There’s a massive hill in front of us and my kid gives a defeated sigh before dismounting his bike. “No way,” I say, “you’ve totally got this. Here, I’ll give you a boost.” Encouraged, he jumps back on his bike with a big old grin. Up the hill we go, his little legs pumping, my hands on his back running behind him pushing him towards the top, his training wheels rattling as though they’re going to break free. We’re both laughing and whooping and calling out encouragements. We hit the top of the hill, high five and start heading down the street. Actually, I start heading down the street. My kid has stopped at the top of the hill, gotten off his bike and is looking at where we just came from.
“Wait mom, look!” His whole demeanour is slow and thoughtful, taking in the view of his accomplishment. “We just went up that WHOLE THING. Let’s stop and look at what we just did, that was awesome!”
A-Types, Goal-Junkies, Future-Creators- How’s your relationship to completion and accomplishment? Do you pause to revel in your success? Do you get off your bike and take in the view from where you’ve come? Or are you on to the next thing? I’ve always been an on-to-the-next type. The list is long, the vision broad, the steps steep. It’s not that I think to myself “no time to stop and appreciate what I’ve accomplished or completed,” it just doesn’t even occur to me to do so.
That is, until, I started to notice my own mental habits around what my attention is continually on. It’s always on what I’m going to do next. I anticipate and I create. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Making shit happen is my super power and the fabric of my creative self is woven from inspiration, generosity, joy and determination. But there are some threads of compulsion, fear of inadequacy, and future-only satisfaction, that undercut my experience of fulfillment and presence with what gets created.
A theme I’ve noticed among successful entrepreneurs, prolific artists and bright leaders is the on-to-the-next habit. On the healthy side of this habit is consistency, resilience, productivity and the ability to launch. But I’m interested in the quiet interior, the suffering that comes with high productivity and the beliefs or view points that drive this.
Lisa is a successful entrepreneur that’s strayed from convention to carve her own path. This has been particularly difficult for her because she broke away from and disappointed her family in order to do it. Everyone told her she’d fail. She was cautioned and begged to do the responsible thing and get a higher education and a secure job. She didn’t. And she’s succeeded. But she can’t stop to acknowledge how far she’s come for fear that it’ll all fall apart and she’ll be wrong. So while she’s ‘made it’, she doesn’t get to experience the satisfaction of having made it. She drives on.
James wants to fall in love. James has a ton to offer, he’s brilliant and creative, loving, handsome and wise. James has bought in to one of the sicker narratives that our culture feeds us, that in order to have a great woman want him, he’s got to make a lot of money. And he does. But no matter how much he makes, no matter how secure and accomplished he becomes, his fear that he’s flawed and unlovable keeps his attention on what he hasn’t yet done, what he hasn’t accomplished, what he doesn’t have. He drives on.
Kelly is a excellent coach and consultant. She’s helped a ton of people and brought tremendous insight and success to the lives of others. But she feels like a fraud. Not because she isn’t good at what she does, but because she isn’t perfect. She sees the gaps in herself at every turn. She notices what she could be doing better and it leaves her feeling inadequate. Every time she accomplishes something or helps someone else, she’s aware of what was missing, of what would have made it better. When she pauses to acknowledge what’s been completed, all she sees is what wasn’t completed to her standard. She drives on.
The beliefs or self-perceptions that niggle in the background, that compel us forward, can keep us from ever experiencing satisfaction with the fruits of our labour. Our mind says that once we get up that hill, through that tunnel, over that canyon, then we’ll be able to stop and appreciate what we’ve done. But that very belief is reinforced when we don’t stop at the end, when we only look forward at the next thing and keep driving on.
Stopping each time we’ve completed something to allow there to be pause, a high five, a deep breath, an appreciative nod, is an instrumental part of accomplishment. Without it, we’re not really complete, we don’t even notice we finished something. With so much emphasis on getting things done, it would be kind to start actually allowing ourselves to really finish those things with a moment of reverent appreciation and satisfied acknowledgement.