A life well lived
I’m heading for the Northern Lakes again next week and I’m in a reflective mood, last month when I was there I was listening to Commander Chris Hadfields musings on life and I was deeply impressed. Since finishing the book, I’ve been applying some of the lessons he taught and in particular the need to focus on the everyday aspects of my life, rather than focus on the peaks. If you live every day well, moving broadly in the direction of your goals then you will be preparing for the peaks. If you never manage to reach the peak, who cares, you still lived your life well and with purpose.
To take three examples that I’ve worked on this month:
- I have a long term goal to write books, my approach had been to gather material for these books and wish my life away waiting for the day to come when I would have the time and resources to fulfil the goal. I’ve stopped that now and replaced the information gathering, planning and wishing with daily writing practice on this blog. This is an order of magnitude more fulfilling, not only am I making progress every day, I’m enjoying the experience and maybe producing something useful along the way. If I never write a book, who cares, I will have enjoyed thousands of days writing blog posts.
- I dream of being able to retire and walk the long distance paths around the UK, I’d been day dreaming about this, idealising the idea, worrying about whether my health would be good enough, and wishing my life away waiting for retirement. Now I try and walk everyday, I don’t walk for fitness, I walk for the thrill of being in the open, soaking up the wonders of nature, talking with friends and family. If I develop the resilience and health required for long distance walks when I retire that’s great, if not who cares.
- Finally I want to be able to cycle again, I was desperate to be able to cycle the 20 mile round trip to Cleveleys, or even the 6 miles to Lytham, but my knee is still not healed. I’ve realised I don’t need to wait though, I’ve bought a Brompton, it’s always in the boot of my car. Whenever I get the opportunity I will cycle for a couple of miles. If my knee gets better that’s great, but if not at least I’m cycling regularly again and to be honest cycling even for 10 minutes is so much better than not cycling at all.
But I’m only at the very beginning of this journey, so here’s a snippet of Chris making the same point as only he can:
If you view crossing the finish line as the measure of your life, you’re setting yourself up for a personal disaster. There are very very very few people who win gold at the Olympics. And if you say, ‘if I don’t win gold then I’m a failure or I’ve let somebody down or something,’ .. What if you win a silver? What if you win a bronze? What if you come fourth? What if your binding comes apart? … What if all of those millions of things that happen in life happen. … Only a few people that go there are going to win gold. And it’s the same in some degree I think in commanding a spaceship or doing a spacewalk it is a very rare, singular moment-in-time event in the continuum of life. And you need to honour the highs and the peaks in the moments — you need to prepare your life for them — but recognize the fact that the preparation for those moments is your life and, in fact, that’s the richness of your life. … The challenge that we set for each other, and the way that we shape ourselves to rise to that challenge, is life.
If you want more here’s the video of the interview that the above extract is from:
My reflections on his book are here Mini review of ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’