Last Saturday, I attended the funeral of one of my closest friends. It was both surreal and heartbreaking. I recalled conversations when we were hopeful, or dismissive, or a bit of both, about her prognosis and still I wonder how did we get here?
I struggle to figure out what I missed, what I am supposed to learn, and what she taught me. I struggle to hear the voice that I used to hear. I struggle to make sense of how someone, in the peak of life, can face such unfair circumstances. What am I supposed to glean from this hurried relationship?
During her service, the pastor referred to her as someone who constantly asked the question, “What’s next?” I smiled at the thought of such an endearing and insightful portrait of my friend.
It was true that she wavered from one adventure to another and approached each one with tremendous gusto and self-motivation. She attacked each item on her list as if she wanted nothing more than to tackle it to the ground. She referred to herself as “the obsessive type,” as a reproach. Now I look back and think we should all be so lucky to approach life with such fervor.
In my own daily life, I can be at times too relaxed and too accepting. Suddenly, I considered how adopting an “obsessive attitude” as an axiom for living could be transformative. First, it sheds the prosaic: What else do I have to get done today?
Instead, it provokes a thrill: What can I obsess about next and give it my all?
To be interested in something or obsessed with something? The difference is palpable. When we obsess, we engulf ourselves. We don’t worry about the level of effort required. We practice awareness and hours go by unnoticed. Logic takes a back seat, and we are driven solely by our impulses. We don’t consider success or failure, just that it’s exciting and completely immersive.
Without examining our desires from that lens, we can remain stationary, stuck, or bored. We don’t grow, learn, or move towards anything with any speed. We shortchange ourselves by only dipping our toes in the water instead of jumping in with both feet.
Webster’s Definition of Obsession: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; or broadly: compelling motivation.
When I think of successful people in the world, I think of how this definition perfectly denotes their level of passion and commitment. How many failures did Thomas Edison, J.K. Rowling, or Elon Musk have before their obsessive dreams became a reality? It’s a mandatory requirement for success. Without such a focus, we settle in the periphery of our comfort zone instead of launching into unknown areas.
Asking myself “What can I obsess about next?” is akin to asking What makes me feel alive?
- What excites me? What drives me? What makes me rush out of the bed in the morning? What motivates me even if there is nothing concrete on the other side?
- What makes me dance inside and outside? What, if I accomplish, will make me proud of myself this year?
- What journey can I take? What new path will I discover? What new adventure beckons me?
- What am I hungry for? What remains for me to try, to fail, to study, to master, to follow, to lead?
What can I obsess about next means that we are thinking about the next month, the next year, but more importantly, the next 5 minutes. It is an all or nothing mindful approach. If it’s worth doing, then we need to do it now. We need to dismiss the fears and the self-doubt, leave the naysayers behind, and plow forward obsessively.
As I’ve recently learned, mortality sneaks up when we’re not looking. Life is fragile. We can waste it on creating to-do lists that provide hollow satisfaction OR spend it swimming Olympic-style in the flow of our latest obsessions. I know which one my friend would choose…
- TED Talks: The Unstoppable Force – the Real Difference Between Success and Failure / Dan Lok
- How to Pursue A Dream