How I live a happy life while chasing all my ambitious dreams — a short story ⛰

Let me tell you my story. I have always been very ambitious and determined to reach my goals. Nothing could stop me, nothing could distract me. For a long time in my life, I used to put work above everything else. This affected my friendships, my relationship, and basically started to slowly kill me from inside. When things went the wrong way, I started to look for the causes and removed them consequently. By looking back and connecting the dots from this phase of my life, I want to share my learnings with you. I hope you will never feel the pain that I did.

Well, it all started with a young child looking upwards to successful people. I grew up in a so-called middle-class family. We were far away from being poor but neither rich. I really can not tell why those rich people attracted me so much in my early years. From what you could tell from the outside, everything looked shiny for them. No worries about money, no stress, and a luxurious lifestyle. That is what I want. One day I will belong to this exclusive club and finally can tell my mom that I made it.

I quickly realized that my only chance will be to found a company. At the age of 19, I founded a company together with my best friend. Besides that, I was fully studying software engineering and economics at a university. It was hard. My parents forced me to get to my master's degree within the shortest possible time or they would no longer financially support me. Looking backward now, this was one of the best decisions they could possibly have made. I was able to finish my studies in time and I am still proud of that. Throughout the years we grew the company and my working hours increased more and more. I knew that I had to give it all, 80 hours per week became normal and it felt good, at least for a long time. When you are young there is unlimited energy and you almost feel undestroyable. Anxiety and burnouts? I thought only weak people would get hit by that. I kept going. The business developed itself and finally, after some years we got the opportunity to sell the company. Alright, so we settled this deal which ultimately resulted in a larger company to build upon.

At this point in time, my mind started to get toxic. I experienced something that I thought would never happen to me. I was not enjoying working anymore and felt a lot of stress and pressure on my shoulders. I woke up in the morning with no energy and with no purpose. I started to fight against those symptoms but the harder I tried, the worse it felt. At some point, this swapped over into my private life and started to damage my relationship. I was looking for reasons that caused me to feel bad and the only thing I could find was my relationship at that point. I started to manipulate it to the point where it broke apart. The following months to come have been the hardest in my life and I hope nobody has to experience the sadness, anxiety, and loneliness that I had to withstand. This is exactly why I felt the need to write these lines.

Having a dream and working hard for it is perfectly fine. To that point in time, I had successfully founded a company, finished my master's studies, and became a real estate investor. On top of that, we sold and merged our company and continued to grow it. Everything was perfect. My relationship was perfect, I moved together in an apartment with my girlfriend back then and life was good. But I was not happy anymore. Not a bit. I had lost the purpose of living.
So what has happened?

After the dust settled, I realized that I needed to restructure my life. It started with getting to know myself better, to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions I was afraid of, and to face my fears and anxiety. In particular, a lot of conflicts that were suppressed for years had to be faced.

Focus on finding Happiness along the Journey
Most of us strive to reach certain goals in life. As you already know, my goal was to become successful and rich. It had become the sole purpose of my life, the reason why I got up in the morning. I considered everything else around unnecessary and nice to have and I was confident that I would find happiness and fulfillment and reaching my business goals (= dream). Well, the first painful lesson I learned is that this was a lie. The day where my life started to tumble was the day where I had realized that I already reached most of my goals but I did not find the happiness I was looking for. It was sobering. I worked my ass off for years, dedicated every single second to grow my business, and then I could not enjoy it. The realization of having spent so much time in my life and then not getting the joy out of it was brutal. It felt like a waste, to be honest. Instead of finding help in my partners and family, my brain tricked me into thinking that they are the problem and that it is their fault. Let me tell you something here, they are not, never! Having people around that love you is the best situation, talk to them and open up. I wish I would have done that back then. It took me almost a year after the break up with my girlfriend to finally process all that happened. I had to face the fact that I was telling myself a lie for years but let's look into the future and how I approach this since then.

Lesson number one for me was to understand that I can be happy with very little. I do not have to look for happiness in reaching my dreams and business goals. Spending time with my family and friends makes me happy. Cooking something new and experimenting makes me happy as well. There are so many small things in life that I forgot to enjoy over the years. Back then it was not possible to get me out for a walk in a forest, by now I do this almost twice a week to enjoy nature and life. Focus on finding happiness along our journey in life and not on reaching specific goals, this will be a gamechanger. Trust me. Once this clicked in my brain, I could feel all the pressure fall of my body. It also brought back the passion for work that I had lost over the past year. I enjoy working more than ever before. Both of my best friends are my business partners and I am simply happy to work alongside them every day.
There are still a lot of goals and dreams I am working towards to and that is okay. I just need to remember that it is fine as well if I do not reach them. If you have a hard time imagining that, take a blank sheet of paper and draw a worst-case scenario. In my example, not reaching all of my ambitious business goals would not result in being homeless or unhappy. So why should I bother and put my well-being on the line?

Mediation as an Anchor
The path to get to the point where I am know was hard, painful, and took time. I was looking for a solution to my problems and going to a psychiatrist was no option for me, although this is perfectly fine. I came across meditation and started to meditate every single day. I used Headspace and it changed my life. I made it my ritual to meditate every single day, no matter how busy days were. You always find those 10 minutes in your day! There are no excuses. The first weeks or months were quite interesting. At first, I could not get a lot of benefits out of my meditations. At least it seemed like that but at a certain point, I felt the improvement and change in my mind in a natural way. I took different courses within the headspace app and meditated for more than 300 days in a row. Meditation changed my life completely. Not that my relationships with my family and friends improved by a lot, I also feel mindful, calm, and relaxed in so many situations that had been stressful before. Getting to know your mind, being able to control it is such a great way to live a happier life. I am grateful for that every single day.
The best thing on top of that was that I was finally able to solve all my conflicts and problems from older days in my head. Instead of pushing them down, again and again, I felt the urge to let them out and talk about it. Never could I have imagined such a transformation of myself. I am not done yet and I think you are never “done” with getting to know yourself.

Final Words I want you to take with you
I hope you find something insightful in my story or probably you share the same thoughts and feelings. In the end, I just want to give you a list of lessons and tips that I discovered in this difficult phase of my life. Thanks for reading through, I would love to hear your thoughts and stories as well. We, humans, share all of this together ❤️

  • It is okay to have ambitious dreams and goals and to work hard for them. But remember, there is no guarantee you will find happiness or fulfillment when you reach them.
  • Talk with your family and beloved ones if you do not feel good. Never push them away! They are not blocking you from achieving your goals.
  • Take a break now and then and think about the best and worst-case scenario. Are they really so different in the end?
  • Money is definitely not something that should drive your happiness. It makes certain parts of life easier but you can also be happy with very little.
  • Focus on finding happiness along your journey in life. Would you either take 15 years of pain and stress to discover that this will not make you happy in the end OR experience 15 years of a happy and mindful life that does not get influenced by reaching this certain goal or dream.
  • Try meditation now and then to get to know yourself. You do not have to meditate daily as I do, but it will benefit you so much. Just give it some time and approach it with no expectation. Just let it unfold.

I wish you all a great weekend, stay safe out there in those difficult times!
- Alex