I have lots of personal goals in my life, but a lot of them follow the average textbook path of achievement… get a job I like, buy a house, settle down etc. Most of my goals however are important to me but will not have a lasting effect on the world. Let me explain what I mean by this:
As I grow older I realise that our lives are precious, and we will never be certain of how much time we have left to live. Impressing other people (no matter who they are) is not important, unless it truly matters to you.
When I was at primary school I was required for drama to go up on stage and to perform a play. This play was with my class in front of the whole school during assembley. I can remember being quite excited about it and I was so young I didn’t understand why I should have been nervous by something like this. I knew exactly what I had to do when I was on stage and couldn’t factor in the risks of what could happen. Part of my scene was that I was a king and I had to walk in to my Kingdom, say a few lines, all of the other servants would bow to me and then I would sit at my throne. I managed to hit all of the lines perfectly but when I went to sit at my throne which was a simple chair it had not been set up correctly and one of the chair legs was positioned off the back of the stage. The moment I sat down the chair swung back flying me off the stage and I hit the ground. The whole school burst into laughter. One of my best friends at the time ran down to me to make sure I was alright. I was so embarrassed, I remember being bright red having to go back and sit on the stage for the rest of the scene which felt like an eternity. A girl I had previously fancied in primary school came up to me after the play whilst I was still shaken up by the whole thing and laughingly said “Well done you idiot you ruined our play”. I was more than hurt my this event I was ruined. The love of my life had just stabbed me firmly in the heart at my most weakest.
This event in my life was upsetting but I have noticed how now it doesn’t effect me. How many years did it take for me to get over it? The beauty is that nobody at school remembered it and after a short time it became old news and society forgave me. Even something like that which effected me personally doesn’t have a lasting effect on the world.
This might be slightly nihilistic, but used appropriately this is a great coping mechanism. Every time someone hurts you personally you have to say to yourself in 100 years time we will all be dead and nobody will remember this moment, so is it worth worrying about? You also have to say, am I responsible for what happened? Is it my fault I fell off the stage, or was it the prop hands fault for not securing the chair on the set? The lesson at the time in my childish brain was that I’m useless and unloveable. The true lesson is that getting upset over something trivial is only useful if you can learn from that moment to improve yourself.
As a young man trying to understand the world I apply this logic to everything that I come across but it begs the question, what is worth doing? If I was to do something positive like give to charity, this act will also be forgotten in 100 years and I will just fall into a general population of charitable individuals. If I worked for a company and did a fantastic job, after 100 years that company might be out of business or even if they werent, they still wouldn’t have to hold my file on their records.
The only way to be truly immortal is to create a legacy and leave something behind. When people realise this they follow the easist way to leave a legacy which is to have a baby. I have nothing against having children, but I dont see this as achieving my personal dreams, and I dont want to have a child and use it as an excuse as to why I didn’t enjoy my life. If a father told people “well I couldn’t achieve my dreams because I chose to be a father and that is the most noble thing to do, I gave up my life so someone else could have a life”. This parent would privately resent their child if that was true. The desire for that child to succeed is then heightened and the weight of needing to do something with their life is put on the childs shoulders instead of their own. Of course there are many parents who responsibly achieve their dreams before having children and love their children very much, but psychologists will tell you that the latter does still exist.
Who then does have a lasting effect? Galileo is remembered hundreds of years after his death but we can’t all just go to the supermarket for a marvellous discovery. Elvis Presley is remembered for years after his death but he was fortunate to have been involved with some talented writers and for being painted up as the heart throb that he was! Dont confuse the lasting effect with being famous, as that doesn’t make you necessarily worth remembering. Charles Manson is a famous murderer but we dont see him as a contributor to the goodness of the world.
I believe we all need to pursue our dreams and search for a way to leave something memorable behind. Dont be afraid of failure because those who fail are actually better than those who never try. If you are doing the best you possibly can internally then all of the external stuff you can’t control doesnt matter. You have to say to yourself, am I doing the best I can? As long as you are, stop worrying. One of my dreams is to write and publish a book, becase this is leaving something behind. Shakespere is always going to be on a book shelf and by contributing positive thoughts through the medium of literature, I personally see this as one of the most exciting forms of lasting effect there is. Art in any form is eternal, the problem people have is that not anyone can do art.