Life is full of twists and turns. Sometimes our path takes us up along lofty ridges where we can see everything around us, including the path ahead. Other times, our path descends into valleys, twisting between narrow canyons that box us in. In these times, we feel trapped, maybe even scared of the things we see around us. However, in both situations, whether we can look out at the path ahead or frightened of where it may go next, one thing is important to remember.
It's all in our heads. There is no control. Just because you can stand on a ridge and look out at the path ahead doesn't mean you'll see the rock crumbling away beneath you. Before you know it, the ridge falls away, and you go with it. Standing inside the tiny canyon, alone and wary, focusing on the path ahead prevents you from seeing the magic of what's around you. What new life grows within this tiny prison? What beautiful sights are you missing?
The point here is there is a subtle art to letting go of our desire to control our lives. So much of what we're taught growing up (at least here in America) demands us to know where we're going, to make the right decisions, to be happy, and most importantly, be successful. Most, if not all of these things, get us all into trouble regularly.
We should never know exactly where we're headed. Now, if you're driving out of state to a funeral or vacation, you should get some clear directions. In the overall grand scheme of our lives, however, knowing (or trying to know) where we're headed will only bring us trouble. This is looking ahead, and if we're focused on what's ahead, we're not paying attention to what's around us. The truth of the matter is no matter how hard we try, no matter how much information we gather, we can NEVER know where we're headed. We can have ideas, sure, and we can make plans, but doing these things will not change the fact that we will never truly know what's. Anything could happen to us at any time along our path, completely disrupting the path ahead, and in some cases, altering it to take off in another direction or ending it altogether.
Keep in mind, not knowing what's ahead is a little different than setting goals and objectives for ourselves. Goals keep us moving, and they're pleasant mile makers as we travel. The point here is to stay flexible, and keep your senses trained on what's around you. You may miss the most beautiful things in your life if you're fixated on what you think might be happening next.
We shouldn't try to always make the right decisions. "Make the right decision" is something we hear a lot growing up (I certainly use it on Jacobi often enough). But what is the right decision? Oftentimes we have no clue, even if we think we know. The problem with this thinking is that "right" is subjective. What's right to me, might not be right to you, or if it's right for everything else, it might not be right for me. Besides, if we always made the "right" decision, how would we learn? We'd simply be doing what everyone else does, copying rather than learner.
I'm not saying go out and do whatever you want. I'm saying that we get hung up a lot on the stress of making the "right decision" when in fact, there may be no right decision. Or, if there is a right decision, perhaps it's not the worst thing in the world if we get it wrong. Maybe a better way to state this is simply to learn from our mistakes.
We can't be happy all the time. If we were all happy all the time, what would happiness even be? I know one of my own most troubling searches on the path I walk is the search for happiness. I'm not alone. Most of us struggle daily with our quest for happiness, but have you ever stopped to look at what happiness is? If your happiness is marked by a single goal, like buying a new car, and you finally buy that car, what does your new happiness become? Your path, once clear to you in, is now riddled with twists and valleys you can't see beyond. As I parent, I often say to myself "I only want Jacobi to do something that makes him happy", but that's like saying I always want him to be happy, and while it's true I wish for him to be happy, I cannot rob him of the truths of life, and sometimes, life really sucks. When it becomes problematic for me as a parent, and me as an adult in my own life, is when you try to push away the "bad" emotions because someone once told you you're supposed to be happy.
The hard truth is we simply cannot always be happy. We have all sorts of emotions in our human psyches, so why fixate on just one. That dream job that you always wanted will not always be a source of happiness for you, just like that dream partner won't always be a source or happiness. So instead of focusing on always being happy, let the other emotions in, too. Acknowledge them, even revel in them if you can do so in a constructive way. Happiness isn't everything. It just happens to make us feel good.
Defy success. Success, like happiness and right decisions, is again a subjective term. Success for me, might not be success for you. There is a huge push for success in American culture, that without it, we're less than nothing. This is why Walmart is so huge. Somewhere along the way, someone realized that having things constituted success, and so everyone rushed out to acquire those things. With Walmart, things are super inexpensive. Everyone can have things now, and things means you're a success.
Except really, it doesn't. Success is another one of those terms that has been beaten into all of us, and because it's such a subjective terms, it's difficult to know when you finally have it. So my advice is to defy success. When you get to that mile marker on your path that you've labeled as success, remind yourself that the path doesn't end. When I finally published my first book, I had to remind myself that I have other books to write, that this one "success" really meant only that I'd reached a mile marker, and I had to continue walking my path. A better way to look at this is simply to view success not a singular thing or event, but as a learning experience, one that will help as appreciate the things around us as we walk our paths, helping us set new goals and mile markers.
So what has this all been about? Learning. Always be learning. About yourself, about the world. Things like control, success, happiness, and right decisions are always going to be subjective and temporary. All of these things can teach us about ourselves and the world. Stay open and receptive to these things as you walk your path, and you'll be a better human as a result.
NOTE: I've been reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. Most of what I've written here was inspired by his writing and ideas. If you'd like to find out more about it, please check it out on AMAZON.