Chasing the unattainable

Humans are programmed to seek out what cannot be easily achieved. This definitely helped during our evolution, the one willing to take higher risks also reaped the higher rewards. Survival of the fittest. Somewhere along the line though, long after we exited the Neanderthal ages, we continued to pursue this innate need and now  it’s integral to our DNA.

I’m a firm believer of “aim for the moon so you at least land in the stars” and one must chase what they vie the most. However some things are simply unattainable, so much so that little part of your brain is actually telling you to quit chasing, but you still choose to ignore it and play stupid. Listen to what it’s telling you because ignoring all signs will eventually lead to failure and disappointment, and sometimes cynicism. Usually, the brain deals with this trauma by preventing you from taking any new risks. Where’s the logic behind that now? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Albert Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

To evolve, we don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. That would just breed a lot of insanity! We need a method to this madness. With each opportunity, once we have given it our best and realize it’s futile, we need to learn to let go and move on. The problem with this approach is that there is no full-proof way of knowing up front if the goal is attainable or not. It requires that we put ourselves out there and  give it a fair shake. It requires us to be vulnerable.

So how does one tell when enough is enough?

  • Step 1 – Figure out if you want to pursue said opportunity and then give it your best chase. Hey, at this point you don’t know if it’s attainable or not anyway, so go for it.
  • Step 2 – See if you’re making any progress or achieving any positive results. If not, maybe approach it differently and see if that produces a better outcome. You might need to try this a few times before you can tell it’s not coming to fruition.
  • Step 3 – Now that you’ve tried Step 2 several different ways, you should be fairly certain you are “chasing the unattainable”. This is the slippery slope phase. What you do this point onwards decides where you will end up. Weigh your options carefully.
    • Once you know this is a “ghost goal”, stop. The first thing you do when you’re in a hole, is stop digging.
    • Take a step back and evaluate what you’re giving up to pursue this. Usually by this time, the goal has achieved “larger than life” proportions, so it might help to get someone you trust to help you evaluate objectively.
    • Your confidant might suggest a few different ways to try and if those fail too, it’s decision time. Everything has a shelf life and you cannot afford to spend unlimited time especially at the cost of other more potentially fruitful pursuits.
  • Step 4 – Put the exit strategy into action. Time to extract yourself from the situation (with help of said confidant if need be). This won’t be easy but it is a critical step to moving forward. If this was a personal loss, the process of letting go is all the more complicated. Emotions are running high and you have to give yourself time to grieve and heal before you can gather courage to try again. Do it because it’s well deserved.

I recently read an article about self-love and putting yourself first. Deciding when to move on falls into this same category. Going in circles, hoping for something to change can be exhausting, if not debilitating. We need to conserve energy to pursue other interests that will help us grow. Those that have succeeded in life have used each setback as a learning opportunity…a stepping stone to the next goal. We owe it to ourselves to follow in their footsteps. Success and happiness are right around the corner.


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