Imagine arriving at the top of a mountain and finding a stone; a simple, useless stone. After years of trying to reach the top and all the hard work put in, disappointment is what we fear most. It is the same feeling when we chase after something we can never catch up with.
Movies teach us a great lesson. The dialogue between the mentor and his follower in the scene is as follows:
Socrates: Well, the whole trip here, you were excited, you were happy.
Dan: Yeah, because I thought I was gonna see something.
Socrates: You were like a kid on Christmas morning. You said so yourself. The whole trip up here, it made you feel good.
Dan: Because for the past three hours I’ve been waiting to see this wonderful thing.
Socrates: Well, what changed?
Dan: That there’s nothing here but this rock!
Socrates: I probably should have told you that before we left, huh? But I guess I wasn’t sure what we’d find either. Never am. Sorry you’re not happy anymore.
Dan: The journey. The journey’s what brings us happiness not the destination.
What is happening around him does not make the journey any more enjoyable. In 1993, with the first edition of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey came to Italy and for the first time we heard of the “circle of influence” overlapping with the “circle of concern”. Today, in 2014, 21 years have passed and the principle on which that difference is based is still valid. When you act starting from the “circle of influence” you are focusing on aspects that you really can influence with your actions, in other words, any change depends on you. When you focus on the “circle of concern”, your energy is wasted on matters which cannot improve just because of your direct intervention, but depend on a much wider series of actions.
So what do you do? To you stand there and watch or do you act? But above all where do you start?
I do not know if you agree with my point of view, but my research shows that this age, more than others, is governed by continuous paradoxes:
– A fast-moving economy forces us to be competitive in order to avoid financial extinction. On the other hand, however, our health and personal life pull us back and require us to go slower in order to avoid defeat on a human level.
– Technology has been created to accelerate times, take short cuts and reduce costs. However, production has immediately been absorbed in productivity. We do much more compared to before (in just one week of 2012 the same quantity of data circulated as that of the entire year of 2010)
– Thanks to internet and social networks, the awareness of humanity is on the increase. Information multiplies and spreads, and people become more knowledgeable and begin to reawake. But to call it a “great reawakening”, we need to survive and continue to provide fro our families and this requires great skills in focalizing on assimilation and action.
Thrown around as we are from one side to the other, it is easy to fall victim to impotence. We are affected by the “Donald Duck syndrome”: it does not matter which way you go, you will always end up being a victim. In psychology, it is called “acquired inability”: after taking so much pain you stop moving so that you feel it nonetheless.
In particular, demoralization has struck many people recently. The feeling of being a pawn on a chessboard called the “world” is influencing us, unfortunately, in a negative way.
That is why what Covey said in 93 is more true than ever. It is necessary to start with what we can change, and the closest thing to you is yourself.
The big risk is wanting to change everything and in the end not being able to change a thing. Expecting to find some “wonderful thing” at the end of the rainbow, when all you find is a rock. As Socrates says in the scene: “But I guess I wasn’t sure what we’d find either. Never am.” The important thing is to start the journey, move and make choices on the way.
We might understand that the journey has made us happy, and in the meantime we will have met new people, overcome difficulties and this will have changed us. When we try to improve ourselves, we can’t become worse, we can only rise to a new level of higher awareness.
Maybe then, around us we will see things change thanks to an “inside out” approach which starts from the only source that can change everything: humility of imperfection.
This is the great paradox on which happiness stands: to look for improvement knowing that you are imperfect.
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“… and in case I don’t see ya…
good afternoon, good evening and good night!”…
(The Truman Show)