At the end of a year, it is customary in our Western world to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead. We like to sit down and think about the things that worked out and the things that maybe didn’t, goals we accomplished, and goals to be worked on in the coming year.

Most of us harbor goals along the lines of personal fulfillment, finding happiness and living our dreams, and we spend considerable amounts of time chasing after them.

Sometimes we trick ourselves into believing there are obstacles between these dreams and us. Everyday living, then, becomes a mental parkour where we spend a part of our waking hours navigating these obstacles. We may move city, state, or even country in the hopes that life in that next place will make us feel more fulfilled. We spend money on tuition or on weekend workshops that we envision will bring us closer to our dream. We can become obsessed with trying to shape our lives more to our idea of perfection. Yes, countless books have been written about how to accomplish this.

Sometimes, however, it happens that we actually arrive at that elusive point in the usually far-away future. We pause for a moment and realize: This Is It, the stars have aligned, all obstacles have been removed and we can now think ourselves free to finally start living our dream.

Can you recall that feeling?

What does it feel like, then? After having sometimes spent years working on those never ending obstacles? Does it really feel as liberating as we imagined it would?

Well, sometimes it does. But other times, it really doesn’t. This may come as an inconvenient piece of information. Depending on how many obstacles we envisioned on our quest to attaining our dream, we spent a considerable amount of energy on overcoming these. We got up in the morning meditating on what our next steps would be. In a funny way, the way became the goal; as long as there was something for us to work on, we would not grow tired of our elusive mission. But along the way – perhaps depending on how long and strenuous it was – it may have happened to us: We married our obstacles.

Remember that stressful time in your life when you had a seemingly endless to-do list? Remember when you then finally crossed off that last item?

Did you invite all your friends over and celebrate with a bottle of champagne? Or did you add a few more items to your list, items that popped up along the way? Did you then secretly have to admit to yourself that you kind of enjoyed working on your list? Did you like how busy and, thus, productive it made you feel? Do you feel less like an accomplished person now that you have reached your goal, and more like a lazy blob for not filling your day with your work on obstacles anymore?

As it is often the case when we distribute our energies in whichever way we may, we attach to our investments. A newly arising feeling of aimlessness can be hard to redirect. Whatever we spend a lot of time with will in many cases shape who we are in return. It is definitely possible to get used to adversity to a degree that, after you’ve accomplished everything you set out to, you may even seek out new adversity. Letting go of obstacles as an anchor point in our days, once we have determined that we have arrived at our goal, can become a task in itself.