One of my favorite movies is a little flick called City Slickers that came out in 1991.
It's the story about 3 guys who hit their mid forties and find themselves kind of lost and wondering what the heck happened to their lives. They are friends and all live in New York City. They have all achieved a certain relative level of success in the world but are now asking themselves " Is this all there is?" So they decide to take a couple of weeks and have an adventure to find themselves and get back on track.
The adventure they choose is a cattle drive vacation where they learn to ride horses and live outdoors and interact with cows and cowboys. Which is all pretty funny when you've got Billy Crystal thrown into the mix. They have a lot of predictable and unpredictable mishaps along the way. And of course it changes their lives.
But the part that is relevant to what I want to talk about today is an interaction that the Billy Crystal character has with the trail boss, Curly, a rough and tumble no-nonsense cowboy wise man. Billy is feeling very confused about what to do about the unhappiness in his life. He doesn't know how to solve this seemingly unsolvable problem. So he starts baring his soul to the laconic and inscrutable Curly who holds up one finger in response to Billy Crytals neurotic and desperate verbal meanderings.
He tells Billy that he needs to find the "one thing" and then everything else will make sense. Billy mistakenly thinks that Curly knows what this one thing is... kind of like the answer to the secret of life... and then Curly drops dead before he is able to tell him.
But the Billy Crystal character finally realizes that it is up to him to discover this one thing for himself.That the "one thing" is personal to who you are and where you are at any given time.
I love this idea of the "one thing" that can be a guide and a touchstone for your life.
And the really great thing is you don't need to be tearing your hair out trying to figure out the ONE "one thing". You actually get to have as many as you want. And it seems to me that different things show up at different times depending on where you are changing and growing the most. And depending on what your soul and psyche is needing at any given time.
For example, one of my students was looking at how she could be bringing more creativity into her life. She was feeling like her creative expression was continually being shoved into the backseat , so she decided that for a period of time, her "one thing" would be addressed by the following question "How does this activity or this person or this attitude support my creativity ... or not?"
In other words, her creative self expression became the "one thing" and everything else in her life revolved around that. Which of course, led to her being much more creative.
Your energy always follows your attention. And the idea of having "one thing" helps to focus our attention like a laser beam. It helps to keep us on track and to simplify our easily distracted, confused and flighty brains since on some level we all have ADD otherwise known as Attention Deficit Disorder.
The other great thing about the "one thing" is that it's not meant to be a should or a supposed to or a have to. It's not about buckling down and getting serious and efforting until our eyes pop out of our head.
It's simply a reminder. A mantra. A gentle question. A way to orient yourself and gain a bit of clarity.
I think about these "one things" like homing beacons.
Whenever we are feeling overwhelmed and unfocused they can be very useful as a way to bring us back in alignment with what we know to be the most essential and true.
Sometimes the "one thing" is a thing we already have.
But we so take it for granted that we forget that we have it. And we forget how important it is. It's like an underlying drum beat that persistently resonates through us. Something that we continue to come back to over and over again.
It's something that we value so deeply that it becomes a signature "one thing". It's what we are known for. And is often the way that other people identify us.
Maybe you are someone who is consistently kind and compassionate. Or wild and wacky and always up for an adventure. Or someone who loves to create order and organization wherever you go.
These are the the deep-rooted "one things" that flow through us like a river and shape the long term trajectory of our lives.
Even though other people can clearly see these parts of us we can oftentimes lose track of who at core we really are. Finding our way back to these essential qualities most often involves a process of self remembering and self acknowledgment. And sweet gratitude that we have been so blessed with a certain gift.
Then there are those "one things" that come for a brief stay.
A couple of years ago my short term "one thing" was marketing where I was totally engaged in discovering all the fun and delightfully different ways that I could get the word out about my work.
Earlier this year when I was remodeling and painting the interior of my house my "one thing" for a few weeks was paint colors. I was obsessed with finding the exact combination of hues that would make me feel the happiest and most at home.
These transitory preoccupations are designed to captivate our attention and can even become healthy obsessions for a while... like my fascination with paint colors or marketing techniques. These things occupied me temporarily but didn't ultimately define me.
They drew me into their web of influence and were fun while they lasted but by their very nature were relatively short lived. They were related to something that I wanted or needed that was external to me and would help make my life a bit better or easier or more colorful.
And finally there are those "one things" that our souls are crying out for.
They are things that on some level we know we want but we don't have them... yet. They often feel weird and unfamiliar. They are food that we know we are hungry for but don't really know how it tastes. They are often a bit of a stretch. They are always an invitation to growth or to change. They are not part of our ordinary routine and who we know ourselves to be.
And they are not external things that we can become deliciously entranced by like paint chips or Twitter.
They are most often spiritual and emotional qualities that we are trying to develop in ourselves and incorporate into our lives. And because they are something new and different they can be a bit harder to hold onto.
For example, my current "one thing" has to do with inviting into my life the quality of effortlessness. Something which is as foreign to me as is trying to imagine living at the bottom of the ocean. I have always assumed that everything I do needs to be a lot of hard work.
That being stressed and exhausted is like a badge of honor.
But I have gotten the "orders from headquarters" ( i.e. my intuitive self) that ease is where it's at. And that my job right now is to continually ask ... and hopefully answer..... the question "How can my life become more effortless?"
Right now everything I do needs to revolve around that particular "one thing" if I'm really going to get it. I have a feeling that this might take awhile. And once I get a handle on that one I'm sure that something else will appear.
I only hope that the next "one thing" that shows up involves going to a lot of paint stores.