Many of us have had a personal experience with disillusionment. Even small things can leave us wondering, “Was it worth it?” like being disappointed by a meal at an expensive restaurant, or being underwhelmed by a “dream vacation” at a tourist trap.
But the most challenging run-ins with disillusionment are often connected to areas we’ve poured our blood, sweat, and tears into: our career path and life goals.
We created a vision of our life framed by the idea that if we worked hard, and achieved a certain level of success, we would sit up on our mountaintop of accomplishment and breathe an instant sigh of contentment. Reality can deliver a much less satisfying experience of sitting on that mountaintop of accomplishment.
The dictionary defines disillusionment as “a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.” Another definition is, “to be freed from illusion.”
And it is this second definition that I’d like to explore.
When we imagine a future for ourselves, or work toward a vision, we are doing just that, working tirelessly toward an idea we, ourselves, created in our mind. We think we know what we will want ten years from now, without actually being the person who will exist ten years from now.
This sets us up for the moment when we get all the way to the top of the mountain, look around, and think, “Wait a second. I thought my view would look like the one from that mountain over there.” But we are still just imagining that “better view.” It is an illusion just like the one that got us climbing at the start.
“Wait a second! Without a vision, how the heck am I supposed to motivate myself to do anything?”
I could hear you thinking that all the way here at my keyboard. Don’t worry. I’m not advocating for doing away with vision, passion and drive. Instead, I’m advocating for removing the attachment to illusion.
Illusion is most likely going to plant seeds of rude disillusionment when our vision is painted in hyper-specific terms dependent on a means-to-an-end operating model.
Such as, “When I make this specific amount of money, I will have the freedom to do this specific thing. And then I’ll be happy.”
Or, “When I receive recognition on this level, I will be loved by this type of person. And then I’ll feel special and worthwhile.”
What I would like you to notice about these scenarios is that we have convinced ourselves that the hyper-specific career or life circumstances are the mountain we must climb in order to achieve our desired view of joy and contentment.
Now invert this analogy. The mountain we must climb is the mountain of joy and contentment itself. The terrain can be rocky, we will be challenged, but the whole trail is on Mount Joy and Contentment. You might turn one direction or another, but either way, you are still on the thing you are working towards no matter what.
And the view can be anything at the top! Can it be very close to the vision you set out with in the beginning? Totally! Can it be filled with specifics you had a gut feeling were right for you? Absolutely.
It can also be a view you could have never imagined in a million years, filled with circumstances that unfolded naturally from your journey up Mount J & C. The view can manifest in an infinite spectrum. And it is not an illusion.
So, if you’ve found yourself on top of a mountain that made big promises but didn’t deliver what you were hoping, go through these steps to prep for your expedition up Mount Joy and Contentment.
Go easy on yourself.
It can really sting to realise you’ve put a lot of effort into something you thought would be the catalyst for your happiness, only to be left unfulfilled. Your efforts have not been wasted. Every step has better prepared you for your Mount J & C expedition.
Embrace the unknown.
Freeing yourself from illusion means you have to be open to and accepting of reality. And you literally cannot “know” reality until you are experiencing it in the moment.
Pack your survival gear.
On this journey up Mount J & C, you’ll need hope, faith, compassion, discipline, integrity, humor, love, and joyful effort. Things like cynicism, blame, and guilt will likely weigh you down. Try shedding them along the way. And don’t worry if you don’t have all your survival gear at the start of your journey. You’re likely to come across the rest on your way up the mountain.
The Final Step.
Appreciate the view on the way.
The very nature of Mount J & C provides amazing views along the entire journey.
In fact, you might get to the top and discover it’s an expansive J & C Ridgeline.
Its ever changing topography and scenery can be explored indefinitely!
Kristie Santana is a certified life coach who has spent the last 15 years traveling the country advocating for the benefits of coaching. She is the founder of the National Coach Academy and a founding member of Life Coach Path, a New York based educational resource for aspiring coaches looking to get certified.