I’ve been thinking a lot about goals and achievements lately. As an entrepreneur, one of the many challenges in running a business is keeping yourself grounded enough to see the immense value in everything you do and how you’re making a difference when the goals are much more rigid and ever-changing than when you’re simply working at a job and climbing a very visible ladder.
Goals and achievements are the pinnacle of societies across the world and rooted in our human condition of wanting to succeed. We want to be successful, recognized, and accomplish something meaningful. It’s what keeps us sane and able to continue what we do. We set up structures of achievements throughout our life: graduating high school, acceptance into colleges, getting hired for a new job, being recognized with a promotion, marrying, having children, and allowing this cycle to continue. While these are all amazing moments, they are simply that: moments. They are moments in time coupled with many other million moments in time we experience throughout our lives. We have more moments in our life that we don’t remember than the ones we do because we choose to only remember the high and low points. We live on a moving curve of ups and downs which map the stories of our life like a performance of acts in a play. We all dance together in this beautiful journey we call life.
Life is fragile though. So very fragile. It can bring us to tears when we remember this. Sometimes it’s in moments of our own pain and suffering and other times during a tragic or untimely death. Death shows us in plain sight the existential problem to human existence. While we are amazingly creative and infinitely capable of anything within our imagination, we are limited by these bodies of flesh that make up who we are. We can dream up rockets and planes that extend our literal human capabilities, but we all suffer the same fate at some moment: death. It changes us, forever. When we know of our mortality or when we remember it, we become better people. We put aside the petty drama of our lives and look at our higher purpose. We understand we are not merely here to exist, but to thrive. Our goals and accomplishments are not just milestones, they’re sign posts that show us a direction to take. Life happens in experiences between these posts so the goals and accomplishments are not the most important moments in our lives. It’s as if the cover of a book is our present moment and the back is the goal; the real story is told through the many pages in-between. We only truly ever exist in the present moment. The moment you’re existing in right now, inhaling each breathe of air, is your life. We should never forget that as we continue the path to our goals. The human condition is surreal– we can create any life for ourselves, a river of possibility from our imagination and desires, and yet at the same time we experience every little moment that leads there. That’s the purpose of goals and accomplishments. Giving us a start and end point on which to steer ourselves through the experiences of life. We can choose a life worth living by setting the start and end points that we want to see for ourselves and then experiencing the magic of life in the middle.
We must start with the now and fill ourselves with everything we love; our best self. When you live life from your best self, you are always giving this to others. That is the most valuable gift you could ever give this world.
A friend of mine recently sent me a letter saying they were upset at negativity directed at them from a wall post on Facebook. A blunt insult and a pure form of bullying that caused real pain when it was read. Bullying is actually a sign of insecurity within the bully that is being made up for by bringing someone else down. But this friend is a yoga teacher who recently finished training in India and I felt compelled to reflect back some wisdom that I probably gained from her to begin with. After sending it, I realized how much I needed the reminder as well. Life has a funny way of manifesting exactly what you need at the right moment if you take the time to “stop and smell the roses”:
From the depths of the darkness and fire, we rise more resilient and stronger as a Phoenix from ashes. The negativity, scattered throughout our experiences, is present to highlight the contrast to those aware so we may clearly see the positivity, the bliss. Revealing the north star toward the light, away from our shadow.
Remember in Yoga we return to our mats with a goal, an intention. But it is not the intention that is the purpose of the practice. It’s the direction the present moment takes due to that intention. Therefor, it’s not about ever reaching a goal, but following the path and being present. The paths we never would have considered or taken if we hadn’t returned to the mat, hadn’t given time to contemplation. That journey is the practice.
“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end” -Nietzsche
Like a plant, we grow to a certain point in our lives when we’re able to start creating seeds and putting them out into the world to let new plants grow and thrive. All past generations give us their creations in order for us to create in their shadow when they no longer can. As if we keep passing the torch of life on to the children of every new generation. Our entire lives are rooted in the lives of millions of others who have come and gone and we are all connected like the branches of a single tree.
So what is at the heart of our goals and accomplishments? I believe it is love.
Not a romantic love, although that is a powerful force which can help us learn about true love. True love is limitless, unconditional love for everything in existence. It is the releasing of all negativity, jealousy, pain, suffering and fear within ourselves that all we have left is pure love.
The force that binds all life together by a silver thread. This thread weaves itself between our present moment and all our goals. When we look for the silver lining in any moment, we are finding this. That blissful experience you find in even the most difficult of times that fills you with an immense joy reminding you that you are still alive and grateful for every breathe you take. That is love.
Love is the binding force between all things in this universe. The unexplainable outpouring of love that overwhelms us when we first see our children born. The feelings between two star crossed lovers as if the world melts between their arms. The compassion and kindness we all feel during a heartwarming story and which we call “pulling on our heart strings”. The emotions that are felt so profoundly that they are so deeply personal like how an Adele song vibrates through us and we hear it in our hearts. When we reach far within ourselves, we begin to hear each-other’s soul, softly between the beats of our heart and the rhythm of every breath. The heart has the second most nerve endings in our body after our brain so we can not only metaphorically, but literally “think” from our hearts. From empathy and understanding as opposed to the ego of mind. This is the pure state of love.
The heart only knows how to love. It pumps the blood throughout our bodies rejuvenating every cell with fresh nutrients and oxygen without any questions. Whether our minds choose to be an angry or kind person to the world, the heart never judges and continues to pump away this life giving energy until it no longer can. There’s universal wisdom in the power of our heart and ability to love.
One of my favorite movies of all time which depicts love in the most authentic way is Before Sunrise. The story is of romantic love between two travelers, but the underlining theme is of literal timeless love by the end when Ethan Hawke looks up at the clocks in Vienna. I absolutely loved a video I found by a filmmaker, Jason Silva, who talks about this. He created short bursts of what he calls “philosophical espresso” and uses the topic of love in one of them. What resonated profoundly when I first saw it was his recollection of the brilliance behind Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise:
What Jason comes to by the end is the beauty of life: “Love is the answer to human existence but it does not solve the problem of human existence”.
Spread love into the world any way you can. Many ripples make vast changes in the ocean of life.