Human beings are a competitive bunch. We want to be HASHTAG WINNING at life. We want to be the BEST and the RICHEST and the BEST LOOKING and WIN EVERY ARGUMENT and have the CUTEST ANIMALS AS PETS HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN FLUFFY I MEAN JUST LOOK AT HER.
We want to win so badly, in fact, that we spend a lot of time trying to win at things that won't actually bring us happiness even if we were to win.
We stay in jobs we don't like chasing a raise. We try to win arguments even if it means destroying a relationship. Some people take up creative pursuits because they think it will bring them riches and fame even though they don't even like writing that much in the first place.
I've seen people work themselves to the bone, getting promotion after promotion, only to wake up one day and see that their life was in tatters and the carrot they were chasing wasn't something they even really wanted. I've seen people get multi-book deals only to realize, after the euphoria of the deal wears off (as it inevitably does), that they didn't even really like writing that much.
They got so caught up in winning for winning's sake they didn't even realize they were playing the wrong game.
No doubt, winning is fun! Accomplishments make life worth living. And, apologies to the Notorious B.I.G. (RIP), but having mo' money is easier than having less.
But the joy of winning is fleeting, and there are lots of pursuits you can throw yourself into. The job you're in is not the only one that will offer a promotion as a carrot. Your side project isn't the only hobby you can have.
So how do you know you're in the wrong game? You know it when you're busy playing the "if only" game:
If only I get a raise, then I'll be happy.
If only I get a promotion, then I'll be happy.
If only I could get a little more work experience, then I'll go get the job I want to have and then I'll be happy.
If only my significant other would agree to marry me, then I'll be happy.
If only I could get an agent, then I'll be happy.The game you're meant to be playing will make you happy even if you don't win it. You'll genuinely be in it for the love of the game.
And then, after a ton of hard work, when you are hashtag winning at the game you are meant to be playing, victory is very sweet indeed.
Footnote: I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! More info here. And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: The Trickster by Zacharie Noterman