This isn’t the first time I’ve told this story, but it’s one worth sharing again. It’s a story about humility and commitment.
Do you know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Of course you do.
Let me quickly remind you of the punch line: “Bang!”
The race starts with the Hare darting out of sight at once, leaving the Tortoise far behind in the dust. And because he’s an arrogant little Hare, he stops for a nap. There is no way that Tortoise will ever catch up!
As you might recall, the Tortoise continues to plod on and on, and by the time the Hare awakes from his nap, he’s too late. He’s awoken just in time to watch the Tortoise cross the winning line!
Says the Tortoise: “Plodding wins the race, SUCKA!” (I’m pretty sure that’s how it went 🙂
This fable is actually a powerful message for life and personal growth.
In the past, I have always operated as a Hare. I loved to dash and dart, hither and thither, between projects, weekend events and the latest trends. My focus scattered, mind racing.
Heck, even my dating life used to operate like that (not recommended, ladies)!
Like the Hare, I would burst through the gate of every new commitment with tremendous passion and enthusiasm, only to grow tired or bored halfway in.
And then I would blame myself for not having what it took.
Can you relate?
Do you ever make commitments or goals with wholehearted sincerity and enthusiasm, but not enough actual fire or focus to see it through to the very end (and then secretly self-criticize and wonder what went wrong?)
Truth be told, a life of the Hare had me in a perpetual cycle of starting over and then starting over again. It just didn’t get me anywhere.
And while I used to think I was the problem, I came to learn that just wasn’t true.
And you’re certainly not the problem either.
In fact there is no problem. There is just commitment, focus and mindset.
Welcome to the Tao of the Tortoise!
I think the secret to adopting the Tao of the Tortoise is simple. That is, you don’t necessarily need to know the “how” – the “how am I going to ever afford going back to school?” or “how am I going to ever meet a life partner when all I ever do is work?” Never mind the how.
You also don’t need to worry about the HOW LONG either. It doesn’t matter how long it takes! Because, really, who is counting anyway?
What matters is that you know where you’re going (i.e. have a vision) and that you’re 100% committed to getting there, one foot in front of the other until you arrive.
(insert cheesy quote about the importance of enjoying the journey)
It’s true though, all of those self-help books about enjoying the journey. The sooner you learn to enjoy the journey and pursue something for the process of getting there (instead of the reward on the other side), the sooner the sunshine of your mind and life will return.
But easier said than done, right? (Are you even still awake or is this story too cliché for you?)
Look, as someone who often strives to “get it right” or has a loooonnnngggg history of avoiding failure (*cough* that’s me *cough*), I know how challenging it can be to switch gears.
It’s taken me a LONG TIME to switch gears. Journaling, meditation and yoga ad nauseam, lots of reflection and positive thinking. I’ve watched countless “Tortoise” friends pass me by in life all the while wondering, where the heck did I go wrong?
But that was never the right question to ask.
“Where the heck did I go wrong” wasn’t going to carry me to the finish line. And it won’t carry you either.
What matters is your ability and commitment to switching gears the moment you recognize an opportunity.
Where in your life have you been taking a nap?
Here is what I can offer:
In order to embody the Tao of the Tortoise, I had to first be humble.
(Well…let me be clear, I was humbled by life and then humbled by life again. Eventually I just chose to stay there.)
The meaningful change came from learning how to move and act from that place of sincere humility. That is step #1.
Following that, I practiced trusting life a little more than before. And then a little bit more and a little bit more.
Notice that I used the word “practice”?
Learning to trust life is like building any other muscle. It takes practice and consistency. You may not think or feel that life is on your side, but I can tell you it is.
That is step #2.
Most importantly, and through it all, I remained 100% committed to one foot in front of the other. With focus, sincere intention and humility, I took one step at a time away from the Hare and toward a life of the Tortoise.
And this, my friend, is step #3.
It certainly hasn’t been easy, and the landscape doesn’t change right away.
But it does change.
And, besides, is “easy” what you’re looking for anyway? Would “easy” actually hold your attention or allow you to enjoy the reward at the end of a race that didn’t require much from you?
So just get going!
Your journey begins right now.