I’ve written about the life path/purpose of life in other articles. This one focuses on how much better we’d all feel on a daily basis if we struck a certain path.
First, let’s examine the more common paths people take in the 21st century world we live in. In America, sadly, the culture pushes a path that can best be described as ‘be successful.’
Be the best!
This translates mostly to being successful in a career. And that translates to being the ‘highest’ you can be. CEO. Nobel Prize winning doctor. Hall of Fame baseball player. Gazillionaire entrepreneur. Gazillionaire hedge fund investor.
Then there’s the ‘change the world’ path. Go to Africa and build water treatment facilities and get AIDS drugs to those who desperately need them. Fight climate change by devoting yourself to spreading the use of clean energy. Or get elected to political office to change the world the way you think it needs to be changed.
Then there’s the life path that many fall into which involves simply trying to get by and be okay. Unfortunately, if you’re born in the ghetto of the South Bronx, there’s a good chance that becoming a CEO or running for Congress will not even cross your radar as viable life path options.
A constant feeling of ‘It’s never enough’
The problem, mostly with the first two, is that these life paths saddle us with a mountain of pressure and a general, constant state of low-level anxiety. Let’s say you become a junior executive at Bank of America…but you’re not ‘there’ yet. So you keep pumping and pumping. And then…
You make it to the President’s suite at the bank. You’ve made it! And yet…You don’t feel great. You think you should, but you don’t. You’ve reached the top of Mt. Everest, but you feel empty inside.
Or, on the change the world path, you get elected to the state legislature and work on issues important to you. But you feel a state of constant unease and dissatisfaction because you know you could achieve so much more for the world if you were a congressman. Then you win a seat in the House and know you could do so much more if you were in the Senate…And on and on it goes.
The Mack truck sitting on our heads
These paths result in lives spent constantly eschewing our present moments in favor of creating better future moments. And always lurking in the background is that Mack truck of pressure sitting on our psyches telling us that we haven’t ‘made it’ yet. That we’re not good enough. Or accomplished enough…Not yet. Just stay the course and we’ll get there, the Mack truck tells us in a language that manifests as a feeling of lack. Of unease. Of inadequacy.
Why is this? Why do striving for general, societal success and even wanting to change the world result in so much stress and anxiety? Because the essence of those life paths spring from our egos.
Wanting to become a hedge fund titan doesn’t come from the depths of our being. It comes from an egoic place of needing to be and have ‘more’ than others in order to feel good about ourselves. Where does that need come from? Our parents, their parents, society, culture, the media…Anywhere but our insides.
A life path that works
So what’s a path that actually does work for everybody, even those born into poverty? It’s this:
Be present, listen and trust in life.
That is ALL anyone needs to do in life. Those three things. Let’s take them one at a time.
1. BE PRESENT
This means placing your attention on what is happening in the moments of your life. A better expression of presence is its opposite — letting our attention wander into the thinking mind for the lion’s share of our moments; aka letting the ego dominate our lives. It means not spending the bulk of your psychic energy ruminating about the past or the future.
When we do this, when we live in the present, we create a portal through which the energy of the Universe/God/Nature (whatever or whomever you believe is running the cosmic show), expresses itself through us.
The result? We live the life we were intended to live. Not the life that your parents, friends, teachers or Jeff Bezos think you should live, but the life that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson described it:
“…divine providence has found for you.”
You can be quiet and present inside, but you still need to listen to what your divine, inner voice is telling you. If society, your parents and your ego are urging you to attend Yale Law School, but your inner intuition is telling you to move to Kenya for a three-year stint in the Peace Corps, GO TO KENYA!
This often takes courage, but it’s my experience that listening to our inner voice is the only true path to a contented, fulfilling life.
3. TRUST IN LIFE
Finally, in order to place all of our eggs in the presence/listening life path basket, we need to trust that this is the best path. Why? Because if we don’t have that faith, we’ll never take this path.
Fear, the ego’s best friend, will creep in and say, “I get it, Kenya sounds great, but Yale is the best law school in America. If you go there, you’ll be golden for the rest of your life. Come on, you know I’m right…”
We don’t normally need this trust/faith in life for long. Why? Because it doesn’t take long to realize that following our inner compass kicks butt on all other life path options.
The beauty of a simplified life
Here’s an enormously valuable byproduct of taking this path: If we do these three things, there’s no need for any grand purpose or path in life. We simply put our life focus on quieting down and letting the universe guide us.
What does that mean for our overall well-being? A s*^t ton! It means we don’t sit around ruminating every day about how our ‘life’ is going. Whether we’ve made it/not made it. Whether we’ll have enough in the future.
No. We pour all of our psychic energy into serving the moment in front of us. Then we let go of that moment and serve the next one.
My request of you
I have one simple request of anybody reading this article. Take a moment and imagine how much less stress and anxiety you’d have in your life if you followed this life path. Be present, listen and trust in life. That’s it.
And I’ll take it a step further. Because not only will you feel better inside on a daily basis, you’ll also be better at everything. You’ll be a better scientist, executive, congressman, baseball player and everything else.
Why? Because humans’ maximum potential arises from that still place inside us. Our egoic minds can’t hold a candle to the power our quiet, inner genius provides.
You can still become Chairman of Bank of America
In fact, if you do quiet down and listen to your insides, you actually have a better chance of becoming the CEO of Bank of America or the Nobel Prize winner in chemistry or the gazillionaire hedge fund honcho. And, assuming your insides told you to pursue the above, your journey in pursuing these endeavors will be a far happier one.
And if you do make it to the chairman’s suite at B of A, you’ll just keep on doing what you’ve been doing: Living in the moment and listening.
I’ve emphasized the career ramifications of striking a path of presence, but let’s not forget what is far more important: This path will make you a better human being. As in, a better parent, spouse, friend, coworker and member of humanity.
“Fine, how do I become present?”
Now if I’m you, I’m saying, “Great. You say I’ll be Mr./Ms. Wonderful in life if I follow a path of presence. Well, I don’t feel present. My mind never shuts the heck up. So what do I do to become more present so I can follow this path?”
Simple. You develop a regular meditation practice. You do yoga. You take walks in nature where you practice getting quiet inside.
But most important, you meditate. All meditation is is practicing placing our attention on something happening in the present moment, like our breathing. When we do that, we aren’t stuck in our thought crazy minds. And when we do it over and over, day after day, month after month, year after year, our minds start to become quieter. And when our minds get quieter, we start hearing from our insides. Which we then listen to. It’s that simple.
It takes practice, but it’s really not that big a deal. We’re not talking two hours a day or anything crazy like that. We’re talking 10–15 minutes a day. For you businesspeople out there, the cost-benefit falls massively toward the benefit side.
I’ve tried the ‘Be great!’ and ‘Change the world’ life paths, but I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that the path I’ve been on the past several years is better in every way.
Be present. Listen. Trust in life.