I have been, historically, a very goal oriented person. It has served me well in many ways. I did well in school and got letters and accolades to reward me for that. I have some degrees. I landed roles in plays and sang in bands. I got jobs and finished projects. I became a homeowner and saved for retirement. Check. Check. Check.
Looking back, I would say that only a relatively small percentage of that time, when I was checking off so many boxes, did I focus on what I thought that box would get me. I thought my education would get me a good job and the good job would make me happy I think. I think that’s how it went, although I suspect “happy” included some other more complicated dark stuff like “prove I was worthy,” “show what a good person I am,” “make other people approve of me,” but I digress because if you can actually believe it, that’s not what I want to talk about today (WHAT?!).
The point here is that in deciding what was going to deliver the desired state of mind or being, I became exclusively focused on the HOW. This is how I’m going to get THERE, instead of remembering to look for the THERE here. What? I know, too many vague words. I’ve got you.
I have heard this story a few times, and I don’t really know where it originates, so if you told it to me and you wrote it, I am super sorry for not crediting you. Shoot me a note and I will fix that. The story is about two fishermen.
One of the two starts his day at sunrise, catches as many fish as he can all day long, often until dark. He keeps the fish he needs for his family and sells the rest to friends and neighbors. He saves the money so that he can buy a boat to expand his fishing territory and hire some help.
He notices (and shakes his head at) the second fisherman who usually arrives at their secret fishing spot at around 10 am. The second fisherman fishes for a few hours and usually packs up when he has enough fish for his family plus one. He then, by mid-afternoon at the latest, packs up his things and returns home.
One day, the second fisherman surprises the first by asking what he does with all of the fish. The first fisherman explains that he has nearly saved up enough for a boat and he hopes to hire a second fisherman so that he can catch even more fish. “And what will you do then?” The first fisherman explains that he will then buy a bigger boat, and then maybe a second boat so that he can catch even more fish. He will increase his profits and expand the business as much as he can. “And then what?” asks the second fisherman, as he slowly reels in one of the four fish he will likely catch that day. The first fisherman explains that if he grows his business enough he will then be able to save enough money to retire and spend time with his family.
The first fisherman is pleased with his plan, and glad the second fisherman asked because maybe hearing about his ambitious plan will help the second fisherman realize how much more he could be doing. The first fisherman is very curious about the second and asks: “What do you do when you’re not fishing?”
The second fisherman explains that he wakes up and takes a walk first thing in the morning, eats breakfast with his family and then walks his children to school. He returns home and he and his wife spend some time together before he gathers his equipment. He fishes and when he is done, he returns home in time to play his guitar for a while before he meets his children after school. He plays with them and then he and his wife cook together, experimenting with all of the different ways they can enjoy the fish he has caught. Sometimes in the early evening, the family will walk together or even go down to the shore and swim before retiring for the night.
The second fisherman smiled, enjoying his own vision, his own story, his own reality now.
The second fisherman never lost sight of what he was trying to create, what he craved, what he wanted. He looked around and found that happiness, ease, and community were all already available. The only “HOW” in getting them was being clear enough to see what was right in front of him so long as he did not fill the time with some other how.
It is so easy to get attached to the how. It is so tempting to create that list with all of the check boxes. It is REALLY satisfying to check boxes (I know I’m not the only one). But what if you’ve made the HOW the goal? Worse still, what if your how is getting in the way? What is it that you really want?
Personally, I think I am going to need to schedule a check my HOW meeting with myself. What do I want? Am I sure that what I’m doing is about that? What would happen if I let a solution present itself? What would happen if I believed that being happier, feeling better, being connected and awake could just be easy?
Fish for thought.
With so much love,