[BBL editor’s note: When he set out to visit all of the planet’s countries by age thirty-five, compulsive goal seeker Chris Guillebeau never imagined that his journey’s biggest revelation would be how many people like himself exist – each pursuing a challenging quest. Everywhere that Chris visited he found ordinary people working toward extraordinary goals, making daily down payments on their dream. His book, The Happiness of Pursuit, challenges each of us to take control – to make our lives be about something while at the same time remaining clear-eyed about the commitment.]
From The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
Deciding to improve one’s life, however meaningful it might be on a personal level, is not by itself a quest. Quitting smoking, losing weight, or getting out of debt are all worthy pursuits, but they shouldn’t be a lifelong focus.
A quest, we decided, is something bigger. It takes more time and requires more commitment than general life improvements. Still, though, what exactly is a quest? How to define it?
We decided to let the stories lead the way. Walking across the continent and not speaking for a decade? Yes, that counts. Giving up a well-paying job to advocate for women’s rights in Bangladesh … as a volunteer with no recognition for twenty years? Yes, that too.
After much consideration, here are the criteria we settled on.
A quest has a clear goal and a specific end point.
You can clearly explain a quest in a sentence or two. Every quest has a beginning, and sooner or later, every quest will come to an end.
A quest presents a clear challenge.
By design, a quest requires something be overcome. Not every quest needs to be dangerous or next to impossible to achieve, but it shouldn’t be easy, either.
A quest requires sacrifice of some kind.
There is no “having it all” when it comes to a quest – to pursue a big dream, you must give something up along the way. Sometimes the sacrifice is apparent at the beginning; other times it becomes apparent only later on.
A quest is often driven by a calling or a sense of mission.
A calling need not be some form of divine inspiration. It is often expressed simply as a deep sense of internal purpose. Whatever form it takes, people who pursue quests feel driven pushed, or otherwise highly motivated to keep going.
A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.
Many quests are composed of a long, slow-and-steady march toward something, with moments of glory and elation few and far between. You don’t simply arrive at the holy grail the day after you set out to find it.
Be inspired to create your own quest + make your life count!
Excerpted from The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau. Copyright © 2014 by Chris Guillebeau. Excerpted by permission of and published in the United States by Harmony, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.