I have a vision in my mind’s eye: a hazy but inspiring picture of me in my old age and, somehow, I seem to be shining with love and wisdom – whatever that looks like- and I am happy and fulfilled. This vision is something I am working towards, and every time something in life goes well, I say, ‘Ah, another step towards fulfilling myself.’ And every time something goes badly, or I fall flat on my face, I say, ‘Ah… another lesson learnt that will teach me how to get to my wise old age.’
Modern society has the technology to send people into outer space – but how much training have you had on “inner space”, the nature of your own mind?
Happiness and fulfilment in life depend on how you see the world and life. How will you know you have had a good life? What does success look like in your healthy old age?
Once you commit to a vision
“A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way…. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
WH Murray, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition (1951).
Often misattributed to Wolfgang Goethe
Of course, we also have to be open to the unknown, to the creativity of the unconscious and how we interact with the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the times. Both Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela blossomed because of the events in the world in their time. Would they have become famous in other eras? Generative Change experts Robert Dilts and Steve Gilligan describe how the world of the rational mind is rather like the world of classical physics – linear and predictable. But there is also the quantum world of the field, of creativity and of an unconscious that has infinite possibilities. So, while it is really important to proactively work to fulfil your vision for your life, also be open to the unexpected and to creative leaps.
Life has two fundamental dimensions which can be expressed with the following metaphors: life as a journey and life as music.
Life as a journey: Life is a journey in which we fulfil our potential as we get older, focusing on our career and our gifts to the world, finding and sustaining relationships and developing our own family and circle of friends. In a journey, it is all about knowing your destination and getting there.
Life as music: when you listen to music, you want to savour every note. You aren’t so interested in getting to the end, but in every crescendo and stillness, the harmonies and the discords, the different instruments and voices and the rhythms and the syncopation. You are not trying to get to the end of the song, but to enjoy each note and moment of the music. Life is also about savouring every note, every colour, and the whole experience of Being moment by moment.
Let’s talk first about life as a journey:
Life as a journey
The journey can be divided into three areas: the marriage with your work, the marriage of love, and the marriage with yourself.
Marriage with your work: each of us has a gift to give to the world: it combines our Life-Calling, what we are most passionate about, with what we are really good at, our strengths. Doing what we love, and really using our skills is an important way of expressing ourselves in life. People who work do so in three ways: to get money to spend outside work; because of an ambition to succeed in a career, and because they have a Calling to do something they truly love. The research shows that people who do what they love are more successful, deal with difficulty better, are happier, have better health and live longer lives! Once we know what our Life-Calling is, and have identified what we are really good at, we can pursue what is sometimes called “the path of mastery”: to develop our skills in the area we love so that we become a great expert in giving our gift to the world. Malcolm Gladwell’s ten-thousand-hour rule says that we need ten thousand hours of practice to become experts in our field. Twenty hours a week for ten years will achieve that, so make sure you find a career that you love. The pursuit of excellence in our field also has other benefits: the mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, who climbed Everest solo without oxygen, quoted the Indian philosopher Tagore by saying, “The goal is not to reach the utmost limits, but to find that place that has no boundaries.” When you study the Japanese martial art Aikido, you first focus on learning the Aikido techniques, but mastery is so hard that over time you learn about how to learn, how to come back from failure and how to keep going. Finally, after many years, you discover that you have learnt some deep truths about yourself and life itself… and all from studying a martial art.
Marriage of love: most people seek a life partner, although some relationships last and others don’t. Whether or not we are able to find a life partner, we all need relationships of love with partners, friends and family (whether biological or spiritual).
Through love, relationships, family and friendships we discover a lot about ourselves, and some of these things are delightful, and some extremely painful. Nevertheless, on the journey of life, one of the most fulfilling aspects is the deep bonds of love we can create during a lifetime. At a more spiritual level, we can also discover that having a generous heart and being kind to people, also creates well-being. On my street there is a man who sells the Big Issue Magazine and he seems to be alcoholic. Every week or so I give him a twenty-pound note. Now when we pass in the street we smile and chat – I enjoy the fact that his day is better sometimes because of me.
Marriage with yourself: Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” and Oscar Wilde elaborated, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Who are you? How happy are you, being you? Are you at peace with yourself and existence? If you want to be sure of being happy, learn to love yourself, whether things are going well in your outside world, or not. Developing a deep, loving and compassionate relationship with yourself is the journey of a lifetime. We learn from successes, but have you noticed that we also learn wisdom, humility and compassion from our failures and suffering in life? One of the great secrets of life is that if we heal and understand our great failures and our deepest wounds, they can miraculously turn into gifts. The poet May Oliver says, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” Once you heal your old wounds and convert them into gifts, they become part of your offering to the world. As a registered psychotherapist I have to meet with a supervisor, Sophia, and when I first told her about the difficulties of my childhood, she looked excited and said, “Gosh, you have so much to give to the world”. Of course, you wouldn’t normally say this to someone who had just told you about tragic events in their history, but she had already worked out that my childhood difficulty is part of what makes me passionate about my Life-Calling, “helping people blossom”.
Life as music
Life is not only about the journey and getting to the destination. It is also about savouring every moment, especially the beautiful moments. Life is also about savouring every note, every colour, and the whole experience of Being moment by moment.
Read about “Life as music” in detail in Part 2, http://www.lifetalent.com/listen-to-the-music-on-the-journey-of-a-lifetime-part-2/ , where I will also give some brief notes on how to learn and grow on the journey of life.