Graduation, wedding, birth of a child, speaking at "that conference", release of the first single from the album, electronic prerelease of your new book, moving day, your child's first standardized test scores... These things are exhilarating when you are on the edge of them. The anticipation thrills us.
Then, it happens. You breathe in deep because of the pride of finishing and presenting to the world the product of your tireless work. You just shared with the world something of huge value to you. This is huge for your life and you acknowledge that.
If we could stop at that point and evaluate our life we would get an accurate picture - but we can't. We step through the event and no longer find pride and accomplishment based on our hard work, but instead by the words that others use to evaluate our product.
"Congrats - do you have a job lined up yet?"
"This is when the hardwork begins."
"The song is good, but hopefully the second single will really grab the audience."
"That was pretty good, do you have any other events coming up?"
"Sometimes it takes a few days for people to know it is available."
Ugh. The letdown. Even when you hit it out of the park - people are only interested in what is next. All your work is spent and now you have to do it again. Where is the celebration? Where is the reward? Isn't the work done now? When do I get to rest in the "fruit of my labor"?
What happened? "When I was doing that last evaluation to make sure I was looking at a successful finish it felt so right. When I was in the middle of it I knew this was great."
If you only love the praise, if you only work for the few minutes of reward, you will find disappointment setting in quickly. However, if you work because you love the work and you don't allow the reward to tell you that what you have invested in is valuable the disappointment will vanish.
...that college degree is valuable because of your hard work - not because it is a college degree.
...that song you wrote is great because your work was great - not because it is just a great song.
...speaking at that conference was an accomplishment because of the work you put in to get there - not because you are there.
Let your work be the validation for your work. Reward in this life is fleeting - it feels good, but it dissappears. Success does not rest on the shoulders of reward; success rests on the shoulders of work. Successful people do not require the validation of others, but instead, the validation of themselves.
What can you work at that you love?
What work would you do despite the potential reward?
Is there some kind of work that you feel you could never have too much of?