Here’s proof that happiness doesn’t come from achievement

“One of the most difficult things I have had to confront in my own life has been this, right here. This idea that no mountain, trophy, reward, title, battle won, or achievement will ever, ever, ever be enough.”

When I was a teenager, I thought the moment I achieved “Gladiator” status in the World of Warcraft, I would be fulfilled and forever happy.

I became one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America and got extremely depressed. It wasn’t enough.

When I started bodybuilding, I thought as soon as I hit 160 lbs, I would be happy. Satisfied. “Done.”

I hit 160 lbs and decided I needed to be 165 lbs in order to be happy.

I hit 165 lbs and decided I needed to be 170 lbs in order to be happy.

I hit 170 lbs and decided I needed to be 175 lbs in order to be happy.

See? Look how happy I am here!

… I still felt small.

It wasn’t enough

When I was right out of college, I thought, “If only I was making $100 more dollars a month, then I would feel more comfortable. Then I would be happy.”

I started making $100 dollars more a month. It wasn’t enough. So I thought, “Oh, well if only I was making $200 dollars more a month! Then, then I would be happy.”

I started making $200 dollars more a month. It wasn’t enough.

This continued on for quite a while until I had literally tripled my income and still, still, STILL felt like it wasn’t enough.

When I first started working on my book, Confessions of a Teenage Gamer, I thought, “The reason this is so difficult is because it’s not perfect. Once I write it this way, I’ll think it’s perfect and then I’ll be happy.”

I wrote the first draft. 400-some pages. It wasn’t perfect. I threw it away. I thought, “Hmm … Well, that’s because it wasn’t perfect enough. It needs to be more perfect. It needs to be better.”

So I started again.

Wrote another full draft. From scratch. 400-some pages. It wasn’t perfect. I threw it away. “Hmm … Well that’s because it wasn’t perfect enough! It needs to be more perfect, more perfect than perfect.”

So I started again.

I wrote ANOTHER full draft. From scratch. 400-some pages. It took me 5 years to realize that “perfect” was not a real thing. It didn’t exist. I was asking it to be something it could never be.

There is no such thing as “perfect.”

When I got ready to publish it, I thought, “Ok, once it’s published, then I’ll feel happy. Then I’ll feel fulfilled.”

I published my book.

… I still wanted more.

It was then that I realized two things:

  • First: It’s ok to want more. As humans, we are goal-setters. We are always looking for the “next mountain to conquer.” There is something wonderful about that experience, the exploration of life. And it’s not about suppressing it, but rather understanding it.

Which leads to …

  • Second: Nothing will ever be enough, as long as you are looking to the “thing” to fulfill you.
    I have climbed many mountains. For a 28-year-old, I have climbed more mountains than I can even comprehend.

To those that know me, and look from the outside, every so often they reveal their true thoughts. “You intimidate me, Cole. You have accomplished so much!”

Can I let you in on a little secret?

99% of the time, I feel like I haven’t accomplished a damn thing.

One of the most difficult things I have had to confront in my own life has been this, right here. This idea that no mountain, trophy, reward, title, battle won, or achievement will ever, ever, ever be enough.

Because the true feeling of happiness, contentment, joy, and the ability to be at ease with yourself comes from within.

You could be standing on Mount Everest and feel like a worthless failure.

And you could be sitting in your room with your fingers in a bunch of paint while you scoop a glob of red into your palm and smear it all over a bunch of newspaper on your floor and feel completely in the moment — happy.

It doesn’t matter what you do in life. It doesn’t matter what the achievement is, or what industry you’re in, or what your passions are, or what road you travel.

Trust me, I’ve tried a lot of them:

I thought gaming was the problem, so I moved to fitness.

I thought fitness was the problem, so I moved to business.

I thought business was the problem, so I moved to, etc. …

It’s not the thing — it’s the way you do it. It’s the relationship you have with yourself along the way. It’s the ability to walk your path, each and every day, and enjoy the process of wherever it is you’re going.

But as long as you think it’s all going to be “wonderful and perfect” at the end, you will always be unsatisfied.

There is no “end.”

Thanks for reading 🙂

This article originally appeared on Medium.