Stage 1. INTROSPECTION - diagnosis
From Alcoutim to Balurcos - 24.2 km
If you're happy with your life and have managed to find what makes you content in a sustainable manner, you should certainly not change anything. Life is already complex enough, so if you're lucky to be in that sweet spot, congratulations! You’re one step ahead of all of us. Just keep doing whatever you're doing for as long as you can. Don’t read any further. Instead, please share your example with us. 🙏
Unfortunately, that is not the case for a lot of people. You may for example be under pressure on the professional front, pushed out of a job because of your age, skill set, or technological changes… or you are an employee earning barely enough money to survive and with little hope of improvement…. Or you may be a person simply frustrated with your actual situation, your life not going as you expected…
In most cases, you can only escape your predicament by either embracing it or changing something. A crucial step for your decision is to assess the causes of your malaise as accurately as possible. If the diagnosis is not accurate, the probability of improving your situation will be significantly lower.
Introspection, one's ability to step back and observe one’s thoughts, biases, and feelings, is a necessary first step in your transformation. It allows you to better understand the influences of your upbringing and environment, the things you truly aspire to and that motivate you. From that basis, you can conscientiously decide which compromises you are willing to make, and which battles you are willing to fight. It changes your mental framework from potentially being a victim to being proactive with your life.
Only then, you can decide to embark on a transformation or accept the status quo. Accepting the status quo is a reasonable option provided you do it knowingly, in full awareness, without cheating yourself, finding excuses, or blaming others, and after having established that this is the best outcome for you. In this case, this honest assessment will probably help you find contentment in the situation as you will have regained some level of control.
Introspection is probably necessary for your happiness but not sufficient. As you start unfolding the layers of your paradigms and limitations, you may not necessarily like what you find. There may be ideas and intuitions that you identify as core to your being but that, if embraced, could turn into a major source of conflicts with your family, friends, and community at large, or that may represent an uncomfortable and painful challenge to the way you perceive yourself or present yourself to the world.
The potential disconnect between your ‘core’ being and its expression to the world may in fact be one of the major reasons for unhappiness. The lack of congruence between one’s values and one’s actions generates stress, unease, and guilt that are not conducive to well-being. Even when we, as we all often do, choose to turn a blind eye or find a justification for this divergence, the discomfort lingers and may eventually boil up to agonizing frustration.
I want to set the stage of my life at the point before I embarked on a new path. I was in my late thirties, happily married, and already with a successful career that was ensuring me solid financial well-being. I was a regional executive in a very good multinational company, I had built a solid reputation, and was considered an employee with high potential. Based in Moscow at the time, a city that I enjoyed greatly, I was due for a promotion in the following year or so.
By all objective parameters, I was very fortunate and everything was going very well. Yet there was a BUT…. In the year 2000, we already had a 2-year-old son, my wife was pregnant, and I really aspired to spend more time with the family. I realized that my career progression was incompatible with the way I envisioned a family life. Looking at my bosses travelling constantly across the globe and spending a limited amount of time at home, I understood that I did not really want their job.
Let’s be clear: there is no moral judgment on anybody’s life. Many of my bosses were family men with very high integrity. It is just that I wanted a life where I could take my kids to school, be at home when they came back, attend all the football practices and games, and enjoy family dinners every day. I appreciate this won´t sound attractive to many. In fact, there are few things more boring than watching 5-year-old football practices two or three times a week 😂.
But that was what I aspired to. And it was not compatible with my career as it was going. On the other hand, I was not willing to compromise with my family’s comfort.
So, what was I to do?
TRAVEL UPDATE - STAGE 1
Distance: 24.2 km
Cumulative Elevation: 840m
Time: 6 hours