We’ve just bought a new car (the last one having died, abruptly and unexpectedly, on the M40 late one cold and frosty night. Hooray for the AA, I say.) We’ve gone for the sensible mature option – a reliable hybrid with one previous careful owner – rather than the sexy sleek gas guzzling beast that better represents who we inherently feel we are. Heigh ho.
Even though performance, design and engine spec hold little interest for me, the experience of buying a car is always fun. Good customer service is a pleasant experience and car salesmen have done much to erase their past dodgy reputation.
But even though I don’t really care what it is I’m driving (our sweet salesman thought I was joking when I said the only thing that really mattered to me was what the sat nav sounded like – because I don’t like being hectored when driving), I do like speed. I’ve always had a tendency to go fast, possibly a little too fast. I enjoy putting my foot down, getting a move on, overtaking whenever possible. I guess it’s the way I do most things.
I’m not saying that’s a good thing. In fact, I’m very aware that most often it’s not. At all. It’s tiring and stressful for me, irritating for others, potentially risky, not conducive to mindfulness, and the time saved … well, I have yet to discover where that all went.
But this new motor has changed all that, because it has a fancy screen that tells me exactly how much fuel I am consuming at any given second. The slightest extra pressure on the accelerator and that mpg gauge drops like a stone. The gentlest of inclines becomes noticeable because of the extra fuel required – a bit like riding a bike, though without the huffing and puffing and related health benefits.
In the past I’ve always tended to gravitate to the outside lane, but now I find myself hugging the inside one, cruising gently along the motorway at 60 mph, watching everyone else speed past me. I give way to other drivers, and their grateful acknowledging waves cancel out the irritation of the white van drivers stuck behind me. It’s a novel experience, both pleasurable and relaxing, with the added bonus at the end of the journey of seeing just how little the petrol gauge has gone down.
We can even compare the average mpg of consecutive journeys, thus introducing a different, rather more eco-friendly competitive edge to each drive.
So my experience of motoring has shifted massively, because my focus has changed.
And it’s all about focus – what we give our attention to, what we look for, what we measure. Profoundly subjective thought that may be, it turns out it’s crucial not just to how we play the game, but to what game we choose to play.
Focus on arriving as quickly as we can, and it’s all about cutting in, getting past, speeding up. Focus on fuel economy, and it’s all about maintaining a steady speed, taking the foot off the accelerator and not giving the nice sat nav lady the opportunity to say ‘you are now exceeding the speed limit’. It’s a different game, certainly a safer and more environmentally friendly one. And therefore a different experience. And, to be fair, it’s just as much fun in it’s own way.
So here’s the big question. Is the game you’re playing, in life right now, the right game for you? Is it a game that really serves you? Or is it the game that circumstances, past choices, peer group pressure, family tradition, the size of your comfort zone or events outside of your control has foisted upon you?
Worth just checking, don’t you think? Making sure that the ladder you’re climbing is propped against the right wall?
Competition is hard-wired in most of us. Even when the prize isn’t one that we aspire to, when the stakes don’t really matter to us, we can nevertheless find ourselves ‘playing the game’, ferociously competing to be the best, to win the race, to come ‘top’ because … errrm … that’s the game …?
Sometimes it takes illness, an accident or a health condition to force us to stop and take stock of where we are and where we’re heading. And sometimes we realise then that the goal we’ve been pursuing is … the wrong one.
In the fight to win, it’s all too easy to lose sight of what really counts – our core values and priorities. We sacrifice health, serenity, peace of mind, quality of life … so busy chasing the next big win that we forget what really makes life worth living. We get sucked into someone else’s agenda. That shiny prize we’re striving for may turn out to be one we’re really not that bothered about.
Being natural competitors can also mean that we compare ourselves to our fellow ‘contestants’. We see others excel where we fail and so we criticise and beat ourselves up.
Now that really is a fool’s game. Because of course we’re in competition with no one. Never were, never will be. We each run our own race. We are what we are and desiring to be better than anyone else, in any way shape or form, is bonkers. How much better and healthier to be free, to grow, to learn and develop, and to be the best ‘us’ that we can be
The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where we water it, where we pour our focus, our attention, our energy, our love.
It’s important to choose where and what we give our focus to, because what’s on our mind becomes what’s in our life. As the Buddha said, ‘we are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts’. It behoves us then, to think the thoughts we want to see.