A few months ago I read an excerpt from a book that I find myself quoting several times a week. In Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty recounts a time that he was walking with one of his teachers from his ashram. When they passed a fellow monk reciting scripture by heart, an admiring Jay mentioned that he wanted to be like that man. His teacher, neither discouraging nor encouraging him, questioned the root of his desire. Did he want to be a man whom everyone recognized as someone who could recite scripture? Or did he want to be a man who studied scripture, made sacrifices, and committed himself to the sole goal of reciting it by heart, simply because he loved it that much. One ambition is a creation of the ego, and the other is an intention of the soul. Whether Jay learned to recite the scriptures by heart is irrelevant. The results of our efforts are never as significant as the time and energy that we put into attaining our desires; the paths that we take to get there and why.
Jesus wasn’t hustling for the most likes on social media. Buddha wasn’t focused on getting published. Muhammad wasn’t pushing for a sweet record deal. And if they had been, they would have missed the mark completely; way ahead of their times… but missing the mark. We often let our ego confuse goals with values and live in that place of achievement. Even happiness is a goal, not a value. When the likes are posted, words are read, and audience stops dancing, the emptiness returns. Goals are fleeting. Values are forever; fluid but forever. They can be a haven, awaiting our return time and again: integrity, honesty, respect, or community. Our greatest accomplishments will be the how, why, and what of our own creations. What we get out of it is just icing on the awesome cake.
Keeping our eyes on the prize blinds us to the treasures waiting to be gathered along the way. We’ll miss the beauty, the relationships, and the lessons that we will need when we finally reach our target. Without all of those things, the proverbial prize will fall short, and we will be left disappointed, resentful, and ravenous for a new aspiration. Emerson was right, it really is about the journey. No matter how beautiful the destination, you’re not going to appreciate it if you’re a haggard hot mess completely unprepared to be there.
Before we put a price tag on the things that we want in our lives, we need to redefine our values. Living a life committed to our deepest and most authentic ideals will open us to the life that we are here to live. Our purpose is our true source of sustainable joy. When we live in line with our values, we discover that purpose and the world opens up for us. And the best part is, we don’t need millions of startup dollars or a GPS to get there. We just need to listen, truly listen, to our own unique voice and tap into our core values. Let those be our guide. So if you’re a maker of annual promises, this year try resolving to getting to know yourself better. Peel through the layers of influence and find out who you are under there. Once you’re well acquainted, you can start setting goals with your heart, not your ego. Don’t keep your life waiting. Don’t keep this world waiting; it needs you. So find that switch, turn on your love light, and let it shine!
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