In the movie “Soul”, they tell a story about a fish.
A fish swims up to an older fish and says, “I’m trying to find this thing they call ‘the ocean'”
“The ocean? the older fish says, “That’s what you’re in now.”
“This?” says the young fish. “This is water. What I want is the ocean!”
Admittedly, I am like this fish all the time. Always searching for what’s next. Always searching for the next big thing.
Recently, I have had various opportunities coming my way. Exciting opportunities. But as they have come up, I have taken them as a sign to take a step back to get a lay of the land before proceeding.
What if I’m already in ‘the ocean’ and these opportunities are just distractions from what really matters?
Too often, once somebody we love passes away, we think deeply about our lives. But most of the time, if we’re honest, that perspective lasts just a few weeks and then we return to our normal cadence of life. It’s the rare occasion when we truly make changes in our lives. Shouldn’t we re-evaluate more regularly?
Two of my favorite quotes from Seneca’s, On the Shortness of Life are as follows:
“But when time is squandered in the pursuit of pleasure or in vain idleness, when it is spent with no real purpose, the finality of death fast approaches and it is only then, when we are forced to, that we at last take a good hard look at how we have spent our life - just as we become aware that it is ending. Thus the time we are given is not brief, but we make it so. We do not lack time; on the contrary, there is so much of it that we waste an awful lot.”
“A life well spent can truly be a long life.”
Generally speaking, we know the things that make us feel satisfied, content, and happy. It’s rarely the fleeting top-of-the-mountain experiences. The things that truly matter in life are non-material and non-experiential. It’s relationships. It’s making a contribution. It’s having an impact.
Amazingly, none of the things that matter cost anything at all. They just require time, a little effort and caring for others.
As I feel a mountaintop experience coming within reach, my thought here is simply to remind myself not to ask the question, “What’s next?” since that’s what typically follows. The mountaintop and what’s next are distractions.
Everything I could ever want in life already surrounds me. I have a family who loves me for who I am and who I love in return. I have friends who are like family. I do my best to make an impact in the lives of others through various means.
Beyond that, what else is there?
I think not. My hope is to stay grounded in those things that are truly important and build my life around them, not ephemeral “achievements.”
External things can only serve to distract us from what truly matters because they have the illusion of mattering. The illusion of fulfillment. It’s always an illusion.
The legacy we leave isn’t found on our Net Worth Statement. It’s in the time we spend with the people we love.
We’re already in the ocean.
Stay the course,
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This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.
H/T to Justin Castelli for pointing me toward the fish story.