilled – goals that can only be achieved after dedicating long hours of grueling work and sacrificing your happiness in the short-term.
But here’s the problem:
When you finally achieve these long-term goals, you’ll realize they haven’t given you lasting happiness or fulfillment. Because society has sold you on the idea that the unenjoyable grind is always necessary for success.
Well, I’m here to tell you the truth…
You don’t have to sacrifice your enjoyment of today to reach lasting happiness and fulfillment.
There is no good reason you cannot accept your current situation and find enjoyment in it, while also crushing through roadblocks to get what you most want in the future.
In this episode, I dissect the common myths that society conditions you to believe, and how you can unlearn these unfulfilling behaviors to live a life of true happiness & satisfaction—today and in the future.
Show highlights include:
- Sinister ways society conditions you to be unhappy in pursuit of your goals (and how to achieve fulfilling goals without sacrificing your happiness) (00:48)
- The toxic truth about personal growth (and how it prevents you from getting what you want) (2:50)
- The Perfection Myth: How certain goals keep you unhappy, unfulfilled & stuck in life (5:20)
- How to consistently reach your goals without making yourself miserable (11:24)
- The “Inner World” secret for making mundane and boring activities fulfilling and fun (13:44)
- Try this “Reframe Growth” technique to crush through obstacles with ease (and live a life of supreme satisfaction) (15:27)
- How to find the balance between growth & enjoyment so that you don’t end up stuck grinding for “something more” forever (19:40)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast. I’m David Tian, your host, and you’re listening to another crucial episode that challenges our very understanding of what makes life meaningful.
In this episode, I’ll show you how to revel in the moments of life without being shackled by growth that demands constant discipline, a grind, or pursuing what doesn’t genuinely resonate with you. Life can overflow with enjoyment without you relentlessly chasing growth that relies on sheer willpower. Many of us, especially achievers, mistakenly believe that we need to grind away to truly enjoy life’s pleasures, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. [01:00.1]
Let’s get clear on why this is so vital. If your eyes always fixate on the horizon, seeking that next milestone, you may find that life slips right through your fingers. Imagine dedicating years to rigorous discipline, only to realize you missed out on the laughter, the serendipities, the simple joys that make our existence so vibrant. The end game of all of our hard work or sacrifices, was always to secure the resources and time to relish what’s left of our lives, and yet, in our relentless pursuit of growth, we often overlook the beauty of the present than now.
We live in a world where achievements are glorified and many people feel this incessant need, a pressure to grow, to have to develop and climb that proverbial ladder. And the narrative? Growth signifies progress—so they say—and progress equals a life well-lived. [02:00.7]
But here’s the twist: achievers and, I dare say, everyone has been seduced by a falsehood, and for much of my life, I too was seduced by that same falsity. We’ve mistakenly placed growth on a pedestal, declaring it the sole purpose of life. But think about this. If we liken life to music or dance, as Alan Watts has beautifully suggested and as I’ve unpacked in a previous episode, the true essence doesn’t lie in reaching the end of the song or the final step of the dance. Instead, it’s about relishing every note, every rhythm, every fleeting moment. In the same vein, while growth often offers enrichment, it shouldn’t become an obsessive quest or a desperate need, or a neurotic need, robbing us of the joy of the journey.
Growth, when it demands too much or pushes us towards paths that we don’t enjoy or cherish, detracts from a life well-lived. When we’re in a state of Flow, growth feels effortless and exhilarating, and that’s the kind of growth we should all yearn for, the kind that aligns with our passions and purposes. [03:08.6]
Unfortunately, the modern self-help industry with its exploding plethora of motivational speeches and books, nudges us toward a growth that feels more forced than fulfilling. Remember, growth that demands constant discipline that doesn’t come from within, but rather from external pressures, often misses the mark. It becomes an endless treadmill, where the destination keeps shifting further away. So, let’s go even deeper and examine why exactly an obsessive focus on growth can be counterproductive to living a fulfilling life.
Okay, first, when you think about the point of life, do you associate it merely with growth? I understand the allure, but imagine you’re at a concert, listening to a captivating piece of music. As I’ve mentioned, Alan Watts once used this analogy, listening to music or watching a dance, do you ever catch yourself waiting for the end of it? Of course, not, unless it’s really bad music or a bad dance. The whole point is to enjoy it in the moment, basking in every note, every beat, every step. [04:14.7]
Life in its essence is quite similar. We’re supposed to live it, feel it, and most importantly, enjoy it to be in the moment to cherish it. The song of life isn’t about reaching that final crescendo. It’s about cherishing every moment, every moment that we have.
