“It Isn’t the Mountain Ahead That Wears You Out; It Is the Pebble in Your Shoe.” – Muhammad Ali
Tom and his mentor Dwyer were on their customary weekly walk through the forest when Dwyer sat down on a large rock to take off his shoe.
“What are you doing?” asked Tom.
“I have a pebble in my shoe,” explained Dwyer.
“What are you stopping for? I have a pebble in my shoe as well, but we don’t have time to stop, so stop slowing us down. This is not acceptable. For a small problem of yours, you are not only slowing yourself down but even involving me.“
“I can assure you Tom, me stopping isn’t holding us back at all, but will end up saving us time and probably pain further down the track. So be sensible and stop blaming it all on me.“
“Pfft,” said the young man as he turned and walked on by himself, leaving the old man behind to remove the annoying pebble.
After about 20 minutes of walking, Tom could hear footsteps behind him and was surprised to see Dwyer making ground on him.
“Why are you limping?” the old man asked with a glint in his eye.
“You know why? I have a pebble in my shoe!” Tom retorted.
“Why don’t you just stop and remove it?”
“Because I don’t have time.”
They walked side by side for a while, but eventually, despite his best efforts and pride, Tom’s sore foot really started to slow him down and his limp became more pronounced.
He was determined not to show any pain, but he was conscious that he was now slowing down his walking partner, so he sat down on a large log and took off his shoe to remove the pebble.
When he did, he noticed a small amount of blood seeping through his sock. He removed that too and saw that he had a very sore, bleeding welt where the pebble had been rubbing.
He grimaced as he looked up at his mentor who smiled broadly, showing very little pity for his young protégé.
“You know what the message here is don’t you? By not dealing with your problem to immediate effect, you not only affected your performance on the long run but immediately blamed it on me. Whenever the, blame game starts, it eventually ends up in compromised performance. Always deal with problems straight away. You may think that you don’t have the time, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and pain if you get the pebble out of your shoe before you get too far down the road.”
“If you do not take out the pebble immediately, the resultant is the birth of another pebble called blame, that not only destroys Your Own performance but affects even the performance of your co-worker and colleague.“
Tom nodded as he put his bloodied sock back on.
According to Jim Fanin, the World famous coach for nearly 25 NBA, Basketball stars, “Some pebbles are lodged only in your business shoes. Some reside in your house slippers that you tuck under your bed. Some pebbles find their way into your golf shoes while others form in the shoes worn while you parent. Unfortunately, some pebbles travel in all your shoes regardless of where you walk or run”.
The other day, I came across a patient, who was complaining of occasional pain in her abdomen. She was a retired Professor in English and quite a Scholar of her times. When I asked her the details of her condition, she was highly guarded and did not want to say anything. On careful prodding, she disclosed that she had a CT scan report with her, which categorically states that she had, Early stage Cancer of the Stomach. When I viewed the report, it was as she had said. I asked her, why, inspite of knowing this, she had not consulted a Surgeon and got herself treated. The reply she gave was amazing. She said, “My mother, had Cancer of the Stomach, and died of it, despite having got operated, hence I decided that since post Surgery she had died, I would never get operated.” All the time, while she was living with Cancer, she had this wrong notion that Surgery killed her mother and not the Cancer, which was quite advanced. Like the Pebble in the Shoe, the Cancer was hurting her daily but she wasn’t ready to do away with it. It could have been removed by going to a Surgeon, and just clarifying facts and notions. She did not address it immediately and that led to the birth of another pebble, which was a form of blame, which fell on the Surgeon. I assured her, that the Cancer, is a Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumour, as the report suggested and only Surgery will cure her and it does not have recurrence. Her Pebble was her wrong notion, that Surgery kills people.
Muhammad Ali, the most famous among the World Heavyweight Boxing Champions, was thinking, about this Pebble, in his shoe, when he was readying himself to fight, Sonny Liston. They all said that Sonny Liston could never be beaten and Ali bought that thought and lived with it for quite some time, until his trainers and advisors helped him remove that Pebble. Sonny Liston lasted just 10 minutes on the day of the fight.
While the mountain, our life’s purpose, is always ahead of us, the pebbles often trip us up. We may perpetuate unhealthy behaviors, patterns and thoughts in our lives by worrying about all the what ifs, could have beens and never-going-to-be’s.
Keep your eyes fixed on that mountain! Eliminate the pebbles, one by one. Use these tips to clear out the pesky hindrances to your progress:
1. Fix the small stuff.
In our lifetimes, we will spend four solid years doing housework and an entire year just looking for things we have lost in our homes. Precious days of our life are squandered if we lack discipline and preparation. You envision opening your own business one day, for example, yet haven’t made real progress towards this goal. The small stuff, the perpetual pebbles, is holding you back.
Do you keep looking for that form you need? Do you need a better way to organize your bills? Taking care of these small, yet taxing tasks, will free you up for the road ahead. Take the time to organize your home, balance your checkbook and clear out the clutter; make the preparations necessary to focus your time and effort on the real game.
2. Stop the development of a Second Pebble called Blame.
Many times we find it impossible to accept that the first pebble is hurting. In these settings, the development of a second pebble called, “Blame”develops. Blaming it on others makes it then impossible for us to remove the first pebble that was initially hurting us.
3. Never lose sight of your goal.
We must remain committed to our purpose and passion. This goes beyond lip service. Which steps can we take every day towards being a better co-worker, friend or spouse? Which actions can we point to in our lives that have cultivated not only our dream careers but also better care of ourselves?
Cornell University researchers studied something called the “endowment effect.” When we take complete ownership of our goals, we are more committed to their completion. Writing them down and mapping out expectations for ourselves is key. There are hundreds of tools to write down and track our goals online. This chart called “Your 101 Life Goals List” is a great place to start.
4. Lose the emotional pebbles.
Our emotional well-being is vital to tackling the mountain. The daily pebbles we carry of stress, anxiety and disappointment slip us up. Break down these rocks of emotional baggage the minute they creep up. Push back against stress with a different one of the stress relieving strategies every day. Most importantly “stop striving for perfection”, it teaches and reminds us that being easier on ourselves will start a chain reaction of positivity in our lives. Once these daily pressures find relief, we have a more fruitful journey.
Our lives are priceless; let’s thrive by carrying a lighter load every day. The extraction of the pebbles of distraction from your life will help you begin your ascension.
(PICTURE CREDIT: GOOGLE INC.)