What is your quest?
Where are you going? And why? What quest are you on in your life and work?
In days long gone, there were many quests. For Power. Glory. Riches. Discoveries. Love. Beauty. Truth. Peace and quiet.
These days, our quests have changed, but we still have them. Quests for success. Recognition. Wealth. Happiness.
For many of us, our quest is a bit of an ego trip. It’s all about me, and what I want, or deserve, so that I can look good, feel good, and get validation from others. The quest is fueled by an ethic of accumulation and achievement.
And so it was with Warren, a tall young man with dreadlocks working in a government agency, with a good salary and proud parents. One day, he found himself at a festival listening to a band playing Radiohead, and three questions popped into his head:
Are you there? (Yes.)
Are you you? (No.)
Are you ready? (Yes.)
So began Warren’s new chapter, leaving the old, familiar, and boring for something new, uncertain, and exciting.
And so it was with Kimberly, a small-town girl with sandy blonde hair and big ambitions who moved to the big city and found herself working as a paralegal. She was successful, for sure, but also tired, lonely, and uninspired. When she returned to her apartment from a two-day yoga retreat, she realized that her life was no longer hers and that her work was killing her soul. So she started something new in her life (yoga sessions in her apartment), and over several years, through much trial and error, it took her into a whole new chapter in life, one that fit much better with her values and aspirations.
We all have the freedom to change course. But that just begs the question: Change to what? Meanwhile, we rationalize our current path:
I’m paying my dues.
I’m doing it for my family.
This isn’t a good time.
I don’t know what to do next.
I don’t know how to begin.
And so we drift along. (And along.)
Isn’t this just the price we must pay for success? Perhaps, but what does success mean to you? Success at what? And as what? Who are you? What matters most to you? Are you living a good life, one that your future self will thank you for?
Success can be like a prison made of pride. Like the graying inmate “Red” in Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, we can get strangely comfortable there. We rely on its rock walls to keep our ego safely ensconced in a place where it scores its validation fix.
Has our quest become a trap? Have we outgrown the successes we’ve chased or achieved? What then?
That’s where a call comes in. It’s when we need to stop and listen to our inner voice, our intuition. That’s when we need the sweeping perspective of time—of where we come from and where we want to go, and with whom.
Calling the Questions
What is your quest? Does it still serve you? And does it fill you up, or drain you?
Are you there? Are you you? Are you ready?
Is it time to surrender the willful quest of pride and listen for something deeper?
Do you hear a call?
Are you answering it?
Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, facilitator, and speaker on life design and leadership. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose and passion) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out Gregg’s manifesto on how to avoid the Common Traps of Living. Or view his TEDx talk.