How often do you look at pictures of yourself as an infant or toddler?
I bet your answer ranges between rarely and never. I also wager you’re not alone. I don’t know a single adult, especially an adult farmer or rancher, who regularly looks at—let alone carries around—a childhood photo.
Well, folks, I’ll confirm my oddity by admitting I do just that.
The photo to the right is me, circa 1979. I was almost one. This photo sits on my desk and stands guard as the lock screen image on my phone.
Because that little girl with curly hair and big eyes helps me remember how far I’ve come and reminds me not to get lost in whatever stuff might—or might not—be happening at the moment.
According to me personally, every communication-style assessment known to man, and any person who knows me well, I’m a forward thinker. I don’t get caught up in “today” because I’ve already moved on to thinking about next week—sometimes even the next decade.
My natural abilities can serve me well. I’m strong help when it comes to strategic planning, vision boarding, grant writing, long-term goal setting, and more. I thrive on reading people, places, and situations in order to plan for or create something in the future.
Those same abilities can also make me a giant pain.
I am extremely hard on myself. I tend to be overly critical and easily annoyed when the “now” doesn’t match up the “planned future”. I don’t live in the moment. I struggle to prioritize and focus on daily tasks. I don’t naturally take time to appreciate all that’s been accomplished because I’m constantly pushing for something better.
Major League Baseball pitcher Joe Weiland spoke right to me when he said, “It’s important not to get too caught up in what you’d like to happen in the future, all the while ignoring the good things you already do have.”
Enter the photo of my younger self. A few seconds marveling at those innocent eyes so wide with wonder and open to joy soften my heart and remind me there was a time when “right now” was enough.
By seeing my baby picture, I’ve found a way to be present and content if only for a moment. I’ve discovered looking at my younger self helps me speak and think more kindly. I find it easier to be grateful in the moment even if the moment isn’t what I had planned.
We live in a world where better is always on the horizon. We’re all striving to stay relevant in a noisy world. For a lot of us, the push for a better tomorrow means less appreciation for what’s great today.
I’m not suggesting we all stop pushing for progress, and I don’t believe we ag folks are ungrateful. But, maybe there’s more room for contentedness than we think.
Perhaps the nostalgia I’ve found in a baby picture has a place in our farming and ranching businesses. The best our sector has to offer can’t be appreciated in spreadsheets and financial assessments. Our best lies in our people, so it’s important for our people not to get lost in the shuffle of progress.
As our cattle herd, facilities, equipment, and acres age each day, I find it easy to get stuck in “get better” mode. I can be a real nag when it comes to figuring out how we’re going to get everything done, how we’re going to make marked improvements while maintaining quality family time, and how far there is yet to go.
Our business means so much to me that I forget the ranch we’re helping grow was once only a dream. So, much like the photo on my desk and phone, we have a wall in our home full of aerial ranch photos. We consider investing in those photos a necessary business expense. They represent the ethereal bigger picture, a way to step back and appreciate where we’ve been so we can remember the joy in where we’re going.
Seeing those pictures of progress connects us to how we felt when we added that new yard or got that building fixed up. We have more appreciation for what we’ve already built, and we have a better guide for what is yet to come.
As we head into another season of head-down-busy, I hope you take lots of moments to appreciate where you are. I also hope you’ll display or carry a photo with you that fills your heart with peace … a photo that makes you stop, look up, and appreciate the journey you’re on.
There’s surely a lot for us yet to accomplish, but let’s not forget the progress we’ve already made and the good things we already have!