Once upon a time, my parents decided to take up to the European Women’s Football Final. We loaded the car with our bags and strapped ourselves in. Now the football match was the following day, in Blackburn, but we were staying in the hotel by the Bolton stadium. I’m not entirely how it came to be that both the hotel and the event were in different football grounds, but they were.
And at some point in the drive, my father realised he’d programmed the sat-nav with the address of the wrong team’s football stadium. We were heading in the wrong direction.
You can’t always know exactly where you’re going in life, but to act as a compass, to keep me pointing in the right direction I have a few guiding principles.
The connections and relationships that really count are the ones that are genuine
And the first relationship we have is with ourselves. If we hide things from ourselves or pretend to ourselves to be someone we’re not, we end up betraying ourselves. We end up feeling numb and empty.
I value relationships that are honest and open, conducted free from mind-games. These aren’t floppy or squishable relationships, but relationships built with boundaries and clarity of what we want from each other. I also value relationships which aren’t yet formed of super-healthy boundaries and do include the occasional mind-game, but where both people are trying to get better at having an authentic relationship. These things aren’t easy.
Living my life: resiliently, responsively and with a rhythm
I once was told a quote about photography: people always want a better camera, they spend silly money on new cameras and lenses, they fuss about specifications. However, the camera in your hands is always the best one there is. The camera in your hands is the one with which you can take the picture.
To get the most out of life we need to be resilient, there are going to be bad days; we need to be responsive, rather than merely passive towards our environment and the people within it; and we need a rhythm to keep us moving, learning and growing.
Resilience seems obvious enough. Life throws us some tremendous challenges that we are not necessarily equipped to deal with and it helps to not fall flat on our faces every time. We have to actively protect ourselves from too much stress. Say no when necessary. Accept that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. Looking after ourselves matters even when things are going well.
Good things don’t just happen. Good things happen because of how we respond to the world around us. We are responsibly for making our own lives happen, growing our relationships and developing ourselves. Dreams only become reality with action.
Furthermore, the things we tend to value such as our families, friends, homes, careers, educations, physical and mental wellbeing etc. tend to take a lot of time and commitment. To keep at these things, we need to persist, in a regular fashion, with some sort of routine and rhythm of activity. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor were any of my relationships.
And I certainly didn’t recover from PTSD or build any of my current mental strength overnight.
We need to be doing the best we can with the tools we have today. That is enough.
And finally, a hypothesis about interesting people
A friend once remarked that I have wonderful luck at meeting interesting people, to which I responded that all people are interesting, if only you know how to be interested. I don’t believe in uninteresting people. I believe we can all learn to be more interested in one another.
The camera you’ve got is the best one for the photo, take it; the person who’s facing you is your connection to humanity, engage.
All of this together keeps me heading in the direction I want to travel
I’m not going to set off thinking I’m on my way to Bolton when I’ve programmed the sat-nav for Blackburn. I’ve got this mini-philosophy, this compass, to guide me.