In the process of building an optimal life, we choose goals and directions that we believe will provide the deepest satisfaction. Sometimes they are concrete goals, such as running a marathon or learning a language, and sometimes they are more general, for example, spending more time with friends or learning to appreciate our experience. At some point we realize we either have or have not achieved what we wanted to in this particular part of our lives. We can feel a sense of frustration or sadness if we have not gotten what we want.
As we grow, however, we come to see that it is not the destination that is the most satisfying aspect of everyday life. It is the process of getting there: choosing our directions freely and applying our energy and resources where we want them to go. Our relationship with ourselves is really where our deepest experience comes from, and when we respect our own choices and appreciate our own efforts, that provides the most authentic, reality-based expression of our own values and competencies.
Of course it is disappointing to try to accomplish something and find that it does not work, for whatever reasons. There is a sense of loss after choosing to pursue something and not achieving it. As we mature, though, we accumulate experiences of loss and of the limitations in how much we can control the world and even ourselves. There is a point at which we could see these as defeats and become passive and bitter. We can also begin to recognize we are not in charge of everything, but we do make a difference in the world.
We can let go of trying to control outcomes and learn to find satisfaction in making the right choices, learning to apply our time and resources toward those choices, and in being able to let go of the outcomes. We can celebrate the successes and mourn the losses without using that external experience to define us to ourselves. Ultimately our choices create us as human beings, and those are within our control. Knowing that we spent our limited time and resources on what we value creates a sense of trust in ourselves and respect for ourselves. And that gives resonance and meaning to our lives.