In my last article, I discussed three ways of living or themes around which we organize our lives–survival, security and success. As I stated, we live from all three at different times or in different areas of life. However, we have less experience with a fourth paradigm–“Serenity.” Lots of folks believe that it will “happen” to them when they master success. Consequently, they find themselves on a treadmill in which they continually strive for “more,” “better,” or “different,” but somehow feel anxious, like they come up short, even unfulfilled.
I’d like to share a passage from The Hero’s Choice:
Hal was quiet again as he watched a hawk circle high above his head. “He’d missed out on a lot in his race to become rich and famous.”
Donald nodded. “That brings up a distinction. There’s success, or achieving a predetermined outcome. And there’s fulfillment, the sense that life is full and meaningful. When success doesn’t lead to fulfillment, most people redouble their efforts, believing that accomplishing even more will bring them their elusive prize. What they don’t realize is that success and fulfillment are not the same thing.”
Hal sat up. “Wow. I guess I’ve known that … but I see how much I’ve been caught up in the trappings of success.” He rubbed his hand along the hard, coarse granite surface on which he was sitting. “But I hope we don’t have to give up success to find fulfillment.”
Donald tossed another small rock over the ridge. “Nope. In fact, most of us would have a hard time finding fulfillment if we didn’t set goals and go after them. We have to get out there in the world and mix it up—but we also need to remember that success has to do only with outer, material things, and fulfillment has to do with our inner or spiritual world. We have to pay attention to both to be happy.” He turned toward Hal. “The more important journey isn’t the one out there. It’s in here,” he said, pointing to his chest. (pp. 157-158)
Serenity is more than a quiet, meditative approach to life. In fact, as I live from this paradigm, I’m alive, aware and fully engaged. However, I get that what matters most is not “outside”–my bank account, job title, house, fame, performance (how many games/contracts I win). Not that these are not important. I climb a mountain. I build a business. I give the game my best. But the mountain, the business, the game are no longer the end. They are the means to a higher end–the end of being fully conscious, present and responsible for my life. The end of living from the “inside out, in which nothing is bigger than my ability to choose my response and how I’ll live. That’s how Eduardo lived (see January 18th blog). He got it. A new way of living based on a new set of rules.
When living in serenity, life feels meaningful, whole and complete. Rather than struggling, I find inner harmony by being present to the moment and learning to make good choices, even in difficult circumstances. Not that this is easy. But, slowly, that ability to make good, strengthening choices leads me to high self-esteem and a deep sense of confidence and well-being. I can trust myself rather than live in continual fear and anxiety. I also trust the goodness and abundance of life. I feel more connected with the infinite, God. I accept responsibility for myself, not just my accomplishments, but also my reactions and inner experience. I cease to see myself as acted upon by circumstances, events, and others but recognize my own choice-making as primary in creating both my inner experience and outer reality.
I become less preoccupied with ego and appearances. Although I set goals and achieve, I also ask deeper questions related to my “being.” “Who am I?” “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” “How do I want to live my life?” From the answers to these questions, my life takes on more meaning. Accomplishments are a means and not simply an end. I’m less frantic about my goals. I don’t demand perfection of myself but seek to do as much as possible with the talents I have been given. I learn that the inner qualities of love, joy and peace are, in the long-run, more enduring than outward successes.
My personal relationships are enjoyable and not an after-thought. I become more interested in others and want to reach out to them in service and love. I let go of judgments and truly care about others. I want to “win” in my interactions with others, but also want them to “win.” When things go wrong I’ll deal with them openly and without manipulation. The world feels like a good and friendly place.
So think about when you have lived from the paradigm of Serenity. When were you living at your best? You faced a difficult challenge and yet stepped up to it? You handled it. Or, perhaps your participation in a situation made a difference to the outcome. Or, perhaps a time when your life seemed to flow.
Few of us live from the paradigm of Serenity most of the time. But we’ve certainly had such experiences and can learn to make it our predominant way of being as we shift our perspective and begin to look at life through its lens. Doing so is not effortless. It takes a huge commitment to personal growth.