Your One Thing
In the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a man who is confused by and afraid of everything. He and two of his buddies go to New Mexico to work through their mutual mid-life crises by driving cattle up to Colorado.
There they meet Curly (played magnificently in an Oscar-earning performance by Jack Palance). Curly is all cowboy, a zen master of the old west. He looks like leather. He shakes his head at all the angst coming from these three guys and says, “You city folk! You spend 50 weeks a year getting knots in your rope. Then you think two weeks up here will straighten it out.”
He pauses on his horse and looks straight at Mitch. “Do you know what the secret of life is?”
“No, what?” Mitch asks eagerly.
“This,” Curly whispers, holding his gloved index finger.
“Your finger?” Mitch asks uncomprehendingly.
“One thing,” Curly answers. “It is just one thing. You stick to this and anything else don’t mean beans.”
“That’s great,” Mitch enthuses, “but what’s the one thing?”
“That is what you gotta figure out,” Curly cryptically responds before riding away.
He may not have known it, but Curly was just reiterating something Soren Kierkegaard had said maybe 150 years earlier. Kierkegaard begins his book, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing with a prayer that ends:
So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing;
to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding;
to the will, purity that wills only one thing.
In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing;
amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing;
in suffering, patience to will one thing.
Give to the young man the resolution to will one thing.
And as the day wanes,
give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution,
that the first might be like the last, the last like the first,
in possession of a life that has willed only one thing.
So, what is your one thing? Six-pack abs? A six-figure income? Adventure? Stability? A spouse? A child? What is the one thing that you want most out of life?
Answering the question “What do I want most out of life?” begins — obviously — with asking the question. But seriously ask the question. Or, rather, ask yourself the question seriously.
Maybe for the next 30 days or so you could begin to leave open spaces in your schedule. Better yet, perhaps you plan fewer tasks each day so you can actually have some time set aside to do nothing but think, explore, define, and refine what it is that is your “One Thing.”
At this stage in the game, your focus isn’t about creating milestones or accomplishing goals or even ticking off the tasks that will take you where you want to go. This is about taking the time on the front end to make sure you really know yourself, learning what you need to know, connecting with your core in a way that allows for creativity.
Before you begin, you don’t need to have all the details mapped out, but you should have a good, general sense of which direction you’re headed, and you should be acquainted with the one person you’ll be traveling with on this entire journey: you.
I help folks just like you all the time figure out what their deepest passion is and how to begin the journey towards it. If you’re ready to take your life to the next level, contact me today. I’m here to help, if you’re brave enough to ask.