Life is pretty imperfect, and we should probably carefully adjust our expectations. That might come off as a bit cynical, but it’s not meant to be. Let me explain.
I heard Shaun White being interviewed on the radio one morning. He was talking about how he won an Olympic gold medal after an incredible performance on the snowboard half-pipe, got interviewed by Oprah, learned that he would be on the cover of Rolling Stone for the second time, found himself flying to Italy and sitting front row in a major fashion show, and heard President Obama mention him in a speech to the nation.
And this was all within one week of his life.
Pretty amazing. Stories about people living life beyond our wildest dreams no doubt makes many of us picture what our “perfect life” would entail. Of course, Shaun White’s life isn’t really perfect, and he deals with his share of bullshit just like rest of us. But that’s not my point.
Your Gold Medal Might Await, But Probably Not
The point is, there’s a 99% chance that your life isn’t going to turn out even remotely similar to Shaun White’s. There’s also a pretty good chance it’s probably not going to turn out quite like the plan in your head. You’ll probably (and hopefully) achieve many of your personal goals, and many other dreams will remain just that: a fantasy. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be setting the bar high for ourselves, of course. If you’re a snowboarding or skateboarding enthusiast, striving to be the next Shaun White is a great goal to have. But being bitterly disappointed if your life doesn’t mirror his astronomical success is not the path to happiness. If you shoot for the stars, don't be disappointed by the moon, because the moon is still pretty great.
Which brings me back to adjusting expectations. That’s the first half of this story. The second half is a key ingredient to throw into the mix: living a life of passion. This, in my mind, is one of the most important things to strive for. It’s what Shaun White does; his accomplishments have stemmed entirely from a relentless pursuit of his passion.
Passion Trumps Performance
I’m a great believer in balance. Among many things, life is a balance between practicality and passion. But my comment about adjusting our expectations is not supposed to suggest that we do so in order to prepare ourselves for disappointment. Rather, I’m saying that we should prepare ourselves for the reality that lies ahead. Because no matter what goals I achieve, when I someday look back on my life, my list of accomplishments will mean nothing if I didn’t do it all through the relentless pursuit of my passions. Nothing. And if I'm not hung up on regretting those big dreams that got away, I can still feel good about what I've done.
I have passion for my dreams. But I can also have passion for the little things I do every day. Passion for the people I love. Passion for waking up each day to take on whatever life has to offer. It’s not always easy. But passion is what shapes the way we live our lives, and what determines the way our lives touch others.
Everything else is just details.