My elementary school used to do a candy sale fundraiser each year. Motivated by the pictures of prizes in the prize catalog, I would go door-to-door in my neighborhood to sell Passover chocolates.
Weeks later, I’d receive my prize in the mail only to feel a sense of disappointment: the actual prize never measured up to the picture.
Most of us experience this phenomenon at some point in life.
From our earliest years, we are conditioned to do things for the reward. Chores earn you allowance. Win the contest get a prize. Win the game, get a trophy.
And, of course, the ongoing multi-year promise of study hard, get good grades, get into good college, get a good job. By the time we’re in the work force, we are conditioned to do what we’re told, with the promise of earning a bigger paycheck, a promotion, the next rung up the ladder.
Eventually we learn that the story we’ve been told is a myth. You can do everything right and not get the promised reward. Or, perhaps worse, you realize you did get the prize but it just looks a lot different in real life than it did in the catalog picture.
That’s when disillusionment sets in. You might look like the picture of success on the outside but feel emptiness within.
It often happens around mid–40s, or accompanied by some major life-uprooting event.
You realize that the story that hard work leads to success, which leads to happiness was just that: a story. A myth.
Outcomes are not guaranteed.
You can do all the “right” things and still not get the prize, the promotion, or the approval you craved.
And then what? What do you do when you find yourself standing in the shards of broken illusions? How do you continue to sustain and drive the work that matters when you receive no reward for your efforts?
You must cultivate a love of process.
A Radical Reconditioning
This not just a new story to tell yourself; it’s a radical reconditioning at the level of your nervous system.
It takes time to rewire your brain. It’s a constant practice. And it’s the only way to sustain the work that truly matters.
The prize you get in real life almost never matches the picture in the catalog.
For anything worth doing, the process itself must become the reward.
For work that matters
Cultivate love of process
Practice is the prize