2006.10.18 Apex of your Existence
Don't let one experience define your life. Nothing should be able to narrow your frame of reference so much that everything else you experience must be compared to that one thing.
- "Oh, well… when I worked at (whatever company) we used to…"
- "Well in (some country) the people there do…"
- "This is nothin' compared to when I (some extreme sport), because…"
- And so on…
The only way that one experience, or a set of experiences becomes the apex of your existence is that you continue to focus on your past as you move forward.
Don't get my attitude wrong here. I can appreciate the fact that somebody was impressed (either positively or negatively) by a given experience. I have no problem with people be moved emotionally/mentally/spiritually by something. I have had several such experiences and I'm glad for them.
The point here is that these people (and you could be one of them) dwell on that experience, and compare everything to it. From the way they talk, their life has been entirely down hill from that point onward. Shouldn't their life and what they're doing now be just as important to who they are? Don't live your life in a way that you're always living in the shadow of your previous experiences.
Along these same lines, I once was speaking with somebody about how I used to write in a journal frequently. My life circumstances changed fairly drastically, and I stopped writing for whatever reason. This person's comment to me was something along the lines of "Why isn't your life currently worth writing about?"
For some people, I'm talking about a new way of life - to shift your focus from constantly watching your rear-view mirror, to actually looking out your front windshield. There isn't a problem with glancing back to check for cops, clear your blind spots, or make a safe lane change.
This applies to multiple aspects of life. For the most part, your professional life doesn't interact with your personal life, or your spiritual life, or how you've made sandwiches. Each of these vitally important areas (especially sandwich making) could/should have moments that are significant to you. These moments might overlap to some extent, and that's just fine.
I'm not saying that you should forget/ignore the past. I'm encouraging you to do that, but don't let your past blind you from the present or your future. I'm not opposed to memories or talking about past experiences. Let me sum this up in a final set of examples and a note:
- "While in France (where I lived for 2 years, about 3-20 years ago) I had a great experience with _________ where I learned a valuable lesson about ________." — One story? That's okay. But what about the 3-20 years after you moved away from there? Haven't you done something worth mentioning during that time?
- "At (some company where I worked for 20+ years, but haven't worked there for a few years) we would move our phones with us when we changed desks." — (I'll avoid comments about how little I care for phone-moving stories.) Again, one story? That's okay. But if you continue to mention this company a)through the day or b)numerous times during any given short time period, you're stuck in the past.
Let's practice some of these same statements in a way that doesn't make it seem/appear that you've lived a pointless existence since that experience:
- "I once had a great experience where I learned that _______." — same story conveyed, just without the desperation included. Good job.
- "I've seen other companies that also move the phones with the person when they change desks." — again, much better.
Not everything in a certain field has to be related back to your only seemingly relevant experience. I could go on for much longer about how I feel that people need to branch out and become aware of life. I'm not the most experienced in this advice, and I certainly could benefit from it myself. I think it's important for people to appreciate and learn from the past, but to focus on the future and how they live their life in a way that is worth remembering and referencing later.
So, the next time you want to tell a story, review that story in your mind and think of how you can make it a little less dated. My brother uses a great phrase "the other day" which could mean "any time within the past year or so". You don't have to use that one, but something that removes your experience from the surroundings/circumstances would be nice.
On a related note, see no regrets.
Tag(s): home soap_box work