In my last post I discussed my decision to pursue the goals I have in life by enjoying them for their own merit, letting go of the idea of 'self-improvement.' This means that, for now, I want to do things because they make me happy, not because my life is some kind of pet project.
A few years ago, I was an aggressive and very impatient person. Needless to say, these emotions caused me a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. My troubles were compounded by the fact that I didn't have a constructive way of dealing with them.
Enter my 'discovery' of Buddhism. If such a thing were to exist, it was like being hit (hard) with an enlightenment stick! Suddenly the ideas I had believed all my life (yet had not quite connected) were right there in front of me. Intellectual appreciation gave way to effort, effort to practice, and practice to a way of life. My realizations and initial zeal were also tempered by the indispensable Buddhist concept of rejecting extremes and following the Middle Way.
Slowly and steadily, my attitudes towards other people and the world around me changed. Don't get me wrong, I still get angry and act unskillfully. But I in the past few years I have grown more calm, patient, and understanding. I regularly engage in activities that require self-discipline, like meditation, mindful eating, and practicing yoga. I also try (and sometimes succeed) in making an effort to practice Metta, or loving-kindness, towards all beings. I take part in these activities because I feel it is the right thing to do.
I realize now that this type of action is very different from the 'self-improvement' I had always pursued. Although (usually) unintentional, my efforts at 'improvement' had been outwardly motivated, to seek approval from others. It took me a long time to discover this pattern, not to mention how draining and demoralizing it can be. Now that I know, I am ready to let it go. It is time to focus on effort that is not only beneficial, but filled with freedom and joy.
In making this decision to change my motivation, I believe I have come a long way!
In our lives, we are all on our own great journey. How do you feel that you have you come a long way in your life? What does the term 'self improvement' mean to you? As always, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
May all beings be happy!