For those committed to the path of self improvement, it’s a pretty noble thing to commit to. It means that your aim is to add to the good in the world and not try to create more negativity.
Another good thing about sticking to this path is that you get to live the life you want to live by removing or changing the things that are blocking you from what you want.
But an inevitable thing happens. When we enact what people recommend, and it doesn’t work, we beat ourselves up. We shame ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously.
And when we do that we cling to the path of self improvement as we would a light bulb or a flame. It was enough that we flip the switch or hold the torch, but because we think the light led us down the wrong path, and all we got is this light, we grab hold of it and singe ourselves.
But what if the light didn’t lead us down the wrong path? What if the failure we’re experiencing is the path? And what if it isn’t exactly failure?
When I started down this self improvement road almost exactly a decade ago, it was because I “knew” something was off about me and I “knew” that there was no way I could achieve what I wanted in life. This feeling of knowing was evidenced by how I felt and the thoughts I had about myself.
Something was off about me because I hadn’t recovered from past trauma. I wouldn’t achieve what I wanted because they weren’t what I really wanted. I wanted to be happy and the goals I set were there to ensure that I achieved happiness.
This is hardly anything to feel sorry for myself for. These were just facts of life. But the allure of self improvement, combined with thoughts like these were never going to lead me to exactly where I wanted to go, but where I needed to go.
It’s a pity one can’t see this when one is on the path with the kind of mindset I had. But that is exactly why one joins the path — to get what they think they need to be happy.
Let’s face it. The whole deal is to get to a place where you’re (largely) in everlasting peace. But what if it doesn’t exist? And what if you actually don’t want that?
If you were in everlasting peace, you would never grow. And this notion that there are people among us who live in perpetual bliss is a lie. We all know that what we resist will persist, but are we not resisting and trying to escape pain by trying to be in perpetual monk mode?
Why can’t pain and suffering be a good thing? Yes, it may hurt. But does it not show us that we might be missing something, that there’s something to learn, that we inherited something that is incompatible with where we want to go?
So even though we may be in pain, the pain is trying to communicate with us! “Your bearings are off. You misjudged something. You are carrying a load that you can’t take with you anymore.”
On this journey to a new and improved you (or the old and healthy you), we can travel with perspectives that don’t serve us and the journey is trying to illustrate just that.
Therefore, you don’t have to try to get anything right because everything that is happening can be used to serve you, if you let it. That therefore means that you aren’t even getting it wrong!
We’ve beaten up ourselves for things we didn’t yet understand, and yet, even that makes sense considering the fact that we didn’t understand that we didn’t understand.
As I said, the path of self improvement is the path we think will take us to happiness. I challenge you to stop aiming for happiness. Just give it up. Because the more you do this and you miss the mark and suffer, the more you will add to your suffering by complaining about missing happiness.
I’m not saying to stop doing things you enjoy. I’m saying when you do anything at all, don’t have an end goal of happiness. Just do it. Not only will you stop worrying about getting it right, you’ll realise that there’s nothing to get.
The happiness you wanted could never come from something else. It was all you from the jump. The reason you thought it’d make you happy is because you value it. Nothing can make you happy. No teaching, no person, no thing. So stop it.