Slow and steady … that’s how I managed to run 15 kilometres this morning. There were times during the run when it hurt, when I felt like I wanted to give up. But I knew if I kept my pace slow and steady that I could go the distance.
For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about my life — where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m still looking to go. Maybe that’s what you do when the years tick by and, as my 45th birthday looms, the end seems closer than the beginning. But there have been many times throughout my life where I’ve taken time to stop and reflect, to figure out what exactly I’m doing and if I’m on track.
Know What is True
I am a writer. That is true. I know that because every day I write no matter where I find myself in the world — London, Copenhagen or at home in Toronto. Writing is what grounds me, gives me a sense of purpose in what sometimes feels like a chaotic world. And some days are a struggle.
A struggle, yes, because I’m really not sure how to define success when it comes to my writing. It’s hard for me to visualize what that success looks like. Is success about becoming a New York Times bestselling author? Is success hitting a target of, say, selling 80,000 copies of my books? (Can you tell I recently read How I Sold 80,000 Books by Alinka Rutkowska?) Is success about me making enough money from my writing to commit to it full-time?
Maybe it’s all those things and more. Or less.
What is true, then, is that I’m a little lost in the wilderness. And that’s okay. It’s why, now, I’m taking life slow and steady so that I can, as Ray Dalio advises, “Think for yourself to decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true, and 3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2 … and do that with humility and open-mindedness so that you can consider the best thinking available to you.” [note]Ray Dalio, Principles, Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. X.[/note]
Getting at the Core of Things
For the past week, I’ve taken time daily to reflect on my journey so far, and to grapple with the idea that a principle-based life will help me figure out what I want and how to go about getting it. Subliminally, certain principles have always governed my life — be true to yourself, focus on what matters, think independently, don’t follow the crowd, etc. But now I want to dig deeper as I’m really thinking about what I want my life to represent.
The first thing I had to do was look at the reality before me and find a way to deal with it.[note]For me, perhaps the hardest principle I’m struggling with from Ray Dalio’s book is “Embrace Reality and Deal with It,” Principles, Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. 132.[/note] The reality before me is this: I feel stuck in a job that I’m not passionate about, but it gives me 13 days off a month. On the surface, that looks pretty good, having so much time off. But the demands of the job leave me exhausted, disrupt my sleep patterns, make me more prone to illness and, consequently, impact my productivity when it comes to writing. That’s also part of the reality.
So, the puzzle I’m currently trying to solve is how to live fully in this reality and create an acceptable balance. Writing each day moves me in the direction of my dreams. Remaining positive about what I can do — and not letting myself be overwhelmed or disappointed by the things that are beyond my control — help to keep it all in perspective. I’m doing what I can, with the time that I have, to do what I want and stay focused on what matters most. And again, taking it slow and steady, I know I’ll reach the final destination.
Push Your Limits
Taking time to think about the principles in my life is uncomfortable because it’s forcing me to see both my weaknesses and my strengths. It’s forcing me to admit where I’ve made mistakes and how to avoid making them again in the future. It’s forcing me to see the world — and my life — not as I believe it “should” be but how it really is.
Like I pushed myself this morning to keep running, I’m pushing myself in life to grow, to be stronger … to be a better version of myself. I know this process won’t be easy, and some days it’s going to make me squirm, but I’ll keep pushing forward. I know it’s the only way for me to be successful and to get out of life all that I want. And whether I succeed or fail, I know the journey will teach me more about who I am and what I really want.
Where are you now on your journey? What’s working for you and what’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments section below.
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