The real work begins at home
I just got back last night from being out of town for a couple days. When I got home, the dishwasher had to be unloaded. The laundry had to be done. I had some cleaning to do. I had a pile of work a mile high.
But I just got back.
I have had this feeling many times over the years. Whether it was a retreat, a conference, a vacation, or just a great moment, I have experienced something great, and then, I get home. After having a mountaintop experience, real life settles back in, the day to day grind continues. I am supposed to make sense of an amazing experience, but I am already back in the day to day grind.
I still remember working through childhood issues with my counselor. I felt I had made an amazing breakthrough, but Monday morning was still Monday morning. I remember being at a convention years ago and feeling like life had new meaning, then Tuesday was Tuesday. I remember being on a retreat and feeling like life had changed, but Wednesday was still Wednesday. And I just got back home, and Thursday was still Thursday.
Over the last year or two, I have been learning to let go of the mountaintop, and keep the underlying theme. What I mean is this: the life changing experience is very rarely the thing that changes my life. Ironically enough, the habits that form because of the experience are the things that mold me. I change because of the habits, not just the experience.
I remember being at a concert years ago. I was profoundly struck because I felt that I needed to live a meaningful life. That experience led to me asking a question habitually: “is this action or thought leading to the meaningful life that I believe is for me?” Sometimes the answer was “yes” and I had the joy of continuing. Other times the answer was “no” and I had the ability to stop. The mountaintop experience was great, but the thing that changed me was the habit I formed when I got home. I can still remember the feelings of the concert, but I am a fundamentally different person because of how I changed my habits.
So what now? It is Friday, and after having a mountaintop experience, I am back to work. I experienced that I matter enough to change the world. So what am I going to do today? Make a habit of learning from the moment, and taking steps to make it tangible. I am going to begin asking the question “who am I not to change this?” instead of the question “who am I to change this?” This is my new habit. The experience will stick, but the habit will change me.
The problem with mountaintop experiences is that they end. At some point, all of us will have to go home. When we get there, the laundry will be piled up, the dishes stacked, and that dream in us may begin to fade. However, our job is to understand that mountaintops exist, and that they are good. They reorient us and allow us to change, but they do not change us. Monday morning, or in this case Friday, is where the real work begins. The mountaintop changes our perspective, but the habits we form change our lives. That being said, I’m home now, so now, the real work begins! Who are you not to change the world?