How often do you create distance to find perspective?

Today is July 1 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you create distance to find perspective?” When you are working hard at translating your dreams into reality it is extremely easy to lose perspective. Commons losses of perspective include missing family events, failing to take care of one’s health, and ignoring the needs of those closest to you.

It often takes a dramatic life event to provide the much-needed perspective But, what if you could find the required perspective while translating your dreams into reality. You could move forward one step at a time all the while spending time with your family, taking care of your health, and supporting those loved ones you need you. Now there are indeed times when you may have to miss a family event. Fine. But how often does this happen?

The frequency is what matters. If you miss nine out of ten family events, perhaps a change of perspective is needed. Now there are plenty of people who have navigated the chaos who would tell you to ignore the family, forget about your health, and step over those who need you as these are all distractions. Well that is certainly one way to navigate the chaos. But is that your way? Is that the type of legacy you want to leave behind when you die? Because believe it or not, you will indeed die so how you navigate the chaos matters.

In his novel Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are, author John Kaag discusses his exploration of what Romantic thinker Friedrich Nietzsche called “the pathos of distance.” Kaag wrote his book as tale of two journeys: one when he was an introspective young man of nineteen, the other seventeen years later as a husband and father.

As he hiked towards the Swiss peaks Kaag discussed the sense of being higher, of looking down and how that gave rise to the “craving for ever new widening of distances within the soul itself … the development of ever higher, rarer, more remote, further stretching, more comprehensive states.”

Kaag noted the impulse to strive was at the core of Nietzsche’s perfectionism. For Kaag the backcountry is an ideal place for Nietzsche’s hard questions that include ‘What am I trying to escape by making this dangerous trek? What is the point of this risk? Am I really, precisely, this alone? Am I going to die?’

Kaag discovered the disruptions of going into the backcountry, and off-road if you will, brings these questions into sharper focus and provides some much-needed perspective. According to Kaag “What I discovered in the mountains, however, is that becoming who you are usually involves getting over who you think you are. In fact the ‘who’ - the idea of oneself — is probably an impediment to growth and honesty. Nietzsche wants us to be wanderers, “though not as a traveler to a final destination: for this destination does not exist.”

This is not to say that we cannot set goals — quite the opposite. “Set for yourself goals, high and noble goals,” a young Nietzsche instructed, “and perish in pursuit of them.” And what if you die in the pursuit of your goal? Recall the words of Stoic Epictetus: “I have to die. If it is now, well, then, I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived — and dying I will tend to later.”

These two observations regarding perspective generate a good deal of questions.

Are you setting high and noble goals? If not, why is this so? What is holding you back from setting high and noble goals? Do you lack the perspective that you can obtain high and noble goals?

Can you perish in the pursuit of your goals? As Tim Robbin's character Andy says in the film Shawshank Redemption "I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying." Are you waiting for some magical bus to come along and take you down the path of navigating the chaos?

Coach Don Meyer understood the value of perspective and having the right mindset. On September 5, 2008, Coach Meyer's car collided head on with a truck and it nearly killed him. The accident shattered all his ribs, destroyed his spleen, and tore his diaphragm. He also had part of his left leg amputated. Additionally, when doctors were treating him, they discovered inoperable cancer of his liver and small intestine. Coach was hospitalized for two months, but he returned to coaching. While in a wheelchair at courtside in January 2009, he surpassed Bob Knight as the winningest coach in men's college basketball history with his 903rd victory. That same year he won the ESPN ESPY award for Perseverance.

In his acceptance speech Meyer talked about having the opportunity to do more, to help more players, and to continue doing good for others. He understood, to paraphrase Epictetus, that it was not his time to die so he took lunch and tended to dying later.