Thursday, June 15, 2017

Got a Ticket to my Destination

I love it when a simple quote that I've heard many times before, suddenly hits me on a completely new level and ignites the spark of a new blog post. That's what just happened. I read (for the hundredth time) that life is short and you should make the most of it, take risks, stop and smell the roses and stop sweating the small stuff blah blah. We've all heard the worn out quotes "Life is a journey, not a destination" and "Life is a marathon not a sprint" but it didn't really hit home.

It just occurred to me that we as humans are programmed for the finish and not the journey.

So in keeping with the quotes about journeys and marathons, give this some thought. How many times have you started a journey without an end goal in mind? Hardly ever. You plan a holiday and you work out the travelling time, distance etc. When you get into your car to go on a road trip, even if you know the way, you plug the co-ordinates into your smart phone map app or GPS device so that you can track your progress. These devices recalibrate in real time, adjusting constantly, toying with your expected time of arrival. The traffic slows in front of you, you look at the screen to see the impact on your ETA, you get some open road where you can speed up, and you again monitor the screen, how much lost time have I made up? When serious runners enter a marathon (ok this is purely hypothetical because I never have, nor will I ever run a marathon. Runners are crazy-mad) they plot how far they should have run during a certain period of time. As each runner crosses the finish line they can be seen marking the time on their watch. Later when they have recuperated they trawl over the time it took them to finish, dissecting the race, identifying problem areas and begin planning how to better their time in the next race. It's all about getting to the destination as quickly as possible, preferably quicker than before.

Have you ever tried to lose weight? You decide what your body should weigh and determine the length of time it would take to shed those unwanted kilograms. Then you begin to monitor your progress by stepping onto a flat surface with a digital display that will determine whether your body mass has decreased or not and if so, by what extent. Millions of people are white-knuckling, resisting unhealthy foods and exercising in order to see that number change, even slightly, not because that is what they want to do with their time but because a good, healthy, attractive body is expected by society, so they obsess. The scale is given the power to influence that person's mood for the day or week. A large portion of their day is spent planning, preparing, packing and consuming foods that are on the "good" list and then binging on the "bad" list due to stress. We are programmed, we cannot give up until we have met our goal. Winners never quit and quitters never win. If we do give up we feel like a failure with a healthy dose of guilt.

This begs the question, does the runner enjoy the minutes passing during the marathon or are they focused on their next mini goal in order to get to the finish line? Is the dieter enjoying each day of healthy eating and training that is making their body better, or are they focused on their next meal and how many calories they have consumed? It came as a bit of a shock today to realize that LIFE IS ONLY THE JOURNEY part. There is no finish line that we run triumphantly across, slapping people on the back, relishing in that awesome feeling of achievement. Life is only the journey. Let this sink in for a bit (if you're like me, it's taken 40 odd years for this to really sink in.)

Life is the only journey that, when we reach our destination, we die.

Realistically, when we as humans reach our goal or our destination, we become energized by the achievement and feel fantastic, unstoppable. Not only have we achieved something phenomenal and we are proud and others are proud of us, it's the start of something new.... you've reached your goal weight - now you're going shopping for a bikini, you've bettered your running time, you're off with friends to have a cold one, looking forward to planning your next run, you've arrived at your beach holiday house and you can't wait to feel the sand between your toes and start relaxing. Reaching our goals gives us a great feeling of accomplishment and springboards us towards our next goal.

Food for Thought
Imagine how differently runners would be running if, as soon as they reached the finish line, instead of shutting off their timers, their own time was up? There would be no more camaraderie, no more feeling of achievement, close friends and family rushing to hug them, there would be no pride of finishing, just death (and any wonderful afterlife that follows of course.) So would runners, running their marathon, all be rushing to get to the end, to beat their previous time? I think not. Would dieters be dieting and exercising like they have done, if, when they reached their goal, they realized that the dieting was the fun part, not actually reaching their goal weight?

Similarly, what would you do on your next holiday/ road trip if the holiday ended as soon as you got there and the real holiday was actually the car ride? Would you have taken the highway, aimed to drive at 130km per hour and only stopped once to refuel, stretch your legs and rest? No way. You'd be looking at and enjoying every little windmill and cow you could spot along the way.

In conclusion
The harsh reality of Life, is that when you hit your goal (of living as long as you can), it all goes pear-shaped. Some journeys will end abruptly in the middle of the race while others will end slowly, with our energy gently dwindling, there is no big finish (unless you're Thelma and Louise and let's face it, there was a reason they freeze-framed that last shot, because the next one would have been a lot more real and messy.) If only Life was as glamorous as movies.......

I am not going to end off by telling you to live your life, stop and smell the roses and not to work too hard, you know that already. What I am going to say is that I hope this post gives you some food for thought and you re-evaluate how your journey is going and whether you're on the right road. Are you focusing on how to get there or when you're going to get there? Are you celebrating with your loved ones along the way? Because all the little minutes, hours, days, weeks and months add up to the whole journey and if you're not enjoying the hours that make up your days, then perhaps something needs to change before you reach your finish line. You won't have the luxury of feeling satisfied then, like you do now.