By the time I was in my mid thirties, I felt empty. The dreams I had as a child were gone—vaporous fairy-tales of a better life. Those dreams of something better had gotten me through a very turbulent childhood, but life hadn’t turned out to be what that child had imagined. I was working every weekend, in addition to a forty-hour week, trying to make ends meet. Smoking became my way to relax. Long days at work, I would literally rush to light up a cigarette—feeling that buzz of pleasure, my just reward. It wasn’t long before I was smoking two sometimes three packs a day.
When I realized that in a few years I would be forty years old, something changed inside of me. That “secret unrest” that Carl Jung talks about became impossible to ignore. I think the thing that did it for me was the fact that if I didn’t change direction, I would be able to predict with dead accuracy what my life would be like at 50. When I began my adventure, I didn’t have a plan. I just wanted to do something spectacular in my life before it was over. Determined to see a change, any change, from the years leading up to 40, I decided to give up smoking and take up running. Not an easy decision for a recent ex-two-pack-a-day smoker. I faced so many obstacles and challenges, the biggest of all were my own thoughts trying hard to sabotage my best efforts, especially since I couldn’t run or even walk fast.
But, here’s what I discovered: Once I achieved one of my goals, it became easier to build on that and to set higher and higher goals…because now I knew what worked. I knew what it had taken to succeed the first time and I also knew that something had changed inside me. That first success-giving up smoking-started me on an adventure that I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined was possible.
Paulo Coelho said it best: “You have to take risks … We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day, God gives us the sun — and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we try to pretend that we haven’t perceived that moment, that it doesn’t exist — that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow. But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting our front-door key in the lock; it may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us. But that moment exists — a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles.”