This morning I met Bob as he climbed the steep steps at Longsands Beach carrying a backpack. Bob was struggling but determined. He simply refused to let the steps beat him and as he arrived at the top, just like Rocky, he threw his arms into the air and shouted out loudly ‘YES YES YES’. Bob is 91.
Now anybody can grow old. That doesn’t take any talent or great ability. It’s a journey we all take, from the moment we were born until we reach a final resting place. We don’t know where, we don’t know when, but it’s a fact. I for one have never known anyone who has got out of this life alive.
But the idea should be to grow old while having no regrets. There are more wishes unfilled in the local graveyard than in heaven.I wish I had done that, said that, lived that, being that. Yet we are so fearful. Our fears grab us by the throat and yell in our face, you cannot do this or that. You are not good enough, bright enough, smart enough.
And when we are not fighting the demon of fear, we are allowing others free entry to pollute our brains with their crap, while the days keep rolling by and our regrets become baggage that just fill us with anxiety and fear and terrify us in the middle of the night.
As a man was passing some elephants, he stopped as was confused by the fact that these huge 3 ton creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. There were no chains, nor cages to lock them in. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, with the smallest flick of their foot break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.
He approached the trainer and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
So it is, in life we are limited by our inhibitions. Like the elephants, many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before. Our fears eat out the very soul of our dreams and we compromise again and again for a false sense of security.
I understand that everybody wants to feel in control. As humans, it’s natural that we want to move toward a feeling of security. Yet compromising for security means we miss out on so much. I say to you:
Don’t bend. Don’t water down your dreams. Don’t try to make logical safe choices. Don’t edit your own soul according to the opinions of others or your own fears. Don’t look for a problem in every event. Rather … Follow your most intense obsessions intensely.
Now, be very careful what you water your dreams and ambitions with. Water them with worry and fear, and you will produce weeds that choke the life and soul from your dream. Water them with optimism, hope and ambition and you will find success. Yes, that success will come.
Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream. As you get older, you learn there is one sentence, one that is just four words long, that when you can say it to yourself, it offers more comfort than almost any other thing in life. It goes like this: “At least I tried.”
Life is a journey where you should not want to arrive at the grave with a perfect, well preserved body … with so much more to give. No, you want slide in sideways, yes slide in fast sideways, totally worn out from the relentless living of your dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow, holy sh*t, what a ride!”
Life is really generous to those who pursue their personal dreams. I found that every single successful person I’ve ever spoken to had a turning point, where they made a clear, specific, unequivocal decision not to live like before anymore, but to follow their dream. Some people made that decision at 15 and some people make it at 30/50/70 but the very sad reality is that most never make it at all. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what they did, but rather for things they did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.
THE MENTAL FILTER – 3 questions to ask yourself
- Are your decisions based on your dreams or on playing safe?
- Are your thoughts yours or do they belong to others?
- Are you the master of your own fate or are you shaped by your fears?
I coach ordinary people every day to do extraordinary things. I coach extraordinary people to do extraordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”
If that is you – start today!
If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
About Dr Maurice Duffy
Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.