Warning: this is a no-edit zone…
It’s easy to believe when things are going well. It’s easy to believe when you’re enjoying the support of family, friends, colleagues, associates, peers. It’s easy to believe when you’ve nothing at risk and nothing to lose.
But those aren’t the times when you best know yourself. Those aren’t the times when you stand alone with your dreams and you just can’t see a way to make them manifest. Those aren’t the times when you question your abilities, your competency, your motives and your methods.
No, when things are going well, you ride the wave and you don’t stop long enough to think or consider or weigh the consequences of your actions or the veracity of your path. You enjoy the ride. You press on, believing that if change were in order, something would be amiss.
And this holds true, even when things aren’t perfect. We’re human; we expect imperfection. But so long as the good is a decent stretch from the bad, we’re okay with it. We do what we do, and we don’t examine any one thing too closely. Why? We’re comfortable, and we do like our comfort.
We attach beliefs and emotions like security and stability to comfort. A sense of well being. It even pricks at our esteem in a good way–we’ve got a pinch of the golden touch and we say things like, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We are lulled into complacency and apathy on self-examination, and we detach from the very things that gave us the determination and drive to do what we do. We digress. We lose focus. We no longer seek our quest with the zeal necessary to achieve it. We allow ourselves to become distracted.
Then suddenly things aren’t so great anymore. We lack satisfaction, then we’re restless. We’re annoyed by that, and then we adopt new mindsets that are more in line with emotions than with logic. We feel lost. Betrayed. Angry. Helpless and hopeless.
Some say, they’ve grown weary of the struggle. Some say they’ve worked too hard for too long to be in the position they’re in, and they abandon their desires for the promise of security in something else. Something that doesn’t hold their desire or passion, but meets mundane and other very real needs. Some fold under pressure from other influences and in doing so discover a new dream or quest.
None are right or wrong, and that’s my point.
Life and careers are made up of seasons. People come into our lives for purposes and then when that purpose has been addressed, they fade and go on to appear in the lives of others. Writers write a type of book until something happens to change the dreams and desires of the writer, then s/he writes another type of book. Or pursues another career–often one related to something about which the writer has written that ignited something in him or her.
Careers aren’t linear, just as personal growth and life isn’t linear. We constantly grow and change. We wear many hats, play many roles. Often we live many lives in one lifetime.
At times we’re teachers, at times students. But at just as many times, we’re both. During these seasons, we’re gathering what we need to take on our next personal season. We’re giving others what they need to prepare for theirs. We’re putting in foundations and we’re harvesting that which we’ve gathered.
It’s a magical thing, the way these seasons work. How in one facet of our lives we can be planting, in another facet, watering that which we’ve already planted, and in yet another facet of our lives, we’re harvesting from seeds we planted and watered long, long ago. (Think of the “overnight success” that was twenty or thirty years in the coming.)
Yet in the seasons where things that have our focus aren’t going well, or we don’t have the support we feel we need and there’s nothing left to risk or lose, we tend to single-mindedly focus on the past. We think of better times and we resent that we’re not in them. Other areas of our lives might be stellar, but we ignore that because it is what has been lost that claims our attention. And because we’re human, we give it.
Yet here’s the thing. When we do this, we give our effort and energy to what’s wrong. We discount the value and worth of what’s right. We neglect the good to embrace the bad. This is not a good thing. Without focus will what is right continue to be right? Unlikely. Good needs its time, too. Recognition and appreciation is a terrible thing to waste.
Some spend so much time looking back and wallowing in the past, they do nothing, notice nothing, prepare nothing for the future. They’re so preoccupied with the past (good and bad) that they don’t notice the opportunities in their present path, much less dream the dreams that could be their futures.
We need bad times as much as good ones. We need to keep looking at who we are and what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I’m not talking about self-absorption. The world is a big place and everyone and everything in it matters. But we’re mortal, and we can’t do or be all things to all people.
We can do our part. But to do it, we have to see what “it” is, to recognize it, to embrace it.
