Listening tonight to one of the audiobooks that has helped me most, There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by W. Dyer, I’m reminded of something I tell myself all the time, yet do not fully embrace – there is no ultimate goal to be reached, there is only now.
I’m also reminded of that Flash animation I shared with you a few week’s back by Alan Watts – Life is not about the final note – the whole thing from the very start is a path to be danced along!
No matter how much I feel these ideas to be true, I still can’t break away from feeling that there is ‘more’ around the corner.
Take now for example: if I think of the things I’ve achieved in the past couple of years, I am immensely satisfied, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would say that I am successful, a successful student, a successful friend, a successful thinker, a successful photographer, a successful writer, a successful happy person – but hang on! I’m only an undergraduate university student – how can I be “successful” when I have achieved “nothing”. I’m bankrupt, virtually unemployed, I have no qualifications apart from a 1994 Basic Food Hygiene Certificate, I have no quantifiable skills as such – OK, so I can speak Japanese. So what? so can over 150 million other people.
So, I still have this unconscious idea, lurking there at the back of my head, that when I get that job, when I have my own business, when I’m a dad, when I have that home in the countryside with a big organic garden, then I’ll be successful!
But what twaddle is that! There is NEVER going to be any greater success that there is today! Today, I am happy. I achieved a lot, I had a positive impact upon a good number of situations, I lived in harmony with my inner self – I can rest my head and feel content that today was a model day.
So if that’s the case – how can things ever be any better than this? OK, so the circumstances may be different – I may be Prime Minister of Japan introducing a new government program that involves stripping the hillsides of concrete cladding and replacing it all with trees, I may have a helicopter (air powered so as to be non-polluting of course), I may have published a whole series of books on achieving your dreams – but would that make me any more ‘successful’ than I was today?
It may be a difference of scale, but ultimately, is there really any difference?
I’m inclined to think that no, there isn’t. I never will reach that magic point in life when I am ‘successful’ – because I’m there every day, we all are.
Which is a bit disappointing really. If I’m never going to be any more ‘successful’ than today, why bother try harder?
I think, however, there is an area of life where there is room for constant improvement – spirit. There is a realm that knows no boundaries, that is always open to us should we wish to explore. Perhaps here, there can be a brightER future, a better tomorrow. Perhaps the large vegetable garden, the helicopter, the baby – perhaps they are physical manifestations of a soul that is successful. Having said that, putting ‘soul’ and successful in the same sentence doesn’t sound right.
Hmm. I think for now, I’ll continue as I have been. Believing in and striving for a better future, whilst simultaneously celebrating today, everyday, as if there were no tomorrow. Perhaps that will mean that my whole life is based upon a figment of my imagination, but if it helps me to continue to develop, then perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
Ho-hum. Yet again, your fuzzy-logic (no doubt caused by listening to one too many of those “inspirational” tapes) has resulted in your tying yourself up in philosophical knots. Having heard some pseudo-life guru spouting on about how “you will never be more successful than you are today” (or variation thereof) you’ve realised, if this is true, as you say “I’m never going to be any more ‘successful’ than today, (so) why bother try harder”?
You seem to assume that hoping for a better tomorrow and being content with today are mutually exclusive. Of course they are not. We can be happy with what we have achieved up until this point, of course we can but it is the HOPE that tomorrow will be better, that we can still achieve more, that there are still goals that we have yet to reach, that gives us the energy to get out of bed every morning. Of course, a life without hope isn’t a life at all.
So, are you successful? Well, in my mind, while I still have things I want to do, places I want to see, things I want to change, people I want to help…I will never consider my life a “complete” success. This is not to say I am not happy with my life, indeed, I am very proud of my life and the things that I have done up until this point but it is the things I HAVEN’T done which motivate and inspire me, driving me forward.
My advice; stop listening to the motivational tapes (or wean yourself off them, if going “cold turkey” is a bit extreme) and start to be confident in YOUR OWN convictions, whatever they may be.
I think you’re taking this a bit too seriously. I think if you knew me you would know that I do have my own convictions. I guess if you all have to go by is the Mumble then it’s hardly surprising that you get the impression that I can’t do a thing without asking God if it’s OK first. And then asking him if it was ok once I’d done it.
Did you fall in a vat of cynicism as a child?
