Ask me about my… finish line.

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It’s a long story, but go with me for a second. It all starts with the night I introduced a girlfriend I once had to a very smart and perceptive friend, and the night didn’t go quite so well. My girlfriend and I were destined to crash and burn, and the flames were already licking the engine as we spiralled out of control on this particular trip. Anyway, the two of them swapped emails and later, as the wreck of the relationship was still smouldering, this now ex girlfriend reached out to my friend for answers.

Turned out my friend had a lot of insightful things to say about me behind my back. Those insightful words eventually made it into my inbox by way of a forward from the ex. I was mildly insulted by them at first, but they were true for the most part, and an opportunity presented itself for me to learn something. With that email, I had essentially gone through what could also be called a brand audit. Brand “Mark” was under the microscope.

As my friend had tried to console this girl, she had written about why she thought I had moved on so fast. She said this…

He’s always looking forward. In Oz, with a job and security, he wanted to leave and see North America; in Banff he wanted to roam freely; while road-tripping he wanted to climb aboard his cruise ship; on the cruise he only wanted Europe and in Europe he wanted to go home”.

It has stuck with me for a number of years, and recently I was reminded of it, not only by a recent post I made but also by some words in a TED talk I saw recently (if I knew which one, I would share). There is plenty of writing and research around the concept of mindfulness, staying in the present and paying attention to the right now, but it’s a tough line to walk all the time. I think there is tremendous value in it, as does Shambles, and she attributes her recent experiences with Yoga as being very helpful in the pursuit of mindfulness, but I have always found it harder.

I have always looked forward much more. Looking forward to social events with friends, days off to recoup, the simple pleasures at the end of the day, those sort of things. Also looking forward to medium term goals such as ends of term, change of seasons, and holidays, and the big long term ones of course, been there, done that. But maybe (read… definitely), I’ve always placed more emphasis on the belief that once I reach those goals in the future, I’ll have unlocked a chest of happiness, and I’ll be able to claim more of that for myself.

That’s where the TED talk reminded me of this email, placing a wager and your hopes on the chance that future plans and goal achievement will unlock the key to happiness, is fraught with danger and disappointment. Further on in my friend’s letter, it reads…

“Since happily ever after doesn’t exist, he will always be searching and never content. I would bet $1000 that Mark will never be happy.”

Wow right. Well, it’s a good thing that the Mark she is talking about is now 6 years older, and a whole lot wiser, otherwise that might just hurt. I’ve now learned that a finish line is something that will come and go, and it will only mark one event, in a whole series of events that go together to make up a lifetime. It is not the end of a book with a fairytale ending, so one must enjoy the journey along the way. It’s so annoying simple, that it should be simple to do right. As I’m sure everyone knows, it’s not always that easy.

But all that aside, here it is. My take on it all. Have goals, show grit and determination, celebrate milestones, prepare for the future, but don’t live there, that’s a fool’s pastime. It’s a hard balance to get, but a necessary one. I’m going to keep on toeing that line for all I’ve got. I’ll get the hang of it one of these days.

Do you think I should ask for the $1000 one of these days?

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