Have you ever noticed the sheer amount of ‘shoulds’ that we are told? In the world of self development, meditation and even yoga we are often presented with a number of neat packages or lists that say – in order to be successful you should X, Y, Z
I was listening to a podcast last night by an extremely successful guy who was telling an audience of his ‘9 tips for becoming successful’ which included things like blocking email time, no small talk, lining up tasks in a detailed order.
Although his advice was very interesting, for me, it was suffocating. There is no denying this guy is successful and he has found the formula for his own life that works for him. But if I truly thought his tips were the only formula to be successful or happy in my own life, then I would literally give up now.
As hard as I could try I would never be that type of person; and if I did try, I would be being completely dishonest to myself and others.
In our search for ‘something’ there is the danger of picking up these lists of ‘shoulds’ and try with all our might to comply; try to change our behaviour, thoughts or perceived personality flaws in order to follow rules in order to find success, fulfilment, happiness.
Then when we don’t or can’t stick to the rules we feel like we’ve failed or we completely reject it; We aren’t very good at meditating, or yoga philosophy is a load of rubbish anyway… and we add it to the pile of things we’re not good enough at.
This view can impact areas in our lives which shouldn't be impacted by self doubt. One day we decide to travel, then we tell ourselves we shouldn't spend money on that lifestyle but instead save for 'adult things'. We decide to apply for a crazy job overseas, then we tell ourselves we should stay in the security of the job we already have because it's less risk and perhaps it'll get better one day.
But who decides what's right and wrong? Who determines the way someone should live their life?
In order to be truly successful, you must only listen to yourself. And not the self-doubt or the fear, but that deep little voice which knows what you want. What you need. To be truly successful, you need you put yourself first.
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We are all different. You are perfect as you are and failure can only really come when you are perhaps ‘trying’ to be something you’re not. Looking externally at someone else thinking I want to be like them, successful like them, travel the world like them, volunteer overseas like them, happy like them. When you try and comply to their behaviour or life choices in order to find it in yourself is almost falling into a trap of trying to avoid failure by setting yourself up for it.
When we try and copy others, is it any wonder that we do fail or we feel like failures so often? We are sometimes told by self development authors, spiritual approaches or practices whose foundations are built on helping people ‘wake up’, that in order to be successful; a real yogi/meditator/spiritually awake you must do X, Z, Y.
We try to meditate everyday for 30 minutes a day in a cross legged position because we are told we should and when we don’t one day we feel we have failed. And if we don’t do it too many days in a row we give up completely.
When yogis try to follow rules within yoga philosophy to become a ‘real’ yogi struggle or get stuck at one ‘rule’, they feel like a failure and give up, or worse, still put on a façade.
What if we started somewhere completely different? What if we started within ourselves, connecting to what we really feel, what we really think, what we really need and allowing that voice to guide us, rather than looking externally.
If you are connected to yourself and the path you have chosen is truly right for you then the ‘rules’ of that path don’t become rules anymore, they aren’t ‘shoulds’ or effort. They feel right and authentic, they feel like it’s you making those choices and decisions; to meditate, not to eat meat, to check your emails, to make small talk - not you trying to be or do something because someone else you admire does. Instead you ask yourself – how am I feeling? [Stressed] What do I do? [Meditate].
What I am well aware of is, paradoxically, even my writing this I too am offering you a ‘right way’. But what I believe wholeheartedly is that no one can generalise their own experience to everyone else, which is often what happens so often in this arena.
I encourage you to not do as someone else does or look externally for the answers but instead to listen to yourself, connect with yourself in order to find the right way for you. Learn from others, have your perceptions changed by that learning but know that you can’t fail if you’re being true to yourself.
… so don’t listen to me or anyone else, listen to yourself. Aligning your life to what feels right for your will be 100 times more sustainable than trying to comply to anything external because you're told or feel you should.
When you’re being true to yourself, you simply can not fail.
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