“I hate Mondays,” someone said to me the other day. “And, if there’s anything like a Monday depression, I have it.”
This person contended that while he made a lot of money and so on, he wasn’t living his ideal life. He did everything because he had family responsibilities. “Otherwise,” he said, “I could be wearing a robe like you and roaming around freely.”
“Oh!” I chuckled. “That’s the Facebook Trap.”
He looked at me quizzically and I said, “I mean, when you look at someone’s pics on social media and think they are having a time of their life.”
“But you are doing what you love!”
“I’ve learned to love what I do and you can do the same.”
“I loathe getting up in the mornings and go through five days of drudgery every week,” he said.
“And, what would you rather be doing?”
“Retire and be stress-free, maybe vacation more frequently, take it a bit easy. I’d love to get up or work whenever I want, maybe write a book or two and just go with the flow.”
It’s so innate in us that I wonder if it’s hardwired in our brains. Many among us feel that the current life is not the best kind, that we are working towards something else, some moment after which we won’t have to do things we don’t like. The day we reach that shore, life will be all sunshine and rainbows and we’ll spend every second of our time doing things we fancy, love or dream of. As if happiness and fulfillment is a certain stage where we’ll only be surrounded by people who love us and whom we love, when there’ll only be abundance, no stress, conflict or diseases, only joy and bliss, only peace and happiness. Some say that’s enlightenment.
If you ask me, that’s not just a far-fetched idea but downright ignorant and preposterous too. I am not sure how we arrived at the conclusion that liberation means freedom from work in our daily lives or zero-resistance in the pursuit of our dreams. I read a nice little story in Celebration by Jaroldeen Edwards:
Several years ago we were invited, along with several thousand others, to the opening of the first Great America amusement park. What an incredible experience! As we stood with our twelve children waiting to be admitted to the park, our twelve-year-old son said, “I can’t wait for the gates to open, Mother. I think when those gates open, it will be the best thing that has ever happened in this world.”
You see, for that one night, it was going to be just like Pleasure Island in Pinocchio. Everything was to be free.
My son and his cousin, who was the same age, begged to be allowed to go at their own pace, wherever they wished. Because the amusement park was powerfully lighted and fenced, and everyone present was a guest, we gave them permission. Two happier boys have never run into a wonderland. Before them lay every ride, all the food they could eat, games, sights, and splendor.
The party lasted from eight in the evening until midnight. We had arranged to meet the boys by the merry-go-round at quarter-to-twelve. Of course, we saw them many times during the evening, always running to the next ride, their hands full of food, their eyes bright, eager, and a little greedy.
At the end of the evening, as we watched tired families stream toward the exit gates, our two exhausted little boys, their faces stained with chocolate and mustard, their feet dragging, and their heads almost lolling with weariness, walked up to us. My son looked into my eyes.
“I’ve learned something,” he told me. “You know how I said I thought the best thing in the whole world would be when those gates opened? Nothing but party and fun!” He pointed toward the large gates at the entrance. I nodded. “Well, now,” he said, “I think that the worst thing in this world would be if those gates closed and I couldn’t leave.”
It was absolutely one of the best evenings of his childhood, but he had also learned that pleasure has a timer, and when the timer rings, it ceases to be fun. It is then time to return to those basic things that give fun its meaning. Work gives purpose and importance to life, and that sense of purpose in all that we do is what turns fun into something more meaningful — into celebration.
Wiser words couldn’t be said in a better way. The joy of falling asleep on a soft bed after a day’s hard work is far greater than procrastinating all day and binge-watching Netflix till your eyelids droop. Staying up late into the night, for example, doing useless things that may entertain you but do nothing to challenge you or help you grow as a person, just notice how you feel when you get up the next morning: groggy, a bit heavy headed, with that earthy and astringent taste in your mouth. You don’t wake up fresh and energetic. Instead, you find that you have even less willpower today than you did yesterday. It’s very simple: the delight of a fulfilling rest can’t be experienced without first earning it. And, you earn it by working through things you’d rather avoid, by balancing your life between have-to-do’s and want-to-do’s.
Dreading what we must do in our daily lives creates oppressive and negative feelings in our minds says Jaroldeen Edwards and she goes on to narrate it beautifully, further in the same chapter:
For many of us, just opening our eyes in the morning brings an instant and oppressive realization of all the jobs that are waiting to pounce on us. Before our feet even touch the floor we are feeling overwhelmed and under the gun… Our lives feel like a too full basket of laundry we are trying to carry down a steep stairway, and things are just slipping and sliding and leaving a trail behind us.
I have found I need to do two things to control those oppressive feelings. The first is to look more consistently at what I have done than at what I have not done. No one else has to recognize what I have accomplished — it is enough that I do. The second this is to realize that I have power over my own work. It is my opportunity to decide what needs to be done, and when, and how. I am the planner and the doer — and if things need to be changed or done better or differently, I have the power to think it through, to use my own initiative and decision.
There is no one who never worries about anything. None among us is always happy, no matter what. Optimistic, positive, hopeful, yes; without challenges, conflict or difficulties, no.
If you haven’t yet found your purpose in life then let me tell you, my friend, that before that can happen, one must understand that resistance training is the foundation of building strength. The strength to take it on the chin, to find your happiness in what you must do, to be patient comes from working to your optimum potential.
The other day, I had the chance to observe a 15-year-old athlete swim his laps like a fish in water. He gets up at 4am, goes to school during weekdays, swims a total of 5 hours every day 7-days-a-week, spends 2+ hrs. on the road to go to his training and practice sessions, and devotes whatever remaining time he has in playing his piano. (To appear human, yes he sleeps too.) He’s not missed a day of practice in the last five years. Not a day. I am sure there must be times he didn’t want to get up when it was still dark outside, let alone jump and swim in the cold pool in harsh Canadian winters (as is required for high-performance athletes, I was told). He could have just snuggled up in his bed on dreary mornings when the skies were grey or it was snowing heavily, but no, he pulled himself together leaving behind the warm quilt, and did what was needed to fulfill his purpose as he saw it. That’s the kind of stuff champions are made of.
Living a life of purpose is more a matter of habit we cultivate through self-discipline and sacrifice than any chance discovery. If you care to observe, you will notice that the happiest people in the world are usually very hard working. I don’t mean that they work eighteen-hours every day but that you won’t find them showing any laziness in what needs to be done.
Mulla Nasrudin’s teacher asked him, “What do we call someone who can’t hear?”
“Call him whatever you like,” Mulla replied. “It’s not like he can hear!”
Opportunities are knocking on your door all the time, presenting you with your purpose of life, if you choose not to hear them and instead be fixated on, and waiting for, some grand, big-bang, unrealistic event, you’ll be disappointed.
If you wish to live your ideal life, first devote every ounce of energy and enthusiasm to your present one. Before long, you’ll know your purpose in life. When you put your heart, mind and soul into whatever you undertake, it liberates you. A liberated soul alone walks through the journey of life effortlessly and gracefully, like a master swimmer pierces through water. It’s a sight to behold.
To make your life a grand affair is entirely in your hands; shake them carefully.