We are raised to define ourselves by our accomplishments. What have we done? What will we do? But what if we shifted to defining ourselves by simply being. Consider this; if you decide, “I am a singer” but suddenly you lose your voice, what are you? Or you say, “I am successful” but you find the company you work for goes under and you are unemployed for a period, then what have you become? When our self worth is completely defined by what we have done or will do, then as soon as things shift around us we are upset, we lose our footing, and we don’t know what to think. If we can begin to look at ourselves as worthwhile human beings regardless of what we are capable of and let go of what we think we should be doing, we can remain ourselves regardless of our surroundings.
All this takes is a shift in perception. To an outsider coming across the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi Tree, they may have seen a man who was doing nothing to earn money or accomplish things, but to Buddha he was achieving enlightenment. The outsider does not see any doing and so they’ve decided Buddha is wasting his time and he is not valuable. Or think of the stories of Jesus beginning his path to becoming a spiritual leader and finding his true calling. To one person, they may have seen a guy who quit his job in his early thirties who was roaming around, penniless, and hanging out with the wrong kind of people, but to Jesus he was spreading the word of God and changing people’s lives forever. Our lives and choices will not always be a clear path to success or make sense to others, but they may lead to the greatest experiences we will ever have.
When we give ourselves time to just simply be, we always become closer to our True Selves. We cannot be happy if we are always caught up in results. Because time changes everything, the things we desperately wanted 10 years ago are often not what we want today. And that is the joy of life. We are capable of a great many things, and if we don’t get caught up in results, we free ourselves to make mistakes, get sidetracked, and discover great joys we may never have known existed.
Letting go is never easy, but if we can make an effort toward release, we always find relief. Let go of the feeling that your happiness should or can be determined by what other people think of you. The most memorable people in history were often rejected as talentless or crazy. If they had let people’s opinions stop them, we wouldn’t have some of our most cherished pieces of art or our most crucial concepts of science, philosophy, or religion. Let go of the need to control the world around you or the people around you. Let go of what isn’t serving you any longer. Our ability to thrive is inherently linked with our ability to let go. This release will not happen overnight or on a week-long trip, but with conscious effort it will come. Make space for the things that are working for you and run towards them, full speed ahead, with joy in your heart and curiosity in your mind.
Journaling Exercise: What expectations do you set for yourself that you are ready to let go of? Do you cling to a certain definition of yourself that isn't working for you any more? What can you do to allow yourself to not focus on doing all the time and simply be?