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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Striking a balance

It's been quite interesting for me learning about the Tao in the light of the other reading I've been doing this year.

Many of the books I read at the beginning of the year had messages such as

"Step outside your comfort zone!"

"Dream, and then chase that dream!"

"Live everyday as if it were your last!"

"Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today!"

"Strive to better yourself every day!"

Whilst I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion of striving to better yourself every day, I also find myself in agreement with the Tao, that teaches

"Accept everything as it is, everyone for who they are".

"Trust that when the time is right, whatever it is you are seeking will come into your life."

"Be happy with what you have now. After all, you are OK now - so why subscribe to the idea that you will only be happy 'when X happens'"

"Don't pursue some label of 'success' - by living in harmony with your source / self, you are successful already"
That final point reminds me of my brother's email signature:

"If at first you don't succeed, change your definition of success!"

There was a time when I couldn't agree with that (although I did find it funny). It was an easy way out. Now though, I think he was quite right.

By subscribing to a notion that 'success' will only be attained when we have X amount of income, when we know X number of kanji, when our chocolate cakes are as delicious as those made by X cake shop, we are offering ourselves up for a life of disappointment, frustration, and general feelings of inadequacy.

I've seen it in action, and find it both alarming and sad.

A non-Mumbling friend of mine, we'll call him Darren for anonymity's sake (and because that's his real name), started a property management company in April 2006. Over the past 18 months he's built up an impressive portfolio of apartments that he rents out on the south coast, which generate a substantial monthly income.

However, Darren is not happy. Why? One of his closest friends, who doubles as his role model, started a similar business not long before he did, but due to the fact that everyone's circumstances differ, his friend has done much better - he has quite a few more apartments than Darren, who tells me that his income is a lot higher.

Because of this, Darren has feelings of frustration, anger and worthlessness - why can't he do as well as his friend? Whats wrong with him? Why is he such a failure?

...when of course the truth is, he's not. He's achieved incredible things in a short space of time. He should be patting himself on the back, congratulating himself for what he's achieved, not beating himself up for not hitting some target that he'd set himself based on his friend's performance.

The same idea could be applied to me on my language course. Compared to some of my coursemates, my ability to read Japanese is pretty bad. The traditional self-development approach might tell me to strive to do better (which I am), but the Tao teaches me to accept things as they are, without frustration or anger.

Finding a balance between the two is something I've been trying to do of late. Yes, I will push myself to improve my language skills, but no, I will not become too despondent when I don't live up to some external measure. I mean, I've done alright so far with the skills I have - would it really be so bad if I carried on like this?

This naturally links in with Being Happy Today - for there is no tomorrow.

I will also not pay too much attention to the BIG goals that other people have for me (as I know some fairly influential people do!).

"Don't let others confine you or define you".

Whilst this quote may have been intended for people who have at times felt restricted by others' small ideas of what they are capable of, it could also be applied to those of us who can at times feel suffocated by others' BIG ideas of what we are expected to achieve.

By adopting this approach, one avoids setting oneself up for disappointment, whilst improving in whatever area of one is concentrating on. There is no frustration caused by slow progress, and no feelings of inferiority when one sees others doing better.

I feel that the Tao has brought a bit of balance back into my life. I have my goals, and I strive to achieve them, but I won't turn over happiness to their achievement.

Writing about this reminds me of something Earl Nightingale once said: it's not achieving our goals that brings us the greatest satisfaction - it's the process of working towards them. As soon as we have achieved that goal we often set another; this once again reinforces how important it is to be happy or satisfied with where we are today.

With that said, I am now going to do my daily Japanese letter writing. The current script details an epic adventure in the Mongolian outback. Good job I know what "herdsman", "curd" and "constipation" are in Japanese!

tarra

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