Achievement versus fulfillment?
The drive to grow and to achieve needs to be tempered. It is a good thing. But it comes with a trap. It can lead us to postpone fulfillment. It can lead us to believe that we will only be fulfilled when we achieve the goals we are seeking. This is a dangerous mind trick.
This resonated with me. In an earlier post, I questioned where our confidence comes from. Certainly, some of it must be based in real things we have achieved.
But I concluded that by itself, this is incomplete. There is a deeper source that doesn’t fluctuate based on external conditions. The sense of fulfillment imparts is immediate and unconditional.
Meditation is one doorway to this dimension.
However, in reflection, not all experiences of fulfillment are equal. I wanted to share what I’m seeing constitutes the kind of fulfillment that changes your life.
Embrace the entirety of your life
What I appreciate about Gibrán’s inquiry into fulfillment is it points you to embrace the entirety of your life as it is now. Meditation is both a gift and a path for engaging the overflowing abundance of good fortune that is already in our lives.
As you shed boundaries between you and your present experience, you’ve likely encountered a visceral happiness simply to be alive.
Like an enormous waterfall, existence pours miracles over us that’s easy to take for granted. Consider the act of breathing, the sight of sunlight through trees, the touch of someone we love.
Meditation can re-awaken us to how blessed we are.
And if you can’t emotionally connect with it presently, watch what happens when something you’ve taken for granted disappears.
For example, I’ve been training for a spring marathon with more commitment than I ever have: running 50-60 miles a week amidst my career and family responsibilities. It’s been a thrill and a joy.
Until I recently encountered my first injury after months of this intensity.
The visceral shock of my body’s refusal to continue executing on my plan literally and metaphorically stopped me in my tracks. I’m engaging in healing now, and to simply run unencumbered from pain feels like flying.
It would behoove us not to make soul-expanding gratitude so costly when we are already wealthy beyond measure. I think of the loved ones in my life.
Yet, I’m seeing gratitude as only part of the experience of profound fulfillment. And that’s because without reciprocation, on an existential level we will be incomplete.
In other words, because I have received so much, I want to give back.
The other side of gratitude is indebtedness. It is a longing to express and contribute in some meaningful way the beauty you already feel. This is no easy task.
It’s so hard because it’s endeavoring to give voice to that which seems to have no beginning and no end. It’s so compelling though because it seems so close and so far away at the same time.
The fulfillment in this lies not in its actual accomplishment but in the ongoing pursuit to align this ineffable intention with one’s actions.
There will certainly be grand and small achievements as a result of this effort; they will be manifestations of the fiery joy churning within.
We fulfill ourselves instantly through great inner exertion to be true to ourselves. But how fulfilled can we be? How fulfilled do we actually want to be?
You see, we are all in a race against Time.
No one knows where the finish line is. And the beautiful thing is there are infinite pathways to get there.
Paradoxically, it’s race where you don’t win by being the fastest. But you do have to be the best.
And what I mean by best in this particular race was best captured for me by four-time Olympic track and field gold medalist Jesse Owens:
The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself–the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us–that’s where it’s at.”
In the road of both achievement and fulfillment (and it’s likely the same road), these obstacles will never cease.
They are real, hard, arduous, and may cripple us along the way. Perhaps even incapacitate us. Often though, they will transform and liberate us.
But we will have run our race. And if we make it our own it will be glorious.