Where?s your Plimsoll line? Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Wednesday, 23 April 2008 02:00

There’s not a human being alive who doesn’t have a Plimsoll line. Do you know where yours is? The term comes from the shipping industry and refers to the line around a ship’s hull. “If a skipper loaded the hold so that that line was beneath the surface, he was committing a dangerous and reckless act. The first bad weather, the first storm – disaster.”

So says Joseph Hayes in ‘The third day’. In this book he shows us each of his characters’ Plimsoll lines. Over here, I’m going to show you mine. You see, mine dips under water whenever I take on a certain kind of cargo – things that involve other people’s opinions. I once read that there are three kinds of business in life: My business, your business and God’s business. And I’m telling you that the road to hell is paved with tiny little chunks of taking-on-anything-other- than-my-own-business.

Other people’s opinions are their business. So are other people’s disappointments, hopes, dreams, expectations and anger. Whenever I try to live up to someone else’s expectations, try to avoid disappointing them or let their opinions guide me – it’s then that my Plimsoll line goes for a serious dunking.

Still, these dunkings are nothing when it comes to the biggest self-torture of all – comparing yourself to someone else. That’s a serious ship-sinker.

Like author Sarah Ban Breathnach, I can say that obviously I couldn’t ruminate on making myself utterly miserable with comparisons unless I was vaguely familiar with this sin against authenticity. Okay, more than vaguely familiar.

Sarah says that comparison hurts us in profound ways; it undermines our confidence and depletes our self-esteem. Instead of comparing yourself to someone else, why not just take a wet leather lash and beat yourself senseless? It would be far easier to recover from.

You cannot live your life ‘on purpose’ when constantly comparing what you have, what you look like or what you’ve achieved with that which someone else has. You’ll keep on being distracted by unfulfilling, meaningless, life-wasting choices that were meant for someone else; that would have been meaningful in someone else’s life. Living out your own purpose will take you where you need to be going – never mind who else is going in that direction or whether they get there before or after you. But what if you don’t know what your purpose is?

“We don’t see ourselves clearly,” says Laura Naughton, the founder of Lifemark Destinations. A lifemark, by the way, is that which you’re destined to make on the world.

Laura says that our own natural gifts are rarely apparent to us because we’re blinded by surface skills. Skills and talents do not constitute our life purpose, so developing them does not automatically get us any closer to identifying our purpose.

You’ll get hints of your life purpose during everyday living if you pay attention to your gut and your gagging reflex. When you have to compromise who you are for a situation, take note of the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Learn how to watch out for these very physical feelings. If you keep ignoring them, you’ll get yourself into situations you despise. You’ll also end up hating the woman who landed you there – you. We can bend only so far and then we break. Knowing how far you can bend is the first step in making sane agreements with other people without compromising who you are.

Just remember that another person’s bending quotient might drastically differ from yours. After all,“we hardly ever know what cargo the other fellow’s carrying. Or how heavy it is."

As Joseph Hayes says, “Every individual’s Plimsoll line’s probably at a different level, but we’ve all got them.” The point is to learn how to load your hull for your particular capacity.



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