When You’re too Focused on “There”, You’ll Miss the Experience of Being “Here”
More often than not, once you arrive “there” you will still feel dissatisfied, and move your “there” vision to yet another point in the future. By chasing there, you never really appreciate what you already have right here.
– Cherie Carter-Scott “If Life is a Game, These are the Rules”
That very passage I read the other day spoke volumes to me. As I continued to read on, I realized I had fallen into the “there” way of thinking.
My ambition had become a hindrance as of late. When trying to create success for yourself and other’s, it’s very easy to focus on what’s to come, what’s going to be, and where life will take you. But as most of us have experienced, it’s the process of getting to where we want to go that’s characteristically most enjoyable, and much more fulfilling, especially as we look back: It’s the people we meet, the things we get to see, the moments we experience and the lessons we learn that help us grow into the prosperous people we become and help create our life story.
With my 365daychallenge, I always have something going on and something right around the corner. This means that I am constantly juggling the now with what lies a month or two ahead. My mind is rarely not focused on the future product I am looking to produce. But this lack of presence comes at a great cost. The cost of enjoying and appreciating the moment.
This year will afford me over a dozen new, life changing experiences: marathons, ultra’s, triathlons, half-Ironman’s, cycling trips across provinces, month long new experiences like yoga, powerlifting, and cross fit, speaking engagements, interviews with elite individuals and incredible charity events. I have so much to be thankful for and enjoy, yet I rarely take the time to appreciate the magnitude of what I get to experience, and accomplish.
My mind has been too focused on, “what’s next”? This is typical of “cleaners” or high achievers, but in some regard it counteracts what I am trying to accomplish, which is to live a fulfilling life through challenging myself. A balance that must be attended to delicately.
And running through life constantly with the future in mind, neglecting to appreciate the moments that bring us joy is exhausting and can lead to a poor result in the present.
By always looking to the next thing, I don’t give myself a chance to appreciate and soak in the awesomeness of the people I meet, the events I take part in or the challenges I embark on. I miss out on a great deal of contentment, which is critical in living a happy, rewarding life.
This realization became most apparent when my cycling trip got cut short after flipping over the handle bars and crashing onto my face. It’s funny how a moment so unfortunate can also be so serendipitous and timely. The passage I read a couple days prior just happened to shine light onto my situation more clearly.
I had made it to day 3 of my cycle across Ontario. Day 1 was long: I got a late start, I had no initial accommodations and I was caught in a major thunderstorm mid-way through as I cycled along the backroads of Cornwall, where barns we’re the most modern piece of architecture around. Day 2 was an even longer day in the hot sun, largely focused on getting from point A to point B. 170 km to be exact. Too many Km’s to appreciate the experience. I found myself in two towns with no vacancy, which added hours to my incredibly exhausting day, which resulted in a 9:30 pm finish.
My body was tired. My skin was burned. My clothes were wet. And my enjoyment was non-existent.
Here I was doing a once in a life-time cycle across Ontario, as a youthful 28 year old and I was miserable. I was so wretched, that I was adding kilometres to my day, so I could finish the cycle faster. My mindset was all wrong.
I was completely neglecting the present. I was so fixated on the destination at the end of the day that I didn’t even give myself a chance to appreciate the process.
Rather than embracing the freedom, serenity, and landscape, while most people are at work, I instead focused on the check mark I would give myself of cycling 150 km at the end of the day. A check mark that lacked any sort of authentic personal fulfillment.
Sure I could be proud of the 7-9 hours of cycling I put in, but I didn’t enjoy 80% of it. So what’s the point? If I’m not getting enough of a positive intrinsic value from the achievement, where does the value lie?
There will always be moments and days that we aren’t excited to participate in, but due to the growth involved and the personal fulfillment we will receive when we’re finished, we learn to push through and accept the challenge as part of the process. But when the challenge becomes unnecessary and we’re rushing the process just to get some shitty meaningless gold star at the end, this is when we have to re-think how we’re approaching the day and why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Cycling Ontario would be a gold star for sure, but if it’s at the expense of my gratification, the triumph then holds very little value. If the end goal was something so incredibly vast, like climbing Mount Everest, then a shitty week on a cold mountain makes a little more sense. But I didn’t have to make the cycle miserable. This was the one of the perks of this month’s challenge. I could eat my cake and have it too. I could put some good work into the cycle (80-100 km per day), be happy with the challenge of cycling 4-5 hours per day non-stop across a province but still enjoy the process. I could embrace the challenge by taking pictures, relaxing in a nice open area with a beautiful view by the lake, going for a mid-day swim while the sun paints my skin a golden brown, while appreciating a new town where I can allow myself to decompress, go for a swim and enjoy the novel scenery before heading to bed.
I had completely forgotten the most significant purpose of my 365daychallenge, to challenge myself to extreme heights, BUT also be fulfilled from the achievement. Cycling 150 km per day and being miserable, is no greater achievement than doing 90 km and enjoying my experience. The balance in growth and fulfillment is where true success and contentment lies.
As much as we should challenge ourselves, it is incredibly important to stop and be grateful for the present moment. If you are hating the process of getting in shape, excelling at work, improving your finances, or becoming a better partner or friend, you need to find a way to make it reasonably enjoyable. Nothing worth doing for the betterment of yourself will always be fun, but you should certainly not be miserable half the day trying to improve your life. That type of self-improvement is unsustainable and will do more damage than good in the long run.
It’s important to find that balance, and keep that perspective in mind as you go about your day. Find ways to improve all areas of your life, but don’t do this at the sake of enjoying where you are in life.
Be sure to appreciate all the small things you get to do in the now. The freedom, the peace, the youth, the time, the fun, the laughs, the sincerity. Appreciate it all, and don’t rush it if you don’t have to. The work that needs to be done tomorrow, will get done. Thinking about what’s to come, or making the day too dreadful to appreciate the present is unmanageable and detrimental to your well-being.
Take it from someone who got caught in the “there” way of thinking and was lucky enough to catch himself before he completely ruined a trip of a lifetime.
Be “here”. It will make getting “there” much more enjoyable.