#AtoZChallenge: Z is for the Zen in Building Chances

stormtrooper beach sunglasses sand

Man – sometimes the shots just don’t fall.

ZI mean the shots, tactically (as in soccer) and philosophically (as in life) – and this is coming from a dude who sometimes sits and thinks. It can be a bombed test you studied for or the girl who says no (even when you stand up straight and comb your hair).

You might not get that handful of Skittles or promotion at work or the C- to raise you GPA (was that just me?), but in the building those chances, well, there’s a Zen to be found.

Zen (the term) gets as much overuse as Beethoven’s music in TV ads for toilet paper. It’s in those perfect moments, with full bellies and full beer mugs, in 70-degree bliss, bills paid and the trash out at the curb. It’s a good book and a better glass of wine, right? Zen.

What about those times it’s good but tenuous when one false step changes everything?

Sometimes life sends us to a bad neighborhood in uncomfortable shoes, or to places where dreams and disaster are each an arms-length away. Or maybe you’re further from either, safe from danger but far from your goals. Is it too early for happiness then?

The shiny things we chase

Where do you find happiness?

It’s easy when you’re surrounded by loved ones, maybe in the midst of spoonful #37 of a hot fudge sundae. They’re the shiny things we chase, and often we catch them only fleetingly. Then, we’re chasing again, looking for better and more for happiness.

What if we could arrive at that place, already happy?

It’s contentment, for the sake of being. Before, during, and after we chase down the things we covet: an ideal partner, the dream job, a new car, all-you-can-eat crab legs. Rather than attach our happiness to fleeting things, what if we lead with it?

That’s where an appreciation of the process of building chances comes in.

Even if we leave the bases loaded or miss 13 shots. When the car needs brakes, or you’re fresh out of donuts. When the score stays tied in a match we should win in a landslide, it’s difficult to relax for the journey, isn’t it? It’s too close for comfort.

If we can take the crosshairs off the target, look up from the scope – peace can arrive during the journey, rather than wait, boxed up and elusive, as the destination.

A platform for gratitude

The more time teams spend in one-goal games, the better. Some might find the pressure unbearable, but it’s under this fire that players and the team become galvanized, shaped and influenced by what they do and what they learn with everything on the line.

That progress – that life experience we get when we live paycheck to paycheck, or battle illness, or otherwise thrash against the odds – not only provides experience and strength and confidence but also a platform for gratitude.

Gratitude, for getting strung out and forced to struggle a bit? Absolutely. I have the Rockies-Diamondbacks game on another screen. My Rockies rallied with three in the ninth to take a 7-6 lead, but Arizona has the winning run at the plate with two out.

Elise just went to bed after toiling on a paper due next week, and Grace’s team has a morning soccer match for a spot in the state quarterfinals.

Tension! (Colorado just closed out the win. That’s the only thing that will be resolved before I hit publish.) Elise’s struggle might look less daunting after a night’s sleep. Maybe today’s close matches will serve Grace’s team well in such a big game tomorrow.

The moment we build chances for ourselves, enrichment begins.

The journey and the halfway there and the endeavors we find ourselves embroiled in on the way is often the actual prize. It’s the experience and value and what life teaches us. Work in progress is positive, except for maybe for your taxes or for the Death Star.

Even if the shots don’t fall.

The rest of the A to Z to this point:

A is for Addiction to Devices

B is for Burgers (3 Lessons I learned During a Month Without Them) Plus 3 Random Smartphone Pics

C is for Interview with a Cat

D is for Do What I Do and Eat What I Eat

E is for Eight Things I’ve Left Behind

F is for  Foods That Bring Me Comfort

G is for #GirlsRock: An Interview Mental Health Care Advocate Kitt O’Malley

H is for Halfway There

I is for Ice Cream

J is for Justification for the Blog Life

K is for 7 Women I’d Sing Karaoke With

L is for Last 3 Blogs I Read (and Why You Should, Too)

M is for Men I Forgot to Be

N is for the New Plan

O is for One Day From Payday Spicy Chicken Skillet

P is for Too Many Projects, Not Enough Time (a Guest Post from Kathy of The Second Half of My Life)

Q is for Quote Challenge

R is for Blogger Recognition

S is for Six Words

T is for Teenagers

U is for Unconventional Loves

V is for Vague Differences Between Protecting and Sheltering

W is for What Fatherhood Did

X is for Xenogenous

Y is for You Deserve a Break Today

building chances quote


  1. Ann Koplow says:

    Z is for Zounds! This was the perfect post for me today. Thanks, Eli.

  2. ksbeth says:

    and at least we’ve taken the shots-

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      always the shots beth. always

  3. hilarymb says:

    Hi Eli – we’ve done our bit and done our best … we can take time out and be peaceful … zen-like … cheers and congratulations on completing the A-Z … zen is for building chances … cheers Hilary


  4. miladyronel says:

    Brilliant post! Congrats on finishing the A-to-Z.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Ronel! I’ll be catching up on your posts now that the race is done.

  5. Congrats on getting to Z! Finishing the A to Z challenge brought me happiness.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Congrats to you too, AJ. It brought me happiness and some new friends. Thanks for being one of them.

  6. Lyn says:

    You’ve come to the end of an epic batch of blog posts, Eli. I’d have never been able to do it.
    “Taking the shot” is important even if they don’t fall the right way – like last week when my granddaughter (she’s 9) and the “we’ve just started playing” soccer team she plays in lost 9-0. They still had big grins on their faces because of the reaction of their coach. Or – on the other end of the spectrum – scoring a “Try” in your very first Rugby League game when you’re 4. There were 3 girls and 3 boys in the team. There was a bit of confusion as to what to do with the ball when they had it, and the coach had to run along the sideline yelling, “This way Jack, this way.” 😀

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you, Lyn. I think I wrote too many words! There are days when you’re on one end of a 9-0 result, and days you’re on the other – in life too.

      The coach’s demeanor means a lot. Marie scored in her first game, so I know that side of it, too.

      Jack is off to a spectacular start!

  7. messymimi says:

    What’s important is the striving. Congratulations on finishing the A to Z!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Always the striving. We made it!

  8. stomperdad says:

    I miss ALL the shots I don’t take. Ultimately, life isn’t about the finish line. It’s about the journey. Good luck to Elise and Grace!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The journey’s pretty incredible.

  9. “Too early for happiness” – made me think. Sometimes it’s hard enough to recognize happiness when it bites you in the butt, but “too early”? Does it mean cheering for a seemingly safe win when the game isn’t over just yet? Because you know that happened to Bayern München in the 1999 Champions League finals. Probably my only time soccer REALLY impressed me.

    Congratulations on completing another great A-Z Challenge!

    Now let’s get back to regular life!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad it made you think. Too early might also apply to my Rockies, who are in first place before Mother’s Day.

      Alabama made the mistake of busting out a championship belt with a slim lead over Clemson in the national championship game!

      Soccer would have impressed you if you’d seen Grace’s two second-half goals yesterday in the tournament!

      Congratulations to you too, Tamara. I have some reading to do!

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