Today I was listening to Marc Maron's podcast and his guest was Jason Segel. Their discussion was very interesting as Mr. Segel proved himself to be a bit deeper than what you'd expect from a comedic actor. In fact, he made it a point to mention that he had never aspired to be a comedic actor at all, but just found that he was good at it and went with it. He struggled with the concept that he wasn't doing any "worthwhile" work, until he was approached by people who told him stories about his TV show helping them through difficult periods of their life.
This discussion led to him talking about difficult periods in his life and the thought that even when things are going really well, there are times when a man isn't satisfied. Interestingly enough, Mr. Segel's most recent movie addresses that very topic. He plays David Foster Wallace during a time in his life where everything is seemingly going as well as he could imagine, but sitting in that moment Wallace was not satisfied.
We all go through these moments where we wonder why we are where we are. You set goals for yourself to achieve, to succeed. But if the meaning behind those goals isn't solid, then the achievement is hollow. You work hard to build a career, to get a promotion, to move up the ladder. What happens when you are up the ladder? The essence of a person is not their achievement, but the kind of person that they create while achieving.
Unfortunately, many of us don't make that connection until we've already spent a lot of effort towards the hollow goal. That doesn't mean the time has been wasted, but it forces us to put a perspective on how that formed our self. Self is more than achievement. Self is the sum of the parts that include that achievement. Self is how you define what is worthwhile.
I think often about who I am and who I'd like to be. I don't know if that picture is fully formed just yet, but its certainly a lot more clear than it was twenty years ago when I was making critical decisions that started me on the path I am on today.