Jan 19, 2009

Taking a Long-Term View of Life

When you are unemployed and not working on projects that have visible outcomes or milestones, it's hard to keep going day after day. Perhaps there are some markers that can confirm that you have been doing something everyday, like the number of resumes you submitted or the number of books you read, but they don't usually result in the kind of gratifications that motivate you to repeat your work next day.

So when Haruki Murakami talks about being novelist - how it requires him to set the pace (stop when you feel you can do more) and stick with it diligently day after day to work on a long-term novel - I can see how applicable this is to my life. It comes down to the fact that you are the only one who can discipline yourself (not your boss or business schedule) and you are the only benchmark that you can go against. This is probably why I was never a fit for working in a large corporation. Doing something because I'm told to, in a way that I was instructed, and with an ever-changing objective or timeline are all opposite to this way of life that Murakami leads (and I identify with).

But what was really interesting and engaging to me was how Murakami takes the same approach to his running AND finds life learning lessons in the process. He realizes something new about himself or experiences the feeling and sensation that he had never experienced before - all changing something within him in the process.

Running, though it is tightly integrated in his life, isn't what he does to earn his living or save the world. He's not doing this to win races. Yet, when I think about life in the grand scheme of things I realize that he may be accomplishing what we should accomplish with our lives (or at least some of them). It then made me think about those years that I spent in the corporate world - was I accomplishing anything for my life? First, I thought I wasn't, that I had wasted my time, but then I had to take that back: I did learn a lot of life lessons while I was there, even though the things that I produced may not have had any positive impact on me personally or anybody's life.

So the epiphany that I had reading this book was that it's the process over a period of time that brings you the life learning, and it almost doesn't matter what the actual process is - it doesn't even have to have own meaning or usefulness. The key is to consistently give all you have to that activity, and to aim to do that for a long period of time.

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