Stop chasing the wind
You find yourself unsure about what you are doing but you know you might still be doing it some day in the future. You don't know when it will stop or even how. You are following something but you can't be sure what you are following. A safe retirement. A car. That house you always wanted in the country. A dog perhaps. The sort of holidays that other people have.
So maybe what you want is happiness. The sort of thing you used to find in catalogues, the stuff that you remember hearing about when the grown-ups were talking unaware that you could hear them, the sort of thing you watched on sitcoms from the fifties repeated in school-holidays on weekday afternoons.
But happiness is not all of what you need. You may find all the time you have when you get to that retirement needs using. You spend all day digging a hole then look around wondering how it's going to get filled.
Some people go along like this for years. Of all the ones who do a few get lucky and never realise this before they die. Most know they ought to optimise for something else. The happier you feel now the less you'll find you have to rely on when you need it later on. But now is now and later on will be what it will be. The past is more surprising than the present.
Digging holes is exercise unless you've got a passion for growing trees. You feel good, the wind getting up under your shoulders, making your armpit cool as it takes the sweat. What better way to serve and praise the world than planting. So is that what you're doing with your life? Planting trees? Or are you running after success and happiness, the way children go chasing after the wind?
Don't try to be happy. That just ends up with you making videos of your cat and passing through the office like a ghoul when that retirement clocks round. Enjoy the time you have with friends and family. But remember that there's work to do. There's only so much fun that fun can be.
Get out of your routine, re-optimise your life. Find meaning in the things you didn't even know you didn't want to do. Sit silently if that's the thing that makes you squirm. Eat better food so you know what food can be. See the great wall of China, Dr Johnson said, just so you could tell your children you were the sort of man that had.
Make a little corner in the world where you can do some work that might just last. It doesn't have to be inventive. There's value in the daily grind of raising children, filing work and getting stamps of authorisation for things you never really cared about getting authorised. There's value too in leaving something else behind. The friendship you can discover with a colleague or the way that children make you laugh. Those phone calls you really should have made.
Prioritise the way you'll feel in sixty years about what you're doing now by seeing the world rather than evaluating it. Do the work the world demands. Then go out when it is quiet and listen to the birds.
Stop chasing the wind: the wind is chasing you.