Friday, May 20, 2011

If Only

We all experience frustrations at various points in our lives with 'getting over the hump'. For some people it's with their jobs, where they always feel like they're about to make a big leap, but instead they end up taking a small step, or none at all. For some it's with their finances, where they are about to start really cutting down their debt, or put away extra toward that house or retirement or vacation... but then they can't, not yet... maybe next month, or after that next thing is taken care of. For others it's with their ideas, their actions, what they're going to accomplish... anything.

To some, life is a series of "on the brinks". Many of us have friends who are continually talking about what they're going to do - what they are about to accomplish, what big break is just around the corner, what they've learned that will help them turn that corner and keep going. At first, we are often impressed by these people: He's really going to be something one day, we think. Or wow, we wish we could be so driven and focused.

After a time, we start to get a better sense of these people. Some truly do accomplish. Some have always been full of garbage. Some we slowly realize are just talkers: They are always "on the brink", but they're never really doing anything to get over it, as much as they claim they are. And some are in the middle, perhaps a break or two from really turning that corner, perhaps not - genuinely honest, good, motivated people who for whatever reason haven't yet been able to get over that hump.

Sometimes, though, you realize that it's not your friend, your acquaintance, your old classmate or co-worker who is on the brink - it's you. As with other people, this is exciting at first: You see that light ahead of you and it's finally within grasp. Sometimes, you reach that light. Sometimes, you don't. And sometimes, every time you feel like you're getting close, you turn the corner and realize it's still a little further away then you thought, and that can be incredibly draining. You may start to feel that you're turning into that person who will never quite break through, who will always struggle on all these fronts while knowing all along you could succeed, if only...

If only.

It's hard not to be frustrated when life always seems just out of reach. You take a look at what's happened, and try not to get to caught up on the past (if only...) while learning its lessons. You look at yourself to see what you can change (if only I...) and you analyze your situation to see what could be changed (if only...) and you listen to everyone else's advice (if only you...). What's worse, after all that is completed, you often find that you're right back where you started: The path you're on is the best one for you, and hopefully something will break the right way (if only it would) and you'll be fine, or better than fine - amazing, even.

Throughout all of it, and continually forward, you have to approach all this with an upbeat attitude, lest the worries consume you, or the debt overwhelm you, or the lack of success depress you, or the negative disposition make your boss or interviewer not like you or your friends pity you.

The trap people in this situation can fall into - besides the above - is to start looking for a shortcut (if only!). Yes - be creative. Yes - think outside the box. Yes - come up with alternative solutions. But often, once all those options have been attempted, discarded, or deemed to be infeasible for now, the most important quality is going to be resiliency. Know that the best way out, the best way forward, is going to be just pushing forward, slowly and steadily. We always say, and never listen, that "life ain't easy". It's not - life is difficult, and there will be difficult times. There's no magical "get out of debt free" or "find a job" or "suddenly learn an entirely new set of skills in a new field" and especially no "someone has given you $1,000,000!" card in real life. We sometimes do have to put in the time, the effort... and the wait. We sometimes do have to be patient, be resilient. And sometimes, that will be frustrating, and difficult, and depressing... but that is life, and that is how it goes, and that is something that will (hopefully) help you later on when you have overcome that brink - or even if, perhaps especially if, you don't.

If only we could always remember that.