One year ago I was sitting at my kitchen table at our house in Seatoun, Wellington. In front of me were a pile of bills and correspondence to deal with – not such a bad job on a wet Saturday afternoon, but not exactly heart pumping. One more day off, I thought, before work on Monday at the New Zealand Government’s Department of Conservation. A pretty good job – interesting, meaningful and full of good people doing things that matter.
All in all I felt my life was pretty peachy. I had a lot to be grateful for. Enough money, without being rich. Healthy (well most of the time). Two amazing daughters and a solid and deep relationship with my wife of 25 years. Decent house, good friends . . . not much to complain about really.
Except something was definitely missing. My life felt a little bit “the same”. I woke up and (when I wasn’t on my four week holiday each year) went to work, came home – a beer, chat, dinner, and bed. I know – I am generalising hugely and there were of course weekends – but that’s what I felt like. Happy on the outside, but a little unfulfilled on the inside.
My wife had, for a long time, been talking about taking some serious time off. A year of travelling – how about it!? Well if I am honest I did try to sound keen but really I was scared. A whole year . . . how would that work, what about our house and my job, what would we do, where would we go, where would the money come from . . . ?
And that is a great example of the negative “chatter” which goes on in all our heads. All the reasons why something can’t work and why its OK to stay in our safe and known zones . . .
Steve Taylor, in an excellent article in Psychology Today, talks about thought chatter as creating a constant disturbance within us. Taylor says “Perhaps the biggest problem with thought-chatter though is that it’s often tinged with negativity. Thoughts about the future are tinged with worry and anxiety, thoughts about the past are tinged with regret or bitterness and thoughts about your present life situation are tinged with dissatisfaction.”
The only way to combat the negative thought chatter, in my view anyway, is not to give in to it. Instead of thinking why things can’t work, turn your mind to how they can. We can rent the house out – it’s a good rental market at the moment and that will give us an income. It’s about time for a change in job and this will force me into thinking differently. It will work and will be great.
I am so happy we made the decision to take this time off. By using the income from renting our house and staying in simple, but cosy, places we haven’t spent nearly as much as I thought we would have (and by the way we met heaps of people who managed to travel and live for next to nothing). Instead of waiting until we retired to see the world, we are experiencing travel while in our prime. We have learned so much about the world we live in – people, practices and cultures.
So my advice is that whenever somebody asks you something like “wouldn’t it be great if . . .”, try and ignore that negative chatter in your head and ask yourself how you can say “yes” rather than “no” or “maybe”. You won’t always be in the position to drop everything and take off round the world – but just maybe you will . . .