9-15 January 2015 #740

New year, new start

There is no franchise on happiness or achievement, anyone can do it
Ted Atkins
I am on the ship going back to England from Scotland where I brought in 2015. The new year really should be time of reflection, a new start. Many years ago my new year resolution took no thinking about, it was always to give up smoking.

When I stopped smoking in 2004, I had to think of other ways that I might improve, in other words, to achieve.

Why? This is the question I am braced for when I give lectures about climbing Mt Everest and the world’s other high mountains. George Mallory said ‘because it’s there’. This is nearly good enough, but when I started climbing on Everest, one person died for every ten who stood on the summit. A ‘high’ price to pay.

I have a one word answer: “Achievement".  I could add “accomplishment” but these are very similar words. When we achieve, we feel good. We feel good about ourselves and we gain confidence. The more confidence we gain ,the better we feel, the more we can achieve. So what is an achievement? Climbing Everest, yes, but I try and achieve something every day. If I help my son with his homework (and understand it) or I might make my neighbour smile. Give it a shot. Set an achievable target and do it. Achieve. 

There is no franchise on happiness or achievement, anyone can do it. Now ask yourself a question: How happy am I and how can I tell? More people should ask this question. We have experience to help us. I can look at my deepest darkest moments, the worst of which so far perhaps I have been spared and score these times as 1 on a scale of 1 – 10. Yes you have guessed, 10 is the best we have known. So where do you sit today, and why?

I have a theory that it is as simple as this: 5 is averagely happy. Having worked this out, the really interesting part is the realisation that it does not matter who you are or what you have. If you are scoring 5 you could be doing this living on the bread line, meanwhile some ‘got it all’, famous media person is scoring 2. So who is winning? You only have to read the papers to see how ‘messed up’ some privileged people are.

So we know the famous line ‘money can’t buy you love’, could anything be more true? When I think back to my best ever times, they are also often the most frugal times. The times when we did the most with the least money.

Good times were achieved often at the expense of a 100 mile hike to the mountains and a night sleeping in a ditch, not bought. If you are married think back to when you first got married and you had very little. You cherished everything you did have, each other and those special moments.

Now you have everything and a remote control to operate it. What would you have scored then, and what today? In our better world today no one should be going backwards on the happiness scale.

Of course there are levels of achievement like levels of investment. The more you put in the more you can take out. Actually, this is just life. One of my favourite quotes is by IIves Ibsen and he says it all:

‘There is always a certain element of risk in being alive, but the more alive you are the greater the risk.’ What did you risk today, what did you achieve? Now go look for that remote control.

Ted Atkins is a former RAF Chief Engineering Officer and now partner/owner of four international companies. He writes this monthly column, Outside In, for Nepali Times.

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