So I was gonna write this post in a couple days or something, but I’ve been procrastinating a very important paper due in five hours for about five hours now, so obviously I couldn’t just give up and end my streak. Plus, I want to write about this, because I want to think about it.
Today I was listening to a wise man talk. I know, pretty crazy. But I was, and it turned out to be a good thing, cuz he asked a question that was really provoking and significant, for me at least.
“What’s behind you that keeps you from running for the prize?”
I don’t know why, but whenever I think of something that would trip you up on your way to getting a prize, I think of an obstacle ahead; something in the future that I’m not prepared for, or maybe even something in the present that I need, but just avoid. As focused as I tend to be on the past, I’ve never thought about it quite this way before. I mean, obviously, the whole term “baggage” has to do with something that has happened to us in a previous phase of our lives that has influenced us, and maybe even left us emotionally and psychologically scarred. And that use of “baggage” is usually seen in the context of what affects our lives now—what explains how we act and who we are today. So of course I’ve thought about how past experiences affect and hinder how we live today. I mean geez, more recently, the question is more like when am I not thinking about it.
And yet this struck me. It was mentioned in the context of a guy, Paul, who was practically the elite of the elite. He had this absolutely flawless pedigree—the equivalent of those people from old money in America who have everything planned for them at birth, from elementary school to ivy league. You have to be born in it to have a chance at such a resume; there’s just no other way. But for Paul, these incredible achievements were more obstacles than anything else. They made him proud and conceited, and he did a lot of stuff he wasn’t proud of, in retrospect of course. Now these merits of his weren’t evil on their own, it was just how he let all that affect him.
I just kept thinking… I know, SO well, the things in my past which I’ve had trouble with it. I tend to spend a significant amount of time everyday reflecting on them… to a harmful extent. And that’s the problem. These things, these obstacles—they distract you. They get you thinking and regretting and obsessing to such an extent that your present capacity is severely limited. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, really. You think about all the bad effects your past has had on you, and by dwelling so much on that, you are badly affected. It’s US, not our pasts, which deal the real damage. I think reflecting is not only incredibly beneficial, but crucial to a certain extent. But I think our ability to recognize when that extent has been reached can be dangerously distorted, and it prevents us from truly learning from the mistakes we made. Instead, we’re using those mistakes to make more mistakes. That’s not right! It’s so freaking wrong, but it’s just so natural.
It would be so much easier if our roads were so twisted and zig-zagged that we couldn’t see where we’d come from. But then we’d never change, would we? We’d never have a reason to.
So let’s just stop. Stop getting distracted, stop taking so many mental vacations (obviously the bad, high-school-reunion-kind) from life. Get excited, find the prize, and go for it.