Last night, for NYE, I was out bowling with some friends. This one friend-of-a-friend turned to me and started telling about one night when he was out with a bunch of people and beside them walked in this couple, both of whom presented as avid bowlers their own balls, a bags for his ball, proper bowling gloves, and claimed that “bowling was their THING!”. The guy telling me the story continued to watch them bowl and noticed, to his astonishment, that they never broke 100. The point of the story was the huge insightful moment on the part of the guy telling me the story. My curiosity was piqued! Perhaps it was a moment of insight where one realized the value of life: the journey is the reward or something to that effect. Nope. In fact, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What the guy realized was that, in his opinion, some people out there really were losers who didn’t know how much they actually sucked and that he should never hire those types of people. Wow!! I responded with something like “well maybe he just really likes bowling and doesn’t care about the outcome?”. The guy turned to me with utter disgust saying “it’s ALL about outcomes”. “Life”, I said? “Yup” he said. All I could do was laugh.
I was shocked, yes, but I meet these people all the time and in all honesty, I have no argument for as to why life is NOT all about outcomes, unless I ramble off some mindfulness spiel, which I knew would be lost in translation to this particular fellow.
The evidence, if it does exist, comes from experience, not my words. I’m sure this guy -- and all the people like him -- is very successful, if by successful we mean high salaries and high rankings. We all know these people. And we all know the people who climb the corporate, esteem, and fiscal ladder only to get to the top and realize they forgot to enjoy the climb. They were too busy looking up at the next rung to enjoy the view from the rung onto which they were latched. But like I said, I have no evidence that their path may lead them to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or lack of meaning. I don’t even know if that’s true.
In stark contrast to this outcome-based philosophy I encountered last night, I also happened to be listening Jian Ghomeshi interview Bobby Orr on CBC radio earlier that day. I tuned in just as Bobby Orr was going on, very passionately, about how parents need to just let kids play hockey and not worry about whether they were going to the NHL. Orr said very convincingly that if a kid is good enough and dedicated enough by their own accord they WILL be noticed, scouted, and recruited, and that the parents really didn’t have to do anything except let their kids play as much as they wanted. He sees way too many parents pushing their kids toward expectations of a career that will happen, essentially, if it is meant to be. Orr later talked about how upon retiring from hockey he had to go to work... which he never felt he had had to before then. Sure, he had goals and aspirations, but he loved the game. He loved playing. He probably didn’t love his goals as much as he loved living them.
To me, that’s process-based pursuits. Let kids be. Let ourselves be and see what happens. We may just end up with much the same achievements in the all the while enjoying the journey instead of letting it pass us by in pursuit of an illusive future.
This doesn’t mean that having goals is not important. This guy I was talking to last night, clearly is successful by at least one popular definition. I can tell without knowing anything else about him than how he approached bowling. Within the short time-span of 2 hours of bowling he moved passed the rest of us to break well over 100, due partially to his solicitation of strategies and tactics from the real bowlers around us and also tracking his performance before and after switching his strategy. I’m sure his success last night is an excellent example of his approach to life. And if he is consciously choosing to pursue life that way then all the power to him. Perhaps my concern instead is, is it really conscious?
On this first day of 2014, a day when many people consider their 2014 goals and resolutions, I offer you a thought: Do you want 2014 to be about goals or the pursuit of goals? Do you want to put off your self-satisfaction until you have achieved whatever it is that you seek to achieve or do you want to enjoy the process of change, of life, of living? Choose wisely, consciously.