The one thing you can learn from my 150 days away

 

If I was a millionaire, one of the things I’d do is wear a brand new pair of socks each day.

There is nothing – and I mean nothing – like putting on a pair of socks straight from the pack, never been worn. Even thinking about it gives me a nice shiver.

So it’s with great dismay I share this with you: I haven’t worn new socks in five months. My socks now are essentially shoes, so firmed up are they with wear, washing and the dirt of a couple of continents.

My sock drawer is looking a little depleted because I’ve been on the road for nearly half a year.

At the end of 2018 I decided to pack up my life in the UK and embark on a new journey. It’s taken 150 days for me to come full circle – or at least, complete the journey I started with a view to making another, longer journey in the future.

Our life is full of journeys, both great and small. Each day we travel through 24 hours, attempting to make it a good one – or if not good, at least just get through the damn thing. A month seems like a long time, and then when you’re there … poof! It’s gone in a blink. Years rush by and suddenly your journey involves words like ‘decade’ and ‘quarter-century’.

One of my soul sisters has taught me a lot about journeys, and particularly pilgrimages. It’s easy to quote the trope of “It’s about the journey, not the destination”, but if you’re anything like me actually putting that into practice is a lot harder.

From her I learnt about that. I learnt to, sometimes, do something that’s difficult for me: take my eyes off the prize and place them on what’s around me, right now.

The last five months have been a graduate class in doing that. Because when you’re being presented with The New every day it’s really quite difficult to look ahead – there’s just too much stuff in the way.

In a conversation about travel I recently had on Instagram, I suggested travel was not a goal (#30countriesandcounting – gross) but an experience. In that conversation, and with that in mind, I suggested if this question might be a useful one to ask: “Am I ready to have this experience, knowing it will stay with me for the rest of my life?”

And this question can be asked of everything. It can be asked of your life, right now, because experiences – and the opportunities for experiences – surround us constantly.

In our work, we’re thrust into experiences (whether we like it or not).

We’re asked to do things, daily, which might be brand new to us. Or we might be repeating the same thing we’ve done every day for the last few years. A good question to ask yourself is “Am I ready to have this experience, knowing it will stay with me for the rest of my life?”.

Am I ready to send this difficult email?
Am I ready to tackle this disagreement head on?
Am I ready to come up with something exciting?
Am I ready to do my best?

If the answer is no, no I’m not ready to have this experience, there are two things to do.

First, recognise you’ll never really be ready – not fully. That’s okay. That’s good. Total prepared-ness is a myth, just like complete perfection. 80% ready is good enough. Hey, 60% ready will probably work. Recognise that gap between you-right-now and you-in-the-future is a gap which must be filled by a leap of faith.

Second, ask yourself whether there is something you can do to ready yourself a little more. Can you revisit some tips from an article, or ask for advice? Can you reach out to test the waters? Can you beta-version this experience?

I had beta-versioned this experience of being away for five months when I took a two-month sabbatical from my full-time job back in 2013.

But ultimately, I was only maybe 60% ready for everything that happened this time. I thought I was 80% ready. Absolutely not! But turns out a leap of faith, whether you’re reaching for the last 20% or the last 40%, is still a leap of faith.

This is, really, the main lesson I want to offer you from my time exploring the world. Each day, whatever that day holds, ask yourself if you’re ready to have that experience. Know that you’ll never be fully ready – that you’ll need faith to get there. But consider whether you can ready yourself in a another way; by asking for help, by revisiting what you know, by listening to your intuition, by creating a beta-version.

Because our experiences, great and small, do stay with us for the rest of our lives. How you deal with conflict today informs how you’ll deal with it in a few years. How you create today informs your abilities to create in the future. Experiences resonate. What echo would you like to hear?


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