Photo by nathan burrows on Unsplash
We currently live in a culture that revolves around instant gratification. People want things now, even when realistically speaking some of those things take some time to achieve. Whether it is a happy marriage, a promotion, or a successful carrier, there’s a process involved. Life is becoming more and more about immediate results. People focus on what it is that others do to achieve “X” with the hope of achieving the same results but faster. Consequently, the web is saturated with articles on “how to achieve or get to X faster”. It is this constant focus on speed that not only minimizes the importance of the results achieved but can even become an obstacle to real sustainable progress.
As I was reflecting on our culture’s infatuation with immediate results, I remembered a quote from my favourite comic strip, “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle, most of us have gears that we never use” (Peanuts – May 29, 1981). I found this metaphor quite interesting when I related it to a specific personal experience. A couple of years ago, I decided to attend a spinning class as I was very curious about why people got into it so much, even though they were not going anywhere. Every time I went to the gym, the class was full and people looked like they were in the race of their life. The first few sessions were challenging for a variety of reasons, beginning with the fact that I not only had to adjust the bike to my height but I had to get used to the bike itself. Secondly, I was trying to go at the group speed, so I switched the gears up and down as per the instructor’s directions. This not only left me exhausted but was taking away from the exhilarating experience that others were having and that had attracted me to the class in the first place.
I believe that something similar happens in life. We have the skills and traits (like the ten speeds of the bike) necessary for the journey but when we start to pay attention to what society dictates, we begin to lose sight of the road and the bike itself. We not only focus on the speed of others and the skills and traits that they have, but we try to develop the same skills and apply them to every stage of the journey to achieve faster results. Consequently, when the journey is uphill or downhill, we don’t know how to stay on the course without feeling exhausted, losing control and crashing as we go. We seem to get so involved with the idea of getting there faster that we forget that each part of the journey is different and has different requirements. We need to keep in mind that depending on the journey ahead, both our bike and ourselves need be re-adjusted to meet the demands of the road to be travelled.
It is important to remember that there are more speeds to the bike. And by this I mean that we have a variety of skills and traits, which when further developed and appropriately utilized can lead us to achieve real and sustainable progress instead of immediate short-lived results. Yes, there will be ups and downs, but that is where we need to focus on our own skills or traits, and most importantly, go at our own pace. Every journey is different. We may take longer to travel a specific road. We may need to stop for a while before we continue on. We may fall and need help getting back on the bike. But remain encouraged: The journey is a process not an end to itself. After all, once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget!
Peanuts © (1981). Peanuts Worldwide LLC.