Peace vs. Achievement

I recently posted the following on facebook to get some feedback on something that came to mind during my morning meditation:

Legit question… not trolling: Is it possible to be simultaneously grateful and at peace with what is, while being driven to achieve? If so… what motivates you other than a dissatisfaction with what is? If one is truly at peace, what purpose does improving what is serve?

Jason Kellie – facebook July 2020

I had several responses. Some thought provoking, some prompting more questions, some chastising. I quite literally spent my entire morning and most of my afternoon in contemplation and discussion attempting to comprehend (mental) what I already understood (spiritual).

If you find that odd, you’re not alone. There are very few people in my life who have the patience to entertain my obsession with thinking things through so deeply, and even they grow tired of listening to me ramble on a topic incessantly until that ah-ha moment occurs for me… hence the chastising. lol

I think first I need to try and explain how the question arrived to provide context. Recently my world fell apart. I will likely address this in another post but at the moment there are no words to adequately convey the devastation. Di’Last describes it as hitting “rock bottom” and I think that’s a good enough way to say it for now. As a result, I challenged myself to reject everything I thought I knew and everything everyone else accepts as right or wrong and rebuild myself brick by brick. I say this to give you some perspective on how genuine my questions are… how child like… how unassuming… how blank the origin.

I had come to the conclusion that peace comes through an acceptance of what is. A realization that control is by and large an illusion, and the relinquishment of that self delusion frees your mind from obsession. This took me down the path of achievement. It may not be immediately obvious how one arrives at achievement via the concept of acceptance, but suffice to say I have a habit of rephrasing things to confirm validity or ridiculous and “contentment” seemed an adequate synonym for acceptance. Past me (Ralph) looked down on contentment. Contentment was passive and lazy and showed lack of ambition. Ambition was based on drive and determination and desire for achievement… and thats where I hit the bump in the road so to speak. I could no longer in good conscious deem contentment as “bad” if peace was “good”. Simultaneously how could one label achievement as “bad”? And I know… that’s not immediately obvious either since achievement isn’t exactly in the top ten antonyms for contentment so bare with me for a moment. I queried myself for the reason we seek to achieve, what is the motivation for wanting to accomplish something… anything if one is content? Another synonym perhaps… how about satisfied? Yes, satisfaction seems descriptive of contentment which seems descriptive of acceptance which is the way to peace… okay train of thought down. If the goal is peace, and you are satisfied with what is… you win. Peace has been achieved. Nothing need be accomplished… no actions need to be taken save what it takes to maintain what is. Only if you are dissatisfied with what is does the need for achievement exist. For what need is there to improve upon that which you are satisfied with, other that the goal of achievement? This now, is how we will come to label achievement as “bad”.

One responder advised that Achievement itself was the path. A fascinating suggestion and one I had to parse through. What if you achieved peace through the pursuit of achievement? In other words… achievement itself becomes the goal. My conclusion was that achievement itself as a goal is not sustainable and the reason why sayings such as “money doesn’t by you happiness” exist. The pursuit of achievement itself… not a singular achievement mind you… but a pursuit of achievement itself as a goal is a never ending and restless state. To be at peace you must constantly be achieving something. This is of course unsustainable and therefor unattainable… meaning you can never be at peace.

This is the myth of the middle class. This is the alter at which America worships. Our idols who started with nothing but a dream in their parents garage and grew their empire into riches untold. Work harder than anyone else is willing to work and keep on keeping on. Never give up… never surrender! See… setting the path (or the goal) as achievement itself is a celebration of the effort… the work… what it takes to get there… the process of achievement becomes the goal and that is what is dangerous. Having worked your tail off you can afford to purchase that new Tesla you’ve always wanted. Why does it suddenly feel hallow and unfulfilling? Because what we are celebrating (valuing) is the work and effort… in other words achievement itself. To achieve peace we must get back to achieving more… the Tesla seems like it wasn’t enough to us because it was never the goal.