Is it worth it?

By Jim Selman | Bio

We spend a lot of time contemplating what we want to do with the rest of our lives.  Some of us will die asking the question. We spend years contemplating what we want and what could or might happen and dealing with all sorts of breakdowns and problems that, once solved, would allow us to get on with what we really want to do with our lives—until one day we realize that the breakdowns are our life. How often to we try to figure out the right thing to do or to avoid the risk of something bad happening? Mostly we pursue strategies that we’re comfortable with and which keep us moving within familiar terrain. Most of us will live in our post-retirement years following the same patterns and applying the same success formulas that we followed in our careers, while protesting that we want (or think we should) be doing something different.

Personally, I vacillate between “I am never going to retire” and “I want to slow down and stop working so I can write more, paint, learn a musical instrument, and so forth and so on”…. Of course, this always brings me back to the central question, which is what do I want to do with my remaining years, that in turn puts me into a tail spin of pros and cons that I have considered off and on for years but can never complete because there is always another pro or con. Granted that most of our decision-making happens inside this kind of ‘account’ reasoning, it is never very satisfying and doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter—just occasionally moves the circular thinking from where we are to another position. For example, now that I am retired, do I want to do this or that, etcetera, etecetera, etcetera.

The fact is we can never resolve these kinds of questions by analysis. At some point, we need to choose and commit ourselves absolutely to one path or another or accept that we’re really committed to being on the fence (the status quo) and perhaps enjoying the drama and sympathy we can garner for our good intentions. I learned this over 25 years of proclaiming my commitment/desire to stop smoking until all of my friends were bored with my prostrations and tuned me out all together.

On reflection, I can look back and ask myself if all that struggle was worth it. Naturally, at the end of the day it came down to stop or don’t stop, be responsible for the choice and quit complaining. I think this question of “Is it worth it?” is a pretty good barometer of where we are. If it isn’t worth it, stop it. If it is, then quit complaining. The fact is that we will spend the rest of our life doing whatever we do no matter what we choose. Therefore, the question isn’t what do we want to do, but what are we choosing right now and is it worth it?

On examining my life (including my primary complaint about too much travel), the answer is “Yes, it is worth it.” My commitment now is to stop boring my friends with my complaints and protests and put all that energy into enjoying what I am doing. When the day comes that it isn’t worth it, then I can ‘change games’ and give myself 100% to that.

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.