On Watching Pots Boil

My dear friend Kitty thinks I need more protein in my diet, so I just finished boiling two eggs for my breakfast in the morning. I actually stood by the stove and watched the pot. I can report that, indeed, a watched pot does boil. And, upon further reflection, it occurred to me that, contrary to popular opinion, only watched pots boil.

For starters, not watching the pot is like not being in the forrest when the tree falls. It makes little difference whether a sound is made or not; you aren’t there to hear it. If you aren’t watching the pot, you don’t know if it’s boiling or not. This can have serious, flammable consequences. So, go ahead, watch the pot. Science proves that, given enough heat, the water will boil. Your not viewing is superfluous.

I understand that I may be missing the point, but maybe another point needs to be made. It’s great to not watch the pot, to not worry so much, to let things take their course, but this carefree attitude, this absent-mindedness probably only leads to good yoga sessions. In the real world, being mindful about who you are, what you are doing, and where you are going are pretty darn important.

Consider how many people you’ve met that, without plan or purpose, have wandered into success, happiness, and contentment. They’ve achieved great things without paying attention, without being mindful, without trying. I’m betting that number rhymes with “hero.”

We are not mythological gods with the powers to completely shape the world around us, but to an impressive extent we can shape our lives, no matter the circumstances that greet us upon our arrival. We can have goals. We can set standards for ourselves. We can dream about the type of person we want to be. And, then, critically, we can set out to pursue those dreams and goals. I don’t mean only the pursuit of career or financial goals. I mean the goals of being a better sibling. Being a more supportive friend. Being a kinder neighbor. Not being held hostage to our fears and failures. Not being frozen by pain.

By and large, the things we value in life do not simply happen. If you take the lottery approach to life, waiting on the motherlode of good fortune to smile down upon you, you will experience the same odds of those that actually play the lottery. Rather, wanting something, be it a hard boiled egg, success in your job, a better relationship, is only the first step. You can’t want something and then wait for the wish to come true. You have to boil  the water, and then watch the pot boil. It’s not hard. It’s not difficult. You just have to want it enough, because the water will boil. We know it will boil.

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