I have a love/hate relationship with the show International House Hunters. I love the houses. I hate the people who are looking at them.
Maybe hate is too strong of a word, but I’m a little jealous of the people who are looking at them. The show is pretty simple: a real estate agent shows three houses to a couple to look at in some exotic market. Then, at the end, they buy one of them. And each episode is the same, with the buyers saying this:
“Well, we need a third house, and we’ve already got one in Turks and Caicos, so we thought we’d try Florence, Italy. My job allows me to travel internationally and do my work from coffee shops on cobble streets. We’ve got a budget of 4 million dollars and would like to be able to see the Duomo from our rooftop deck.”
And then they look at three houses and inevitably pick the most expensive one that was way outside of their budget. Once you’ve watched the International version, it’s impossible to be interested in the domestic version of the show. Once you’ve seen a couple scour the streets of Prague for an apartment that looks like a castle, it’s impossible to watch a couple look for a 2 bedroom fixer upper in Akron, Ohio.
I don’t watch much television, because I’m better than you, and one day might turn into one of those people who, without being provoked at dinner parties, just constantly blurts out “I don’t even own a television.” But I used to watch The Biggest Loser a lot. It’s the show about weight loss, and I liked it because it was slow.
It didn’t wrap up in a single episode with someone coming to the ranch 300 pounds overweight, changing three things in their life, and then going home 30 minutes later.
Contestants sweat and bled and threw up during grueling workouts. They learned how to eat healthy. They were taught new shopping habits and worked through emotional issues. Over months and months, they rebuilt their lives.
It took them a while to get to the weight they were at. No one is born 300 pounds overweight. There is a process and steps and decisions piled upon decision that get you there. And no one on The Biggest Loser would ever say, “It took me 10 years to put on this weight. I’d like it all gone in the next 10 days.” That would be crazy, but sometimes that is exactly what we say to our dreams.
We start surveying our lives, we start to figure out where we want to go, and we start working to take steps forward. And then a week in, a month in, six months in, we assess where we are and get frustrated.
It’s taking too long. Our dreams are stalled, the progress is not fast enough, and so we quit.
We’ve got to give ourselves time.
It took you a year or 10 years or maybe 20 years to get to the moment you’re in. If you’re going to change your life, if you’re going to march off in a different direction, if you’re going to end each day with “How did I get here?” it might take some time. Give yourself generous amounts of time.
We often spend decades getting lost, then expect to find our ways out of the jungle in a long weekend. We go to a conference that gets us fired up. It’s an amazing 48 hours, and we go home and face Monday. And things are still the same. The conference didn’t “take,” and we’re mad at ourselves. Or we launch a new project, a new book, or a new business, and the amount of time we give ourselves to succeed is “right now.” We want instant exit from the issues or challenges it took us years to enter.
It’s going to take some time. And that’s OK. Recovery always takes time. The challenge is that we want to “discover” our dreams.
As I detailed in Quitter, we often want eureka moments. We want to be walking across the street at 42 years of age, get hit by a lightning bolt, and suddenly say, “Eureka! I’m meant to be a beekeeper. All these years I’ve been an accountant, no wonder life has been so difficult! I’ve discovered my passion.”
But more often than not, figuring out our calling is an act of recovery, of rescuing something from your past that you loved and you lost. Something that life got too busy for and you stopped doing, or something that someone who mattered to you told you didn’t matter.
“You think you can do that for the rest of your life?”
“How could you ever make money doing that?”
“It’s time to grow up. That idea is silly.”
The older we get, the more our dreams get chipped away by life, until eventually a passion we’ve always had gets covered up by years and years.
Finding your true passion is a reunion, not a first date. It’s an act of recovery, and recovery is not easy.
I was reminded of that when my wife hurt her finger in a power drill accident. (How fast did my mancard just get revoked? If you listen closely, you can hear it being shredded as I tell this story.)
One day while I was at work, writing adjectives with my soft, uncallused writer’s hands, my wife called me in a panic. She was screaming about her hand and a drill, and yelled out the name of a hospital I was supposed to meet her at.
I raced there to find her with a blood soaked towel and a bag of ice around her left hand. Turns out, our rake was broken. In order to fix it, my wife decided to drill the medal prongs back on to the wooden handle. The corded drill jumped when it hit the wood and caught the glove tip of my wife’s pointer finger. The force of the drill spun her finger in the glove, splitting it open and dislocating it. After pushing her tendons back into the open wound, my wife then called me for help.
In the months to follow, she would spend hours at the hand therapist. (Did you know there were hand therapists? Did you know they cost $215 per 15 minutes? I do now.) She had to do excruciating exercises at home and wear a large claw that kind of looked like she was giving everyone the middle finger. She had to do routines with a pressure device and squeeze gels. This lasted for months. And a year later, she is still working on that finger. Why? Because she wants to recover mobility. She wants to recover her finger.
And it’s just a finger.
We’ve spent almost a year working to recover that finger.
And it’s just a finger.
If you’ve spent a few years saying, “How did I get here?” If you’ve lost your dream, it’s going to take time for you to recover it.
Give yourself some time.
Are you ever impatient with yourself?