Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
~ Guillaume Apollinaire
Last week I took a short trip to Okinawa (Japan) for my summer holidays. Of course, as with all holidays, it was great. However, on the way there I saw something from my window seat on the plane that I’d never seen before. While cruising above the clouds, something flashed in the sunlight. As I turned my gaze on it I found it was another plane. And, it was fast. It probably took a couple of seconds to disappear completely from view. Seeing that other plane zoom by made me realize how fast we were travelling. I mean, I know how fast planes are, it’s just that when you are cruising above the clouds you seem to be lazily floating by. The other plane was a great lesson in perspective, and a stark realization of the truth.
That experience got me thinking on its similarity with our lives. Life is fast paced and busy for most of us. Especially so if you have a regular full time job that you are trying to escape by building your own business on the side. Even though you know you are getting a lot done but, there are always other things that need doing, or the results that can’t seem to come in fast enough. There’s always a nagging feeling that you are not working hard enough or you aren’t being very productive. And if you happen to love what you are doing (If not, stop and take stock. Seriously), then you probably like just getting in there and doing something, because it feels good. The momentum of getting things done is a tremendous one, you just feel that you can ride that wave of productivity and cross things off your check list. You dread hitting the brakes because you have overcome your fears and procrastination, worked hard to get the momentum and don’t want to lose it. If you are reading this, I’m sure you’ve been there. I know I have. Newton’s first law, it seems, holds as true for the psychological as for the physical entities.
If you have got your own thing going and have been at it for sometime, riding the wave of momentum of getting things done, sooner or later you reach a place that you set out avoid – status quo. Remember that dreaded phrase, status quo, the one that held you back in the beginning; the one thing you wanted to break out of; what all this hard work is aimed at vanquishing? You get so used to doing things in a certain way that you just create a new pattern for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, this status quo is way better than the old one. However, status quos are dangerous. They have a way of trapping you in your place, all the while giving you the feeling that you are getting somewhere. They also start corroding your enthusiasm and excitement. I remember that when I started a few months ago I was amazed, and excited, and awed by the world that I never knew existed; by realizing that how my own psychology was holding me back; by how natural it felt to be doing what I was good at and liked doing. Those feelings haven’t gone away, it’s more like they’ve lost their freshness. I believe it has to do with losing appreciation for the work that I do everyday; and losing my gratitude for for all the things that I learned that allowed me to walk this path. It’s like complaining about the long distances when you are travelling on the highway. You get so used to sitting in the air conditioned cabin, and cruising at triple digit speeds that you lose appreciation and gratitude for it (Nothing a short 10 minute walk in the afternoon sun won’t cure). In this context, taking a break or consciously unfocusing on the goal you are striving towards offers many benefits.
The most astounding result of stepping back from the usual break neck pace that you have set for yourself is that it gives you a fresh perspective on your work. You look around and see that the world is pretty much the same as when you had checked last, almost everything is unchanged. You realize that nothing bad is going to happen even if you stop being a busy bee to recharge yourself. You get a chance to see all the changes you have affected and the transformation you have undergone. You can be proud of your progress your progress by looking at where you last stood with respect to the world and comparing it with where you are now. Sometimes that is what it takes to overcome problems – a fresh perspective.
I remember the first lessons I learned when I started down this path to create my own freedom and make my unique dent in this world – find and appreciate your natural talents and hone the skills you are good at. When you are neck deep in the number of things that must get done each day, and tracking your progress on a list of sub-goals it is easy to lose sight of these early lessons. You may be good at writing, yet you tend to forget why exactly you love writing so much. You may be excelling at pitching and converting clients, but in the hectic pace of doing so your vision for the future may get blurred. Perhaps, that is the down side to single minded focus, hard work, and persistence. The small break will help you appreciate what you are doing even more. It will give you an opportunity to reaffirm your faith in your ‘why’, and lets you appreciate how far you’ve come regardless of the results.
As your vigor is renewed in the pursuit of your passion and the new life you are trying to forge, you can take time to be grateful for whatever circumstances have brought you to this moment. You can be thankful for escaping the murky depths of frustration, dissatisfaction, un-fulfillment, or whatever that pushed you over the edge to take the leap you have. I am sure you know how liberating it feels when you know what your purpose in life is, there is path or direction that you can walk on, and how good it feels to be doing something that can have a positive impact on not just your life but everyone around you as well. The mental state of giving without the expectation of return can only result form realizing your self worth. And, feeling grateful for all things in your life certainly conditions this mindset.
Do not forget this aspect of taking a break. It’s not as if what you do everyday isn’t exciting or fun, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it. Rather, one of the purpose of the breaks is to have fun just for the heck of it, without the thought of accomplishing anything. It has to be able to serve as a pattern interrupt. Try something totally new, or reacquaint yourself with something that you now consider part of your past. Remember the times when you were fed up of doing soul crushing, boring, mundane work? Do not let the the daily grind of pursuing your passion degrade into meaningless drudgery. Always keep an eye on the horizon. Small doses of unadulterated fun will help you do that.
It is a difficult path that we have chosen to walk and we can use all the help we can get. There will be aha moments and celebration of victories, but they will accompanied by days when you lose sight of the future and are unsure of yourself; when your fears gang up to blindside you; when you think that maybe everyone else is right and you are wrong. We have only our grit and determination to tide us over those days. Taking small breaks, I feel, will help you stay grounded. Less prone to be shaken by either successes or failures, learning to take everything in your stride. It will give you the strength to keep walking the path and reminding you it is not just about the perfect dive. It is about a lifelong endeavor and you must resurface occasionally to reorient yourself. It is all about enjoying life everyday, rather than some day.