Numerous not-so-good decisions during the Piece Prize kayak journey from Oslo, Norway to Athens, Greece, have had consequences.
Like clothes in a washing machine, these decisions spin in my mind. They irritate me and I find myself questioning, “What if...?”
“What if...” I had phoned the local authority to get out of the river PO, into a boat lock and that peaceful inside passage to Venice. (This would have slashed three extra days getting to Venice. I didn’t phone because in France entering a boat lock was illegal.)
“What if...” I had chosen to wait one hour and not cross the bay to Savona, Italy. (I capsized against a sea wall)
“What if...I had navigated correctly at Valti, Greece and made a straight line on the outside of the island Petalas to Oxia. (Had to paddle three extra hours to my final destination after already kayaking for eight hours).
Similarly, many life decisions spin around in my mind and the “What if....” mode kicks in. Why do bad decisions and experiences seemingly dominate my memory and bring feelings of self-condemnation?
The smell of my grandparents farm house, the taste of mom’s chocolate cookies, the thrill of my first goal in PeeWee hockey and the scent of the California coastline (Huntington Beach to be exact)...these are among the hundreds of positive memories that make up the ongoing experience of my life.
FIND THE BALANCE
Good and bad decisions are part of life. Though my memory likes to replay the not-so-good decisions, reminding me of my stupidity or telling me, “You could have done better,” I know that wrong decisions are just important as good decisions. I remind myself that memories must be put into balance. Yes, I do make mistakes, some with small or large consequences, but no one walks through life without blunders, which, due to memory, become part of our self.
IT’S ABOUT SURVIVAL
The more emotionally or physically disturbing the decision or experience is, the more likely it becomes glued to my memory. YES!!! Being able to recall bad decisions or fearful events is critical to survival and improved decision making in the future.
IT’S ABOUT HELPING
Our decisions and experiences create empathy: being able to understand the hurts and challenges of others through our own shortcomings or failures has tremendous value. Experience - good or bad - must be shared. People feel alone with their mistakes and inadequacies, but through our transparency we help others. Gain experience, use experience and share experience. Simple math.
IT’S ABOUT THE COMFORT ZONE
I can change the way I think by changing the place I think. Pushing myself to embrace new challenges and experiences during the Piece Prize journey has forced me out of my comfort zone and changed my thinking. OK, I am not a professional. OK, I have no real experience to undertake such a journey. OK, I will make mistakes. This is part of the journey. Changing and breaking years of routines, has exposed me to new stimuli, thoughts and emotions. Though focussing on life outside my own skin, I have achieved greater self-awareness, reconnecting with my true needs, desires and dreams.
IT’S ABOUT GROWTH
Though easier said than done, let the past be past. Simply, we cannot change the past. Some live with major scars and spend a lifetime trying to figure out “why me” and “what if...?” I look back and have my own top ten “What I wish I had done differently.” They resurface time and time again, and, yes, I wish I had made that one better decision or handled that one situation differently.
In a profound way, it is my collective set of memories that makes me who I am.
Life is a process and in our journey we must - if possible - allow memories (the good and bad decisions) to bring balance and not upheaval. Hold your goal with open hands.