The prominent first century Roman lawyer Seneca had sought and attained more lofty goals than the vast majority of people in his time, or of any time. He was powerful. He was rich. He was famous. He advised the emperor in an ongoing way.
One day, he had a moment of self-realization. He sat down and wrote to himself: "Why don't I seek some real good, one I could feel, not one that I could display?"
In the first century, Seneca saw other well educated and talented people all around him chasing the wrong things. He even found himself doing so. And we’re even more guilty today. Too many people read so that they can make witty references at cocktail parties, or over lunch. We work for the finest cars, fashionable clothes, and ornate houses that will suitably signal to others our true worth. And yet, having filled up our lives with good things to display, we end up feeling strangely empty. Why?
The things of life that can be displayed like trophies are most properly thought of as the occasional happy side effects of our main ambitions and energies, and not as primary, focal targets. They can certainly be enjoyed. There's nothing inherently wrong with nice things, or baubles that can be seen and admired by others. But we do best in life by seeking first and foremost something much deeper, something we can feel within. When such a thing is our focal pursuit, it then becomes the basis for any other healthy pursuit. Seneca saw that true fulfillment comes from the inside out, from the cultivation of our own souls, and from the good we do for others, the good that we feel, from the heart, as we do it..
That attitude and path is what we all ought to seek to display.