zenhabits : breathe

The Tragedy of Missing Out

Post written by Leo Babauta.

A father and his son went fishing on a small boat, hungry.

The father helped his son reel in his first fish, and it was a beauty. “Great catch, son,” the father said.

“Yes, but I’m worried I’m missing out on better fish,” the son said. “What if I could catch a bigger, tastier fish?”

“Maybe you should try,” the father said.

And the son did, catching an even bigger fish an hour later. “A real beaut,” the father said.

“But what if there are better fish out there?” the son asked.

“Maybe you should try,” the father said.

And the son did, catching a bigger fish, then wondering if there were better fish, catching another, and so on.

At the end of the day, the son was exhausted. The father asked, “How did the fish taste?”

The son hesitated. “I’m not sure. I was so busy looking for better fish that I didn’t taste any of them.”

The father smiled contentedly, patted his belly. “Don’t worry. They were delicious.”

We are all of us like the son. We all worry, at some time or other, that we’re missing out on things.

It’s why we’re so busy — we take on so much because we don’t want to miss out. We take on dozens of goals and aspirations, because we don’t want to miss out.

But here’s the bare truth: we will miss out, no matter what. It’s inevitable. We cannot do or try everything in the world, even with lives twice as long. We cannot see every town and city, read every interesting book, watch every important film. We will always, always miss out.

Here’s the second, more important truth: if you always worry about what you’re missing out on, you will miss out on what you already have.

Don’t make a reading list a mile long — focus on the book in your hand. Don’t pack your vacation itinerary with every highlight of the city you’re visiting — walk around and enjoy what you find. Don’t worry about traveling the entire world — be delighted with the world around you. Don’t worry about what you’re missing online, or in the news — what you’re doing is good enough.

And let go of your long to-do lists and goal lists. They are a futile attempt to keep from missing out. You will miss out, but in striving to do everything, you’ll miss out on the wonder of the thing you are doing right now.

What you’re doing right now is all that matters. Let the rest go, and enjoy the fish you’ve already caught.



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