You may already be asking, “What is a personal quest?” “Why would I want one?” and “How can it help me anyway?”
Well, a personal quest or a purposeful quest is something you really want to do, that has great purpose and meaning for you. Also, you are doing it for your own fulfilment or satisfaction.
I guess it’s a kind of personal project with the intention of “winning your own heart”. As opposed to winning the hearts of others or simply to win some physical reward like money.
Not everyone can be bothered with such things. Life is tough enough as it is and what they want is more money, more status, more holidays, more activities, more shopping, etc. And that’s ok because I do too.
But sometimes when you stop and reflect a little on what life is about questions arise like “Is this all there is in life?” and “Do I really need all this stuff?”
Then the problems show up. For however confident you are in your power to shape your destiny, your control over your environment will never be absolute. There is always a balance between your will and your fortune, and you must learn to harmonise with your fortune.
After that, your direction and motivation are primary, and then your foresight and preparations will shield you, at least to some degree, against the vicissitudes of fortune.
So don’t give up! If you are pursuing your “ultimate” personal quest it will most likely be your “gift to the world” or it also may be called your “legacy”. What you achieve will be the fulfilment of your own potential, that is yours alone.
The value of your legacy will be measured by society by how much the world needs what you bring. But to you, it is simply the greatest value you can give in your lifetime.
Why a Personal Quest?
The idea of a quest does sound a little old fashioned and reminds me somewhat of the Knights of the Round Table. And that’s no accident. I do think that is when the idea of a personal quest actually started.
I think the poet T.S. Eliot also realised this when he wrote the poem called “The Waste Land” shortly after the World War I. I think he was directing his gaze with the poem at people who were living, what I would call, inauthentic lives. That is, lives without too much meaning, purpose or foundation. It also means you are probably doing as you are told instead of following your own heart. Eliot also wrote a later poem called “The Hollow Men” that continued that theme of shallowness.
So I think the solution to this shallowness is to consider taking up some kind of personal quest or purposeful quest. In the Grail Legend that Eliot was alluding to, the personal quest was what the Knights embarked on to escape from the enchantment of the Waste Land.
Criteria for a Personal Quest
A personal quest usually has a specific and clear goal, and people give me examples such as winning a particular race or travelling to Timbuktu. Whereas my focus is often on the “inner journeys” we might make.
However, all personal quests turn out to have inner work at their core. I am sure you have come across the terms “Inner Tennis” or “Inner Golf”, etc. being at the heart of game improvement.
Another example popular these days is regarding the extreme sport of marathon racing. All races require inner races to be won. If you enter a race and don’t believe you can win then you won’t. And in my experience, during the race, if you are racing against the other players you will lose. You have to race your inner race to do better than you have ever done before and simply put yourself out in front. Only then will you win. The old movie Chariots of Fire dramatised these ideas wonderfully.
Incidentally, it can also help to break down your personal quest into smaller bite-sized chunks if you want to experience progress, growth and happiness en route.
Lastly, your personal quest must be a worthwhile and real challenge too, and yet paradoxically, it must also be doable. But take heart from Napoleon Hill who says, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
Benefits from a Personal Quest
Let’s briefly consider some facts that we all know but probably rarely think about:
- People following a purposeful quest are often happier people.It turns out that having a meaningful quest feels even better than accumulating more wealth.
- Progress along the path to your quest makes you feel better. But, strangely, overcoming setbacks is also a good feeling too!
- Pursuing a quest leads to personal growth that feels fulfilling. And continued personal growth generally leads to higher satisfaction with your life.
- Social relationships that strengthening your core values is very comforting. But being prepared to compromise easily on various trivial matters also strengthens those relationships.
- Sharing stories from your quest, with the right friends, is a great feeling that strengthens bonds. And in fact, the meaning you interpret from your quest is also reinforced by the stories we tell others and ourselves too.
- Happiness comes from the pursuit of a quest, not necessarily from the achievement of it.
- Chasing excessive amounts of money does not generally make people happier… unless that is a measure of the success of their personal quest eg. for Warren Buffet.
A personal quest can be beneficial, should be challenging, meaningful, clear, and have a few goals along the way.
It should require some effort, sacrifice and persistence in order to be really worthwhile and the outcome is not guaranteed.
But perhaps, the most important thing is, it must be YOUR QUEST and not anyone else’s.
I just noticed the BBC website has an article on happiness that I believe supports the concept of having a personal quest or project that gives purpose and meaning to your life.
For without purpose and meaning we are empty nothings in the world.
When I was a child and I got bored or fed up or depressed or indeed suffering from any negative emotions, my mother would say, “Go out and DO something!”
The BBC article states that:
“Good mental health and having a partner make people happier than doubling their income”
“Suffering from depression or anxiety hits individuals hardest”