To the Moon and Back
Last week the world celebrated 50 years of the landing on the Moon: a massive achievement that united people in a time of crisis and division. Earth looked so much more peaceful from the distance.
Why is it so important to celebrate these milestones. So that we don’t forget. If you think this is a bit too simplistic let me ask you when was last time you celebrated a milestone. Cannot come up with an answer? You are not alone.
We are very much always projected into the future. Think about a time you accomplished something and how long that feeling of triumph and elation lasted. Probably not too long before you immediately came up with a new goal. Living in a culture where everything is in our reach if we put in the time and the effort, we immediately create new challenges for ourselves.
While this keeps us motivated and competitive, it carries with it a big risk. Continually moving the goalpost, we cannot help but feel a let down because we still have to achieve our latest goal. Instead of reminding ourselves of what we have accomplished so far, we tend to focus on the work to be done. Keeping our eyes firmly on the finishing line, we forget we have been working hard already to get where we are.
Let’s take one big significant moment in our life, for example our graduation as I have just been to my daughter’s. When we think back we recognise the accomplishment but we tend to forget the process; the lessons we had to attend, the papers we had to write and the exams we had to take in order to graduate. We went through all these years of study patiently because the timeframe punctuated by small achievements (handing in the papers or passing an exam) made it much easier to acknowledge our progress towards the main goal.
Once we leave the age of society-measured-milestones, (getting our driving licence, graduation, marriage…) the path to success gets a bit more complicated. First all we have to come up with our definition of success. Likely to be influenced by stories of people who “made it” we dive in and we don’t feel accomplished until we get to the final prize. Somehow the concept of a “step by step” approach which supported us in our earlier years, is completely forgotten. Launched in the trajectory of being the next Bill Gates or buying ourselves an earlier retirement, we cannot really feel good about ourselves. We want to get there and rather fast. It doesn’t matter what we have already achieved and what we have been learning on the way. Surprisingly no plaque commemorating our graduation, no Golden Globe for our successful relationship or raising our children and certainly no Oscar for our career achievements on our shelf.
What if we started to celebrate our milestones? In my job as a coach I find that once my clients acknowledge their past achievements, they rediscover the inner strengths they forgot they had. As a result they feel energised and more confident in facing their new challenges. By reconnecting with their past experiences, they can see that any goal is part of a learning process that can be divided in small successful rewarding steps. Once the focus shifts to the experience of learning while in the process, working toward the goal becomes much more pleasurable and less challenging.
When the astronauts landed on the moon, they sent back beautiful pictures of Earth. Our planet was there to symbolise the distance they had traveled.
Next time we blow out the candles on the birthday cake, rather than making a wish, we could spend a moment to celebrate our past years as that continuous chain of successes and learning opportunities that made us what we are now and can support us in our future endeavours.