P.s. I DARE you to go one month without being cynical! Bet’cha can’t do it, bet’cha!
hmmm, firstly I would like to say anonymous(1) seems to be a truly happy person, as all cynics are aren’t they? 😉
Having said that, I do somewhat share her (just my guess) cynicsm towards motivational literature. Thinking about why this is, I am stumped with finding a neat answer, so instead I would like to ask you (Mr. Tame) what actual influence any have had on your life.
You see, from my perspective all the ideas from these books/tapes you have illuminated over the years where within you from the beginning. You have enthusiasm, energy, and ambitition. Plus haven’t you long since learnt to follow a path of your own making? What can you possible learn from these things? I tell you, you will be successful, but it’s who you are not something you learnt.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. Maybe, I admire you, not through your contemplations on self development issues, or trying to sum things like happiness or success into simple formulas or shortcuts, but through your own example. You motivate me greatly through your actions, and I will continue to look towards the mumble for that inspiration.
This turned out to be much too cheesy for my liking, but I guess I can’t be avoided.
Am I the only one with an identity around here?!
Anon 1 a girl? No, no, it’s a boy (talking dogs have been ruled out).
I wouldn’t dare suggest that anon 1 is not happy, as my comments function would probably crash under the weight of the response that such a comment would trigger.
Anon 2, Thank you for being there, and thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments.
I too shared this cynicism towards motivational literature. Always have done. Mum and dad had a few of those kinds of books on the shelf, but I was never interested in reading them. How could some complete stranger know anything about me? Why should they know any better? Probably a mild form of brainwashing. Leaves people being disconnected from reality, so spiritualled-out there’s no way of contacting them unless you agree to talk backwards in Vietnamese whilst in deep meditation. And anyway, all that stuff is recycled – it’s nothing new! All those authors are doing is rewording what has been said a thousand times by thousands of others, just so they can make a quick buck through another book titled “Change your life in 30 seconds – the secret that’s never been shared before”. Available on DVD too.
Thus my reluctance to pick one up, and thus my surprise when, crikey, this stuff works! Maybe it’s not all such rubbish after all…
“You see, from my perspective all the ideas from these books/tapes you have illuminated over the years where within you from the beginning.”
Absolutely Anon2, I couldn’t agree with you more. Indeed, I think that fact is at the very core of the success of the industry. Which is more powerful: a book that makes you think “Hmm, that’ an interesting way of thinking. I might try that out” or a book that makes you think “Crikey O’Riley! I’ve felt that to be the case for years, but never really given it much thought. Wow, I never realised I had that potential within me …but come to think of it, what they’re suggesting does seem perfectly natural – almost as if it’s been a part of me from birth, something that I’ve failed to recognise until now. Wow, what other books has this person written…?”
And that’s how I feel with the books I’ve been reading. I recognise what I read in myself. I’m not being told anything new here, but, what I am being given is an awareness of what lies within.
It’s a bit like me and the German Language. I used to be able to speak it. I ‘can’t’ now, I have forgotten that skill. But, send me to Germany for a week and Bang! It’s back (something I have actually experienced). The knowledge was there – but it was forgotten.
Likewise with my inner life. It’s always been there, in one form or another, but I have been unable to see it. I haven’t been in the right environment to enable it to blossom. What I’m finding is that it just needs a few hints. A “Guten Tag” here, a “Susan hatt Geburtstag” there (learnt that line at school), and like a seed feeling the warmth of spring (enter Angels stage right) it begins to grow.
“It’s who you are not something you learnt.” Absolutely! I think university provides ample examples of that. Despite all the emphasis upon study, it is who people are, not the facts that they can reel off in a lecture, that really touches others.
I do sometimes enjoy learning about the theories behind happiness, and I find the formulas intriguing – but compared to life itself boy are they dull! It’s such fun to live in accordance with what feels right, to treat everyday as a day of endless possibilities, to play, to feel great joy when seeing a spectacle of nature, to exchange a smile and warmth with someone who is holding the door for you. THESE are the things that make it worthwhile. For me, at least.
“So instead I would like to ask you (Mr. Tame) what actual influence any have had on your life.”
Erm. Well. Let me see. That’s a good question. Erm, yes.
First and foremost, they have helped me to trust in my own judgement, something I was wary of doing before for fear of ‘getting it wrong’.
