December 29, 2014

The Happiness of Pursuit: Engaging to Identify My Next Quest

Last weekend, I read Chris Guillebeau’s wonderful book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life. It’s a really fascinating look at how people choose “quests” – which are basically long-term goals with clearly defined steps to completion. For example, a mother in Oklahoma cooked her family a meal from every country in the world; a 16-year old girl from Norway became the youngest to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat; and a guy from California gave up speaking for 17 years. (Yes, I know, I would never survive that last one, chatty as I am.) It was incredibly inspiring, and really made me think. That and Chris’ first book, The Art of Non-Conformity, were definitely the best books I read this year – I highly recommend them!

The Happiness Of Pursuit
Image credit: Chris Guillebeau

Basically, a lot of the quests in The Happiness Of Pursuit reminded me of my own 50 by 25 quest… which it’s hard to believe I completed all the way back in 2010. I could totally empathize with all the various reasons people had for doing their quests, and it was fun to go through the journey with them through the course of the book. Chris did an awesome job explaining why people pursue quests at all, and I loved hearing how people thought their quests (and they) were crazy, just like people thought I was crazy when I was trying to run a marathon in all 50 states… and I wondered the same thing myself.

There was a great section of the book on how people judge your level of crazy based not on the task that you’re trying to complete, but based on the outcome. If you’re trying to do something big and you succeed, people say you’re confident and amazing; if you fail, they say it was a dangerous and stupid idea. I thought this was so true, and so worth considering when trying to choose a future quest. Sometimes you just have to go after your goals and not worry about what people think.

But the part of the book that resonated most with me was the final chapters, around what happens when you finish your quest. I remember when I broke the record, I did a lot of interviews where people asked me, “what’s next?” It was so weird to think that this quest I had spent two years working to complete was now over, and I was wondering “what’s next” myself. Honestly, I didn’t really know the answer. I definitely don’t want 50 by 25 to be my biggest accomplishment in life, but I haven’t yet decided what else I want to pursue… and I don’t want to commit to something just for the sake of having a goal.

This time of year, though, it seems that everybody is all about goal setting. We’re all looking back on the previous year, and trying to figure out our New Year’s resolutions for 2015. And I’ll admit, the combination of reading Chris’ inspirational, go-get-’em books and spending so much time stuck at home with my zombie arm has made me a bit restless. My year of “settle” went well, but I’m eager to do something big next year. I feel like I’ve spent enough time sitting around, letting things happen, and then reacting. Now, I want to go out and make things happen… but I don’t know quite what I want to make happen yet.

I really love the idea of having a word for the year, and I think “settle” fit just perfectly for 2014. I did some big things in the last year: moved across the country, made a new group of friends in Colorado, got into a lot of new or previously rare-for-me activities (hiking, road biking, skiing), earned a huge promotion at work… and really settled into a totally different life than I had in New York. The last half of this year, in particular, has been about settling into all those new things… but now I feel like I’m all set and ready to go.

So I think this year’s word is going to be “engage.” I want to start jumping into some bigger things, and I want to start to figure out some new big adventures. Rather than waiting for things to happen, I want to take a more aggressive role in making them happen. One thing that I think is going to be a new year’s resolution for 2015 is hosting weekly dinner parties (for new and old friends), and encouraging people to bring interesting discussion topics that help all of us to expand our horizons, engage our brains, and engage with each other on a deeper level. (More on this to come, along with a full list of resolutions for 2015.) Less formally, I want to take a more active role in connecting people and in starting thought-provoking discussions about the important things in life.

Maybe that sounds incredibly pretentious. I don’t mean to imply that I have such brilliant ideas of my own, but I read a lot of really cool stuff (usually featured in my weekly Links I Love) and then frequently just forget what I read and move on to the next thing, without letting those great ideas really change my life and how I do things. After “settling” for a year, I want to start making some bigger moves, and taking more action rather than being passive and taking life as it comes.

I haven’t decided on my next big quest yet, and I’m not going to arbitrarily choose something just because it’s the end of the year and it would be all neat and tidy to do so on January 1. I’ve posted this image/quote for the last two years in December, but it’s still just so perfect!

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right." -Oprah Winfrey
Original photo credit: Moyan Brenn

I’m not seeing 2015 as the beginning of a new quest… but I do think it’s going to be a great year, and my goal is to spend it getting a step or two closer to figuring out what that next big quest will be. By focusing on engaging my brain, engaging with others, and discussing things that I’m really passionate about, I’m hoping that inspiration will strike to identify my next quest, so that I can really commit wholeheartedly and make it big.


7 thoughts on “The Happiness of Pursuit: Engaging to Identify My Next Quest”

  1. You are an intellectual. An intellectual is not someone who knows everything (actually they may know little), but they are an individual who enjoys playing with ideas (Thank you Mr. George Sheehan!), ruminating on ideas, feeling them out and seeing how they fit. Organizing a time and place where not only yourself, but others as well, can practice, develop and embody some of those ideas is “highly commendable” (as my father would say). Your little Evening Hour Think Tank sounds like an awesome idea! Make it happen!

    1. No shame in not meeting your goals for a year! This year I intentionally set very few goals – I think sometimes you just need a “rebuilding” year (like football teams) so you can then knock it out of the park going forward. You could also just set monthly goals if you don’t want to commit to something for a full year.

  2. Laura-
    I love this. And I think you should totally do an e-dinner date with hot topics online or on the blog! I am currently working a job that I don’t particularly love (loathe might be a more appropriate adjective) while I finish up my Master’s and am constantly starving for good, thought-provoking conversation!
    Happy 2015!

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