Let’s say you go for a bike ride. The conditions are perfect and you set off for a long trek that will take you most of the day. You start out full of energy and optimism. You savor the clear air and azure sky and make great time for the first hour.
As expected, your energy starts to wane and you stop for a break. You feel refreshed and hop back in the saddle, planning to stop every hour or so. You have no real schedule so you stop whenever you feel like it. Each break gives you time to regain energy and reflect on how far you have come.
On one break, you notice that your front tire seems low. No worries, you brought your pump. You fill it and carry on. As you ride, you are very aware of the front tire – you notice every wiggle and you feel every pebble you hit. You become so distracted that you stop for the next break sooner than planned.
You were right. The tire is a bit low again. There must be a slow leak somewhere. To play it safe, you re-route so you can head home. You are grateful that you have a pump, but frustrated at the thought of stopping frequently to re-fill. But you’ll be fine and you ride on.
By the time you are a few miles from home, you are cursing at every stop sign and car that pass you. You can’t wait to get off this piece of sh*t bike! You wish you would’ve bailed hours ago and just called a friend to pick you up. You wasted a lot of time that could’ve been done doing something enjoyable.
I realize this is a contrived story, but I love the metaphor. I have been operating with a flat tire for some time now. I pump it up by traveling to conferences, meeting new people, learning and teaching new ideas and reading books. I tell myself that if I can focus on the journey and not the setbacks, then I will enjoy the ride.
Many times, I want to give up and hurl this bike into the dumpster. Why can’t I accept that this tire will never, ever be fixed? It is exhausting to ride the highs and lows. In my fatigue, the only thing I can think of is a new tire!
Other times I convince myself that flat tires are good; they are opportunities to grow stronger. And there is truth in that. If my current situation were more gratifying, then maybe I would not have tried my hand at speaking, writing, traveling, etc. And I have certainly learned A LOT about what not to do. Just like real muscles, I needed the resistance to develop some professional “muscles.”
I’ve cut the number of hours that I’m “biking” lately. And the result? As expected, my frustration has decreased and my energy is up. I do more of the things that fill me up, and less of what drains me. Seems like a simple equation for happiness.
What are the flat tires in your life? The things that started off enjoyable, but now only bring you grief? Are you going to keep filling the flat or do you have better things to do?