04 Jan Why We Must Make Growth the Ultimate Goal of 2021
I STOOD IN THE POURING RAIN, high up in the mountains of Olympic National Park. I listened to the calming sounds of the earth in motion; dark rain clouds slowly passed over an icy blue lake down below.
A couple of hours before, I stood on the edge of the lake and watched the rain pierce the water’s crest. Now, I felt like a scout in one of my favorite historical novels, Shogun. My spirit possessed the same peaceful energy as the clouds which enveloped the evergreen mountains.
I wasn’t my accomplishments or my title. I wasn’t my past or my future. I wasn’t even my name. Each deep inhale of the cold, clean air brought me clarity.
I was a solitary body, a soul, a spirit. I thought about the year and the decisions that brought me to this point. I thought about how I’ve grown into the person that I am.
Every day I realize with greater certainty that moments like these give my life meaning. My soul lit up. I felt truly happy.
Last month I took a road trip through California and the Pacific Northwest. That moment on the cliff was one of the most beautiful of my life.
Every day when I wake up and look in the mirror, I see the person that I am. I know what this body contains. It contains the spirit that stood on that mountain and felt alive. It holds a heart that’s full of joy, even though it sometimes hurts.
It comprises hopes, dreams, and fears. It acknowledges a past that’s brought me to this point. It grows through my ostensible victories and failures.
When I look into the mirror, I think to myself: what am I truly here to do?
I want to live; I want to be happy; I want to grow into all I’m meant to be. Every day that I open my eyes and let go of yesterday, I am.
The only point of life is to grow.
Growth = Success
I brought with me three books on my trip. It was as if by fate that they ended up together in my bag because they were ideal companions for a journey like this one.
These books were: The World Is My Home, by James Michener; Eragon, by Christopher Paolini; and The Buddha and the Badass, by Vishen Lakhiani.
Each had a unique impact on me, yet The Buddha and the Badass may very well have changed my life.
Vishen Lakhiani is the founder of Mindvalley, the world’s leading personal development platform. His book, The Buddha and the Badass, is full of many profound lessons about changing the modern paradigm of what success really means. Lakhiani writes:
Your soul isn't here to achieve. Your soul is here to grow. Most people get this wrong. They become seduced by success and broken by failure. They add great meaning to what is essentially meaningless. The true reality is that success and failure are illusions. The only thing that matters is how fast you're evolving. Your journey is about removing all the barriers that hold you back from self-actualization.
When we attach success to accolades and accomplishments, we’re often left feeling disappointed when we reach those things and don’t feel any different.
Why are some of the wealthiest people in the world the most miserable and lost? Why do we believe if we amass accolades, a title, and prestige that we’re successful?
Of course, these things may bring happiness. Yet there’s no doubt that when it does, it comes with a journey of growth and self-actualization, knockdowns, and leaps of faith.
The growth of the process is what makes the accomplishment significant.
As long as we’re growing in any facet of our life, we are already successful. Often the most challenging, yet essential thing to do is believe that about ourselves.
“There is nothing you have to get or be in order to have finally made it.”
In The Buddha and the Badass Lakhiani often refers to speaker, author, and former business school professor Srikumar Rao. Rao supported Lakhiani when the difficulties of creating Mindvalley became too much to bear. Rao says:
The most important thing that our business schools need to teach us is that your work is not about your work. Rather, your work is nothing more than the ultimate vehicle for your personal growth. If your business fails, it doesn't matter. The question is, how did you GROW? The only point of life is to grow. Pain can lead to growth. Success can lead to growth. There is nothing you have to get to or be in order to have finally made it.
It can be challenging not to perceive job titles or material things as the end goal. Our modern society has woven a web of meaning that equates these things with fulfillment.
Hence, we dedicate our lives to the never-ending chase of more. Yet it’s liberation when we realize that we are enough, right now as we are.
End goals versus means goals
We don’t need to chase more to be happy. We don’t need to burn ourselves out because we think that’s what it takes. We are enough. In this mindset, we’re free to give back with an open mind in a way that only we can.
When we see that we are enough right now, what we need in order to give back will naturally flow to us.
The reason we’re here is to experience growth, life, giving, and love. These experiences make life the gift that it is. Lakhiani says in his book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, that these are end goals as opposed to means goals.
End goals speak to your soul. They bring you joy in and of themselves, not because they confer any outward label, standard, or value attached by society. Nor are end goals undertaken for the purpose of pay or for material reward. They are the experiences that create the best memories in our lives. Means goals are the things that society tells us we need to have in place to get to happiness.
We are already enough, right now as we are
Understanding the difference between means goals and end goals has taken much of the pressure off of finding the answer to the question: what am I truly here to do?
Something burns brightly in me that I want to give to the world to move us forward. I want to be a binding light that brings people together to see the good in one another.
My spirit longs to experience all the marvelous treasures of this earth, our home. The beauty and peace of the world is healing.
I want to learn about who we are and how we’ve interacted since the beginning of time. Our cultures, similarities, differences, and history derive from our relationships with one another and the earth.
These are the things I strive for, moments like standing on the edge of that cliff that make life worth living.
Growing is the only thing that matters
This past year, I’ve had personal setbacks where I’ve broken down and cried because I’ve been so overwhelmed. I’ve also had moments where my soul has been absolutely lit up with light. Through it all, I’ve grown.
That, I’m finding, is the one thing that matters. Our life builds upon the steps that we take to move forward in any way we can.
I’m not here to write an extraordinary book or create a business. None of us are. We’re here to grow, learn, and connect with others and this planet.
Writing a book may be a vehicle on my way to that end goal of growth. The same goes with starting a business, getting in shape, or meeting somebody new. What we achieve, accomplish, and create in our lives are vehicles for growth.
We don’t need anything to be successful. We have all that we need right now as we are, as perfectly imperfect beings. All we must do is enjoy this beautiful journey of growth. That is my only goal this year.
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