Having lived for a time in Australia, I join many others in using surfing as a good metaphor for life. Simply put, everyone’s waiting in the water for the perfect wave so that they can show everyone on shore how good a surfer they are. But the point was never to be impressive to others. The point was to surf. It was never a competition.
Despite these facts, instead of our spirit surfing anything that looks fun, our egos ignore our personal enjoyment in favour of paddling after waves that will offer us more opportunities to look impressive to other surfers and watchers on shore.
But even if they are impressed, that’s an experience that happens in their consciousness not ours. We don’t feel that, they do. So that’s a nonsensical reason for us to do something. We can’t even be sure they would be paying attention to us while we were being impressive. In fact, we can be pretty sure they weren’t, because they’re an ego just like you are. So they’re doing the very same thing you are—they’re sitting there trying to figure out if they’re being impressive to you!
When the sun starts to set on your life, you start to realize that you’re only on this beach for one big long day. And you realize that means there are only so many waves left. Your fellow surfers and people on the beach have all constantly rotated your entire life, so there was never a way to be impressive to them anyway. There never was an audience. It never was a show. Everyone was just supposed to surf.
Say yes to life. Jump on, be daring and see where it takes you. People’s word-based judgments of you are truly meaningless because they do not change the waves—the worst they can do is push you off your surfboard for a time. But you need to volunteer for that by choosing to place value on their judgments. Certainly if you encounter a happy surfer with good advice, it’s worth it to pay attention. But do not mistake others judgments of your life as any indication of its value.
The only adjudicator of your life is you. The only thing that matters is if you enjoyed your experience of surfing. No opinion can take that away from you unless you choose to adopt it by thinking it to yourself—and I can’t imagine why you would want to do that.
Forget impressive. Be childish. It does not matter how many times you fall in. Just climb back on and move toward excitement and joy. There are fewer hours in the day than you realize.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.