Now, don’t get me wrong, growth isn’t inherently harmful. In fact, in many cases, growth enriches our lives, broadening our horizons, providing us with a sense of purpose. But where we veer off track is when we begin to see growth as the ultimate end, a trap that even the most accomplished achievers often fall into. They and, quite frankly, many of us become so ensnared by the idea of constant development that we lose sight of why we wanted to grow in the first place. The self-help industry has mostly amplified this mistaken narrative. Instead of focusing on the journey itself, many people are lost in the endless quest for the destination, a place that actually doesn’t really exist. [05:19.3]
Speaking of endless quests, let’s address another misconception, another myth, the notion of an endpoint to human growth. This elusive idea of perfection that many people chase is, for lack of a better term, toxic. There’s always another milestone, another goal, another mountain to conquer. It’s a never-ending cycle. By pursuing this mirage of perfection, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and burnout, and it’s just false.
We must recognize, if you want to be happy and live a fulfilling life, that growth is fluid, and perfection is not just unattainable, but it’s actually not even logically possible. Imagine a basketball player who takes 10 shots and gets 10 shots in. Perfect, right? What if you compare him to the guy who took 11 shots and got 11 shots in? He’s more perfect, which just doesn’t make any sense. And what if the person who got the most number of shots in, whatever that number is, just added another shot? [06:18.6]
So, you see, perfection never arrives. The moment you realize you could add to perfection makes that previous perfection no longer perfect, and it also makes the current perfection no longer perfect, because now you’ve smartened up to the whole thing. And now if you go 4-4, you wouldn’t want to take that risk of taking that fifth shot and missing, and this is part of the reason why drive for perfectionism leads to procrastination, because if you’re just trying to stay perfect, it’s better to not take that extra shot, not take those risks. But then you’re not perfect, are you?
No matter how good you are, you could always get another shot in. You could always make more money. You could always sleep with a hotter girl, more women. What are some other toxic, immature, stereotypical male goals? You could always have another Lamborghini or another Rolex, or another PhD. There is no logical endpoint to human perfection. It’s not just unattainable, it’s illogical, and the very notion of it places an unnecessary burden upon you. [07:18.1]
Okay, so let’s go even deeper. Often the incessant need to grow and prove yourself stems from a place of deep-seated insecurity. It’s as if there’s this inner voice persistently whispering, “You’re not enough,” or “You’re still not enough.” To silence the sense of unworthiness, you throw yourself into work, into goals, into growth, and this obsessive need for growth bordering on the neurotic becomes your way of seeking validation, of significance, of proving to yourself your own worth. But here’s the crux: tying your self-worth to your accomplishments or your ability to grow is a doomed project from the beginning. [08:02.7]
Your worth as a person doesn’t and shouldn’t depend on what you’ve achieved or how much you’ve grown. Of course, it is the case and rightly so that whether you’re worthy of the raise or of that job, or of that degree, or of the trophy or the championship, is dependent on your performance or your achievements. But whether you’re worthy of love or whether you’re enough as a person can’t be dependent on whether you’re worthy for some materialistic goal, like a trophy or job, or a degree.
When we conflate whether we’re worthy for the trophy with whether we’re worthy as a person, then it becomes incredibly toxic. Such a perspective turns love into a transaction. “I will love or appreciate myself only if I achieve XYZ.” That’s not love. That’s bartering. It’s conditional. Real love, the love you should have for yourself, is unconditional. It says, “I am enough, just because I exist. I am enough because I am.” [09:04.0]
Why lasting happiness and fulfillment elude so many people, especially achievers, is because they’ve bought into the lie that if they can finally achieve XYZ, then they will be worthy. They will be enough for not just for the job and all that, but for love. But then they’ve made that love conditional. They’re worthy for love on the condition that they achieve XYZ. But if you love yourself conditionally, then, obviously, that’s not love.
Going deeper into explaining love, especially to younger, less mature people, would take us way far afield, so that would be another episode, but I just want to point out how often the need neurotically for growth is often founded in this deep core insecurity that you’re not enough for love just the way you are.
