Do you ever fall into the trap of measuring your success by the tangible end result (you know — the destination and not the journey)? I certainly have. More times than I’d like to admit.
But sometimes measuring our success by the end result seems pretty darn logical in our human experience, right?
I’m reminded daily by my eight year old that it IS about making that goal, the score DOES matter, and it is ALL about the win. I can commiserate. It’s easy to fall in this trap if you are a firefighter, I’ve found.
Firefighters spend an enormous amount of time throughout their careers training in multiple disciplines — emergency medicine, auto extrication, ventilation operations, fire behavior, fire stream management, high angle rescue, trench rescue, shoring operations, wildland firefighting, to name only a few. All in the name of saving lives and protecting property — the end result.
It’s a career rooted in service, and when we respond to someone’s emergency, our goal is to Make It Better — whether that’s putting out the fire and saving someone’s home or providing CPR and advanced life support measures and saving someone’s life. Sometimes we’re successful, and then sometimes we’re not.
Recently we had a run of calls where we tried our hardest to make it better, to no avail.
We tried to bring the 30 year-old mother of three little ones back; we couldn’t.
We extricated the 20 year old out of the wreckage — where the towering pine tree finally stopped his racing car, the engine lying one hundred yards away on the expressway — and packaged him in the “platinum 10 minutes” so he had the best chances of surviving; he didn’t.
I desperately wanted to take the grey-eyed girl back in a time machine, so that the sexual abuse never would have happened; I couldn’t.
That was a hard week, focusing on end results.
Later at home, I was flipping through some old notebooks when, like a fortune cookie saying, the words popped out at me from the page — a hastily scribbled phrase from the lessons of a wise teacher:
The success of my day depends on how much I have loved, not what I have done.
And as I breathed in the wisdom of those words and let them swirl into the atoms of my cells, a sweet peace settled throughout my body for the first time in weeks.
How much have I loved today? my mind repeated.
Not how much have I accomplished or not accomplished.
Not how much have I finished or not finished on my to-do list.
This question hadn’t a care in the world about the end result, and I could already feel how powerfully this particular asking could shift the experience of my day.
What would it mean to measure the day by “how much I have loved?” It could mean many things. My mind started to play along.
Loved what? Myself, others, the situation, my effort, my vulnerability, the curveballs, how I handled the curveballs, the experience gleaned, anything…..
I could feel the somber clouds begin to lift around those three emergency calls where we didn’t make it better.
How much have you loved today?
This powerful phrase has become a mantra of sorts for me since then, especially when I begin to measure the success of my day by end results or accomplishments that I have or haven’t achieved. And I am never disappointed in the answers that reveal themselves to me.
But don’t take my word for it. Give it a try.
Check in with yourself during the day. When that very real and tangible result seems to stare you in the face, bravely look beyond it and ask yourself this new question.
And then see what new magic ripples out into your world.
How much have you loved today?