Thursday, July 12, 2012

I've finally freed myself

It seems like ever since I can remember I have been working to improve myself. Lose weight, tone down, eat better, work harder, get better grades, be more confident. During this journey of 'self-improvement', I went from being a gung-ho, crash-and-burn type to someone who gradually works towards personal change. As you can imagine, the second method has brought me the most success. 

Yet recently I have felt very frustrated. Although I may have accomplished a lot in the past few years, I still have many more goals- perhaps more than I have had at any time in my life. But I don't seem to be getting anywhere with any of them. 

Thinking of posts I've read from success gurus like Leo Babauta, I decided to make one last-ditch effort. Leo is at the forefront of advocating bite-sized change for big-time goals, from losing weight to becoming a great athlete. Baby steps are key.

With this in mind, I planned to take the smallest step I could. I made a date with myself to work on my own self-improvement, for just one minute each day. I could choose to do anything I wanted, and stay at one minute until I was comfortable to move on to two minutes, then three, then four . . . all the way up to an hour of working on self-improvement each day. What a great idea! (Right?)    

Well, even though I do actually think this was a pretty decent plan, I had not anticipated the massive resistance I would put up against it. After procrastinating for several hours, I finally was ready to do my 'one minute'. However, instead of the one minute of pushups I had planned, I just sat there and rested for one minute. Then two. Then three. 

Feeling defeated and angry at myself, I decided to go for a long walk to calm down. As I was walking, I kept wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Couldn't I just work on improving myself for ONE MINUTE?! How lazy am I, really?! 

After some time I calmed down and thought more rationally about my behavior. Okay, I had obviously been resistant to that one little minute of change because I simply didn't want to do it. Fine.

But it was the answer to my next question, Why didn't I want to do it?, that really hit me. 

"Because I've had enough!" my mind blurted out. Surprised, I realized in that moment that I don't need to do this to myself anymore. The idea of 'self-improvement' is all well and good, but the way I was going about it was sucking the joy out of my life. All the goals I have, everything I love and want to do in life, I had demoted to mere drudgery. 

And, turning inward, I realized something more. My slavish effort in 'self-improvement' was implying (and constantly re-enforcing) that there is something fundamentally wrong with me, that I somehow need to 'fix'. I know now that this is simply not true. I don't need any more 'improvement'.

Does this mean I think I am perfect? Absolutely not. But I think it is time for me to become comfortable with my own imperfection. Following a Buddhist way of life has helped me establish and strengthen a code of conduct not based on faith alone. Instead, the guidelines set by the Buddha in the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Five Moral Precepts have resonated with me as fundamental laws of the universe. In my effort to be in balance with them, these guidelines have helped set a distinct framework for my behavior, and shifted the emphasis of what I feel is important in life. 

Keeping this framework close to my heart, I think the time has come that I just need to do what makes me happy. It is in this way I will work towards my goals, joyfully, without self-reproach and judgement. 

I am finally free.

I feel like a butterfly, spreading my wings in freedom!
May all beings be happy (even me)! :)

As always, I welcome your comments. With love and Metta, Renata


  1. That is such a wonderful realization. I really need to get to that point. I too feel like I'm always trying to 'improve' myself. Good job :)

    1. Thanks so much, quietmind! All I can say is that changing motivation has caused a huge shift in my attitude, and feels really good! I hope that everyone out there who wants to can come to this realization sooner than I did, and benefit from it.

      Have a wonderful day!

  2. Thanks for your insights. I am sure any frustration can be greatly reduced by your realization. I would like to add something that has helped me over the years. From the Bhagavad Gita (Barbara Stoler Miller translation), Chapter 2 Verses 47-48, "Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action; avoid attraction to the fruits and attachment to inaction! Perform actions, firm in discipline, relinquishing attachment; be impartial to failure and success -- this equanimity is called discipline.". I interpret this as don't worry about the results or be affected by any failures (or successes). The results are beyond me personally. I should only focus on what I can do (with a resolute mind and a compassionate heart). I hope these comments are helpful.

    1. Dear Dan,
      Thanks so much for sharing this great wisdom with me. I think this passage is extremely helpful and insightful, and just goes to show how pervasive the issue of attaching to success or failure (and hence ego and others' opinions) is to the human condition.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. It is interesting to read about your self improvement. I have done it at least once a week but not as in exercise or anything outward but more to inward. I love to read and as I study Buddhism I realised the truth especially on the Third Noble truth which is the Eightfold Path. I didn't practice all of them however, but only one. The one I practice is Right Understanding. I started practicing Buddhism not too long ago which is around 5 months but I have an understanding of myself before entering Buddhism. Although not that deep of an understanding but it was enough for self realization. When I came across the Eightfold path which was introduce to me by my senior (Later I found out in the third Noble truth) that he only practice four out of eight. He explained to me why he did that and what had came his way when he began to practice it.
    I followed his footstep as well but later, as I go deeper, I realised that Right Understanding is needed for everything that we practice in Buddhism.

    Buddha never did say we should or must practice something that he do everytime. Never, so why do we practice it? Becos Buddha says so? Buddha himself says we should never believe his words. So why should we practice it? Simple answer, becos we understand the practice and we understand it rightly so we practice it. But in order to reach a right understanding of the practice we must take the first step that is to explore his teaching and find the truth of the practice. We continue to practice not becos of the truth but of the right understanding.

    You are right to take small baby step for every big thing begins with small steps. But we must be mindful of our every step as well for mindfulness is the key to wisdom and understanding.

    You are frustrated becos you have many goals. You are frustrated becos you are trap in the future. Your goals will keep arising. For every one goal you have accomplished, another one arises.

    If you are mindful then you will see that you are just driving to your intended destination in order to achieve something like happiness. But you forget, you can be happy as well when you are driving.

    It is usually not the destination that is important but the journey itself that bring much meaning to ones life.

    Peace be with you. :)

    1. Hello XenusFreeman!

      Thanks so much for the great wealth of advice you have shared here. Yes, I think it is time for me to be mindful and accepting of goals that arise and fall away, as these too I just thoughts and ideas. And as you say, it is also time to be happy not only upon reaching my destination, but also while driving! :)

      May all your journeys be happy! :)

  4. "And, turning inward, I realized something more. My slavish effort in 'self-improvement' was implying (and constantly re-enforcing) that there is something fundamentally wrong with me, that I somehow need to 'fix'. I know now that this is simply not true. I don't need any more 'improvement'."

    SO TRUE! And I've been trying to get to, and maintain that feeling of self-acceptance for sometime now. Sometimes I'm there...sometimes it's illusive! Great post!!

    1. Thanks so much Eline, for your thoughtful comment. Although I think it is always good to try to be a better person, my struggle is to not be down on myself- and to do it for the right reasons! I think many others share in this with me, as you've indicated here :)

      May you be well! :)


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