There is a vital flaw in the ever-stressful human existence: we live life like it’s a race. But where is the finish line? How long does it take for us to feel satisfied with our place in it?
Like angry truckers, we beep and swerve through life, heading somewhere far away with furrowed brows, consumed by some very important business. We have to get there before everyone else. Who cares what we sacrifice to do so?
The road stretches on and on, and all we see is the destination, so clear despite the distance separating us from it. The distance is so expansive; our final stop should actually be invisible. Yet, somehow, it’s all we see.
Beautiful fields of sunflowers blaze by – never noticed. A dying pedestrian lies on the curb, but we’d rather run him over than slow our pace. Is that the love of your life waving at you? Oh, wait. You missed him.
What we should realize, however, is that we spend most of our lives on the road, and much less time at the final destination. Thus, we should learn to slow down and enjoy the drive. If we just take our time, we will see that the road is beautiful, we’ve got angels within and someone out there loves us.
Unfortunately, all the time we spend plugging away toward the final lap is not relished joyously, but rather ignored – it’s left drastically underappreciated. It’s looked upon as “plugging away,” rather than “happily moving along.” We don’t realize how wonderful the anticipation is until it’s left in our dust.
Ever notice, for example, the way Christmas presents – or gifts in general – hold so much promise – so much magic – at every moment throughout the year except when they’re finally torn open? Ever notice that working diligently to accomplish something is so much sweeter, so much more fulfilling, than actually having it?
It’s not a bad thing to have dreams and aspirations, of course. Always believe there’s room to improve. But don’t hate yourself as you currently are. Don’t subject yourself to thoughts like, “I’ll be happy when…”
You should be able to experience happiness even as you strive to lose weight, not only when it’s all lost. You should love yourself as you’re pushing through grunge work to land your dream job. Thinking, “I’ll be happy when I am finally…” will leave a feeling of failure forever lingering in your present.
Learn to love who you are, where you are and what you’re doing while you’re doing it. If you dream constantly of the future, the present will never be good enough. You won’t be good enough. Your eternal feeling of failure will wash over you like a tsunami; it will drown you. Even the biggest, brightest flame is sure burn out when submerged in feelings so dark.
As Benjamin Hoff writes in The Tao of Pooh:
A way of life that keeps saying, “Around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place –Happy and Good– and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way.
So go with the flow. Embrace your own pace. Don’t push yourself to the finish line as fast as you can when the course has so much to offer. Relish the present.
Plus, if you spend the entire race envisioning the finish line, you’re more likely to be disappointed. What if you lose? You will have gotten nothing from the entire experience, because you didn’t even enjoy the lovely scenery while “plugging away” around the track. If crossing the finish line is all that matters to you, you’re wasting all of the potential happiness to be enjoyed while “happily moving along.”
Again, I’m not saying that having dreams will bring only disappointment. I’m warning that it’s dangerous to spend all of your time dreaming, all of your time building mountainous expectations, when you could be cherishing the present. If you’re stuck in your fantasies, your life will pass you by like a stranger in a crowd, only stopping to scream “Failure!” at you every now and then.
Learn to savor the experience you’re living, and you’ll be able to draw out the warmth life has to offer. Live life like a stroll, not a race. Life is much too short to pass on happiness, so slow down, people. Take your time and soak up the scenery that is all around you all the time. (It’s not waiting for you to find it.)