What Comes After?

March 17, 2014

I recently celebrated another milestone anniversary: 10 years of having my horse, Tank. I find this as mind blowing as knowing I’ve been married for 26 years and that I have a (nearly) adult child.

When I was looking for a horse of my own, and even when I bought him, I was totally focused on the goal of finding a horse. I wasn’t thinking about all the years we had ahead of us, the time we would share getting to know each other, learning to work together. Just like when I was dating and falling in love, or preparing to become a mother—I didn’t think so much about what would happen once I reached that milestone or achieved that goal. The “after” was a blank space in my mind.

What do we do after we get what we want—after we achieve something we’ve longed for? What happens after we fall in love, lose 20 pounds, have a child, get that coveted job, even buy that horse?

Reality sets in. The goal we once desired with all of our hearts is in our hands, and often we find it’s not all romantic dinners under the stars, buying new clothes in a smaller size, cuddling a sleeping baby, kudos from the boss, or galloping like the wind. There’s manure to shovel, diapers to change, compromises to be made and maintenance of all kinds to be done. In many cases, “after” lasts longer than “before.” How can we make the most of what comes after we reach a milestone or major goal?

  1. Appreciate what we have. Stop and look at what we’ve just achieved or received. Take it in. Isn’t it wonderful that we have this thing we have longed for for so long? Bask in the feeling and say a little thank you to the universe. It’s very easy to get caught up in the details, both good and bad, adjust to the new reality, and forget the work and sacrifices it took to get what we wanted.
  1. Don’t make comparisons with others. Since I came to horses as an adult—and a none-too-athletic one—my skills have grown more slowly than the young girls I often ride with. If I compared myself to them, I’d become dissatisfied with my experience, when what I have is all I ever wanted. If I compare my marriage, my relationship with my son, or my career with others’, I can become discouraged that what I have isn’t as outwardly “good.” Every person has his or her own abilities, challenges, lucky (or unlucky) breaks, and so on. And what we see from the outside is rarely the whole story. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
  1. Keep growing and learning. So we have this new thing/relationship. Now what? Is that the ultimate? How can we enhance and improve whatever-it-is? Growing and learning are what life’s all about. To return to my relationship with Tank, over the past 10 years I’ve spent most of my time learning, from the simple things (how to groom a horse or post a trot) to the more complex (how to “speak horse” or use tiny movements of my body to control where he goes and how fast).
If we appreciate what we have, don’t compare it with what others have, and keep learning so we can make it better, what comes after will better than we can even imagine.

What have you discovered about what comes after a big goal or milestone?

Since it's an anniversary, will there be (carrot) cake?