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The Fundamental Objective

 

A: “What is your fundamental objective?”

 

B: “Well, to be successful in my career.”

 

A: “Why do you want to be successful in your career?”

 

B: “So that I can earn a living, create the change I want to see in the world.”

 

A: “Why do you want to earn a living?”

 

B: “So that I can afford housing, food on the table, pay bills, enjoy luxuries and vacations once in a while? I’m not sure where you’re going with this…”

 

A: “Bear with me, please. Why do you want to buy or own or maintain all those things?”

 

B: “Because I need them to sustain my life?”

 

A: “Is that a question? And do you really need all the things you listed to sustain your life? What do you mean by ‘sustain’ exactly?”

 

B: “I guess, I don’t need all of it, especially the luxuries, but it makes me feel good to splurge a little sometimes. Isn’t it normal?”

 

A: “Is it? I don’t know. Isn’t the term ‘normal’ subjectively defined?”

 

B: “Well, if it’s the norm in society – meaning the masses will tend to agree that it’s standard or usual – then it can be widely considered as the right standard, no?”

 

A: “That's if you agree with society’s definition of the ‘right’ standard. In fact, that’s even assuming you believe that a standard should exist at all. So, can I conclude from our exchange that you ultimately want to be normal?”

 

B: “Well it’s not just that, but yes, I want the same things that society tends to define as normal – or the ‘right standard’ – for happiness, and that’s a high quality of life.”

 

A: “But happiness is subjective for each individual. So really, you want what most people would define as happiness, is what you’re telling me.”
 

B: “…sure. You can say that.”
 

A: “Okay, let me play back what I heard. Your fundamental objective – call it your 'meaning of life' – is to be normal. You work hard at your job, so that you can earn a decent living, to enable you to live comfortably and afford nice things in life, which brings you the feeling of happiness, based on what society deems as the norm for happiness. Did I miss anything?”

 

B: “Well, when you put it that way, it sounds a lot worse than it really is!”

 

A: “Which part? How so?”

 

B: “If I’m drinking a nice bottle of wine, I genuinely enjoy it. I’m enjoying the experience. So that’s got to be a genuine form of happiness, right?”

 

A: “Oh, so your fundamental objective in life is to afford booze that can get you buzzed? And that’s what you work so hard week after week for?”

 

B: “No, I mean I do want to make an impact on society too! You’re twisting my words.”
 

A: “I’m not twisting anything. You never mentioned anything about creating an impact on society. Please correct me if I’m wrong.”
 

B: “I don’t really know. Look, my entire life, as long as I've put in effort, things have worked out. When things work out, and I am rewarded, I feel like I’m…moving forward, progressing, getting better, you know? Especially when people congratulate me or envy me for my success. I feel respect, pride. It makes the effort I've put in 'worth it'. That drives me to work harder. I guess it’s kind of circular and somewhat in vain.”

 

A: “Hey, there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s not an easy question – what your fundamental objective is. It's fine if that's what you thrive for in life, recognition. Nothing wrong with that. The point I was trying to make was that we’re so caught up in the daily grind, in what society – be it family, friends, schools, corporations, clients, advisors, the media – deem as “good” or “right” that often times we lose sight of why we’re doing anything at all. Why we’re buying a new jacket even though we already have 5 that work perfectly well and look great on us. Why we’re stressing over an email for hours on end. Why we seem to be constantly distracted in conversations even though they very well could be the last ones we have. Why we feel pressured to conform even if we don’t want to do something. Your fundamental objective is much, much deeper than the level of reasoning you’re used to. It’s hard to just 'get there' instantly if you haven’t pondered on the idea. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s the logical ‘end’ of your purpose in life. There’s nothing beyond or beneath it. If you keep asking ‘why’ to someone who has told you their fundamental objective, you will only keep getting the same answer. That’s when you know you’ve found your fundamental objective.”

 

B: “So what’s your fundamental objective then?”
 

A: “To appreciate.”

 

B: “What? To appreciate what?”

 

A: “Everything. Every moment I'm alive. It’s what I fundamentally strive for in life. To appreciate all experiences. All the ups and downs. The laughter, the joy, the loneliness, the rage. Every rejection, acceptance, failure, success. Everything across the full spectrum from feeling the awkward discomfort of someone getting into your ‘personal space’ on public transit without your consent to feeling the cold air fill up your lungs and waking you up on a sleepy winter morning. I want to appreciate being able to participate in every moment. We’re all just on billions of trains headed in one direction. Some of us will have a more comfortable ride, maybe in first class with champagne and caviar, while some others will be standing the whole way and may even trip to the floor when their train breaks abruptly. Ultimately, we’re all headed in the same direction. So, I guess you can say I appreciate having the privilege to take the ride.”