THE BLOG
03/10/2015 05:48 pm ET Updated May 10, 2015

Leave the 'Toy Story Cycle' Behind

Sally Anscombe via Getty Images

There is a reason why Toy Story resonates with every person who watches it. We all remember what it was like to fall in love with a toy and then eventually toss it aside in favor of a new, shinier version.

At a deeper level, we recognize that this experience was not left behind in childhood. This "Toy Story Cycle" continues to play out in our adult lives: we are constantly looking for something outside of us that will finally make us whole, loved and worthy.

It starts with an ache in your heart that is begging to be filled. Your rational mind gets to work in order to relieve those feelings of pain. The mind pinpoints something out there in the world that will "fix" those feelings -- a promotion, gadget or achievement -- and directs your thoughts and energy towards that thing, until you either acquire it or find something else to occupy your time.

If achieved, the rosy glow lasts for a few days or weeks and eventually fades away. We are left once again feeling the same emptiness that cued the whole cycle, with no choice but to fixate on another external objective.

As human beings, all we want is to be seen for who we truly are. If we do not cultivate the love in our lives that allows us to be seen, it is easier to turn to external achievements to show the world who we are instead.

This cycle fosters a dangerous belief that "when I achieve this, I will be worthy of happiness." It manifests in even subtler ways: "I got that promotion; therefore I am successful... and worthy." "I got married; therefore I am lovable... and worthy."

As long as we look outside of ourselves for happiness, it will remain elusive.

It is really hard to remove ourselves from this cycle. Most of us have dreams that we want to pursue that are personally meaningful for different reasons. Achievement doesn't impede internal fulfillment -- but equating something "out there" with happiness does.

I don't want to rely on toys to make me happy, but I also want to work towards something outside of myself. In my struggle to build a life that optimizes for both, I have articulated an approach that can be encapsulated in one powerful sentence:

"I will try as hard as I can, but I don't mind what happens."

Trying your very hardest assures that you are pursuing your dreams with all of your strengths, passion and energy. Not minding what happens assures that you are not looking for happiness outside of yourself.

How can you create this belief in your own life?

Choose today
You have the power to decide if today will be the day that you make a choice that matters. Victor Frankl wrote that "everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Action is always possible, because choice is always possible.

One day, we are all going to die. We have a limited amount of days to live the fullest expression of our life. Starting today means that you will live that expression until your last breath.

Find your truth
"The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It's a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees." -- Cheryl Strayed

Your truth lives in your heart. What are those little thoughts that constantly poke through when you're in conversation, on a run, or in the shower? When was the last time that you lit up with joy? Those are the moments to pay attention to: it is your truth persisting through.

Once you have found your truth, will you choose to live it every day? My experience has shown me that your unleashed truth will demand that you honor it. When you live your truth, you are in alignment with your most authentic self - and surprising and beautiful things will happen.


Find the right environment

The world is a rich environment with many places where you can live out your purpose. Some of them will provide you with more fertile ground than others. It is important to find the environments that will support what you are trying to create and who you are trying to become.

It takes time to find the right environment, but don't wait around for a "perfect" situation. Try to find one that is close or that will prepare you well for the future. For example, if you don't like your job and it isn't possible to change jobs at this point, find an environment outside of work where you can live your purpose.

Let go
"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free." -- Thich Nhat Hanh

It is hard to make small daily choices that add up into a greater whole. That's why we need faith to help us through. You can hold faith in anything that is meaningful to you - in your strengths, in your dream, in your world; that faith will be a guide through the natural ups and downs of life.

Most importantly, it will provide you with the freedom to let go of attachment to any achievement that you have your eye on. It will remind you that there is something better and truer on the other side, and that uncertainty is the toll that you pay to get to it.

"I will try as hard as I can, but I don't mind what happens."

I hope that this approach helps you, as it has helped me, to navigate the external world while pursuing internal fulfillment. This simple sentence has gotten me out of some funks and helped me back on the path after falling off. It always realigns me to my highest belief that I am worthy of happiness, no matter what happens.