“Why does it have to be so hard?” Aidan asked just before crawling into bed. And then without much hesitation, he looked into my eyes and responded, “I guess if it was easy, more people would do it.”
My son was referring to the fact that on this Friday night he was going to bed at his regular bedtime so that he could be well rested for his 8:15am goalie clinic the next morning. At the age of 12, Aidan already understands that his audacious goals and dreams come at a cost.
Throughout the week, Aidan consistently gets up early so that he can spend 15 minutes doing his goalie specific workouts. He attends weekly goalie clinics, team practices and games and is learning to manage his emotions and thoughts under the pressure of being a AAA goalie. He does this because he truly loves the sport and the position he plays.
But he also understands that this all comes at a cost – there’s a trade-off for traveling this road less taken. It’s consistently going to bed early, eating healthy food, drinking plenty of water, doing well in school, working out, dealing with pressure and disappointment, sore muscles, and sometimes, experiencing just plain-out fatigue.
So why? Why does he not take the easier road and play house league hockey, or, not even play at all?
The straight forward answer: Because this matters to him.
It was a Saturday afternoon and Faith, my wife, and I were doing some shopping at a Canadian Tire store in North York, Ontario. This particular outing was before we had any children and it was also a time when our marriage was experiencing deep inner turmoil.
Ironically, as we were looking at some small kitchen appliances, another young couple came to us and said, “You guys look very happy together, what’s your secret?” Maybe it was because I didn’t want to engage in a conversation with strangers, or maybe it was the fact that I just wanted to be direct, but I responded by saying, “The secret, is that it takes hard work!”
And with that short answer, the young couple smiled and walked away.
Well, almost 20 years have passed since that encounter, but I would still contend that it takes consistent effort and work to create a fulfilling marriage. I would also add that the path becomes much clearer when you know what it is you want.
Why does my son pursue elite goaltending when it would be so much easier for him to choose a path that does not come at such a great cost? Why would my wife and I spend a couple years working with a therapist when it would have been easier to resign and quit on our marriage?
Heck, we had no kids. We could have just walked away!
The answer rests in knowing what you want. It’s in understanding and acknowledging what matters to you and what this gives you. In other words, it’s being truthful with what you value.
Honesty is crucial here. And when I say honesty, I’m referring to self-awareness.
“What do you want?” is the first question a life or relationship coach might ask if you sat down with them to discuss your life goals. Indeed this is a very open-ended question; it’s a deep question that begs for an honest, thoughtful response.
“What do you want?”
Honestly. I’m asking you this question right now: “What do you want?”
For some of you it might be…
- better health
- a vibrant and passionate marriage
- a good friend to be authentic with
- a fulfilling career
- a family that gets along
- good grades in school
- a girlfriend or boyfriend
- knowing that your life is making a difference
Take some time and write out your responses to this question in a notebook, or type them out on your tablet, smartphone or laptop. Now look at what you wrote down and be honest with what is within your control to achieve.
Knowing what is within your sphere of influence is very important. The reason being is this: if we spend our time and energy on things that are outside our realm of control, we will only get frustrated and miss the mark on what truly matters.
So be clear on this one!
Let’s say John comes to me for some help and I ask him, “What might be the best use of the hour we have together?” John then goes on to tell me that he wants to know how he might inspire his wife to run with him so that they can spend more time together and so that she can be in better shape.
Question: I know it may seem obvious, but is what John wants within his control?
Though John wants to spend more time with his wife (this is good!), though he wants to see her be in better shape (sounds noble, but why?), what John really needs is to awaken to the truth of what is within his control.
Choosing to love his wife, no matter what, is within his control; to love (a verb) is within his sphere of influence.
If John stated, “Carl, I want to learn how I can be more romantic and passionate with my wife.” This honest answer could lead to personal breakthroughs for John and his marriage.
This is where Clarity of Being and Purpose can take root in John’s life so that he experiences Clarity of Action. And this path will always cultivate satisfaction and fulfillment.
But let’s also be clear here. Like Aidan, John will have days and even weeks or months when he’ll say, “Why does this have to be so hard?” And then he will need to remember his “why” and that all good things come at a cost.
When I was struggling in my marriage, when I thought I wanted to call it quits, it was my deeper desire for something better – something greater – that kept me going. I loved Faith and wanted for us to experience a vibrant and passionate marriage together. I just wasn’t sure how. My son, Aidan, is devoted to goaltending because he is clear on what he wants, and what is, and what is not, within his control.
So again I ask, “What do you want that is truly within your control to achieve?”
PS. What you truly want could be a difficult challenge to follow through on, and it might even be risky; you could suffer loss. But remember: if it were easy, more people would be doing it.
PPS. Traveling the road less taken is not one that you can do alone; we as humans need to live in community. You need a tribe where you feel supported, inspired and loved.
Until next time…
Be You. Be Unitas.
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