In our Western culture, we’re inoculated with goals from the day we’re born. Nearly everything compels us and drives us to set high goals.
Commercials, with successful and rich actors.
Movies, stuffed with motivation and ambition, or crammed to the brim with bitter sadness that make us swear we won’t turn out like that.
And toys, such as muscular and tough G.I. Joe’s for boys, and sexy and lean Barbie’s for girls.
All these things, and dozens more, push us to reach, and stretch, and aim as high as we can.
And so we go, and we compete, and we worry, and we … fall short. And yet we know heroes get back up, and so we go, and we compete, and we worry, and we … fall short again.
It’s a murderous and painful path, and it’s one I know well. I’ve lived it and breathed it and have the scars, divorce papers, and saved letters from creditors when I nearly went bankrupt. (Spent a spell living rent free in a friend’s basement, which is one of the most humiliating things a grown man can go through. How many men do you know who can’t afford even $200 rent?)
So I know what I’m talking about with goals and dreams, and I know that even after you win a round — I’ve won a few — you’re already looking to the next goal. The next step. The next challenge.
Why do we do this? Why do we rush and race and hurry off to the next round?
I’m honestly not sure.
It’s partly a rat race. It’s partly insecurity and fear. It’s partly because we seek a challenge. A mountain against which to test ourselves.
Thankfully, in the past couple of years, I’ve learned there’s a better way. It’s Eastern thinking, and there are hundreds of books out there that will help you drop the Western thinking and enjoy the Eastern thinking. (An easy introduction into it is in the P.S. below, which I call the greatest gift I can give.)
Oddly, as you start to read about Eastern thinking, you’ll feel a familiarity to it all. That familiarity, you’ll eventually learn, is the Bible coming back to you. All those verses about “being still,” learning to be humble, not seeking riches, and on and on.
But we lose sight of the Bible in our Western culture. Our million dollar churches with the suits we’re required to wear, and their capital campaigns and cathedral ceilings. Jesus would flip the pews in most of our churches today, just as he flipped the tables of the money changers when he walked among us in his day.
But I’m getting off my point and probably pissing off about half of you (and getting cheers from the other half). As a side note, pissing off people is not a very Eastern thing to do, but I have the rough edges of a Marine to continue hewing off…
My point is this: Eastern thinking has taught me to slow down, and in so doing, to go further. There’s a story from Eastern thinking that I’ve read about climbing a monstrous mountain, and how untrained climbers go much too fast, and thus never finish the climb. Experienced climbers go slow. Take their time. And take a break just twenty minutes into the climb, far before you feel like you need one.
We can, and should, apply this lesson to our lives. Work a bit less today, and make sure you get some exercise and family time in. Don’t spend a full weekend off. Try to do some work from home. Everything in moderation. We know these ideas, just rarely follow them.
But, I’m drifting here… I’ve gone from aiming for a short introduction to going all over the place — Note to self: Good job, Eastern Stan, you don’t need an outline, you don’t need to rush, and you definitely don’t need to go all Western Stan, since Western Stan would beat yourself up, yell at how you suck so bad at blogging, and force you to spend another hour re-writing or just ditching this miserable attempt.
But back to my real point, here is what I want to share. A fellow Eastern thinker wrote a great blog post about having fun with our goals and dreams.
While some people like to focus on being disciplined and achieving goals and sticking to their plans, I find this to be meaningless. What’s the point? You’ll fail about a third to half the time, and then feel like a failure for not being disciplined or sticking to a plan or goal.
In contrast, if you do the exact same thing, but let go of the expectation you’ve set for yourself and just have fun doing it, it’s a complete success.
Every waking moment should be just for fun.
It shifts everything. It doesn’t only determine whether something’s a success or failure — it changes your attitude while you do anything, while you’re talking with someone or reading or watching something. Your mood lifts, you are kinder to others, you have a smile on your face.
Read his entire link here. It’s well worth your time. And slow down. And quit beating yourself up.
You’re beautiful. God loves you. And life is so short and precious.
Stan R. Mitchell
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
P.S. Please accept the greatest gift I can give.