What shall we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss separating us from from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery. – Thomas Merton.
There is so much we can achieve in life, yet still feel disconnected from ourselves. If you are like many of us, you harbor a secret–you should be happy, yet you’re not. You should feel successful, yet you don’t. You strive to acquire all the trappings that mark a life of accomplishments – awards, medals, plaques, promotions, money, romantic conquests, luxurious materials things – yet, there is a spiritual or emotional void that keeps draining away any sense of satisfaction as quickly as you acquire it. Could it be that true satisfaction can only be generated from within? What do you have to prove, and to whom are you trying to prove it?
We are shaped by our experiences, but living through them doesn’t necessarily mean we understand who we have become as a result. Have you ever achieved an important goal only to still feel unfulfilled, empty, or maybe even like a fraud? Ever wonder why your efforts have delivered rewards and acclaim, but not the deep-rooted self-esteem you anticipated? Just as the moon merely reflects the light from the sun and has no light of its own
, our accomplishments reflect an image we present to the world, but do not define who we are inside. A sad example is Lance Armstrong, considered by the world, and most of all by himself, as the greatest cycling athlete of all time, until his extensive cheating conspiracy was revealed. The world came to see him as a cheater, but he, himself, still tries to rationalize what he did and believes he is still a “winner.” What appeared to be a drive to be a great athlete is now revealed to be a desperate compulsion for winning, for fame, for celebrity. Was he, is he now, even aware it was this blind drive to win that motivated him, as opposed to a genuine love of the sport?
Satisfaction with a deed must originate from within you to be lasting and genuine. Do you try to build your identity from the outside in, hoping to find yourself in the image reflected back upon you in the eyes of the world? Do you use standards set by others to judge your inner worth? Who or what is the yardstick by which you measure your self-image? When you dedicate yourself to a goal
, what is it that you achieve inside? Do you feel let down if you are not acclaimed, honored, idolized by your friends and colleagues after the achievement? Are you forever seeking to achieve more and more, escalate the difficulty, danger, and challenge of achievements to keep the acclaim going? Do you do things for the love of doing them, or for the love and acclaim you strive to get for having done them?
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36 King James Bible, Cambridge Edition
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