Most of us have spent the better part of our lives seeking happiness, satisfaction, meaning, and peace, only to find it is an illusory state. We set goals — for more money, wealth, friends, love, better looks, a better body — only to find that once we reach each goal, the happiness we achieve is fleeting. It lasts a moment, only to have us return to more fears and desires. Our lives become an endless seeking of gratification through external circumstances.
What people come to find after they have achieved most of their worldly goals is that happiness is achieved internally, not externally. I finally have arrived at a beautiful place in my life — I met and married the woman of my dreams, we have a beautiful child and another on the way, and I’ve achieved most (if not all) of my material goals. But I also discovered something even more lasting along the way: I fell in love with existence itself.
One day, it dawned on me that everything is a gift — everything is beautiful. I stopped being conditional in my love for people and situations and started to appreciate the absolute beauty of everything. Think about it.
How could we appreciate good without evil? How could we appreciate a sunny day without a rainy one? How could we appreciate health without sickness? And most important, how could we appreciate life without death?
The best analogy I ever have heard is that life is like a river flowing downstream. Either we can choose to go with the flow of the river (life), or we can try to fight it and swim upstream.
Pain in life is a given, but suffering is optional. Suffering is caused by resistance and trying to swim upstream.
If we begin to look at and accept life as an incredible school of experiences — both good and bad — we begin to accept whatever life brings us and completely surrender to it. We begin flowing downstream in the direction of the river. Life becomes wondrous and beautiful.
We start to operate from a place of complete integrity. We no longer are striving or trying to reach a distant goal when we finally will feel complete because we already are complete. We simply don’t know it yet.
So how do we reach this level of harmony with life and existence? The best place to start is with ourselves. We should stop trying to fix other people, situations, or the world. The world doesn’t need saving. It’s perfect as it is.
If we start by working on ourselves, our world will become a beautiful place. What do I mean by “our world”? Simply this — our world is based on the parents we have, the environments into which we were born, our experiences growing up, the friends (and foes) we chose, and the judgments and opinions we formed.
Therefore, we all live in a subjective world, one of our own making. If we see a world of struggle and strife, that is the world in which we chose to live. If we see a world of beauty and wonder, that world also exists. It all begins within each human being.
The best way to start is by dropping all expectations we have of others and ourselves and instead accepting people for who they are. This is easier said than done, but once we begin doing this, we will begin to see the beauty in all people, things, and events.
When we stop labeling things as good or bad, we see them as “different” rather than “better” or “worse.” Our relationships become better because we begin to accept people for who they are rather than who we think they should be. People (family, friends, and peers) begin to feel “understood” by us — we accept and love them for who they are, not what we expect them to be.
That also goes for ourselves. We should stop becoming and start being. When it’s boiled down, that’s what goal setting is all about: becoming somebody other than who we are — richer, smarter, thinner, more attractive — and never accepting the beautiful person dwelling inside.