Ready, Set, Go - The Race of Life!
My fellow coach and friend Jeff Meister wrote a recent blog focusing on why we are rushing all the time.
Do you feel like your life is going at a speed that sometimes makes you dizzy? My take on the reason for our rush is that we believe life is a race. Right from childhood, we are fed this impression by parents, teachers and others who might want the best for us, but unwittingly keep egging us on to run this race of life. Be it examinations, admissions to schools/colleges, or finding employment, we are exhorted to be ahead in the race or risk getting left behind. As we grow up, we realize that we’re fighting demand and supply battles at every turn. While seeking admissions to reputed schools or colleges there are always more applicants than places. When we’re in the job market, there are always hundreds of applicants for a single job. Even in love and relationships, we seem to be fighting with other contenders for attention from the person we desire. These life ‘battles’ reinforce our childhood lesson that “life is indeed a race”!
After transitioning to adult life, we’re again fighting off competition from colleagues in our desire to ascend the corporate ladder. So, nose to the grindstone, we’re busy working our b**** off to impress our superiors and get ahead in the race for promotions. We get to a stage where we proudly brag about how busy we are in life and start equating “overworking” to “success”. I had talked about our tendency to wear our stress as medals in the following blog article -
In other words, we come to believe that if we’re NOT running around like headless chickens in our daily lives, there must something wrong with our lives! We look at our friends, peers, or associates and feel inadequate. The tendency to compare ourselves with others also often stems from childhood experiences. How many of you remember your parents saying things like “Look how well your sister is doing in her studies. Why can’t you learn to be more like her?” or “See how Joe Bloggs’ son is getting medals in sports. You need to try harder”. I recall that during our school days, we used to get ranked in class right from Grade 1. Yes, we had examinations that we had to pass, as 5-year olds, to move from Grade 1 to Grade 2!! And our results and ranks would be read out in the classroom. How could we not grow up with the tendency to compare ourselves to others? A childhood joke comes to mind.
An Indian father tells his teenage son criticizingly “Son, at your age Jawaharlal Nehru had completed University and you’re still in school”. The boy turns around and says “Dad, at your age Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister of India and you are still a clerk. So you have a much longer way to go to catch up!”
Maybe today’s schooling systems have changed in terms of evaluations and examinations for young children and the present generation of youngsters might grow up better equipped psychologically than us old-timers! But then maybe not – after all social media has taken center stage as the prime motivator for all and any comparisons!
The only way to slow down is to discover that life is NOT a race. My logic is that any race has to have a start point where all the competitors start from and a finish point where all the competitors finish up, right? Now think of life journeys – each one of us has a different and unique start point. This includes not just the date and time of birth but also the circumstances, the parentage, the country, and the environment, etc. Multiple factors differentiate our start point from anyone else’s. The endpoints are obviously different as none of us know where and when our life journeys come to an end. Even the directions of the journeys are never identical. This demonstrates the fallacy behind the thought process that life is a race in which all of us participate together. If we ever want to think of our life as a race, we can only think of it as a race where we are the only runners! Trying to look at others to track our progress is pointless because they’re all running their own races, totally different from ours. Just think back to some of the times in your life when you were furiously running this race to beat others to the finish line. How many names can you remember of those that were competing with you in this so-called race of life? We’ve all gone our different ways, haven’t we?
We have to get rid of the mindset that thinks of “success” as a finite entity, defined by society, like this imaginary theatre or stadium at the final destination where seats are limited and if we don’t get there before the others, all seats will be taken. We need to get clear about what our unique definition of success might be. Once we know what success means to us, we can enjoy the journey of life at our own pace and find a much better measure for our success. No more rushing, no more racing…just living up to the name of our species - “human being”, not “human doing”!
Do you consider the current pace of your life to be just right, or do you find yourself wishing it would slow down?
Do you have your unique definition of success?