On Friday night, I came back home after having a couple of beers with friends. Just before heading to sleep, I checked my phone and noticed an unread text. I had received the following message from an extremely good friend of mine. This is what it read –
“Dude, you gotta checkout my new mountain bike. It flows down the trail…good luck keeping up with me boyyyy! ”
Whoops, not that text, this text..
“Howdy bud. All caught up on your blog. Nice writing. Keep it up. One observation from the cheap seats. You seem to wrestle a bit with how much past accomplishments define or influence present fulfillment. All I can tell you is they don’t, or at least not for long. Do you put pressure on yourself to hit all homeruns all the time? Not going to happen Bryce (Bryce Harper). I often wake up in the morning and start thinking about the one step I can take, investment I can find, decision I can make, that will take me to the next level of fulfillment. Haven’t found it yet, even on my best days. More often than not what makes a day good is getting out of bed, putting in some effort and not fu$king up too much. As you said, the process.”
My first thought after reading this text was “sh$t, my friends are psychoanalyzing me now? Feelings of embarrassment, then fear, then anger flew through my body. I didn’t like the idea I had put myself “so out there,” that friends, family, and strangers could evaluate what I was feeling and/or going through without my permission. The key words here are, “my permission.” I’m cool with me calling the shots and sharing feelings, but when others can weigh-in with educated opinions, that was something else entirely. Not being in control of the message felt weird. I wasn’t naïve to think throwing my thoughts out to the world wouldn’t be met with judgement, but the feedback felt more revealing than I expected.
I quickly shot off a cordial reply thanking him for the message and that we would catch up soon. Shutting off my phone, I threw the covers over my head and went to sleep in an effort to separate myself from Dr. Freud’s evaluation.
The next morning, the text was still there. I read it again with fresh eyes minus the emotions that may have been fueled by the previous night’s beers. Reading the text again, I could clearly see my friend wasn’t being judgmental, inappropriate, or unfair at all. He was being helpful, sending a complimentary message with a couple words of wisdom. I could also see he was 100% right. If feelings and thoughts were a wrestler, I’ve been in a heavyweight (well, considering my frame – lightweight) fight with Hulk Hogan representing how much past accomplishments define or influence present fulfillment. It is a battle I’ve been waging for the better part of 38 years.
Fired & Free Thought – IS THERE SOMETHING YOU ARE WRESTLING WITH, ONLY OTHERS KNOW? The answer may be painful, but asking friends and family members might be the only way to find out and improve upon your current situation.
Who needs therapy, weed, or meditation? Apparently, salvation is just a text message away! Throw a bunch of thoughts onto the interweb and your friends will do all the work for you. Problems solved!!!! While typing these words, I can feel a transformation take over my body. My beard, now white. My clothes turn to robes. Energy courses through my veins. My feet barely touch the ground. I grow taller and can now reach the highest cabinet in my kitchen. No walls can hold me. The leaves, squirrels, and trees whisper sweet nothings in my ear. I see Blue and he looks glorious! I HAVE YOUR ANSWERS!!
Knowing my Dr. Phil Friend is right and that fulfillment doesn’t come from past accomplishments, where in the name of “sit on this couch and tell me your problems” does it come from? Is he right when he says a good day comes from, “getting out of bed, putting in some effort and not fu$king up too much. As (I) said, the process?” Is that really it?
My wife and I follow a yoga video every once in a while to limber up. The instructor we follow starts off every practice with a serene voice and a calming insistence that, “it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey.” The quote sounds cheesy and I always chuckle a little inside upon hearing it. Listening to the quote again, for the nearly 100th time, it sounds slightly different. More truthful. The new feeling of awareness is similar to passing a sign every day on your way to work. You see the sign every morning, but you don’t really process what it says. Then, one day, for some reason, you read the sign for the umpteenth time and the words have meaning they didn’t have before. The sign hasn’t changed – what you’ve done with the information has changed.
Having contemplated the quote before, I have often run up against the thought of, “if it’s not about the destination, then does it actually matter what journey we take?” Being a goal oriented person, I find it difficult to reconcile the competing thought that it’s not about an outcome or goal (the destination) with the idea that the tasks or day-to-day (the journey) brings fulfillment. My thoughts usually go back to “what journey, path, or direction do I take?” This thought process typically ends in frustration with the pinwheel of death running on loop in my brain.
Being a relatively simple dude, what usually helps to unlock mental confusion is a walk outside while mulling over a good sports metaphor. Growing up, I loved to play soccer. What made the sport so enjoyable was having fun with my friends and working towards a common goal, winning. Thinking about my playing days, the act of winning wasn’t the fun part. In fact, other than seeing a final score at the end of the game or getting a trophy, winning actually isn’t a feeling (contrary to what Charlie Sheen says). It was the time spent leading up to and after the win with my friends that made the experience fulfilling. Rather than focusing on practice and playing the game (the journey), I’ve been focusing on the win (the destination).
Fired & Free Thought – ARE YOU ENJOYING THE GAME OR PLAYING TO WIN? Playing to win is a game without an end. Enjoying the game is never-ending victory.
Practicing mindfulness (meditating) on a daily basis has provided an awareness when I am thinking about the past or future and not enjoying the present moment. Over the two plus years I’ve been meditating, it’s truly helped and improved the quality of my life. Thinking I had a good handle on how my thoughts drive my actions, I’m surprised to learn there has been a constant achievement loop running in the background of my psyche. It’s a personality trait that has most likely been obvious to others, but which I’ve been slightly oblivious to.
There has been a constant undercurrent of trepidation and fear when writing entries for this blog. Telling the world your deepest thoughts can be unnerving. In this case, I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to learn a little more about myself through the process. I guess I need to chalk up another point for being vulnerable and putting yourself out there!? But if I chalk up another point for being vulnerable, then I’m focusing on the win and not just enjoying the game?! And if I’m not just enjoying the game, then I’m still focusing on reaching fulfillment through achievement!? Oh no, I can feel my thoughts starting to spin and spin! Damn you pinwheel of death!
Fired & Free Thought – BEING VULNERABLE SUCKS. However, the results can make the experience worth the effort.
Photo is from just outside Gallatin National Forest in Montana