Now if we’re lost in the past, longing for better times, or if we’re riding the wave of comfort and lost in apathy and lulled into complacency, we’re not apt to see much and we’re even less apt to dream. This is not a good thing for our present and it’s worse for our future. It breaks us down. If comfortable, the breakdown is more pleasant to endure, but either way, we’re still broken, and we’re still suffering those pangs of disenchantment and those twinges (or gnawing pains) that come with a lack of fulfillment.
So what is the key? When times are good or bad, what keeps us balanced and attuned and aware so that we don’t lose sight (and our present and future along with it!)?
Believing is and isn’t an act of faith. It’s a choice, too. It’s reconciling the head and heart and accepting that reconciliation as truth. It’s seeing the value and necessity in bad times. It’s appreciating their worth as much as the worth of the good ones.
We hear people say, nothing good lasts forever.
Why don’t we hear people say, nothing bad does, either? Historically, even the stock market’s only stayed down seven years. And even IRS only looks back seven. Why do we beat to death our entire past to the detriment of our present and future?
We hear people say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Does this mean the little fall less or drift and not crash because they’re little? The big may make more noise or get more attention when they fall, but I doubt they suffer the fallout from the fall a bit more than the tiniest. No matter where you are on the ladder, when you hit the ground, you’re on the ground.
We hear people say, you have to have money to make money.
Are we seriously advocating that? Discounting all the proof to the contrary? Should we alert Oprah that she can’t have money because she didn’t have it to make it? Bill Gates? There are millions of others. Enough said.
Here’s the thing. We can find a familiar quote to fit either side of any situation. Whether looking on the bright or dark side, someone somewhere has said something about it. If you’re of a mind to align with the dark, it’s there. If you’re of a mind to align with the light, it’s there. You choose your alignments, just as you choose how to view whatever season you’re in on whatever aspect of your life or career has your focus.
You choose. And you do–based on what you believe. About you. About your situation.
You can choose to wallow in the depths of despair, giving all you’ve got to what’s wrong. Or you can choose to fly the heights of joy, giving all you’ve got to what’s right. You can also choose to keep one foot on the ground and the other planted firmly in the sky.
You can believe that there is good and bad and that creates balance. You can believe that seasons come and go for reasons, and part of their purpose is to give you opportunities to not become lax or apathetic, or indifferent. Opportunities to keep assessing and defining your goals and aspirations and dreams.
Staying personally balanced through these seasons comes in knowing there is good in them. It’s said that necessity breeds invention. We need, therefore we create. There’s wisdom in that. We grow and change because we must. (Stagnant anything dies, right?) And change, being outside our comfort zone, seldom comes easily or without costs. But the cost doesn’t have to be everything. Whether that growth is painful, sorrowful, tolerable, or bearable largely depends on our attitude toward it.
If we remember that we gain through times of challenge, doesn’t that help balance things out? We might struggle and sweat, but we’re stronger, wiser, acquire a new skill, master one we had as a result of the effort?
How many races would an Olympian win without training? Without losing challenges along the way?
None. Because s/he would never have invested enough to become an Olympian.
Seasons. Good and bad times and all of value. Acknowledging the worth in both. The opportunities in both for personal growth and development.
Things will get shaken up. All things get shaken up. Fear and doubt love shake-ups because they know it’s at these times we’re most vulnerable. What can better keep us from achieving what we set out to achieve than fear and doubt? Not a thing. We relinquish ourselves to either and it owns us. We refute them, and we own us.
We let go of what was in favor of what is, and we look for the way this challenge offers us a hand up to scale our next personal mountain so we can claim it.
We know this isn’t a universal body-slam designed to take us down. We know that to get higher up, we need a challenge to snag us out of apathy and into action.
We understand that spinning wheels is an absence of traction. To get anywhere we want to go, we need traction, and in this season, we’re being offered a way to obtain it. It looks like a bad break, maybe even feels like a bad break, but we know better. We’re attuned, engaged, committed. We’ve got our goals and dreams and aspirations firmly in sight and we know this is a step up to them. We know.