While growth is an important part of our journey through life, it shouldn’t become the yardstick by which we measure the worth of our existence. Let’s break free from the chains of toxic growth and embrace life in all its, yes, imperfect glory. The song of life is playing and it’s time that we danced to its rhythm. [10:16.4]
Let’s take a step back and think about growth from a slightly different angle now. I’ve spent the majority of this episode shedding light on the pitfalls of toxic growth, but it’s also essential to acknowledge the other side of the coin.
No matter their physical strength, for many men, emotions are too much for them to handle. It’s why they can’t give women the deeper levels of emotional intimacy and connection that they crave. It’s why they fail to be the man that modern women desire most: a man with inner strength, a man who has mastered his emotions.
Find out how to master your emotions through David Tian’s “Emotional Mastery” program. The Emotional Mastery program is a step-by-step system that integrates the best of empirically-verified psychotherapy methods and reveals how to master your internal state and develop the inner strength that makes you naturally attractive, happy, and fulfilled.
Learn more about this transformational program by going to DavidTianPhD.com/EmotionalMastery.
That’s D-A-V-I-D-T-I-A-N-P-H-D [dot] com [slash] emotional mastery.
If you’re someone who wakes up in the morning and genuinely feels excited about pushing yourself about learning something new or about overcoming a challenge, then I salute you. I applaud you. For many people, this process of growth and learning isn’t just about getting to a destination. It’s about the journey itself. They don’t just climb mountains to reach the top. They climb mountains because they love the very act of climbing mountains, and that’s an important and key profound realization to have. [11:51.5]
Flow, as coined by the renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, exemplifies this perfectly. Flow is this state of mind where time seems to stand still, where every action, movement and thought flows inevitably from the previous one. It’s like when you’re improvising really well on a jazz solo or abandoning yourself to a passionate tango dance.
In this state of Flow, your sense of self fades away and you feel that one with the activity that you’re doing. This is enjoyable growth. This is growth that doesn’t feel like work. It feels like pure, unadulterated passion. But here’s the thing: when you’re in a state of flow, when you’re genuinely enjoying the process, you don’t need an external force pushing you forward. You don’t need a YouTube motivational video playlist blaring in your ears or lots of self-help books telling you to grind harder.
Why? Because the process itself is already intrinsically enjoyable. It itself fuels your motivation. You’re not chasing an arbitrary endpoint or someone else’s definition of success. You’re immersed and engrossed in the present moment and enjoying every step of the way. [13:08.6]
Now, in this imperfect world, that we live in a world that, as the result of evolution along the lines of the survival of the fittest, a world where many of us still need to hustle every day to make ends meet, it’s even more crucial to find joy in the process. Yeah, look, I get it, we can’t all live in a state of perpetual Flow all the time. We all have responsibilities, bills to pay, mouths to feed. But what if, what if we could find a way to align our need for growth with what we genuinely love?
Imagine a world where you fall in love with the very act of learning, where every new day is an opportunity to play a game you enjoy, a game called learning. If that’s your reality, the concept of motivation then is useless. It becomes obsolete. You don’t need the motivation. If you’re looking for motivation, there’s already something very wrong. [13:58.1]
When done right, growth isn’t about pushing yourself. It’s about willingly, joyfully, propelling forward, and in such a world, the boundaries between work and play blur. Life can become a dance, a dance of joy, passion and purpose. In my first year at university, I was trying to decide what to major in and I saw this little quote at the top of the local newspaper that says something like, “Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Okay, now let’s dive even a little deeper. Let’s take a moment to untangle, to unpack this term that’s been at the heart of this episode so far, “growth.” The world around us often shouts a particular story or narrative of what growth should look like. Open a magazine or scroll through a social media feed and you’re likely to be inundated with tales of corporate ladder-climbing, entrepreneurial success and financial gains. But is that all there is to growth? I’d argue that it’s really just the tip of the iceberg, though that’s what gets magnified and glorified in today’s pop culture. [15:00.4]
So, why do so many of us instantly equate growth with success, worldly success, especially in terms of career or financial gain? We live in societies that often measure worth by productivity or material accumulation. But I challenge you to see beyond that narrow definition. Growth in its purest form, is about evolution, about change, and about becoming a more profound version of yourself. It isn’t merely a ladder going up. Sometimes it’s a journey going inwards.
