September 22, 2022

Balancing the burden of expectation with the burn of aspiration


Success doesn’t guarantee fulfillment.

Just because you’re good at something and winning the game, doesn’t mean you have to continue playing.

The question is how well you balance the burden of expectation with the burn of aspiration.

Because when you quit something you’re good at, it’s hard for others to comprehend that. It’s like there’s an unwritten law that says you have to do that thing forever. And some people will get deeply offended and resentful at your decision to leave.

They’ll look at you like you abandoned and betrayed them by walking away from your gift.

Whoa, don’t leave me hanging bro. How dare you quit something that came so naturally to you and so hard for the rest of us?

That’s the expectation that can weigh heavily upon your heart. When everyone says you’re good at something, and keeps patting you on the back and putting money in your pocket for doing that thing, it almost feels wrong to hang up your hat and move on.

But that is fear’s voice, not yours. It’s a survival narrative.

Truth is, you have to do what is right for you in the moment.

If there’s something in your life that you have a natural talent for, but that thing is smothering your soul, get out now. To hell with the social pressure from the voices around you.

The burn of aspiration matters more than the burden of expectation.

You see a lot of this tribal loyalty bullshit in the sports arena. The champion quarterback announces at the end of his winning season that he’s retiring from the game. Maybe because he has irreparable injuries, or maybe because he misses his family, or maybe because he’s just tired and bruised it’s finally time.

Either way, this is it. It’s the end of an era. Peace out, folks.

That’s usually when fans flip their bloody lids. They feel hurt and disrespected because they were the last to know about the guy’s retirement, and now they’re out for blood.

Booing on the field starts to sounds like the low and cold sound of the wind.

Look everyone, the monkey won’t dance for us anymore, let’s kill him!

Sorry to break up the mob, but that quarterback didn’t abandon anyone. He didn’t betray millions of screaming fans who skipped church to paint their faces and wear his name on their backs every week.

All he did was be true to himself, honor his boundaries, and choose to pursue fulfillment, not just success.

Big difference between those two.

One is measured internally, the other externally.

Look, it’s difficult to fathom that something you were so passionate about could become something you’re willing to walk away from.

But it happens. People change. Careers evolve. Desires wane. Life moves on.

It’s part and parcel of participating in this sideshow circus called humanity.

And that’s the good news. There’s no unwritten law that says you have to do anything forever. That’s just social and cultural gravity dragging your feet back to the earth.

Besides, reversing your course down the road isn’t as difficult as you think it is. The pendulum may swing back one day. Seizing the opportunity when you’re a different person won’t make you a hypocrite.

Streisand even retired once. She performed four farewell concerts to mark her official retirement from performing live. Her parting words at the sold out concert were:

It feels like time to say goodbye to this part of my life. But I won’t miss walking around for two and a half hours in high heels.

Babs said she wanted to focus more on acting, directing and recording. And that’s exactly what she did. Until fifteen years later, she returned to the stage for a national tour.

Barbara went on to gross over fifty million dollars in sixteen cities on that tour, well into her sixties.

Still got it, she probably laughed to herself.

No there’s someone who knows how to separate success and fulfillment. It’s a story that gives us all permission to do what’s right for us in the moment, even expectation tries to hold us back.

Remember, just because we’re good at something and winning at the game, doesn’t mean we have to continue playing.

We’re adults. We’re grownups who can do whatever we want.

The burn of our aspiration can beat the burden of people’s expectation.

What do you need to give yourself permission to not do forever?