I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of the boiling frog – place a frog on cold water and then heat the water gently. The frog will adjust its body temperature to the warming water until the water gets too hot for him to control, and then he will die. Utter fallacy scientifically but it serves as a very effective metaphor for life. Just replace the boiling pan for a nice cozy hot tub, containing all the material things we value. Look inwards and life is good – we have our soft comfort of life, few tough challenges and a soft, safe existence. Over the shoulder is the cold, harsh reality of life and opportunity. Sure, there might be fantastic experiences and golden opportunities – but they are out of sight from where we lie – and they might not actually exist. Far easier to stay in the safe, warm comfort isn’t it? But the water is slowly heating up. One day the safety and security we crave might actually cause our demise if we don’t take the opportunity to step out of the pool from time to time, check the temperature and readjust as necessary.
Lots of metaphor there – so to bring this back to reality – who here has seen the pounds slowly creep upwards on the scale with the passing years? Who has seen their physical activity slowly decrease year on year? Who here regularly spends their income on the essentials of life – toys, vacations and ‘stuff’, secure in the knowledge that there will always be another paycheque to top up the coffers? Who has allowed their relationship to drift into the ‘comfortable shoes’ stage? We all know that every one of these examples is not sustainable for the long term. Those extra pounds keep on piling on until we get into health problems – same with the lack of exercise. The spending can carry on, sure, but actually how secure is that job? What would happen if it suddenly disappeared due to a takeover or a life event that stops us working? What happens when one in the relationship doesn’t like the comfortable shoes anymore and wants to live life more fully? None of us wants any of these things – not going to happen to us is it? We are all charging into an action filled retirement adventure full of travel, exotica, fitness and good health, and with a passionate relationship to boot. But unless we step out of that steaming hot tub to reassess what is really important to us now and in our future, then we are not controlling our destiny – it is controlling us.
It’s not easy – most folk will usually only step out of the pool when forced, be it through a job loss, relationship failure, medical emergency or something equally as drastic. And even then, most of us do not or cannot make the life changes these life events require. Lost your job? First thing to do is jump right back into another pool. Sure, the unexpected heat in the fresh pond might make us squeal, but we quickly adjust to the new reality of more responsibility / less pay / different people etc. Relationship on the rocks? All too easy today to set up an account for one of a dozen Ashley Madison copycats. Medical emergency? Ah, well we all know we could make those life changes if we had to, we just don’t need to yet, right? But well over half of all people given a critical diagnosis can’t make even one of the necessary life changes – and less than 5% can make them all (typically lose weight/change diet, exercise and give up smoking are the top three).
Given the choice, pretty much everyone will just slip back into the warm waters, even knowing that’s what is slowly killing them. And that’s normal because change is tough. Change involves letting go of what we know, the apparent safety and security of the present. It involves taking action and beating a new path with all the inherent risk. It might lead to failure, embarrassment or worse. Yes. Yes it might. But it might also lead to personal, financial or spiritual freedom and success. That new path might lead to incredible new experiences and new friendships. It might start you on a journey of health and vitality that will certainly add life to your years, if not years to your life. So I believe it behooves us all to step out of the pool once in a while and do a life balance check. Make sure that the path we are on is the one we want to be on, for all the right reasons. Because in the words of the great Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.