Choose your own story

It happened some time ago. I was walking my kid to kinder garden. While I was pushing the trolley up the street my mind wondered about the challenges that awaited me at work that day. I was getting stressed. I knew it would be a rough day, full of frictions in some meetings and with hardly enough time to finish the document I was supposed to deliver.

I looked up and saw this other guy. He was senior, in his sixties, and was walking his white little dog. White hair, very casually dressed: sneakers, t-shirt and a vest. He looked in pretty good shape, and seemed so relaxed. It made me aware of what an exceptional morning that was. A bright sun was warming us while a cold breeze blowed the trees' leaves above our heads. It got me thinking: "That is one lucky guy. I would love to find myself there in some years. Enjoying a morning like this without anything else to worry about." I envied him, and hoped that my hard work and abnegation would pay out in the longer term, when I would earn the right to enjoy and relax on a morning like this.

But I had a struck of insight as I passed over him. I was walking the very same street, at the very same hour, on that very same wonderful morning. What was then so different between him and me? What if I decided to enjoy the ride, to feel the sun and the cold breeze, to look at my kid, to tell him something stupid and to laugh with him? It felt terribly obvious at that point that I had just defaulted to worrying instead of deciding to enjoy. Moreover, if I put myself in the shoes of those guys hanging on the back of the garbage truck that I saw that morning... what must have they thought about me? "Look at that lucky guy, walking his son to school on a great morning; I wish I could have what he has." 5 seconds before I was feeling miserable because my day threatened me with terrible prospects. One moment later, I was feeling like a lottery winner.

We all tell ourselves a story. It is an inner dialogue that happens within us, to all of us (you know what I'm talking about.) It shapes the way we perceive the world.

We have default stories we like to tell. Stories of sacrifice and abnegation, of injustice and misery. Stories where a lonely victim has to fight through the extraordinary challenges that life throws, where he overcomes all of the obstacles only to realize that he is mistreated and misunderstood by the others. Undervalued and exhausted, one day he will free up from all this and find a new land where justice and balance reigns. Sounds familiar?

Too bad we don't use more often the story of a lucky guy that is born in a privileged place at an exciting time, that enjoys every moment fully and captures every opportunity to do something interesting. That guy jumps into every problem for the sake of learning, of finding a different way to sort things out, or just for fun because, in the end, what's the worst that can happen? So he confidently smiles and finds a chance to instill some art into everything that he does, no matter how dull. And in response for so much luck, he lives forever grateful.

The awesome thing about this is, telling youself one story or another is a matter of choice, not happenstance. Remember what Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Don't get trapped in your own delusions.

Have a nice long weekend to everyone in Spain. Use that time wisely!