Ambition can be a blessing, forever pushing one on to higher ground. But it can also be a curse, the constant striving to reach the next goal can sometimes mean that we do not fully appreciate where we are. Here’s a story to illustrate what I mean.
A man in his mid-forties was going through a tough time at work and at home, so he decided to take a few weeks off to embark on a solo cycling trip from Brussels to Santiago di Compostela.
He cycled the length of France, and headed into northern Spain, all was going fine. Then with only a little more than one days riding to his destination, he had a momentary lapse of concentration, skidded on some gravel and fell off his bike into a ditch. He was hot, upset and angry, and in quite some pain. His right leg was badly grazed and his elbow too.
He managed to scramble out of the ditch and while trying to brush himself down, a farmer driving a tractor and trailer came along. Seeing the cyclists leg needed some medical attention, he stopped to help. Without saying a word, the farmer got the cyclist into his cab, put his bike in the trailer and set off to his farm. His wife cleaned the cyclist’s wounds and handed him a glass of ice cold lemonade.
“Mmm, that’s delicious” said the cyclist”.
“My wife makes it herself.” Said the farmer.
The cyclist finished his lemonade. He was grateful for their kindness, but he was eager to get back on the road, so he tried to find a way to politely leave.
“I see you are in a rush to get going” said the farmer. “Before you get back on your bike, do me a favour, take a walk across our field and then come back and tell me what you see.”
A little confused, the cyclist did as he was told. Just a few meters from the side of the road he had been travelling, was the most amazing sight he had ever seen. A lush green field, gave way to a meadow of wild flowers that gently rolled down to a sapphire blue lake. In the distance, he could make out the outline of the ridge of hills that he had to circumnavigate to reach his final goal.
The sun was high in the sky, his early morning start to beat the worst of the heat of the day was now in vain. He found a tree by the lake and sat down in its shadow. A feeling of deep inner peace came over him as he lent his back against its trunk. Sometime later, he couldn’t be sure how long, he was awoken by the farmer standing beside him. “Well, what do you see?”
“It’s like paradise.”
“Indeed, it is” said the farmer. “Thirty years ago, I was travelling the same road as you and came across this meadow and lake. Just like you, I was ambitious and in a hurry, headed for Santiago. I don’t remember why anymore. And here I am today, never happier, never more content. Feel free to leave or to stay as long as you want. Whatever you are looking for, if you cannot find it here, you’ll never find it at all.”