What are we striving for?

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‘great and tenacious efforts to do something’

‘this constant striving for perfection’

‘Realism is needed, and a constant striving to improve’

‘I believe we should value the old, and stop the striving after new things and new experiences’.

(Collins English Dictionary)

Over the last couple of weeks one word keeps emerging – ‘striving.’  I first saw it appear when I posted on social media and asked “to you, what does success look like?”  My last blog post discussed this, but when I wrote this piece, I had not yet noted the significant use of this word.  Comments included phrases such as:
Striving to achieve without anxiety, with time to find contentment and appreciation for what you have, share and can do....’
‘Contentment, understanding and acceptance would be the three things I strive for’
‘Success is non striving….’
The reassuring thing I have noted reading these comments again is that the people saying this already recognised that success means that striving has come to an end.  This was only reassuring to me having recently listened to an enlightening book…..

At the start of the year a friend added me to a Facebook group for mums at work.  Most of the members have their own business, some are employed and content with that, some have a side-line, whilst others have a career and aspire to having their own business. I was curious to attend an event and maybe meet new people. ‘The Swan Doctor’ was in the back of my mind nagging at me that I really should do something with it and ‘step up’ more.  Certainly listening to the speakers at these events, which are now held throughout Northern Ireland, with members of the group from across the world, inspired me to take some action.  I then joined their VIP membership and one of the members suggested starting a monthly book club.  Being an avid reader I was keen to join with the first book chosen being an audio book ‘How to be a No-Limit Person’ by Dr Wayne Dyer.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I enjoy listening to audio books when commuting to and from work; it makes me feel that the time has not been wasted and it feels much more uplifting than immersing myself in the latest news on the radio.  I do also enjoy listening to music on occasion whilst driving when I feel I need to relax and just let my mind and brain have a rest.

I had just paid my monthly audible credit when I joined the ‘mums at work’ book club so immediately purchased the chosen book.  I was initially surprised at the format which consists of Dr Wayne Dyer chatting away to the listener in between sections of his public seminars on the same relevant topic.  There are regular ‘musical interludes’ which I found a bit disconcerting at first but they reawaken you to a change in content or format and keep your interest.  Overall it is a really engaging and super entertaining audiobook as Dr Dyer has a wicked sense of humour.  I laughed out loud when he defined being ‘macho’ as ‘jogging home after a vasectomy’ when describing a client’s particularly buff husband!  The other ladies in the book club were soon also messaging how much they were enjoying the book and having many light-bulb moments in response to Dr Dyer’s wisdom and insights.  I was no different and have listened to some sections more than once and bookmarked key moments.

The start of Chapter 5 made me listen that bit closer.  It began “the concept of control is

How to be a No-Limit Person on Audible

probably the most important concept in mental health…”  Dr Dyer then mentioned studies done in old age homes where taking away control from people in this setting results in an increase in senility.  Considering my specialty is in medicines in older people, I was now listening intently.  He then went on to discuss what could possibly be described as a mental health ‘ladder’ from panic through to inertia, to striving, to coping and then thriving and becoming a ‘no-limits person.’  There was that word again – ‘striving.’  Panic and inertia describes about 80% of the population and could also be referred to as ‘survival mode.’  Surely I am better to be in the smaller striving group as the ‘self-confessed chronic people pleasing Type A person’ I am? Well no!  That definitely  isn’t a good category for me to remain in as that is actually below the concept of merely ‘coping’ on the scale described.

To ‘strive’ means we never ‘arrive.’

Dr Dyer outlined striving in many ways  – the ‘foot race with no finish line’, always going, always trying to get to some other place, always having explosive talk, making things more important than people…..arriving is therefore just not possible!  When you do ‘arrive’ at where you wanted to get to, you just upgrade your goal to the next destination, therefore you actually never arrive!

Striving was mentioned for a third time in my day-to-day life this week.  I’ve been doing much work on my blog, my career, my mind-set and my goals and felt the need to talk to my husband about my new ambitions and aspirations, especially as I keep immersing myself in my laptop and thoughts and didn’t want him worrying about me being disconnected or distant.  Fearing he might tell me I’m completely mad, I was very relieved and excited when he said he’d support me and to ‘just go for it!’  What threw me though was he then said “you are always ‘striving.’  You haven’t finished one degree when you are on to the next….or you are always planning your next project!”  Yikes!  This was after completing chapter 5 of the book.

I realised then that ‘yes, I admit it, I am still striving.’  But what am I striving for?  And that question proved to be even harder for me to answer than the one relating to what success looked like. Taking it a step back, I concluded that I had possibly queried about success because I don’t feel like I am quite there yet.  What does it look like?  When will I arrive there?

What am I actually striving for?  The only word I could use to answer this question was ‘freedom.’  Freedom to be content and happy with where I actually am in life and to accept who I am, the journey I have been on and all the emotions and experiences I have had along the way.  Freedom to be exactly who I want to be.  No more pleasing others and meeting society’s expectations of me.  Freedom to be ‘me’ and to know I have already ‘arrived.’  My goodness I can not tell you just how cathartic it is to write this down.

So what can you do if you feel you are always ‘striving’ and never arriving?’  The key appears to be living in the moment; appreciating and be grateful for what you have right now, also known as ‘mindfulness’.  It is a practice which I personally know I need to appreciate more and practice more for the sake of both my mental and physical health as I now recognise in me the desire to always be ‘striving.’

I have mentioned this concept before when I appealed to you to ‘Stop and Be Happy.’  We are living in a world where we are always pursuing the concept of happiness, but I now do prefer to call this ‘striving.’  Striving, never arriving and therefore never finding true joy and happiness in our lives and acceptance of ourselves just as we are.  Certainly our culture and quest for everything to appear perfect to others, particularly via our social media personas, is exhausting and at times ‘soul-destroying.’ I particularly worry about young people who fear being ‘judged’ and not getting enough ‘likes’ or comments when engaging via on-line media.  Will they spend their whole lives striving for more ‘likes’, ‘friends’ and acceptance and never actually arrive?  This alone I am sure will spark another debate and comments from people reading this post.

For now,  I am still sticking to my new goals as I reach out more via this medium and encourage engagement with The Swan Doctor, but I intend on being more mindful and practice daily acceptance, gratitude and appreciation for where I am exactly now.


The Swan Doctor