Category Archives: Reflections

Bungee

Sometimes you just gotta jump.

As we cycled through New Zealand it seemed there were opportunities to bungee at every bridge or skyline landmark. The land of adventure; a list of accomplishments.

Given I seem to have an ever increasing fear of heights this was a no, no for me, yet for many the thrill of leaping from a variety of platforms does, it seems, hold a great appeal. As I stood there watching these thrill seekers I couldn’t help but compare the act of bungee jumping with the process of change. Courage, fear, anticipation, excitement, relief. The levels at which these emotions are wrapped up can of course vary significantly on the decisions we are making.

We all have a different capacity for dealing with change. While some of us constantly seek something new there are many for whom a move from what is constant, stable and known to us is much harder. It’s easy to say but even when change is tough I have always tried to see the positives. We may not always be in control of what happens to us but we are in charge when we decide how we will react.

Making an active decision to jump off that cliff may be one of the toughest choices you ever have to make. For most people who bungee, despite stepping nervously, legs shaking and eyes confused between trying not to look while catching small glimpses of what’s to come, additional reassurance will come from safety records, from the harness they are attached to and of course the people supporting them to step off that edge.

It’s much easier to make changes and be in control than to act positively when others make decisions for you. So, get a harness, glimpse to the future and get folks around you but if you need to jump…..don’t put if off forever. That harness really will tie you in knots.

The right thing

I was recently speaking with a friend who was recounting a conversation with a man in his mid-eighties facing up to the inevitable. Successful in his career, happy in terms of family; yet still he seemed to talk with a sense of regret. All his life he had lived up to expectations – he had done the right thing. Yet, in approaching the end of his life he noted that “he had not done the right thing for himself”.

Most people will of course take the mainstream path and for many it will of course be their choice. A desire to belong, to be loved, to work in a particular field. Gathering qualifications, moving through a career and having a family…or not. However, for many others they fall into jobs, stay in relationships for fear of being alone and have families because it’s what you do. It’s certainly not wrong, can lead to real joy and happiness and of course can be incredibly rewarding. What I fear however is that for a lot of people they become trapped.

I’ve heard many talk of being stuck on the treadmill where debt, family and the inevitable expectations of others prevail. Circumstances do of course make it harder for some to change but I still believe that with courage we can all take steps, however small, to live by our hearts. It’s funny. While there is a significant part of me that hoped that by my late thirties I too may have “settled down” as I currently pedal my way around the globe I’m thankful of my freedom to have been able to make such a decision and even happier that should settling down still happen – and I hope it will – that I have the chance to enter the next phase of my life knowing that I want it to bring joy and opportunity not anotherĀ  never ending run.

Making active decisions to turn down promotion, develop new work choices later in life, move on from “ok” relationships or live according to dreams and passions can often take a tough decision or an unexpected jolt from the norm, breakup or redundancy, for example. With these changes it we appear much more able to then look at what we really want. It seems a shame to me however that we wait. We wait for things to get really bad. We wait for others to make decisions on our behalf. I have also been there.

Back in 2012 I remember reading an article in The Guardian called “The five regrets of the dying”. Reviewing a book written by a former care nurse, Brownie Ware, the write up listed these top regrets following a series of conversations. Here they are, in reverse order:

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with settling down but there is something not right about just settling. The right thing has to be right for you too. Life is too short for regret.

Scrapbook challenge

Sometimes we just need to take time out to consider where we are and where we hope to be. We need to take time to record our hopes, our dreams, our thoughts on how we want to live.

An old boss used to say to me to “think in ink”, that is, be concrete, write down what you’re thinking and stop being too abstract. When you see things written down somehow they seem more real. It’s like you’re actually going to do something.

When a goal is very fixed, the equivalent perhaps of a closed question it’s easy to capture. Running a marathon for example, having a particular conversation with an individual or doing a particular training course. However, as we are more unsure of what we want to do or we have more open ended goals moving forwards it can be tough to write this down in an active kind of way. Sometimes we need to think much more broadly to then be able to produce definitive statements.

Following a conversation with my coach I was encouraged to consider producing a personal scrapbook and, having gone out to first purchase all the required materials – a must for me with any new challenge – I began. Cutting out words and phrases that inspired me, pictures of environments I wanted to spend more time in, hobbies I wanted to make time for and goals I wanted to achieve my scrapbook started to take hold.

Spending more time riding my bike was among things I listed and I’ve certainly gone on to do that. I still look at my scrapbook on visits home knowing there is still much I want to be reminded of, items I may wish to revisit and new things I may add. What I am sure of is how useful an exercise it was for me at a time when I needed to consider just what to do next.  You do of course still need to start but if what to know what on then try it. It worked for me.