“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ~Zig Ziglar
Even though I am in my apartment in St. Louis as I write this, I have been on my year long road trip for over a month now. I’m just taking a short break while I clean out my apartment and finish getting the Primitive Van ready for the road. Somewhere on the road last month I found myself smiling and thinking, I’m doing it. I am doing something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I am road tripping in a van. I was enjoying life and basking in the glory of achieving a long term goal when this question crossed my mind: Now what?
What do you do when you finally achieve something you’ve wanted for a very long time?
The answer to this question was made clear to me many years ago. I was in bed with a beautiful woman in my apartment in Guanajuato, Mexico. Pillow talk always yields the most intellectual of conversations. We somehow got on the subject of living abroad. I was relaying to her about the first time I ever really traveled for leisure. It was to Costa Rica. During my 21 day stay there in Playa Tamarindo, I noticed that there were people who were actually living there. They were’t there for just a few days and then went off to Volcano Arenal before they headed back to their life in Kansas. They lived there.
I was completely amazed. I mean, here I was on a 21-day vacation thinking I was a some sort of longterm traveler. Yeah, right! There were people there who stayed so long they had to leave the country every few months so they could re-enter to get another three-month visa. How did they do this? What about work? What about their families? How could they afford to stay there for so long? I could afford it because I was making a killing as a contractor in Iraq but, I had to eventually get back. I had to get back to making money. I was running out of it. It just blew my mind that anyone could travel like that for as long as they wanted.
This was when I was first bitten by the travel bug. For the next several years I wondered how I would ever be able to live in another country for an indefinite amount of time. “Holy shit!” That’s what I said to her. Did you forget I was telling this story a beautiful woman… in may apartment… in Mexico… where I LIVED! It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized I was doing it. I was doing the very thing I had wanted to do for years. In fact, I had been doing for months. I hadn’t realized it until that very moment, though.
“Holy shit! I’m actually doing it!” “Yep, you are.” She was so nonchalant about it. It was as if it was not a surprise to her. As if she had confidence in me enough to think, “Of course you achieved a goal you set. You’re awesome.” We were in love. We were also in a love triangle. Well, two love triangles that interconnected some how. This is another story however, which will be told at a later date.
“Oh my god. I’m actually doing it.” “Mmm-hm,” she responded with her ‘of course you are’ tone.
Then just like that, as if all that excitement was a super, big, deep breath I just took in, I let it all out. “Now what do I do?”
This is when my American, study abroad student, lover stopped seeing me as that awesome person that accomplishes whatever he wants. She taught me a very valuable lesson with her next five words, “Live in the moment, güey!”
For the record, güey means fool.
She was right. I was a fool. How could I, within moments of realizing I was achieving a personal dream, dismiss it and be ready to move on to the next thing. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t even bask in the glory for more than 60 seconds. I really did need to live in the moment. I needed to enjoy my accomplishment as it was happening.
Fast forward five years later, to last month when I was on the road taking in the beauty of the American Southwest, when I found myself asking, “Now what?” I knew the answer: “Live in the moment, güey.”
So how do you know when to move on to the next thing?
This has kind of been one of my biggest dilemmas. Living in the moment is great but you have to prepare for the future at some point, right? You definitely don’t want to live in the past like Uncle Rico. “Back in ’82, I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile.”
In a blog post about bouldering a while ago I wrote how bouldering was a metaphor for life. One of the examples I gave was this:
“Once you achieve your goal, take a few seconds to bask in the glory and take pride in what you have accomplished, and then move on to the next goal. “
I still feel this is true about life’s accomplishments but the other day, while live streaming on Persicope, I actually answered my own question. (Funny how you can figure out life’s most perplexing of questions while talking outloud to yourself.)
Don’t move on until the task at hand is complete.
If we continue with the bouldering metaphor, you don’t think about what you are going to do next while you are in the middle of climbing a route. No, you live in the moment. You climb, and that’t it. You don’t move on to the next thing until the thing you are working on it done. When I came to the realization that I was “living my dream” in Mexico, my mind automatically went on to my next task. And, it should’t have. I was nowhere near completing that task at hand. At the time, I had no idea when I was going to move back to the States. I should have just enjoyed it. I should have lived in the moment.