Another one bites the dust. A year that is. Today, I’m celebrating my fifty-sixth. I am now officially older than the national speed limit enacted in 1974 — the year before I got my learner’s permit.
Speed demons nationwide were happy to see that law overturned in 1995, 20 years into my driving experience. Wow. I’ve been on the road, behind the wheel, for 41 years. That math makes me grateful I can still drive!
Once you pass the half-century mark, two things happen. You slow down while driving at night and you start (re)assessing your life. While American society in general measures success in very materialistic terms (What car do you drive while breaking the speed limit?), most of us have our own, individual metrics. I am no exception.
Many moons ago before John and I hit the road, I was sitting in a corporate training session with a consultant whose mission it was to help a number of us departmental “leaders” increase our “emotional intelligence.” That’s code for grow up, get in touch with who you are and excercise a little empathy for your fellow man.
One of the exercises the consultant asked us to do was complete a questionnaire. The first question was the hackneyed “What are your criteria for success?”
It occurred to me that my answer to this question had varied over the decades. How I measured success in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and now, 50s, was quite different. Like I said, something about that half-century mark makes you start thinking beyond material success. I thought about it for a while, then answered by jotting down these three things:
1. Inner peace
2. Effectively expressing love to others in ways they need and understand
3. Helping others
Not long after, John and I decided to hit the road, embarking on one glorious adventure after another. I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve been so caught up in living my very nice life, I haven’t taken the time to reassess it. Turning 56 seems like a good time to do so.
I think I’ve made some progress on #3 in the last few years. I feel certain that the older I get, the closer #1 gets. It’s #2 that concerns me. It’s of utmost importance and I haven’t been as effective here as I want to be. Guess I need to keep working on my emotional intelligence, huh?
Ralph Waldo Emerson seems to be a human who had a high EQ. He pretty much nailed successful living when he said:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Ah. The sweet smell of success. It has little to do with greenbacks and everything to do with relationships. Love is the ultimate criteria for success.
So, as I launch out into #57, here’s to less of me and more of others…to giving more than receiving…and to loving strangers and friends alike.
See you on the road…