The problem was the duck didn’t cross the road, and that sets our story in motion.
Lena is one of my favourite women in the world. Smart, I think at times more intelligent than me. She is also about half a generation younger than me. It makes a difference in how you see the world. Lena’s home life was not Christian unlike my own. That gives a different view of the world. I’m not a Christian, but my father was a Christian Minister. Those early years colour all our thinking for good and ill. The important thing is to recognize this; we can then evaluate our early life, see what works for us, and bring happiness and meaning to us, the rest of the world, and what does not.
I remember when the gay marriage debate was raging in Australia, Lena just merely asking the question, “Why do we need marriage anyway?” A good question to ask. Now that question would spark off an entirely different debate.
You can see I value her friendship; it can challenge the very foundations of my thinking.
I first meet Lena through her long-time partner and father to her two great kids, Richard. I was lucky enough to live just down the road from Sky High, a restaurant near the top of the mountain where I lived. When I needed a job, Richard was kind enough to offer me one. It was good part-time work. When it was just a 200-metre walk up the road, even better… and I got a free meal. Wonderful.
Lena was one of the chefs – we hit it off straight away.
However – Let’s get back to the ducks!
Lena and I catch up for a meal maybe half a dozen times a year. We generally go for a brunch or lunch at one of the local restaurants, someplace between both our homes. The conversation wanders between music, philosophy, art, politics, careers, life meaning – it is fantastic. I was looking forward to it.
That morning I got to the end of my drive and went to turn right, as was my habit. However, I stopped and thought, “Let me do something different today”. I hate a rut of routine; it can cause us to miss out on other ways of seeing, living, and meaning. I turned left
The road left was a little unknown to me, but I thought there was possibly a back way to the café.
Always good to have an adventure, even if it is just around the corner.
By the time I got to the bridge across a creek, I was down to a single lane road. Multi acre blocks of land surrounded me with lovely homes—a nice part of the world.
I rounded the bend, and there they were – the ducks. Mum, Dad and half a dozen chicks all lined up one after the other. They were making a home of the bush around the creek. Lucky for all of us, I wasn’t driving quickly.
They saw me and walked a little faster, not getting out the way but just walking more quickly. I slowed down, and they walked slower, still in the way. I sped up. They walked faster, and you guessed it – still in the way. I tried to shock them a little. I sped up and braked hard, and if I could get them to fly or get back in the scrub on the verge, we would all have a happy day – but alas. They just crossed the road from the right side to the left, but still right in front. They were walking as fast as their little legs would go. It was a beautiful sight. I smiled. What could you do? It was a lesson in patience for me. And I was having an adventure. Fortunately, I didn’t continue too much longer; The road widened a little, and I could get into the verge and get around them. And as I rounded the next corner, looking in the rearview mirror, I could see them still happily lined up waddling down the middle of the road. I had to smile.
It got me thinking. How many of us are just like the ducks?
We have taken a life path or a course of action, which initially seems to go very well or indeed, it could be an action we have done many times. Then there is the horrific event that we suddenly see coming up behind us. Something that could threaten our existence, or at the very least, cause us some pain and suffering.
What do we do?
More often than not, we do the same as our ducks. We walk a little faster, double down on our strategy, hoping it misses us. Sometimes we are lucky we get a different warning. Again, what do we often do, cross the road to the other side? In reality, our life strategy hasn’t changed. It may look different, but for all intense and purposes, it is the same.
Sometimes, like our ducks, we are lucky enough there is enough space for the deadly thing to sail on by, and we survive. Yet, we continue down the same path; And just like our ducks, there is always another car coming up the road. And yet the crazy thing, just like the ducks, we have assets that can quickly solve the problem. I think the ducks forgot they are birds – They could fly out of the way. Or move a half a metre off the road and into safety.
How many of us have a health scare, a stroke or heart attack and survive; or perhaps in many cases, something seemly less significant but with a big sting in its tail if ignored.
We stay in relationships, or careers we hate, change companies hoping it’s a little better. We are sometimes staying because we don’t know how to be any different. We develop poor financial habits. We double down on our behaviours. Keep smoking; go to a better brand. Drink too much to dead the pain, hoping we don’t see what’s coming down the road. Then in the endless tomorrow, we will start that better health plan. Hoping against hope that what we suspect is coming down the road behind us is not there.
At times our trap is that we have so much emotionally invested in a particular way of being that we don’t know how to be anything else. We don’t want to admit to ourselves that what we have been doing has been a waste. So if we can just run a bit harder, shift around the road ahead a little, and what perhaps what’s behind us is not there are all. We hope. Yet denied the very life force and all its talents that lie inside us – the opportunity to fly us into a new world. Or perhaps garner that quieter time by just moving off the road in the peaceful grasslands, allowing time of reflection, reflection and the threat to happiness to pass by.
So what to do?
How do we create an environment around ourselves to minimize the risks of being a “duck”?
Here is my list that supports me. There may be some familiar ones. They may be a place to start. Remember, no one knows it all. But I urge you to try some of them and see how you go.
- With any change, start small with things you know you can successfully carry out. It is crucial to building confidence. Early wins are vital.
- Take regular time out. Daily, Weekly, Yearly, to reflect and review what’s going on. Journal, even if it’s a bit haphazard, it’s a good start. Jim Rohn as some insightful ideas on his audio program “The Art of Exceptional Living”. It is dated, but the information is timeless. I use “The Five Minute Journal”.
- Meditation. It doesn’t matter what type, start with 5 min’s a day. It doesn’t matter whether you are any good. If you need some help, check out Centrepointe.com, it is my number one go-to.
- Take time to do some regular stretching each day. About 20 min’s will do it. A flexible body leads to a flexible mind. You will be amazed at how this will free up your mind. Things will “pop” into your head from seemly nowhere. You will find dreams, desires, and hopes will seep up from your unconscious that you didn’t know where there. I practice yoga. I like its structure and its depth of philosophy; A philosophy designed to encourage human development. There are other excellent methods out there. Tai Chi, Qigong, are just others to consider. If all that is a little too scary, find something that gets you stretching each day.
- Add to your general health practitioner (aka, your GP, or MD depending on where you live) an alternative medicine practitioner. A naturopath, or a Chinese Medicine, ayurvedic, indigenous practitioner. Generally, their treatment protocols allow for more time with you. They are also focused on the mind and body being one and look to bring them all into harmony. It will give you more assets to work with; They also have a strong focus on prevention. The most important thing is to be regular with it. As I have done, you may find yourself just doing things, without thinking, that bring you more happiness.
- I have a tech-free day. One day a week, I don’t turn on the computer. It’s incredible how much more joy you find in the day.
- Take time to read every day, even 15 minutes. If necessary, do it on the loo. Or try an audiobook. Try an outlandish book. An author you disagree with; will challenge you to a deeper understanding of your mental landscape.
- Find people outside your current network to hang around.
- Do the opposite of what you would typically do – see what happens. Just shake up your world a little.
The most important thing is to try,
See how you go.
Until Next Time…
PS: just as I completed this article, I went for a walk. As I was near completion, a pair of ducks flying head high at full speed came hurtling towards me. I, of course, “ducked”… (sorry). They disappeared into the distance within seconds. I was glad they didn’t do that the other day; I’d have no story to tell.
Centerpointe – change nearly any aspect of your life.
The Art of Exceptional Living – Jim Rohn. It’s a classic full of foundation material for a good life. Recorded in the 90’s it’s a little dated, but the information is timeless.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion- PhD Robert B Cialdini. An excellent book with a chapter explaining why we double down on our ideas.
“The Five Minute Journal” – A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day