Life only consists of moments. Yet when we're young and starting our careers, we carve up the experience pie very differently -- in very large pieces. We assume that after we reach this or that milestone or complete this or that project, we'll finally be happy and able to relax.
But it never seems to work that way. As soon as we accomplish what we set out to do, after a fleeting moment of joy if we're lucky, something pulls at us and the accomplishing-something cycle begins again.
The problem our younger selves experience is not distinguishing between momentary mastering and having mastered. We seek the latter, but the former holds the bigger prize. When we are in the process of mastering something, we're fully engaged, concerned about what we're doing and not concerned about ourselves. The more engaged we become, the more full our lives feel.
We expect major life events similarly to produce lasting feelings. When I get married, get a promotion/tenure, buy my own house, have a baby, get divorced, all will be fine.
The only way all is fine in a lasting way is to recognize that life only consists of moments. If we make the moments matter, our lives will matter.