It’s not happenin’. At least, it’s not happenin’ until I know I’m doing it for the right reasons.
The Wrong Reasons
In the movie Little Miss Sunshine the father, played by Greg Kinnear, is afraid of being a loser. You think, he thinks he wants to be a winner, but it’s not true. He is more fearful of being a loser than he is excited about being a winner.
You think, he thinks he wants Olive to be a winner; but, the way he goes about it is through the principle of resistance. “Just say no! Olive, to the ice cream! Resist! Look at it, but don’t touch it!” Any recovering Mormon can tell you how well that bit of wisdom works out.
Resistance is wanting. It is wanting NOT to be and not to be without. I wanted not to be without the swimming of the English Channel. Failure was not okay. I was hard driving myself and not having a good time. I was showing up to swim practice… exhausted. I was angry and surly and I just wanted this shit to be over.
I was not joyful, I was not present; I didn’t give a shit. Even if I had swum the English Chanel, even if I had stood atop the stone on Cap Gris Nez, would I have been happy? No. I would have been devastated – my worst nightmare would have come true – I would have gotten what I wanted. I would have opened a new door into the next thing I couldn’t stand to be without.
I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people, but think about it: Ever hear the expression, “Be careful what you wish for; it just might come true?” How true! Had I finished the Channel, I would have gotten on the return boat to Dover; I would have felt like shit. “What’s this all for?” I would have asked myself. “Why?” “What does this mean? That I’m somehow a better person?” “What for? Why?”
There was no joy in what I was doing preparing for the Channel. It took me a long time to realize that; but, luckily I made this decision before I made it to England. At least I heeded my feelings before the big wedding day. There was no passion in the pursuit of this goal, and I didn’t realize I wasn’t going to throw in the towel until I was halfway down the Mississippi River. I knew I wanted to do the Mississippi. There was joy, there was passion. It was extremely hard, but I loved it. There was no hard-driving football coach telling me I had to succeed. I did it for me. I did it for the love. The Channel was not happening out of love; it was happening out of hate – the hate of not having, the hate of being a loser.
But can’t you swim the channel to become a winner?
No. You can’t. You can’t swim your way to success. You can’t overcome all your past failures through the swimming of a channel. I interviewed many who had swum the channel; they told me they swam it for similar reasons to my own: they were dealing with a divorce, dealing with getting older, dealing with failure of some kind. Though they were proud of their accomplishment, I could tell something was missing – they still felt like losers deep down. (Mind you! That wasn’t everyone; but you could tell on some… you could feel it.) Something still was missing. The Channel had changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change everything. And that was a problem.
“This was supposed to be my magic wand!”
“This was s’posed to be my ‘it!'”
“This was… it! The Channel was going to be my BIG accomplishment.”
Some reading this blog are Channel swimmers and they should comment appropriately. I think all of them will agree with me, however, that trying to accomplish something to prove that you don’t suck is not a very joyful way to go about life.
There will always more. What will you do next? Swim farther and farther until you can successfully fend off the loser feeling? You’ll never fend it off. You will “achieve” and achieve and achieve, and then what? Another thing will show up. Unless you are doing something for the love, your engergy can never be inexhastable. Love is the only inexhaustable energy. Something done out of love is done for its own sake.
But wasn’t the Channel a personal goal?
Greg Judge, who you will meet in The River is Life, said that paddling the Mississippi was reward enough. It was its own reward, and I couldn’t help but agree with him. Some force, some spiritual force was egging me on during the Mississippi – I had to do this even through the mosquitoes and fights and anger and pain and heat rash and sore muscles. I went on and on and on and I didn’t care because I was lovin’ it.
I wasn’t lovin’ the Channel. The more I trained the more it became apparent that it was not the right goal for me.
Shame. It would have made an awesome goal… it just wans’t my goal. And if it was, I wasn’t doing it for the love.
So what now?
On the Mississippi, Phil and I discussed the seedlings of what would grow into the Hell movie. It was exciting; it had a message I wanted to say, a story I wanted to tell. I was jazzed. I knew the road would be long and hard, but I didn’t care. It was okay. Love egged me on.
No love in the Channel. That took a while to admit. Part of me wanted to hang on, wanted to finish the goal because I said I would, but it would have cost me my sanity. I would have won the approval of some but not my own approval. Inside I still would have felt like crap, and no one would have understood. This goal, at least for now, is for someone else. Someone else out there has the dream to to swim the Channel, and they feel the same way about it as I did about the Mississippi.
Is it okay to bail on a goal?
Hell yes. Absolutely. Some will disagree but that’s okay – they have the perrogative and the right. I was listening to a radio show by Michael Neill, a success coach, who was talking about his most financially successful client. This client seemed to always have loads of money… always! Michael asked his client how he set goals. The term goal seemed foreign to the client. “Goals?” he asked. “I don’t really set them at all.”
“What?” Michael asked. “How!”
“Well, I guess I kinda do. I get together with my wife twice a year; we buy a bottle of wine and rent a really fancy hotel room and then we just daydream.”
“Yeah, I get together with my wife, and we daydream. We daydream about what we’d like our life to look like. And those dreams I guess could be called our goals. Oh, and if I realize after a while that that goal isn’t exciting for me anymore, I drop it.”
Michael was flabbergasted. “So, you change your goals?” This was completely antithetical to what he had been taught – Never! change your goals. Commit!
“Yeah,” the rich client continued, “your life is about falling deeper and deeper in love with who you are and what you’re doing. Why change that? Why persue something you don’t feel passionate about anymore?”
Amen, I thought. And amen, I affirmed to myself when I doubted whether I was doing the right thing making the decision to postpone? the Channel. Just so you know, I might do some smaller swims. The goal will be to fall in love with swimming, to swim for the right reasons. It has to be a swim where, gosh darnit, you love being out there in that water! No one to prove… anything to.
Choosing new and more passionate goals is the way, the truth and the light.
So next time you choose a goal, make sure it floats… or that it swims… to your heart.