A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places. – Paul Gardner, arts writer
I heard this quoted at a university commencement ceremony this week. The speaker was making the usual point about the ceremony marking the beginning of a new life phase, not merely the end of school. Absolutely true.
But how many times do we arrive at interesting stopping points in our lives? Probably more often than we realize. I believe that if we take a moment and take advantage of those stopping points in our lives, we can achieve greater clarity and focus and get more traction as we work toward our goals.
Another word for a temporary stopover is “sojourn.” It is a 13th century word, coming from the Latin “subdiunare,” meaning ‘to spend the day.” It is a brief break in the voyage, a time to rest and renew strength and resources before continuing. When we sojourn, or rest briefly from our forward progress, we can accomplish three things:
1. The sojourn gives us time to decompress and get rid of excess nervous energy. Whether you have been burning the candle at both ends with work, practice or study, when you finish that project, play that recital or take that test, you need to step back and let your body and spirit recover.
2. The sojourn turns off the laser focus and opens the mind to possibilities. We want to pursue our goals with intensity. But that focused energy and drive means we purposefully shut ourselves away from outside distractions and influences. Yet those same forces that can distract us from our goals can inspire us with new ideas.
3. The sojourn reveals all the paths open to us and allows us to check our compass. Play this game: pick a point thirty feet from where you are. Walk slowly toward that point, looking only at your feet. After a relatively small number of steps you will likely find yourself veering off course. Complete focus on the process has turned you from your goal. In the same way we can become so involved in doing our work that we lose sight of the reason we are working so hard. When we stop briefly, we can check our progress as well as see what other opportunities may be present.
I find that when I take time to explore an “interesting stopping point” in my work or my life, I am always rewarded. Sometimes direction is confirmed, sometimes I decide to try a new path. Sometimes I give myself a pat on the back, other times I give myself a swift kick. But I always find my life enriched and my energy renewed.
So the next time you reach that mile post, no matter how small or great, be sure to observe the stopping point. Then resume your journey and do great things!
Where is the next stopping point on your journey?