It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. – Joanne Rowling
There is so much to gain in the world. Love, money, wisdom, friends, success, faith, peace and happiness are at the top of most lists. The difficult question becomes how we can attempt to get all of these things and at the same time not lose our souls in the process. The answer may come down to a simple matter of choice.
Choices exist all around us. We can choose to live a life of service or we can choose to invest in a career that has the promise to be financially rewarding. We also have the choice of doing both.
For example, you can help someone in need and at the same time continue to build your career and net worth. You can build intimate and meaningful relationships and at the same time not lose sight of your own needs and ambitions.
Our souls are nourished when we do what we know to be right. By following our heart’s desire we stay better connected with our life’s purpose and to everybody else in our lives.
The following strategies are effective ones when considering how to stay determined with pursuing what you want to gain at the same time not losing your soul in the process.
Be a Faithful Spouse or Partner
There is no gray area when it comes to fidelity or honesty. Either you honor the commitments you make to your partner or you don’t. No amount of education or money will keep you honest – only you will keep you honest.
The things I want to gain in this world are also the things I want to share with Mary Beth. Yes, I have my personal goals and interests which are separate from her goals, but big picture things like financial security, creating a stable home, and planning for our eventual retirement are all aligned with her needs, too.
I couldn’t live with myself if I took advantage of the trust that exists in our relationship. There’s no question I will continue to find success and put in long hours. But at the end of the day when the busyness of our lives calms down a bit, I will always want my heart connected to hers. My soul will then allow me to drift off to a peaceful place to find the rest I need without fear or regret and to gain the strength to live another day.
Be a Good Parent
I enjoy the comedian Chris Rock. He style is very honest and real. Chris tells it like it is even if you don’t like what he has to say, or how he says it.
In a recent routine, Chris Rock talks about dead-beat fathers. Rock brings to light the false bravado some of these dads demonstrate. Mimicking a dead-bat dad who wants to take credit for basic parenting functions, the imaginary character announces, “I take care of my kids.”
The comedian replies back contemptuously with, “You are supposed to.”
Chris Rock’s message is clear. When we make the decision that could result in the conception of a child, we also make the commitment to support and nurture the child. This is expected. As parents, we are supposed to take care of our children.
Being a good parent, however, involves a little more effort. For example, taking the time to listen and to be fully present when your child is talking, or reading the extra book at bedtime, or turning the car radio off when you and your teenager have a few minutes to chat while driving home.
The demands of your job or any other obligation may result in some missed dinners with your children, but their security will not be threatened by your occasional absence because they will understand the goodness of your soul.
Always remember where you have come from and what you have been through. Even though self-awareness and personal growth is about moving forward, sometimes it’s just as important to take the time to look back and to give back.
At dinner a few nights ago, my family and I were talking about our Christmas plans. We considered a ski trip, but getting that together sounded too complex and expensive. Then the questions were asked about what we each wanted. To be honest, I couldn’t think of anything right away – and either could anyone else.
The conversation then shifted to what we could give. We are far from rich, but we are comfortable and we do know there will be plenty of food and cheer in our home during the Holidays. There would be some homes, however, that won’t be as cheerful.
Consider the following statement: Money does not define a person’s character but rather what a person does with money defines one’s character.
Giving back doesn’t always have to be measured monetarily either. Your time and talent can also be wonderful resources to share. Elder care facilities, community food pantries ad domestic abuse shelters and all need volunteers to pitch in and lend a hand.
When you find yourself in those types of places, it doesn’t really matter what you are gaining this world, what matters is that you are sharing a piece of your heart and allowing others a glimpse into your compassionate soul.
Forgiveness & Mercy
The common bond that binds us together is the human condition. At our core we are capable of incredible kindness and we are also capable of hurting others, even those closest to us.
Insults, lapses in judgment and thoughtlessness are painful when we are the recipient of these actions. Forgiveness can be the best remedy for the pain. However, to be clear, forgiveness is not for the benefit of your offender, forgiveness is for the benefit of your soul.
To stay angry is to stay stuck in the moment that caused the pain in the first place. Forgiveness allows you to move forward and to move past the pain.
Mercy, which is another form of forgiveness, is invaluable when it comes to accepting our role and responsibility in being part of the human condition. While it’s certainly true we do not contribute to all of the pain and suffering that exists around us, by being human we cannot become disconnected and ignore our brothers and sisters who need help from time-to-time.
Respect and Learn from Every Experience
Experience can be the best teacher in life. The reason we study history in school is to gain a better understanding of the past so we can avoid repeating the same mistakes others have made before us.
It’s the same in our personal life, too. When you have made it through a tough circumstance take a moment to look back and ask yourself three things: (1) How did I get there? (2) What did I learn from the experience? And (3) How have I been changed as a result from the experience?
There are no accidents in life without value. Sometimes we put our heads down and keep charging to whatever it is we want to gain in this world. Walls are placed in our path we don’t see until we have been knocked backwards. At first, we feel angry and indigent because we have been distracted. But if we pay attention there is a lesson, a value, we can learn from the setback.
Our souls need this information to become better prepared for the longer journey ahead. Life is indeed a marathon, not a sprint. Respecting the distance we need to go, and acknowledging the road behind us, provides a greater context for our intended purpose that waits ahead.
Nurture Your Soul
Nobody will take better care of you, than you.
Five days a week I head to the gym for a work-out. It’s easy to make plans for this and to see the results. Either I get my work-outs in during the week, or I don’t. Either I’m able to maintain my weight or I’m not. Caring for my soul is a whole different matter.
The need for self-care is vital for the inner peace most of us seek. No matter how much money we have in our bank accounts or the projects we are planning that we believe will lead to more success, if we don’t take care of ourselves in the process then we are heading in the wrong direction.
The quiet of the early morning is my nourishment and a time for centering and prayer. Before the distractions of the day begin, the solitude of the morning helps me to focus on where I am, and just as importantly, where I want to go. I use this time to think, write, and to listen to what my inner voice is telling me. The noise of the day can drown this out sometimes.
In taking a current inventory of life I see some depleted shelves where some valuable merchandise was once stored. Most of what I have attempted to gain is meaningless because my soul is looking for a little more. Panic was my first response. But now a comforting peace is beginning to settle inside of me.
Recently there have been gentle reminders that have nudged me into realizing I was losing a piece of my soul. There’s no question I will always continue to move forward and attempt to gain what I think is important, but I also know my soul will remind me when I begin to neglect the most important source of my existence.