I was on vacation last week with my family, tent camping beside the Greenbrier Trail in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Saturday morning I woke up early, grabbed my bike, and started riding. Twenty one miles later, I was none worse for the wear, and I pondered how my simple experience of an early morning ride was a reflection of a life well lived. I scribbled down some short thoughts on my Iphone, and they seemed to ring true. Here are some of the thoughts & scenes from that morning ride:
Before we had even arrived in Pocahontas County, I had set a goal of ”I want to bike to Marlinton.” I wasn’t sure how realistic a goal it was, but I went ahead and set it anyway. If I had not set the goal, I wouldn’t have biked 21 miles.
Every self-help book will tell you the importance of setting clear goals, but I still don’t follow this advice often enough. We achieve so much more in life when we have a definite, measurable goal than when we simply have a vague idea. Always, always, always, have at least one doable goal that you can make progress on every day. (My goal for today? FINISH WRITING THIS POST!)
Seize Every Moment
We’ve all heard the famous phrase, “seize the day,” but it is just as important to seize the moment. Every moment of our life is meant to be fully lived: there are no trivial days, there are no trivial moments. As I biked along, each moment brought something new if I was willing to look for it— a new flower, a new sound, a new vista. I was surprised & delighted over & over again as I traveled the miles with an open eye and open heart.
Right now, this very moment, you are alive in a wondrous world. Live expectantly. Seize every moment.
Take the Long View
Although we must seize every moment, we also need to take the long view. There were times along the trail where I would stop & look back from where I came and look forward to where I was going. I enriched my travels by keeping my present in the perspective of my past and my future.
So it is with life: the joys and the struggles of today are best understood in the context of our entire life. The simple joy of sharing a meal with friends is enriched by remembering the entire history of the relationship in the context of the now, while many an argument and frustration would be lessened by stepping back and seeing the big picture. Add wisdom and depth to your life today by taking the long view.
Pay the Price
One of the most basic lessons we learn in life is that there is always a price to pay. In order to enjoy the beauty of the river, I had to pay the price of getting out of bed, of renting a bicycle, of expending energy, of spending a few days sore. That was the price of admission to what I experienced. I knew the price, and I was willing to pay it.
There is no free lunch. Anything we achieve or experience comes with a price. That is not a bad thing; that is simply how God designed the universe. The important thing to remember is not if there is a price to pay, but what the price is, and our willingness to pay it to achieve what we want in life.
Look for Beauty
As I biked, I started looking for wildflowers pictures to snap with my iPhone. I thought I might be able to get a dozen if I was lucky. But the more I looked, the more I saw, and by the end of the day I had found over three dozen different species scattered along the trail.
The moral? Don’t pass by beauty. There is so much beauty everywhere if you are willing to look for it, and the more you look, the more you will see. It’s so easy to just live our busy lives without stopping to experience beauty (as this post I wrote in 2007 pointed out.) Look for the everyday beauty in your life today.
Don’t Let Opportunities Pass You By
Although I took pictures of dozens of wildflowers as I biked, there were two flowers that really stood out to me:
The two that I didn’t get.
There was an orange one, and later a red one. With both of them, I thought, “Gee, I’ve taken a lot of pictures already, that’s a beautiful flower, but I don’t want to fall behind schedule, I’ll have a chance to take a picture on the way back or find another one.”
Yes, you guessed it: I didn’t find another one of either species, and try as I might, I couldn’t spot them again on the way back.
Life is like that too. There are so many opportunities, big ones and small ones, that we put off, casually assuming there will be another chance later. Sometimes we get another chance, but often we don’t. Don’t let opportunities pass you by.
Take the Road Less Traveled
That early morning bike ride was taking the road less traveled– literally. I saw a grand total of one other person on the path the entire ride into Marlinton. There were plenty of people catching some more Zzzz’s or watching television that morning, but I took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference.
What do you look back in your life and particularly cherish? I would wager that quite a few of your most cherished decisions and experiences fall into the category of the road less traveled. Keep that in mind as you plot your course today.
Enjoy the Ride
I set out to reach a goal: bike to the town of Marlinton. There were two ways of reaching the goal: I could enjoy the ride, the sights & sounds, the feel of wind on my face, the anticipation of what was around the next bend. Or I could have dreaded feeling sore, frustrated over my lack of progress, thinking about how I could have stayed in bed, focused on how slow I was going, or a dozen other negative thoughts.
Guess what? I would have still ended up in Marlinton either way. Both ways reached the same goal, but would have been dramatically different experiences.
The lesson? We all will end up at the end of the trail someday. We all will die, no matter what we do or don’t do. The only difference will be, will you have enjoyed your ride?
Not Everything Helpful Must Be Profound
As I sat down beside a railroad bridge to record my thoughts, a voice said, “Take the long view? Set Goals? That’s not very profound! That’s been said a million times! That’s not worth writing about!” And I wondered whether I should write about my ride at all.
But then I thought, sometimes I chase after these huge profound incredible mountaintop insights or experiences, when often I just need to look for the little things that do make a difference. Sometimes I think that if I can’t write something or say something or do something that is radically mind-blowing, than what’s the use of doing anything at all.
I think that’s true for all of us. Just because we can’t do something earth-shattering, just because we can’t heal all a person’s wounds, just because we can’t be profound we end up saying or doing nothing at all. Sometimes that person in need doesn’t need the profound, they just need a simple word or act of kindness or encouragement. Be that (not profound) but helpful person to a friend today.
Make Memories, Savor Them, & Share Them
Finally, this little creative exercise reminded me of the importance of making memories. We all need to reflect on our lives, to remember what is really important, to write down what God is teaching us, to take pictures of beautiful things, to make time for the people who we love.
Not only do we need to make a memory, but we need to savor those memories, to linger & fully experience the joy, to come back to them again & again & be grateful.
Lastly, we need to share our memories. Share the wonderful gifts of God’s grace in your lives with others, and you multiply both your happiness and theirs. Purpose to make a memory this week, savor it, and share it and watch your life grow.