When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time worrying about whether any decisions I made were the right ones or whether I should’ve done something else. I’d also spend a lot of time worrying about what would happen if I tried something and failed. This meant I often ended up doing nothing rather than something, and while it might have stopped me making a few mistakes, I probably also missed out on a lot of great opportunities too.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised this isn’t a good way to lead my life, and looking back, I’d say some of the biggest regrets are over things I haven’t done rather than things I have. This has led me to adopt a rule which I call ‘The Rocking Chair Test’. I’m sure this isn’t very original and I’m sure I’m not the first to have come up with it, but it does provide a remarkably good rule of thumb and a much more positive way of viewing your life. Without it, I’d certainly not be writing this blog (which, as it happens, was a year old this week), and I would probably never have got round to starting, let alone finishing and publishing, For Those In Peril On The Sea.
You see, for as long as I can remember, I’d wanted to write a novel, but the thought of putting it out there for others to read and potentially criticise really had me scared. After all, what if I put in all that effort, and it turned out that I couldn’t actually write? With perverse logic, I justified doing nothing with the thought that if I didn’t write it, this could never happen so I wouldn’t have to risk failing. This simple, and quite logical, thought process was blocking me from even attempting to do something the rest of my brain really wanted to do. As I was heading up to my fortieth birthday last year, I realised that I shouldn’t be letting that one little thought have so much control over my life. Instead, I decided to look at the book-writing issue from a new perspective, that of The Rocking Chair Test, to see if that might allow me to make some progress.
So what is this test? Well, it’s quite simply this: When, in the twilight of your life, you’re sitting on your porch (or wherever it is you picture yourself spending your final days), rocking slowly back and forth on your favourite chair, thinking about all you’ve done in your life, will you regret not having done whatever it is you are trying to decide whether you should do? If the answer is yes, then you should do it. If it’s no, then you should probably shouldn’t.
When I applied this test to writing a book, I realised that if I got to the end of my life and hadn’t at least given it a go, then I would almost certainly deeply regret it. In this sense, I realised, it was the trying, rather than the succeeding, which was important. If I wrote a book and it turned out that I had absolutely no story telling talent and it was truly awful, I could always just bury it in the back of a drawer and no one need ever know except for me. That way, the worst that could happen was that when my future self sits in his rocking chair, he’ll be able to chuckle himself about that time it tried to write a book rather than regretting never having given it a go. This gave me a new way to look at the issue, and it was one which gave me the confidence to sit down and start write.
As it turned out, when I finally showed the book to other people they quite liked it, and so now my future self can rock back and forth, remembering about that book he once wrote, and the present me is much happier knowing that I’ve got one less thing to look back on and regret later in life. However, if I hadn’t used The Rocking Chair Test, I still be stuck in the negative head space which had hindered me for so long, and I’d have nothing to show for it but regrets. I think this is why it’s such a useful test. It doesn’t focus on success, but rather on trying, and that is a much more positive way to lead your life. Once you start using The Rocking Chair test, you’ll find it’s addictive and you’ll find yourself applying it to all aspects of your life from your career to relationships, and it’s definitely a better way to live than forever worrying about the possibility of failure or of making the wrong decision, and, as a result, missing out on things.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.