What would change if we spent as much time glorifying start lines as we do finish lines? What if we cheered as wildly for people the moment they assumed their position in the starting blocks as we do when they run through the tape at the end of the race?
As a person who has crossed numerous finish lines, including one that saw me smash a world record for skiing around the world and hammering through 4,161,823 vertical feet in ten months, my ego and I have a vested interest in their glorification. A lot of doors have opened for me because of my ability to break through tape, but I'll tell you from experience -- finish lines are the least interesting part. What excites me the most are starting lines. And to be frank, I believe it's our ability to get to those that prompts all the doors to swing open.
Joseph Campbell named these starting lines "Calls to Adventure." He defined them as blunders, stumbled upon chances that reveal unsuspected worlds, the idea that something else is out there. In my mind, they are the moments we become capable of shifting from ordinary to extraordinary, from human to hero. So how do we hear our own calls to adventure? How do we know when a starting line is really a starting line?
Luke Skywalker was a bored and lonely farm boy living on a made-up planet when he received a holographic message from a droid. Harry Potter was locked in a cupboard under the stairs until letters began arriving, delivered by a series of owls. Dorothy Gale and her ratty looking terrier were chillin in Kansas until a Tornado shook things up.
These famous characters and many others like them have one thing in common. Prior to their calls, they were generally discontented with life. They weren't living in terror. Life wasn't miserable, but boredom, frustration and discontent were creeping in. That's sign number one. If your regular life doesn't feel like it fits anymore. If dissatisfaction is seeping in through the cracks of the walls you've carefully built around you -- PAY ATTENTION. This is the Universe's way of preparing you.
Your call will be inspirational as opposed to rational.
Next comes the actual call. It can come in many forms. You might hear something or see something. You might meet a new person or get an interesting email. Mine came in the form of a small blue sign that was dangling from the top of a ski lift, but that's a whole other story. The point here is this -- there are an infinite number of ways a call can show up.
Regardless of the variety, there's a singular feature you can always count on. Absolutely, unequivocally, your call will be absurd. This isn't a joke. It will be totally absurd. And please...don't confuse absurd with asinine. It won't be stupid. It won't be lacking in any and all intelligence, but it will be unreasonable and highly unlikely.
Listen, the Universe doesn't do mundane or logical. That's a human thing. No, no. The Universe does wildly unreasonable. It does miraculous. It does things that border on ridiculous, things your human brain or the brains of the people around you might immediately classify as impossible. Your call will be inspirational as opposed to rational.
There are two reasons for this:
First, if your call was reasonable, it wouldn't classify as an adventure. Second, if you already knew how to do it there wouldn't be any point. There wouldn't be any growth involved and you know that's what this is all about right? Emotional growth, spiritual growth, growth of any kind.
So just to be clear, those are the ingredients required for a starting line. General discontent creates the environment for the gunshot to be heard and the gunshot itself is an idea that is guaranteed to sit squarely between what you deem to be both impossible and slightly insane. But it's because of those things that our starting lines become easy to ignore. It's because things aren't horrible and because the idea itself is questionable, that it's easy to see our starting lines and ignore them.
What would change if you shifted your focus?
Instead we make small changes. We convince ourselves that we're able to grow by taking small risks instead of saying yes to the big ones. We change the color of our hair or buy a snazzy new road bike. We trade in Flaming Hot Cheetos and House of Cards for kale chips and PX90. Some of us might even change jobs or careers but even those changes are just Band-Aids when we know we've been called, when we know there's a starting line right in front of us but we're scared to put our toe on it.
I'm not saying it's easy. Getting to the starting line, saying yes to a call to adventure, well...I think it's one of the hardest things a person can do. I've done it multiple times and to be frank it's gotten harder each time, but it's worth it because, in my mind, nothing feels better than knowing I've been asked to go after something bigger, to say yes to something larger than the finish line that's being used as the bait.
So let me leave you with this: What would change if you shifted your focus? What would change if you stopped looking for finish lines and just put your feet in the blocks?
Steph Jagger splits her time between San Diego and British Columbia, where she dreams big dreams, writes her heart out, and runs an executive and life coaching practice. Her debut memoir, about said record smashing and much, much more is called Unbound: Finding Myself on Top of the World, and it hits stores on January 24, 2017. Find out more at www.stephjagger.com
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