Journal Week 19: (Not) Minding the Gap

A few years ago a friend asked me, "If you could do anything with your life, what would you be doing?"

The purpose of the question was to suss out my dreams and aspirations, what Carl Rogers called "the ideal self"--the self I want, desire, or aspire to be.

But I resisted the question. I really don't like to think of an idealized life--my dream life--and compare it to my present life.

The reason for this, as I describe it to my students, is that I don't want to live out of "the gap," that space between the life I have and the life I want. Carl Rogers calls "the gap" incongruence, the discrepancy between your self-concept--who and where you are right now--and your ideal self.

True, some incongruence is helpful and motivating, it gives you goals, dreams, and things to work toward. But if you live out of the gap your current life is always going to be haunted by dissatisfaction and frustration. You'll never love the life you currently have.

And yet, it's also true that I'm working from a positive situation. I'm happy with my life right now and feel a lot of gratitude for what I have and where I am. So contentment is easy. That said, I still confuse people a lot about what can come off as a lack of ambition. I don't dream of moving to a more elite academic institution. I don't care about penning a best-selling book. I like the size of my life as it is.

But I refuse to live out of the gap in other ways as well. For example, last week I was out in Malibu speaking at Pepperdine's Harbor conference. Prior to leaving people here in Abilene were always asking, "Are you looking forward to being in Malibu?"

And I also resist that question. And who does that? What sort of a person turns a simple question about visiting a very beautiful location into an existential test of contentment? Me, apparently.

Because I hate living out of the gap. I will admit no gap between Abilene and Malibu. I will not name, dwell upon, talk about, or cultivate that gap. Now of course I was was looking forward to being in Malibu. It's a really beautiful place. But I resist any question that creates a happiness gap between where I am and where I'm going, between the life I have and some other life.

It's all very strange and makes me hard to talk to. But I truly think I'm close to the secret of happiness, gratitude, and joy.

Live your life not minding the gap. 

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