Just read the valedictorian speech of a high school senior, in which the speaker puts down our education system as simply a means to train us to be human machines in a work force society has built to make life as safe as possible for the greatest number of people.
The speech puts forward, in an eloquent manner, a concept that I've believed for a long time. I've often said to those I'm trying to explain myself to that I "refuse to be an ant". I don't want to follow the same path that everyone else has and live a life where I labor from 9 to 5 on something I don't care about, doing work that almost anyone else could do, just so I can go home and prepare to do it again 5 days a week for the next several decades of my life. Happiness for me cannot just be the times and activities that surround the work day; ones which I can only afford and participate in because I make enough money through doing these monotonous jobs. Further, no increase in the cost of these types of activities can truly excite me or make me happy (as I've learned when I used to spend large amounts of money on silly things). Even if I'm working a job that I enjoy, I would still be bound to the restrictions of the company I worked for... doing only the things they approve of and only when they deem it okay. This goes for everything from making work related decisions to taking vacations.
Interestingly enough, though I've believed the above for a long time, my life's focus was still on doing work, albeit on my own ventures, in an attempt make a lot of money so I could be more free to do what I wanted when I wanted it. Now that's not a bad thing, but at the same time it really is just another incarnation of working at another company from 9 to 5 so that I can afford to enjoy my time off. This version however would increase my off hours to considerably more as I wouldn't need to work as much to make a lot of money (after starting a successful company and/or selling it). If I continued with this focus, I'd end up in the exact same spot I'd been in, in the past (bored and unhappy) but with more money...
Upon coming to this conclusion, I believe I've finally found the real meaning and reasoning behind something that I've heard many times before, but had never truly taken to heart:
"It is not the destination, but the journey."
Rather than focusing on an end goal that would supposedly make me happy beyond my wildest dreams, perhaps the better way is to make sure to maximize the enjoyment of my journey through life as much as I can. Sure there are bound to be unhappy times ahead but if I spend my time enjoying the path as much as possible I believe that at the end, even if I didn't make millions of dollars or I never became a household name as a great businessman, I will still be able to look back and think about how much fun I had doing the things I did (both for work and play) with the people I respected and cared about and how happy I was doing it. Sounds like success to me.
It's time to stop spending today dreaming of a better tomorrow and instead focus on enjoying today for everything that it is. This doesn't mean that I won't set goals and work to achieve them but more that I will make sure to take as much pleasure as possible from the work I'm doing on the path towards these goals. It's called living in (or being) present and its all I've really got for sure.
I leave you with this quote... one I've always been fond of and can now put even more value in:
"Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived. After all, we're only mortal."
- Captain Jean-luc Picard (Star Trek Generations)