There’s a line from the movie Castaway that has always stuck in my mind as one of profound depth and wisdom. After being rescued from a deserted island where he’d spent years struggling to survive, the character played by Tom Hanks described how he was able to get through the ordeal. He said simply, “Tomorrow the sun will rise.” Despite terrible hardship and abject hopelessness, he could always return to that one simple truth. Tomorrow the sun will rise.
It’s impossible to appreciate the poignancy of that statement until you’ve reached a point that seems completely hopeless; a time when there seems to be nothing there to keep you moving forward. Despite the desperation you might feel and the desire to give up, you can’t escape the truth of the statement. Tomorrow the sun will rise.
Perspective matters. I’m told that distance runners often focus simply on reaching the next telephone pole. Once they reach it, they focus on reaching the next one. That process goes on for the length of whatever distance they’re running. They focus on the process rather than on reaching the end of the race.
I tend to focus on the horizon; I go for big goals, but in doing that I seem to ignore each small step that it takes to reach them. I ignore the process. I’ve tried and failed in significant ways on many occasions. I’ve gone ‘all in’ on business ventures and lost everything. I’ve put myself and my family in seemingly hopeless positions, even getting to the point where I literally forgo buying medication for myself. When it seemed as if things couldn’t get any worse, my car broke down.
It’s painful because as circumstances become more challenging, the horizon that I tend to focus so hard on becomes invisible to me. I’ve fallen down, the sun has set and I can’t see the path forward. But that horizon, appealing as it may be, was never a reality. It may yet become a reality, but it isn’t right now. The circumstances of today however, are reality.
If you’re like me, you tend to view the goal as an end and once that end is reached then things will be better. Say it out loud and the true nonsense of the idea will ring in your ears. If I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Put in that context, the problem becomes crystal clear: When the goal becomes the be-all, end-all of our lives we lose sight of the goodness of today. Consequently, the contrast between the sky blue end concocted in our minds and the challenges we face right now can make today seem far more miserable than it should. But the end that we envision is likely an illusion; there will always be struggle. And there are good things in life right now that we’re ignoring. So, what value does focusing on the sky blue end give us if it clouds our eyes to current blessings?
Rather than focusing on what might have been but for our failures or other obstacles, we have to focus on what is. When you’ve bottomed out, you have to remember to take things one day at a time. One step at a time. Take some time to focus on the right now. Count your blessings and start over if you need to. Tomorrow the sun will rise. A new day will begin.