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For many people, life is full of struggles. However, many struggles can be lessened through reasonably clear steps: set goals, build better habits, learn more, do the work.
When you're successful with all the big parts of your life, there may be some pleasure in obtaining it, but no enduring satisfaction. Just like the pleasure in eating when you're very hungry, afterward, there is simply a nothingness. This realization often comes as a surprise.
Facing life's struggles often create pain and lack, but it also adds a motivating tension in your life that gives structure and direction for the things you do.
Once the major struggles in your life are gone, the motivating tension diminishes too. The result is that you desire to regain that energizing force. One strategy people use to regain this tension is self-destruction. They break the thing they worked hard to build.
Sometimes, what was previously good enough is now not acceptable anymore. It could be a person who gets in shape but now wants 6% body fat.
The problem isn't the mindset of continual growth, but motivating that growth by creating new, imagined needs. One can pursue excellence without mentally downgrading your past accomplishments.
Since most of our motivating tensions come from our difficulties, we create struggles to feel the motivation.
To escape this trap, we need to shift our philosophy of life away from fixing our problems and onto goals that you know won't explicitly improve your life. These include service to others, pursuing mastery, or creative vision.
Self-improvement can reach a stage of diminishing returns. Once your basic needs are met, and there are no large, obvious things that would make your life better, the motivating tension that structured and guided your life may be gone and create a vacuum you want to fill. A major indicator that you're near a transition is when you mostly feel bored.
We have to consider planning for this transition. This involves new ways of thinking about the step beyond.
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