I’m just coming back from a family trip to Costa Rica where we had a lot of fun, seeing numerous wild animals in the jungle, snorkeling and relaxing in an awesome eco lodge with a fantastic view over the jungle and the Pacific Ocean. We also had quite a few unexpected events as often in travel adventures: 2 of my kids got sick on our way there (a stomach virus they had got right before leaving), my wife sprained her ankle in the middle of the jungle and had to be carried back to the station and to end the trip on one leg, we had a flat tire (due to a shock in the off road part of the drive) on our 7h drive back to the airport and we missed our connection in Miami on our flight back home due to the poor management of the airline company to go through the whole custom/security/luggage circuit with my wife in a wheel chair, so we had to fly on another company later during the day…. But overall, we had a great time.
During our 2 days in the jungle in the Corcovado park, where we slept in a very simple base camp with a roof but no walls, just mosquito nets around the beds, hearing the howler monkeys at 4am in the dark night (if you have never heard them, it sounds like a dinosaur, really), we went for various hikes with a guide and looked for wild animals. And I found this quest was a great metaphor for how we go through our lives / career:
- If you just hike on the path, on your own, looking in front of you or even just at your feet, then you won’t see a lot of things, especially if you walk fast. Of course, an animal might appear in your field of vision, just like synchronicities happen in life, but the chances that you see something interesting are very low. And yet I believe this is what most of us do in life. We are on a path and we move on so fast and so focused on ourselves and on what’s right in front of us that we miss out a lot. It can be enjoyable by the way, but there is so much more.
- If you start to pay more attention, to watch off the path, on the sides and even behind you, from the ground to the sky, listening to the sounds, then you will see more things. If you slow down and even pause, you will more easily detect any movement by contrast to the stillness (that’s the benefit of meditation or just doing nothing at times). This is like developing your awareness in your life. The more you slow down, the more you listen to yourself and to others, the more you explore outside of what you know or think outside the box, the more you will understand yourself and others, the more possibilities you will see, the more you will realize that you can be at cause in your life as opposed to be at the effect of your life and the more likely you’ll be able to create the life you REALLY want.
- Then you can hire a guide. And that makes all the difference. He knows where to look at, he’s an expert in making the invisible visible. Numerous times, I wondered how he had spotted an animal 50m away hidden in the trees. In a way, it’s like having a coach who helps you see what you can’t see by yourself (ie your blind spots). Like the guide in the jungle, a coach will also partner with you to ask you what you would like to try and see (what do you want in your life), challenge you to continue the hike even if it is hot and tiring (ask my kids) providing that you are clear and committed to your goals, will support you if you get hurt on the way (ask my wife), just like when unpleasant things happen in life. I am using the example of the coach because this is what I do, but any other type of support will help depending on what you are looking for. And this will dramatically increase your chances to achieve your goals.
- Eventually, there is another part in this game, which for me is the hardest one. I call it the Puma metaphor. In the Corcovado park, there are some pumas but they are very rare to see (the last time our guide saw it was more than a year ago). But some people saw one the day before us. So suddenly, the possibility to see one seemed higher and we started to hope. But when we were hiking in the jungle, we some time had to choose a path or another. And we had to accept that we would see what would be on our path and not what was on the other path. We can do our best to look for these animals by paying attention, slowing down, hiring a guide, but in the end, we can’t control everything. We can’t control what animals will be on our path, especially the rare puma. And we have to accept it. Same in life: we can do the work, put in the hours, we can do our best and yet, there is a part that is not in our control. For instance, I can serve and impact someone very powerfully, propose to work with this person in the best way because of all the possibilities I see for him/her, and yet he/she might not become a client for plenty of good reasons out of my control. Or you can have done everything you could to be hired for a position and even be THE one for the job but the timing is not OK for all sorts of reasons (no budget, internal hiring policy, etc…).
And sometimes, we are so focused on what we really want and don’t have that we disregard what else is present. In this analogy, if you are only focused on seeing the puma, you might ruminate the frustration to not see it, you might fall into victimhood (this is unfair, some people saw one yesterday, etc…), you might focus on other people’s path (if they see the puma, that would be super unfair, wouldn’t it? 😊). In doing so:
- you forget to focus on your own path which make it less likely that you are going to achieve your goals
- you are not present to all the other amazing animals which are on your path. We didn’t see the puma, but se saw a herd of 30-40 dangerous peccaries (sorts of wild boars) passing 20m away from us which was really impressive, a Michael Jackson bird (which makes backwards moves similar to the moon walk, so funny), a baby tapir suckling his mother (which is also quite dangerous), a crocodile, lots of monkeys jumping from a branch to another, some with their baby on the back, some koatis, some toucans and beautiful ara macaos (red/purple parrots) and more. And that’s enough for us to be super grateful for these hikes. Same in life, we might get so focused on one shiny thing we want that we forget about all that we have, or can have, that is already amazing.
Finale note: this doesn’t suggest you have to give up or be resigned to not see the Puma (ie achieve your goals). You can see the bigger picture and if what you REALLY want in life is to see a puma, then you can come back the next year for a week instead of 2 days, you can visit other places with more chances to see one and do this year after year. This is called determination, perseverance, commitment and you can apply this to anything you want to create.
So, what is (are) the puma(s) in your life? Are you committed to see it (them) while accepting that it might not unfold exactly as you plan for? Are you focusing on your path rather than others pass and are you seeing all the other animals on your journey?