The life you want is right in front of you!
I’d like to share a story by Heinrich Boll, it’s been adapted over the years, but this is the basic theme:
A businessman on vacation visited a small coastal village during his travels. One morning as he was talking a stroll along the beach, he spotted a fisherman who had just caught an impressive sized fish. The fisherman had a friendly face, so he decided to walk over and have a chat.
"That is an impressive looking fish you caught there. How long did it take you to catch that?" the businessman asked.
"Not long at all" the fisherman said as he looked up from the task of packing up his rod and reels.
The businessman was intrigued: "Why don't you stay out here a bit longer and try to catch more fish?" he asked.
The fisherman looked down at his catch and replied, “I've caught enough fish for one day.”
“But, what will you do with the rest of your time today?” the businessman asked.
“I’ll go home to clean and prepare the fish. Then I might play with my children for a while and take a stroll with my wife along the beach. I might do a few things around the house and tonight after we ate this delicious fish, we might wander into the village to have a drink or two with a few friends"
The businessman looked puzzled by this reply, “But why quit the fishing now?” he asked, “You’re doing so well, and the fish are obviously biting, you should catch a few more fish and then sell them at the market. If you’d do that for a couple of weeks, who knows, you could maybe earn enough money to buy a boat. With a boat you could surely catch more fish.”
“You make interesting observations,” said the fisherman, “but why would I want even more fish?”
“If you catch more fish, you could sell more and in a couple of months you will be able to hire other fishermen to help you catch even more.” said the businessman.
“Hire other people? Why would I want that?” replied the fisherman.
“Well, it seems that there isn't much competition out here fishing, the potential to make a lot of money is yours for the taking. To me it sounds like a very promising business. After a couple years and some hard work you could have dozens of fishing boats working for you, you could make millions!”
“Millions?” Exclaimed the fisherman, “Wow, but what would I do with millions of dollars?”
“That’s the beauty of it.” exclaimed the businessman staring longingly out over the ocean, “When the time is right for you, you could retire. Then you could spend your days playing with your children, taking strolls on the beach with your wife, and seeing your friends every evening.”
What does this beautiful little tale teach you about our modern day? We could make the obvious conclusions about anti-capitalism and anti-work ethic but this story really resonates with me in terms of how I have allowed my identity and self-worth to be wrapped in the idea that I needed to have an illustrious career or a significant amount of money in my bank account. Not to mention the fact that I was always hoping for the body that goes hand in hand with my perception of a successful life.
What this story teaches me is that happiness is something to be recognised in the present and not something we need to chase in the future.
Life can be truly simple if we allow ourselves to be still and listen to the lessons it teaches us. It invites us to live the life we were born to live and not the life dictated to us by society and those we perceived as significant (who never truly play a role in our lives). When we get rid of the clutter, the make-believes and the need to impress and we manage to embrace simplicity, we can pursue those things in life that matters most. It invites us to remove the distractions that keep us from living and enjoying life to the fullest.
Can you simplify your life and stop chasing the world's definition of success and happiness? Can you make a decision to experience happiness right now with what is in front of you? I am certainly going to try!