I had set my alarm which I rarely need to do so I'd be up in plenty of time for my morning swim and still have our breakfast prepared. I'd no sooner gotten the table ready when Dharma arrived without fanfare. As soon as he sat himself down at my kitchen table, I poured our perfectly-steeped tea. After a couple of sips, and without waiting for me to serve the food, Dharma began my lesson, " Tadpole, the frog who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture to obtain the ashes." I must have looked confused because Dharma immediately asked me if I needed clarification....which I did. "Irwin, can you imagine owning a priceless work of art and then burning it because you wanted the ashes to enrich your garden soil?" I shook my head no. "No, of course you can't. That would be silly and irresponsible. But the same thing is true for our conscience. It too is a precious gift and should not be squandered on anything, especially ambition. Why would anyone take a job, for example, that requires them to go against their conscience? They believe that it'll be okay. They'll do it for a year or two just to earn the 'big bucks' as you young folks like to say. But Irwin, nothing is worse than sacrificing your conscience for cash. And that year or two you plan on staying at the job for, usually winds up being for much longer. You get hooked. You like your upgraded lifestyle and don't want to give it up. Eventually, however, your conscience becomes bankrupt and then you begin doing other things that you know are wrong. Where does it end?"
I know that we've all seen this scenario played out in our own lives. Maybe not by us, but maybe a family member or friend. perhaps our elected politicians. But, at some point, we've witnessed someone squander their conscience for fame and fortune. "Dharma," I asked, "is there a way to align our values and still get what we want from life?" "Certainly, my boy! let me explain to you how anyone can consistently align their actions and obtain what they want." Here's a summary of what he said.
It's all about fulfillment which is, on the surface, an abstract idea. It can be hard to measure. Fulfillment, according to Dharma, makes you light up and gives the feeling that the work you do creates a real impression to yourself, as well as to others. It's a gift that you offer the world. That fulfillment, then, takes the place of money. If the work you currently do doesn't offer fulfillment, there are a few questions you can ask yourself that will help you determine where your new path should lead.
1. What things make you happy? You know, the kind of happiness that makes time stand still. Is it working with animals? Cooking? Painting? Creating one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry? Maybe your passion is designing beautiful and easy-to-use websites?
2. The next step is deciding what your goals are. Most of us need to transition into a new career slowly, while still working another job. But setting goals and a somewhat fluid timeframe for achieving them can go a long way toward making those goals reality. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.
The truth of the matter is that it is entirely possible to earn a living AND feel fulfilled. One needn't sacrifice their conscience for ashes. It can take time to dig out your nuggets of gold...to find your true calling. But those nuggets are found in your story if you take the time to look. if you still are having difficulties, talk to others that have known you for a while. "What comes out to you naturally when you empower others can be your gift. Since it happens unconsciously, you may sometimes ignore it." Look back at the compliments you've received. What were they for? Was it the way you instinctively knew what someone needed...and provided it? Was it for something you made that the recipient still raves about years later? Ask and listen to people around you about the characteristics and abilities they associate with you. You can do it in person or make it fun by posting it on Facebook. Either way, find a way to solicit some responses from people who matter to you. Find the common response that ties them all together. And that will undoubtedly lead you to your path.
Charles Kingsley, a 19th-century university professor, and social reformer said, "We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” Dharma couldn't agree more!
Yes, we all need to earn a living but it doesn't have to suck the life out of us. There are ways to pay the bills and remain true to the values that guide us.
Sometimes, all it takes is to visualize the life we want. To begin, we often have to go to the end. What would you want your eulogy to be? Do you want to be remembered for how much wealth you accumulated? Or would you rather be known for your kindness and how happy you made others? “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” — Norman Cousins
Dharma's message today was a powerful one. it's also one that many of us need to hear. We all get so caught up in "keeping up with the Jones" when all we need to do is to keep up with ourselves. Since I've started writing, my standard of living is quite as high as it was when I worked for someone else. But the freedom I experience being able to do what I love and the joy I get when I read positive comments from my readers is worth far more than any paycheck, Money can never buy that sense of fulfillment.
I hope you'll come by tomorrow when I'll be exploring, of all things, the humble apple pie.