We’ve all heard the saying that sometimes less is more. But that doesn’t seem to stop us from constantly searching for the next thing to achieve or obtain.
The real kicker is that a lot of what we go after doesn’t give us the satisfaction we were hoping for.
In fact, there are some things that you should stop chasing altogether because they probably won’t make you happy.
1) Other people’s approval
This is a biggie because, to a certain extent, we all want to fit in and we all fear rejection.
We want to feel like we belong, and seeking validation from others can seem like a good way to do it.
Take a quick scroll through your social media and you’ll see countless people desperate for positive attention.
Whilst it may be naturally built into us to seek this, it’s not good for us.
It may feel good at the time to receive someone’s praise, but it never lasts. The fact remains that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Someone is always going to be left disappointed, and often that person is you.
Whenever we seek to impress someone else, we can end up betraying ourselves in the process.
People-pleasing behaviors creep in so that you put your own needs and wants last.
You may become out of sync with your personal values and opinions as you try to blend in with other people.
Or as we’ll see next, you might end up chasing someone else’s version of a good life instead of your own.
2) The path that is expected of you in life
Forging your own path is easier said than done.
Living a life that other people expect of you instead of staying true to yourself is one of the biggest regrets of the dying for that reason.
All of us are silently conditioned by the society we grow up in.
Expectations are passed on to us from our parents, caregivers, family, friends, community, the media, our education system, and religion.
Even when we feel like we have the freedom to make our own choices, we may not realize how heavily that’s been influenced by factors out of our control.
You end up pursuing a career that will make your folks proud.
You feel like you probably “should” get married now because all your pals are.
You essentially make choices that follow the status quo.
We also burden ourselves with unrealistic timelines and feel inadequate for not meeting them.
Or we turn around at some stage in life and realize everything we’ve been working towards feels sort of pointless to us.
Stripping away these societal expectations can be messy work, but once you do it’s easier to carve out a life based on what matters most to you.
3) Success just for the sake of being successful
Okay, this needs a little explanation. Because telling you to stop chasing success can sound pretty demotivating or defeatist.
It’s not to say that goals, ambitions, and growth aren’t marvelous things.
They can be incredibly expansive for both you and society as a whole. So much advancement has come from this desire to improve.
But ideally, they should always be driven by something bigger than just a shallow desire to “win” at life.
They also need to be based on your own personal definition of success which is created from what you hold dearest.
If it’s not, you will most likely discover that any success feels pretty empty.
Because success for the sake of validation isn’t really success. It’s just another attempt to inflate your self-esteem through external means.
That’s why many people who become rich or famous find out it isn’t the answer to happiness after all.
As Jim Carrey once pointed out:
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
The point is that chasing stuff — whether it’s money, material possessions, recognition, etc. — never gives us the lasting high that we imagine it will bring.
True success isn’t about pinning all your worthiness on “being somebody”.
You already are somebody. You have intrinsic worth no matter what you do in life.
Perfectionism lives amongst us under the false guise of high standards. But these high standards are actually just unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others.
We all want the best for ourselves, but all expectations have a habit of setting you up for disappointment.
So when you have unrealistic expectations, you’re just getting in the way of your own happiness.
It casts a cloud upon everything you do and have. Because it tends to make us focus far more on lack.
It’s no wonder that perfectionists suffer from more stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
It’s okay to work towards improvement, but we need to remember that perfect simply does not exist.
Grasping for perfection leads us to believe that more is always the answer.
But we don’t need more to feel happy, we just need to notice and show gratitude for what we already have.
5) People who don’t put the effort in
I’m willing to bet that most of us have chased someone who wasn’t worth it.
Often it’s that unrequited crush who doesn’t want us back or the person who we’re clearly into so much more than they’re into us.
It’s one of those unfortunate facts of life that the more unattainable something or someone feels, the more we want it.
Yet when it comes to one-sided relationships, we should do ourselves a favor and walk away.
We always end up chasing the wrong people because the fact that you have to chase them in the first place tells you they’re not right for you.
As soon as you need to fight for someone’s attention it’s never going to end well.
They won’t respect you if you compromise your boundaries to keep them around. You cannot make them want you by putting in double the effort.
The truly annoying part is, the more you try, the more likely they are to pull even further away.
Stop wasting your precious time and energy on people who aren’t reciprocating.
6) Love to complete you
Let’s start with an important note:
Love is to me the most important thing in my life.
The relationships we form make life worth living and give it a rich depth that offers us meaning.
But we can get carried away with our expectations of love — particularly romantic love.
The reality is that love comes in many forms and from many sources.
It can be found in family, friends, lovers, community, pets, and even in the natural world around you.
Yet one of the biggest sources should always be from inside yourself.
We show ourselves love through:
All too often we chase a partner in the hopes that it will fill an empty void in our social calendar and ultimately our hearts.
When it fails to be the magic formula to contentment, we can become quickly disillusioned by it.
We kill it and crush it via our high demands on others. We chase the fairytale that is love, not the real version.
So we don’t allow ourselves to be happy because of the unrealistic projections we place on love.
Make the decision to take full responsibility for yourself and you won’t end up chasing love in the hopes it will save you.
Sorry to break it to you, but even our pursuit of happiness is one of the things that makes us so unhappy.
We treat happiness like just another goal to achieve.
But in the process, we ignore the fact that happiness is a fleeting emotion. It comes and goes in life, just like all our other feelings.
This can have some unfortunate side effects:
We don’t want to feel “negative” emotions, so we deny, repress, and push them away. But it’s unrealistic.
Life is a rich tapestry of all sorts of feelings and experiences whether we like it or not.
We also end up missing what’s right in front of us by searching for happiness elsewhere.
But when we lower the bar slightly, we see expressions of happiness exist constantly throughout the day.
They show up in feelings of contentment, peace, laughter, pleasure, and playfulness.
In short: Happiness is here right now, not some destination we need to reach.
The trick is to be here now…
Mindfulness is a great antidote for whenever we get caught up chasing fools’ gold.
We do it by putting our full attention on the here and now.
That’s when we realize that a lot of what we think we’re looking for we already have access to in this very moment.