Think about the relationships in your life. Have they remained stagnant or have they deepened over time, evolved, and transformed. When you forge a deeper bond with someone you love, when you understand them better, listen more intently, respond with greater empathy, that’s growth. It may not show up in your bank statements or you can’t put it on your LinkedIn profile, but it’s invaluable to life, isn’t it? [15:57.8]
Likewise, personal introspection and self-awareness are other areas where growth shines through. When you take the time to sit with your thoughts, to grapple with your emotions, or to understand why you react in certain ways, you’re growing. You’re expanding your inner world, creating a richer internal tapestry that’s just as important, if not more so than any external achievements.
Let’s also talk about the tiny moments that often go unnoticed. Maybe it’s the warmth of the morning sun on your face, the laughter shared with a friend over a simple joke, or the taste of your favorite dish after a long day. In these fleeting moments, if you find joy, if you find a deeper appreciation for life, then you’re experiencing growth and gratitude at the very least. This shift in perspective, this ability to find joy in the seemingly mundane, is an under-celebrated form of growth. [16:54.2]
I urge you to redefine growth for yourself. Strip away societal expectations. Take away the noise and ask yourself, “What does growth really mean to me? How do I want to evolve, change and transform?” and I bet once you start this introspective journey, you’ll discover that growth is intricately woven into the very fabric of your daily life, in the books you read, the conversations you have, the emotions that you feel in the moments that you cherish. In essence, growth is not just about climbing up. It’s also about diving deeper. It’s about expansion in every direction, not just the one that society points you towards, so embrace this broader definition of growth.
Let’s dive now into another facet of this intricate dance of life, the different phases that we pass through. At each stage, our priorities, needs and focus shift, and it’s essential to recognize and honor these shifts. It’s a long journey. It’s a lifelong journey, and as with any journey, the landscape changes as we progress. [18:01.8]
Think back to your early 20s. Most of us during that time, were fueled with an insatiable hunger to establish ourselves. The world feels vast, full of opportunities waiting for us to seize. We’re building careers, perhaps searching for partners and laying the foundation of the life that we envision. Here, personal growth naturally would take precedence. We need to learn, evolve, adapt and pivot rapidly. The momentum of our early years is often driven by the need to grow, to make a mark, to carve out our niche, and that’s perfectly okay and it’s perfectly understandable from that developmental perspective of different milestones along the way.
But life isn’t a static canvas. As we journey through our 30s and 40s, many of us find ourselves at the proverbial midlife crossroads. This is often a time of reflection, a pause, a recalibration of what’s truly important, and by now many of the battles of our youth have been fought, the groundwork has been laid, and the scene starts to shift. It’s a phase where the pendulum might swing towards finding deeper meaning, cultivating deeper relationships, and perhaps, prioritizing enjoyment and relaxation, and being present with the present moment. [19:15.4]
Take a moment to ponder this. What would life look like in your 70s or 80s? If you picture yourself still trapped in the hustle burning the midnight oil or scrimping every penny for a future that’s already here, it’s time for a reality check. As the decades roll on, the urgency to relish life’s simple pleasures, to soak in moments of joy becomes paramount. We need to remind ourselves that time, unlike money, is a finite resource. Every day, every moment that goes by is one that we won’t get back.
Bill Perkins, in his excellent book Die With Zero, brings to the forefront a profound concept. He emphasizes the importance of maximizing experiences over hoarding wealth. The idea is not to reach the end of your life journey with a bank full of money, but an empty ledger of experiences. It’s about ensuring that when you reflect on your life, it’s filled with moments of joy, fulfilling experiences and touching memories rather than regrets. [20:18.4]
Ferris Bueller was onto something when he said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” This isn’t just a catchy movie quote. It’s a poignant reminder, whether you’re in the spring of youth, the summer of midlife or the golden years of your life, remember, life’s phases are there to guide you, not to define you. It’s up to you to recognize where you are, understand what you truly need, and adjust your sails accordingly.
Let’s take this journey through life with grace, adaptability, and a deeper understanding that growth, enjoyment and relaxation all have their time and place. The key is to recognize when to push forward and when to take a step back, and simply breathe in the beauty of the moment. [21:06.0]
And as we journey deeper into this exploration of life, growth and the choices we make, there’s one overarching concept that stands out, anchoring everything else together, and that’s balance. Yes, balance. It’s a word we hear often, but how often do we really stop to ponder its significance in our lives? If you tilt too far on one side of the seesaw, you risk losing sight of what’s on the other. It’s the equilibrium, the sweet spot that makes life’s journey both fulfilling and enjoyable.
