Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reflections on the Value of Your Life

I was visiting with a friend the other day that was expressing his frustration with how little he felt he had accomplished in his life. He has large aspirations that he is passionate about, and as he gets older, he wonders if his dreams are slipping out of his reach. He wonders if he is becoming irrelevant in his career, frustrated that he has not been able yet to replace his current career with a new career that would be more meaningful to him.

I spent some time honoring his feelings, yet reminding him about all he had accomplished that had made a positive difference in the lives of people he loved and cared about. In my experience, we aren’t either a failure or a success. Sometimes however, we feel as though we are one or the other, and in reality, most of us feel like we are a bit of both. I suggest that failure or success really has little to do with anything other than our feelings about ourselves in any given moment.

A few years ago I read a study that was done with the CEOs of some large corporations. The secret they admitted in an anonymous survey that they might not admit in person is that a lot of time they felt like frauds. They didn’t feel prepared for the responsibilities they had been given and weren’t sure one could ever actually be prepared for the responsibilities they shouldered. They didn't always feel competent for the decisions they had to make.

I’ve worked with and known enough CEOs, employees, business owners, mothers, fathers, spiritual devotees, professors, students, politicians, teenagers, children and adults to be fairly certain that there are pivotal points in every person’s life when you just aren’t sure you know what you are doing or that the decision you made was the best one. Most of the time people are just doing the best they can in that moment.

Sure, in retrospect, you can see a dozen different choices you might have made, but all you truly ever have in any moment of truth is your understanding in that moment, based upon what you have learned up to that point.

You are not terrible because you didn’t meet your goals, become prosperous, find the right relationship, fulfill your purpose, lose weight, heal your illness or become an overnight success. Neither are you wonderful because you did any one or all of those things.
You are incredible because you are an expression of the Divine, experimenting and experiencing life on planet earth. That’s it!

Some of us will be rich and wildly famous. Others of us will live quiet, sweet lives and be known only to a few. Some of us will meet most every dream we have ever had. Others of us will come back for another lifetime in order to complete our most significant dreams. Regardless of how we do it, the experience alone can give us joy, if we are willing to experience the joy inherent within life.

Can you honestly tell me that the janitor at your school who made it his job to consciously watch over every child he could when they arrived or left school to make sure that they were safe led a less significant life than your favorite movie star?

Or what about the female executive, who takes time on the weekends to sit quietly with an uncle getting ready to cross over, listening to him share his life stories, regrets and loves so that he can slip gently over to the other side. What is the greater success—her business accomplishments or her compassionate tending to a family member?

Maybe the janitor hoped to do more with his life, but ended up in a building taking care of it, the teachers and the kids. Maybe the executive had the potential to be a famous singer, but instead spends her days helping others succeed at work and shares her peaceful presence with her family. What is the measure of one’s life?

It is wonderful to dream and aspire. It is great to achieve. That’s how we keep life exciting. It is also wonderful to recognize what we have already given. That’s how we know who we really are. Joy exists in discovering who we really are.

A dear friend once crossed over to the other side and returned. She said to me some years later, “Misa, you know what they really care about when you get to the other side? They care about the kindnesses you did for others. They don’t care if you met your goals or fulfilled your purpose. They care about whether or not you were kind.”

So here we are thinking it is all about what we achieve, and it is all about how well we live from our hearts. So tell me, did you live from your heart this past year? Did you make someone’s life a little bit better? A lot better? Did you love a little bit more, a little bit deeper or more expansively than you have before? Did you help someone this year laugh, trust, love, believe, hope, enjoy life or feel better? Then you have lived a good life. From someone’s perspective, you are a gift.

Yes, we need to aspire and dream, but may I suggest that you don’t need to measure your worth by what you did or did not achieve. Rather, know that you are valuable because you are a precious and unique expression of the Divine. And if you have made anyone else’s life a little bit better, your heart has honored your value and theirs. That is a joyful way to live.