They have taught me to never to intentionally speak negatively of another. This made sense to me – when I bad-mouthed my teacher (in a mild manner, and never with intent to cause hurt), I felt bad. When I criticised the decision of a business partner without making any positive suggestions as to how they could improve, the situation only worsened. When I complained about the cold, I felt cold!!! So why do these things? I felt socially pressured to share the opinions of those around me. Complaining about the weather is a popular thing to do – but doesn’t talking about how much we need this rain makes us feel much happier when getting soaked on West Street? It did me this afternoon.
They have given me more energy, by encouraging me to indulge my body in what it needs for optimal health – a good diet and daily exercise. I feel great – even when I have a cold!
They have reminded me how important it is to serve others. By always asking “What can I do for them?”, the results are far better than if I concentrate purely on my wants. Take the example of my negotiating a mutually beneficial deal with my podcast hosting company so as to avoid paying for bandwidth – I never would have tried that before.
They have enabled me to ‘plug in’ to what I feel to be our common [energy] source. At times, this has resulted in me being filled with such immense happiness when I feel that the people around me share my source, that we are all a part of a whole. It makes me feel relaxed, peaceful, and very very happy. Also, this extends to such things as autumn leaves – they are a part of the same whole of which I am a part – a feeling that once again brings me enormous pleasure.
They have helped me to understand that fear is ok, understandable, and necessary, and that I will come out the other side a stronger person. This is incredibly helpful when doing such things as presentations in Japanese.
They have taught me techniques of getting people on my side. Not manipulating them in a negative way, but doing such things as disarming them with kind words where there is hostility, thus leading to a mutually beneficial result. I’ve practised this to one degree or another many times now, and it’s incredible how people respond to being treated well, especially when they are expecting a defensive response. The last example of this I can think of is successfully negotiating a £35 refund for some tickets that had been sold to me with a strict ‘No refunds” policy.
They have made me more aware of the dangers of the ego. A lifelong struggle!
…and those are just a few theoretical and practical examples of the positive impact these books have had on me. I would also add that they have helped my relationship with my fiancé a great deal, and brought me closer to all of my friends.
Looking all at the above, I can’t help but feel very very grateful that I was willing to put my strong doubts aside and start to read, about 2 years ago. I understand the attitudes of both you, Anon2, and our dear mystery friend Anon1, but in my real live practical experience, any negative points these kinds of books may have are far outweighed by the immeasurable benefits.
I think that people often confuse “outer success” and “inner success”. All of the goals you list (job, house, garden) are outer success and they are examples of the means by which society judges you as successful or not. They are tangible and quantifiable.
Inner success is you becoming a better person and no one else can measure that and society, for the most part, has no interest in it. Individuals who know you and care about you, on the other hand, may care about it a lot as it affects their interaction with you.
I think outer success is the means by which we challenge ourselves to experience life because it requires us to jump through emotionally difficult hoops which tend to push us to be better emotionally and spiritually. If we only cared about inner success, we’d be just as well off becoming monks living in isolation. The focus on outer success keeps you in the game of life and keeps the challenges coming so your spirit, personality, or whatever you want to call it grows and changes.
If you only focus on outer success, you can be terribly shallow so a balance is what is needed between the challenges of the two. I’d say you’re making good progress on both accounts. The important thing is not to get too hung up on one or the other that you start contemplating hanging a “failure” tag on yourself in either.
It’s rather difficult to be focused on inner development at all in the world we currently live in because most people only care about material demonstrations of success. In fact, a lot of people will deride you for focusing on inner growth at all and see you as some sort of touchy-feely, pie-in-the-sky, new age loony. Emotionally speaking, having the confidence to put yourself out there as a spiritually-directed person is a huge indication of confidence in and of itself. A lot of people who are outwardly successful are terrified to reveal their inner selves in any way because it’s very intimate and requires you to have faith in your convictions. If nothing else, you can count that as a huge success on your part.
Thank you. I was very fortunate to see that advert in the Japan Times placed by Mr. D back in the autumn of 2001.
I really admire, and appreciate, your ability to frame things in the bigger picture. I feel I’ve benefited an enormous amount from our limited communication this year.
As you know, I tend to get rather excited and passionate when I’m writing, and do sometimes find that I lose myself temporarily to a particular line of thought, forgetting to place the pieces in context.
Thus, it’s good to be reminded to take a step back now and then, and take stock of where I am.
p.s. Great article on Lifehack.org today:Link