Now, I’m not here to make you abandon growth. Growth is essential. It’s in our DNA to evolve, to strive for better, to expand our horizons. But like a gourmet dish, life isn’t about just one flavor overpowering the rest. It’s about the symphony of flavors, each contributing to the whole, creating an experience that’s rich, diverse and fulfilling, and that’s where the balance between growth and enjoyment comes in. [22:02.2]
Think of it this way: a life solely focused on growth without pauses for enjoyment can feel like a marathon with no finish line in sight or like a forced march where you don’t know when you can stop. Conversely, a life centered solely around hedonistic pleasures without any growth can feel empty and unfulfilling in the long run, and unsustainable. But when growth and enjoyment coexist, when they feed into and nourish each other, that’s when life truly sparkles.
Imagine you’re learning to play a musical instrument, like the guitar. The initial stages would be challenging. There’s growth, of course, as you navigate the complexities of chords and melodies, but intertwined with this growth should be the sheer joy of creating music, of witnessing firsthand your progress, of the euphoria when you strum a tune just right. Here, growth and enjoyment aren’t on opposite ends of the spectrum. They’re dancing together. They’re integrating, each amplifying the other. [23:01.0]
It’s also worth noting that when you truly enjoy the process of growth, when it doesn’t feel forced or imposed, you’re more likely to stick with it, obviously, to be consistent. It’s not a chore anymore. It’s a passionate joy, and this interplay can be found in various facets of life, from relationships to careers to personal hobbies.
So, my invitation to you is this. Don’t compartmentalize growth and enjoyment as two separate entities. Instead, view them as partners, as allies. Look for those moments where they seamlessly blend, where one fuels the other. As we journey through life, it’s paramount to check in with ourselves regularly, asking, “Is my quest for growth enhancing my life or detracting from it?” If you find that your pursuit of growth overshadows your ability to enjoy life’s simple moments, then it’s time to recalibrate. Find that equilibrium. Seek out experiences that allow growth and enjoyment to coalesce. [23:58.4]
Remember, life isn’t a linear progression of milestones to be checked off a list. It’s a tapestry of experiences, lessons, joys and challenges. By embracing both growth and enjoyment, by finding that delicate balance, you set the stage for life that’s not just lived, but truly cherished.
Okay, let’s take a moment to circle back and recap the key insights so far in our episode. We opened with a possibility of enjoying life without relying on growth that feels like an endless grind, devoid of joy. The reason behind this? An obsessive focus on growth can make you feel that you’re never enough, this need for growth, and in this chase, you might miss the essence of life, the point behind all the growth, the moments, the experiences, the memories of your life.
We then moved into busting a common myth that growth is the ultimate goal of life. However, the truth is, life isn’t about the endless pursuit of milestones. It’s about enjoying the journey of life along the way much like dance or a piece of music. Growth is crucial, no doubt, but it’s not the be all and end all, and the idea that there’s an endpoint to human growth, an elusive state of illogical perfection, is not just unattainable, but it’s toxic. Your value as a human being, your worthiness for love isn’t tied to your growth trajectory. [25:20.4]
Diving deeper, we acknowledge that there are seasons in life, phases where growth might take the forefront, and other times where enjoyment and being present in the present moment get the spotlight. Recognizing and respecting these phases can make the journey smoother and more fulfilling.
Now let’s talk about consequences. If you continue down a path of relentless, joyless growth, you’re setting yourself up for burnout, disillusionment, and a life filled with what-ifs. It’s akin to building a magnificent mansion and never taking the time to live in it.
On the flip side, striking that balance between growth and enjoyment can yield incredible results. When you harmonize these two elements, you unlock a life filled with passion, purpose, and moments of unbridled joy. It becomes a life where accomplishments feel genuinely fulfilling, because they’re paired with cherished experiences and memories. [26:10.0]
In closing, I urge you to take a step back, reflect and ask yourself, “Am I growing at the expense of living?” If the scales are tipped too far in any one direction, know that it’s never too late to recalibrate, find your balance, cherish the journey, and let both growth and enjoyment enrich your life.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you have any comments or feedback whatsoever, do let me know. Pop it in the comments or send me a message. Hit us subscribe or a like or a follow on whichever platform you’re listening to this on, and if this has benefited you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it.
Thank you so much for listening, again. I can’t wait to welcome you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [26:52.1]
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