Hopes and Dreams

“Hope is so important, but this post [The Power of One] begs the question: how do people distinguish between hope and false hope? How do you balance the desire to follow dreams and aspirations with pragmatic realism? How can we come to know, respect, and even appreciate our own limits?” – Posted by cjdeldotto

Any endeavor must be grounded if it’s to succeed. This means that consistency of action is required. It’s not enough to meditate and visual success. It’s not enough to wish and hope and dream. Those early stages are important to focus and clarify the dream. But if it’s to be realized, the consistent action – the follow through – is essential.

Sometimes we are our own biggest barrier to realizing our dreams. By that I mean that many of us have habits that hold us back, like procrastination for example. Or limiting beliefs, about ourselves or others, that stop us from taking action in the direction of achieving our goals and realizing our dreams. It’s interesting that despite the proliferation of a number of different technologies designed to save time and make our lives easier in the last decade, many of us seem to be more busy than ever. But it’s worth asking the question, what are we busy doing? Are we busy doing the things that reflect our real values, our true priorities? If our gadgets save us time (and whether or not they do is dependent upon how we use them), what are we doing with that time?

It’s often a question of motivation. We are a culture that loves the quick fix. Take a pill to feel better. Get rich quick. Buy now pay later. Lose weight fast. We are a culture that wants results. Now. But real change is gradual – it’s a process. What didn’t develop overnight generally won’t disappear overnight either. In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and the like, where an overwhelming amount information is at our fingertips, what is sometimes lost is depth of thought and real staying power. When we don’t see immediate results, many of us lose interest in the process.

Of course, there are other times when what appears to be a lack of motivation or commitment may be simply be a reflection of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Self-actualization is at the top of the pyramid for a reason. If basic needs aren’t being met, it’s not going to be possible for an individual to focus on achieving goals in the big picture, however much he or she might wish to do so.

In order to know our own limits, we have to truly know ourselves. This is svadhyaya. Being able to see ourselves clearly, to understand and accept who we are and where we are in our personal development takes time. One of the tools that can help with that is meditation (to be discussed in more detail in a future post). Meditation is an umbrella term that covers a variety of techniques for raising consciousness and developing awareness. It’s a practice, and a process that requires patience and dedication over a period of time in order to experience the benefits and see results.

Recommended reading:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey


The Power of One

Last weekend I attended The Team’s February Seminar at the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, Michigan, which featured Chris Brady as the keynote speaker. Team is the group that launched The Life Business in November 2011 which includes prominent leadership gurus such as Orrin Woodward. The business of Life revolves primarily around self-improvement, networking, life coaching, and community building: becoming job-optional and manifesting the life of your dreams.

Chris Brady’s keynote challenged audience members to ask themselves: “What difference have you been called to make?” As well as, “How do you define the business you are in?” He encouraged his listeners to not play small, but rather to “get busy about things that matter in the big picture.” He also made a point similar to one I’ve discussed in an earlier post, to focus not on WHAT you do, but on WHY you do it. In other words, it’s the motivation and intention behind actions that’s as important, or even more important, than the actions themselves.

Furthermore, Brady argues that one’s “true self” is what emerges under pressure, and that we must engage in the process of developing character and substance. This is a concept that resonates strongly with me, and one that was also discussed in one of my earlier posts. One of the key concepts in The Life Business is the idea of developing leadership ability. This relates to the concept of building community: a strong community requires real leaders, people of substance and character. People who have risen to the challenges of their life situations and transcended them by moving beyond their own limiting beliefs and habits.

One of the things that struck me about the seminar was the number of people in attendance (I estimate as many as 2000) who really seemed excited and inspired by the ideas that Brady and the other founders of Life are talking about. Concepts like:

  • One person can make a difference.
  • Freedom produces prosperity.
  • Your focus determines your reality.

Now, Life is a network marketing business (also commonly known as a “pyramid scheme”). That said, an important aspect of what Team is doing involves bringing true and empowering concepts into people’s lives in a concrete way. Inspiring them to make positive changes not only to their own lives but to their communities. So many people, everywhere I turn right now, are without hope and without help. They’re depressed and discouraged about their lives. They are, in a word, dis-empowered. So the ideas which are the foundation of Team and the Life business offer a new direction and constitute a significant contribution.

It’s interesting to me that so many people I’ve talked to seem to have a negative view of network marketing businesses, especially when these businesses seem to revolve around the concept of real profit sharing. It strikes me as odd that people might get uncomfortable when an acquaintance shares an idea or product that has had a positive impact on his/her life. Probably because, on the other hand, many of these same people have no strong objection to the massive amounts of advertising, corporate marketing, and the like that we are all exposed to on a daily basis.

What are big businesses and big corporations selling? If we stick with the concept that most businesses are selling an idea more than a product (even if it seems like they are selling a product), then what is Wal-Mart selling? What is McDonald’s selling? What is _______ selling? (Fill in the blank with any big business or corporation…this is not directed at any one in particular.)

Pretty much every business is selling an idea (sometimes disguised as a product) in exchange for money. So, in that sense, when we spend our money on something we are voting for what we want to see more of in the world. Are we making the CEOs and the people at the top rich? When we buy from almost any big business or big corporation (network marketing or otherwise), of course we are. But then the question becomes, what ideas are we buying? What types of thinking are we supporting? And it also begs the question, are we supporting leaders who truly have something to share and something to give back? Are we supporting people of real substance and character?

The Life business is new, but judging from what I’ve seen, this movement is growing and people are excited about it. From where I’m sitting, it looks like the founders have already given something valuable to their members: hope. And hope is something rare and precious and valuable in today’s world. So what Life is really selling is the possibility of positive change – and that’s something people can get excited about.

It Is Well With My Soul

At the end of last year I almost died. It was in the news, but that’s not really the point. The short version of the story is that I took a trip in a friend’s small plane which ran out of fuel. We were fortunate to land successfully on the highway. It was, to be sure, a scary experience that would encourage anyone to re-evaluate his or her life goals and choices – or at the very least, make one leery of flying again anytime soon.

Those tense moments between realizing we were out of fuel and landing remarkably smoothly in the midst of traffic seemed to go on for a very long time. During them, I was surprised not by what did happen, but by what didn’t. I didn’t feel panicked or afraid of dying (though I thought we likely would all die). I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I didn’t think of all the things left unfinished, unsaid, or undone in my life. In short, I was ready. Don’t misunderstand me, I didn’t want to die. But I felt that my life was complete. I wasn’t thinking of all the things I had yet to experience, or all the changes I wanted to make.

Here’s what did happen: I remember breathing. I remember asking silently for help. I remember checking on the people I was with. I remember encouraging our pilot. I remember being surprised and grateful when we landed safely, as smoothly as we might have on a runway.

Later, my traveling companions commented on how calm I had been throughout the experience. It’s probably relevant for me to add here that I have not been, historically, a calm person. In fact, when I first began my own spiritual practice in 2003 it was to cope with anxiety and depression. After further reflection, I realized that my practice has benefited me in ways that were surprising, even to me.

In the last 8-9 years I’ve experienced my share of frustration, loss and disappointment. But fundamentally, it would seem that everything is in its right place, in divine order. While my life doesn’t look the way I thought it would, or the way I wanted it to, I’m living free from the tyranny of the past: free from intense regrets or incompletes that drain my energy. I have a history of authentic and varied relationships and life experiences. Most importantly, I’m living the choices that reflect my values. And these are the true benefits of a spiritual practice, examples of what it means to live a whole life.

I’m happy with who I have been, who I am now, and who I am becoming.

It was – and it is – well with my soul.