A crippling activity has invaded human life. The two fundamental ways of being have been increasing in contrast. The first way involves a boldness that presupposes much of the world is what we make of it. The second way involves endless loops of thoughts but very little activity; it includes calculation after calculation is made in an attempt to avoid any downsides or suffering. This is what it is to surrender our life to ego.
Why is avoiding mistakes so important? What is so expensive about them that people would literally defer life itself if we calculate even a single downside? The downsides are all connected to ego, not the being that thinks the ego into existence. Your spirit doesn’t care what you earn it just seeks enough to be satisfied because it is rewarded by growth not money. Your reputation will suffer no matter what you do because your enemies will lie about you incessantly. And your day-to-day status is largely irrelevant to a task at hand. So if none of these things amount to much, why are people spending so much of their lives trying to avoid them?
There are people in this world who are aggressively living their life in the understanding that it truly is a limited opportunity. They aren’t worried about your judgments about them. They’re not selfish bullies pushing their way to the front because the healthiest people are also well aware of their connection to others. But if you hesitate to seize an opportunity they will not feel badly about snatching it up. It isn’t their job to give your life to you and they know it.
These “successful” people enjoy their own lives. Yes they have challenges like everyone, but they live largely on their own terms. They trust themselves. They believe their dreams are worthwhile 2and that they are capable of achieving them. And maybe most importantly they believe they are permitted to fail. They won’t feel bad when something goes wrong, they’ll just collect the lesson and continue on. No spinning for the successful. Spinning is the act of an ego. While the spirit does the ego talks.
Today far more people spin than ever before. It’s an illness. Everyone’s just sitting around using their thoughts to create dis-ease. They spin on relationships. They spin on jobs. They spin on major decisions. They spin on minor decisions. They spin on almost every decision. And if we asked them how their life was spent upon their death, the vast majority of it would have been spent contemplating life rather than living it.
This can play out in the most subtle ways. For instance, I was recently at the grocery store. It was early evening and the store was packed with people sorting out the week’s meals. Every line was super long. I only had a basket and so I joined the express line. Right as I joined it a clerk who knows me from the store strode up and mentioned that he would be opening the next till and he asked me to join him.
As I moved over I got the attention of the two people who were ahead of me in line and I pointed out the opportunity and offered it to them. The harried woman at the front and the angry man behind her both immediately recognized what was happening and both were clearly frustrated that the “new line” had started behind them. Recognizing their frustration I again offered that they assume the front of the new line. Both rejected it for no good reason–clearly their till was held up on a price check.
The rest of us went through very quickly and by the time I walked out four people had been through my till and the harried woman and angry man were both still waiting to put their stuff on their conveyor belt. They both looked very unhappy. Extremely unhappy. Maybe they were unhappy with the cashier, but she obviously needs the price for things she’s charging for so blaming her made no sense. And I got the hairy eyeball too, but as you might imagine I didn’t feel bad at all. I had offered.
If they couldn’t even represent their lives better than that by 50-60 years of age then me being polite would make little difference. They both clearly wanted to jump ahead in line (who wouldn’t?). They were both clearly upset with their cashier and the four us us who beat them through the till. But do you think I cared? Why would I? I was polite. And the people behind me had no issue with me offering them the chance. It was the people who saw the chance and somehow talked themselves out of something they naturally wanted that were responsible. They wanted to be seen as good.
Yes, take others into account. Be good to others as a way of being good to yourself. But life is a verb and it will be what you make of it. Don’t surrender your days to meek deferrals of life itself. If she took me up on the offer the woman would have gone faster, been grateful to me and the other four people who were now letting her into our line, and she would have walked out feeling happy and lucky. Instead she balked at the offer of help in an egotistical attempt to look noble or proper or polite. What she got for that was wasting her time, misplaced frustration at the cashier and those of us in the other line, and then she left the store tense and upset and she took that home to whoever she was going to see.
Life is made a zillion little daily solutions. If you’re not taking others into account then the world will soon teach you that your strategy lacks a future. But if you take others too much into account–to the point where you automatically place others needs above yours–then you’re no longer living a human life and you’re merely a slave to convention and obligation. Life is bigger than that.
Set yourself free. Stop all the spinning thoughts. See the world as kind and generous and inclusive and you will happily take chances like the one I gave those people, but see it as difficult and scary and socially expensive and you can literally be alive without living.
You’re not pushy or selfish if you simply represent your own life with some confidence. And you don’t need to go get the confidence. Those two people were confident what they wanted, they just weren’t confident they deserved it. And to me, their lack of belief in their own value was the worst thing that happened in that line that day. Don’t be meek. Life is short. Live.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.