What happens when you climb to the top of a proverbial ladder, look around, and realise you have climbed up the wrong wall?
Months or even years ago, you decided to lean your ladder against a particular dream. With dedication, day in and day out, you climbed one rung of achievement at a time. It hasn’t been easy, but with a tenacious spirit, you stuck with it, only to break through and realise you didn’t like where you ended up. This moment in life can break your heart and shatter your spirit.
Recently I heard a man share a story about how he worked his entire career to earn his doctorate in psychology. His prime working years were spent constantly reaching for the dream. Finally, the day came where he walked down the graduation aisle and received the paper that gave him the official title he had worked so hard for. Instead of joy, all Mr PHD felt was utter disappointment. As he held the piece of paper in his hands, he realised he never wanted to be a doctor. His hearts desire all long was to hear his father tell him that he was proud of him. Somewhere along the way, Mr PHD had decided that getting his doctorate would make his father proud. He leaned his ladder against the wall of academia and started climbing.
If you live long enough, there will be a moment where you look around and realise that you have climbed the wrong wall. In these moments, despair can rush in. We look at all the time, energy, emotions, and sacrifices we have made to get here, and we feel like it was all for naught. There is a name for this feeling- it is called “sunk-cost”. Sunk-cost is the feeling that everything that was invested has been lost; we might as well have flushed it down the toilet for all the good it has done for us. Or even worst, it is the decision that we have already invested this much, we can’t stop now, so we keep going down a path that isn’t for us.
I recently came across the term “The Sunk Cost Fallacy”. The Sunk Cost Fallacy tells us that these despairing thoughts our emotions are feeding us are, in fact, not true. While we may not have ended up where we meant to go, nothing is lost in the wisdom gained along the journey.
One of the most incredible pearls of wisdom we gain when we have climb up the wrong wall is perspective. Often, as we stand atop a ladder leaning against the wrong wall, we are given a chance to stop and look around with a bird’s eye view. From this perspective, we see needs and opportunities that couldn’t be seen when we were focused on the climb. This point of view offers us unspeakable wisdom.
I encourage you that if you have found yourself in this situation, stop and look around. It is not very often in life we have the opportunity to make decisions from a bird’s eye view. Lean into the perspective, hold it against your chest, and cherish it as treasure. It may not have been the treasure you were seeking, but treasure it still is.