The Only Difference is Reflection
Imagine you're in a desert where the sun never sets, and you've been walking for hours.
It's warm, and it's taking its toll. Your mind and body are exhausted. There's no oasis in sight and the sun continues to beat down on you.
All you can do is continue to walk towards the sun on the horizon, but it's not getting any closer, at least not any time soon.
Tired, you decided to sit down and take a look behind you. In the sand are your footprints, and there are thousands of them.
By reflecting on the footprints, you see how much progress you've made.
The break, and the reflection have motivated you to keep moving forward. It's also inspired you to ponder on how to make your journey towards the sun simpler.
Suddenly, you see someone else in the distance, they're walking toward the horizon too. You run over, and you say hello.
They have the same problem as you, they're chasing the sun, and they feeling stuck.
You have a conversation and you tell them to look at their footprints, they smile. On their back is a sledge. You ask them why they're not using it.
They tell you they didn't realise it was useful, but they found it along their journey and decided it was worth picking up.
Now, together, you journey towards the sun.
Together, you climb up perilous dunes and then together, you use the sledge to slide down those hills.
You're making progress twice as fast as before, but after a few hours, it still doesn't feel as if you're getting any closer. However, you thank yourself for your new friend, and you both continue on your journey forwards.
As you talk, you come to two revelations.
First, if you turn around and look behind, you'll always be able to see that you're making progress. Even if the sun isn't getting any closer, all you need to do is reflect to see the results.
Second, that along your journey, you'll encounter people who will be happy to help and support you. In return, you'll be able to help these people on their journey be the best versions of themselves possible.
The journey is nowhere near over, but you're able to take solace in these two things.
So, you continue chasing the sun.
The sun is our goals and objectives, the desert represents the journey, and the footsteps represent our progress so far.
It doesn't matter what your goals or dreams are—you're on a journey towards what is meaningful and impactful to you.
Why a desert? Well, by default, we're not programmed to be satisfied with our lives. Whether you're a millionaire or a street sweeper, you will hate where you are unless you reflect on your progress.
Do you remember who you were 5 years ago? Chances are, you're not the same person, in 5 years there's been significant impact.
The same is true for the last 5 days and the last 5 hours.
Right now, you're making progress by reading this article. A few hours ago, you made progress by having a meal to fuel your body. No matter what life you lead, time is moving you forwards.
And sometimes, you're able to control that direction consciously, and sometimes it's beyond your control
But no matter what, you have the conscious choice to take a look at the steps you've made to become who you are today, and be happy or angry.
Happy that you're continuously making progress, that you're learning and that you're taking the time to understand and embark on this journey. Even happy that you've made enough mistakes to realise what is valuable to you and how you need to move forward.
Or be you can be angry. Angry that you're not where you wanted to be, that you've made many mistakes and that you're a failure for not reaching your goals yet.
In the case of reflection, happiness is always a choice, because you decide what experiences mean to you.
Be happy that you walked around in circles and finally found your way out. Be happy that the journey's taken as long as it has because you've learnt.
When you choose happiness instead of anger, your inner critic will shut the fuck up and you'll start to meet other people that are on the same journey as you.
When you're not fighting with your inner critic, you'll find friends because you believe you're able to help them in return. You'll be able to help them be the best version of themselves, and you'll help them.
When you're walking through the desert, punished by the heat and feeling exhausted, unless you reflect positively on your journey, you'll be on a journey that you're desperate to end.
Life, no matter who you are isn't easy, but it's much harder when you're battling with anger and your inner critic.
Psychologists theorise that our reactions to the present are 95% based on our past experiences. If you're look not looking at your footsteps and you're not reflecting positively on the progress you've made, then you're setting yourself up for failure in the here and now.
If we kill the analogies for a second, look at it this way.
No-one, by default is ever satisfied with who they are, or their progress for long.
When you're forever looking forwards, you don't spend any time reflecting on the progress you've made so far. As humans, we take steps forward every day.
Whether that's lying in bed because our bodies are broken, or crying because things have built up inside, it's all progress.
When you need to rest, allowing your body to heal is a positive step forward. When you your mind an emotional release, that's still progress. Even the greatest philosophers of our time cried once in a while.
What matters is reflection, and how you choose to view your journey so far.
If you choose to look back in anger, then expect your life to be full of anger. I'm not saying you won't accomplish your goals, but you'll burn a tonne of energy, resources and relationships in the process.
Instead of reflecting with negativity, start reflecting with positivity.
Imagine that today, you didn't eat well and you hate yourself for it. You wanted to lose weight, and now you're feeling groggy and bloated.
To transform this from a negative to a positive, think of 3 beneficial things that've come from this event (and be creative if you need to).
1) Be happy that it's a learning experience.
2) Be happy that you have the knowledge to make better decisions.
3) Be happy that no harm came to in you in the process.
Of course, you could reach the same results if you hate yourself for your mistakes, but we've already established how counter-intuitive that is, so why bother?
There is nothing wrong with being unhappy with the actions you've taken. But instead of filling your life with hate, reflect positively on your progress and reap the benefits that come with it.
You'll only be able to withstand the desert, and continue chasing the sun if you do.
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