All of our lives, we strive to do well – being the best in class, landing on the best job, getting the next promotion. We work hard to achieve the blueprint of success.
This unitary focus continues as we progress throughout our 20’s, 30’s, and beyond – getting the next promotion, praise, title, etc. We ace one challenge after another and prove to ourselves that we can handle anything thrown at us. We compete with ourselves to squash any tasks with flying colors. The sense of competition extends beyond with ourselves to with those around us. Nothing gives us more adrenaline rushing than to be recognized as the best of the best. As we set forth on this train towards ‘success’, there is no turning back. We have continued ourselves with the thinking that if we are not stressed, we feel like we are not doing all we can. We develop deep seeded hatred towards ourselves for being lazy when we take a deserved break.
In all that achieving and proofing to others, we forget to develop ourselves in other areas – finding what really matters to us. Instead of seeing how our career can be a vehicle to realize what’s important to us in our lives, we let our career drive our lives. We forget we have choices – the higher up we get, the more baggage we carry with us and we think in terms of what we can loose vs. what we can gain.
The mentality of getting as much output as input transcend to how we behave with others in our lives – our colleagues, friends, family, and loved ones. There is never a time where there is enough time (and money) – God forbid, we may fall behind if we let ourselves become complacent. We squeeze as much of our selves and our ‘resources’ to meet deadlines (yes, that’s how we view our team). We just can’t help it! That’s the expectation of us – of our manages, of our business leads, of our stockholders. We must continue to push and streamline to be ‘above expectation’. Competition is fierce – there is no other way. We become an optimization machine – constantly fitting in as much as possible and solving for immediate gratification. If we don’t survive today, there is no tomorrow. We trap ourselves in this continue escalating cycles to ‘strive for excellence’ - so we think. We must and we will win.
“Just a few more years, we will be free”, the dialogue that we tell ourselves. “I am so close to exit in the millions – just a few more push.”
“I am so close to getting that promotion – just a few more months.”
We hold back our own basic needs and see it as an act of ‘sacrifice’ for the future. Underneath it all, even we don’t like to admit, we kind of like being all ‘booked up’ - it means we are important! We find opportunities to boast about it once in a while. The constant stimulations distract us from having to deal with the deeper questions in our lives. The questions that make us feel vulnerable, lost, and uneasy.
This pattern continues till one day, something big happens to us. Perhaps a health breakdown, an emotion meltdown, or a sudden event that turns our world upside. Questions and doubts begin to surface as the assumptions that we operate our life get challenged.
What now? How do we make sense of what’s going on? What is the point of life? Why am I here? What am I doing?
We blame others around us for putting ourselves in the situation we are in. We blame ourselves for not being able to “figure it out”, for the time we have wasted, etc.
Then all of a sudden – something happens. As we hang out with that vulnerability, our heart hangs and our tears run, we see an opening. The opening that suggests maybe it is okay to be just the way we are. Maybe it is okay that we are tender to our needs. Maybe our ‘weaknesses’ are just labels of comparison, and in fact, are our strengths when applied differently. Maybe allowing others to care for us is not a sign of dependence and weakness but an opportunity to connect and give gratitude. Maybe we will realize that we do have enough and that we are blessed with everything we have already accomplished. Maybe the question becomes ‘how can I be helpful to others’ vs. ‘how can I find that path that I am meant to be on’.
Something else shifts once that attention is turned from the inside out. We become more available to signals and opportunities that the world presents us. Our range of possibilities expands from the confines of what we know. We become curious of the world outside of us – we see connections we have never noticed before. We become less buried with our own worries and insecurities and extend that energy and attention to how we might be of a service to others. We become more grounded with our existence in this world – the purpose we are supposed to fill with the talent and opportunities that we have been graciously given.
We still slip here and there to the comparison mind, and the incongruence of the world we used to know and where we are. We might feel alone sometimes for being one who chooses a different path. Nevertheless, our sense of purpose brings us back to the ‘why’ – the reason behind our choice. We regain our path with even stronger conviction to defend what is important to us. We laugh, feel, create, and express ourselves in the work we do. We are inspired. The same tasks, that once seem mundane, when viewed through our ‘why’, become meaningful and purposeful. The same frustrations that once bothered us become opportunity for learning. We smile kindly to ourselves for how much we have grown. We apply our energy and positivity towards our work, except this time around, it is not a vehicle for attaining resources, rather a vehicle to honor what we believe in and an opportunity see our passion come alive. Money follows – as we deliver the value we believe in. We are no longer enslaved by money. Money is neither a subject good or bad, but an exchange of value that we created. Serendipitous opportunities present themselves in the most unexpected times. We’ve learned that we can live within our means and appreciate the everyday luxuries – a fresh bouquet of flowers, a nice meal, a sensational book, instead of the next asset we can acquire. As we shed all the clutter and excess in our life, we find lightness and clarity. We lead our life with intention and foresight. We are no longer lukewarm or lost – we are truly alive.
Even if it doesn’t seem like it – we all do have choices. We must intentionally find the time and space to allow ourselves to explore, to be curious, to meander, to indulge – this is the only way we can find out what is important to us. Curiosity heightens awareness. Awareness opens up choices. Choices set us free.