Because humanity developed the concept of “completion” you have attached that idea to your life. You want to live your life out, but you want the growth part to be done. You want to be happy—to no longer struggle. You just want your to-do list done, your home cleaned, and you romantic and social lives to be running smoothly. Then you’ll be ready. But ready for what?
It may be difficult to appreciate how boring that would be. You imagine it as perfection, but in reality it is static. The flow of life has been interrupted. Would you rather watch water drop down a straight, clear, regular, predictable canal, or would you rather watch it cascade down a rocky riverbed, with eddies, and pools, and rapids and rocks? Would you rather drive on a holiday across a nation-sized giant parking lot, where you have no chance of hitting anything and you can go any direction and still be “on the road,” or would you rather drive through a twisting set of turns through a gorgeous mountain pass? Yes the second drive requires more attention. Yes it has more peril. But the parking lot will kill you with boredom.
You are not failing when you are lost, for being lost is an integral part of Being. You are not failing when you are sad, for being sad is a natural reaction to the loss of something we love. And you are not failing when you lose, because without losing you yourself could never have won. You can’t even say getting fired or divorced are failing, because those may in fact prove to be opportunities. Maybe it was taking the job or getting married that was the mistake—but those seemed like monumentally great days when they happened.
There is no way to judge the value of anything because as we move through our life, our perspective shifts and changes what different experiences are worth. This is why it is pointless to use words to internally dissect and analyze your daily life. All that noise is like commentators on TV discussing something that won’t be happening for years. It’s all speculation about meaning. But you cannot assess meaning when the meaning necessarily changes. There is no conclusion. There is no finished when it comes to meaning and understanding. The point is that you were never supposed to use words to evaluate your life at all. You were only intended to live. To Be.
You can stop talking to yourself about your perceived failures and mistakes, because “failure” and “mistake” are only words. Your life is a verb and that verb can unexpectedly find you in all kinds of situations where your “failures and mistakes” can become incredibly valuable. Stop judging yours and others lives and you will naturally slip into a peaceful existence. You will routinely leave it, because there can be no peace unless there is not-peace. But that is not failure. That is living. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can shift back to the kind of peace that includes suffering.
Remember, without the moments you don’t enjoy you would have no way of finding the ones you do enjoy. So if things feel bad, use that information to make a change in your thoughts. If things feel good, just keep that direction, but do so with the gratitude that comes with knowing that it will never stay that way.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.