Monday, August 3, 2009

When You Can't Change The Facts, Change The Focus

The next time that you watch a television commercial, try not to watch the foreground, but look into the background and see what is there. You will be surprised at the things you are missing. The background is necessary to fill in the blank spaces of the advertisement, but the details are muted so that you will not focus on them. You are supposed to only pay attention to the main features of the advertisement. It is this way with all of our lives, including our cycling lives.

It is so easy to focus on the large, loud, colorful aspects of life that we often completely wind up looking at all the wrong things, and we lose a great deal in the process. Today, as I was driving, I was feeling a little blue about my employment conditions and lack of progress in our capitalistic society. I was especially feeling blue about my diminishing prospects of "making it" before they put my ashes in the battery compartment of my bike light and bury it.

Upon reflection (eight hours of driving allows for plenty of reflection) I decided to change my focus.

I'm probably never going to be rich. So I will be grateful instead. Let me say at the outset, this is not "settling" nor is it mind games. It is really and truly changing the focus. There are plenty of people around me who earn or have much more money than I do, or ever will. They have better bikes, better homes, better cars, better, better, better. You might be tempted to say, "Miles, you could have had that if you had made better choices!" Maybe, maybe not. We all have a created destiny; our lot in life is chosen for us. If you don't believe that your lot in life was chosen for you, and that you are a self-made man or woman, then your pride is showing. Consider this for starters: you didn't choose your parents, or other ancestry, and you didn't choose the place nor time of your birth. If those factors alone had been changed, you wouldn't be doing what you are doing now. Your life would be different. Maybe better, maybe worse - but different. You are not self-made.

Being grateful includes understanding that my circumstances are partly a result of my choices, but the range of choices allowed to me was decreed by God, and God is good. Therefore, my range of possible choices, though limited, was an expression of his grace and mercy to me. Being grateful also includes improving my choices as He enables me. Remember - we have nothing except it was given to us, even the ability to improve our choices. I may not achieve wealth, but I will be grateful.

I may never be popular. So I will be authentic instead. All of us are to some extent influenced by others. Without an overt effort, we copy the style or mannerisms of those whom we admire. There is nothing at all wrong with that. But imitation taken to extremes will only result in a caricature of the person we admire; and will not clone their success for our benefit. You are a unique person, created by God. So am I. There is no one like you, and your personality, your ideas, and your style are gifts from God to you. Mine too. Therefore I will not copy God's gifts to you, rather I will be me, and discover my God-given gifts.

Being authentic includes being willing to listen to the truth when you hear it, and being willing to speak the truth when you know it. False humility and vain pride are twin sisters. They both have as their object the concern of how others see them. Truly authentic persons are only concerned about the truth, and the truth never needs a majority. Those who aspire to be authentic will be willing to follow, willing to lead, and willing to ride alone when necessary. I may never be popular, but I will be authentic.

Finally, I may never be the greatest. So I will be consistent instead. There can only be one "number one" at any one time. There might be three places on the podium, but the two lower places are the first losers, not the greatest. There will only be one record holder at a time, and the pool of potential record breakers is small enough to leave out most of us most of the time. I refuse to fool myself by swimming in a children's pool while pretending to be crossing the English channel. If I do swim across a child's pool, I will swim with my best stroke, and I will pat myself on the back on the other side.

Being consistent involves being disciplined to follow the path you have chosen whether or not your feelings are willing to come along for the ride. Every day, happens every 24 hours, and the larger units of time, including millenniums are built upon that daily foundation. Faithfully choosing to climb up a ladder, the same one, every day is the heart of consistency. That ladder may not take you up the slopes of Everest, or the skyscrapers of Wall Street. Consistency is not a Trojan horse to take you to greatness before you know it. Remember, greatness is a destiny, and it may not be yours. Or mine. I may never be the greatest, but I will be consistent.

I may not be able to change the facts, but I can change the focus.

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