A Vision For Life: 5 Desired Outcomes
The sages of the ages say that two things are required for the dance of a life that loves to happen. First, a vision.
A few years ago, I stood in the Galleriea dell’Academia in Florence looking up at Michelangelo’s powerful, seventeen-foot sculpture of David, amazed that he could create such a beautiful, lifelike work of art from a block of marble.
Before he started, Michelangelo spent weeks drawing David from every possible angle. He wanted a clear vision of the desired outcome before he ever put chisel to marble.
In his bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says that one of those habits is: Begin with the end in mind. Michelangelo certainly did that!
I can see how helpful such a vision could be for many endeavors. If you’re clear about the desired outcome, you can move ahead in confidence. But what about for a life?
Do you have a vision for how you want your life to come out? I confess, I spent years not thinking much about that. Or thinking only vaguely. Too busy running to think about where I was going, I suppose.
So let me share 5 desired outcomes that help me think about a vision for my own life. These are challenging in a good way; I think most would wish for these.
A Life Well Loved. When we come down to the end, wouldn’t we all want to be surrounded by people who loved us, people we loved? That’s all there is in that moment, isn’t there? Knowing that tells us how important it is to love genuinely and freely today.
A Life Well Lived. At the end, we’ll never say, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” We want a balance of work and love, a balance of tears and laughter. We want to come down to the end able to say, “Yes, I messed up a lot but mine was a life well lived.”
A Life Well Liberated. Blake talked about the “mind-forged manacles” that keep us from living. We can be imprisoned by fears, by failures, by habit, by bitterness, etc. But at the end, I think we would all want to be able to say, “I may have fallen into some traps, but I found a way to break free and live. Mine is a life well liberated.”
A Life Well Fought. There are plenty of battles in life. And sometimes we wish we could just crawl under the covers and never come out. But at the end, we want to know that we stood up to the trouble, that we can say, “Mine was a life well fought.”
A Life Well Spent. How am I spending my time? Is it worth it? I want to come to the end knowing I took time to listen, to encourage, to share laughter—that I gave of myself each day. I want to know that mine was a life overflowing, a life well spent.
Look, do we believe there is something extraordinary about being a human being? And don’t you deserve to be able to say at the end, “Boy, what a life!”? I think we all do.
Over the next few weeks we’ll explore what the mystic poets say about these 5 desired outcomes—and how they can guide us. We’ll also look at 5 timeless inner resources we can tap into to help us achieve these outcomes. (That’s the second requirement.)
A vision to guide us. Inner resources to keep us dancing. Together, these can help us make our life a work of art.
“Don’t Postpone Joy”
Last week we talked about the deeper part of us which the mystic poets call “soul”—a rich word that’s been around for thousands of years. In this poem, Hafiz asks, what happens when a soul wakes up?
What happens when your soul begins to awaken your eyes and your heart
And the cells of your body to the great journey of Love?
First there is wonderful laughter and probably precious tears
And a hundred sweet promises and those heroic vows No one can ever keep!
But God is still delighted and amused you once tried to be a saint.
What happens when your soul begins to awake in this world?
Someone has said that the average person only realizes about 10% of his potential in life, that the average heart is only 10% alive with love, joy, wisdom, wonder, courage, etc.
So let’s imagine: what if we could bump that up just a little? What might it be like if the deep inner part of my life was becoming more awake and more alive? What if I was creating quiet space to get more in touch with my deep inner self…my soul?
Last week I mentioned the Dear Soul, Dear Life dialogues written by a friend of mine who introduced me to the mystic poets. Here are a couple more:
Dear Soul: If you gave me three wishes, I wouldn’t even know what to wish for.
Dear Life: That’s enough to sadden Aladdin. But as a reward for your honesty, I offer you this suggestion. Death will one day overtake you. What do you wish to be doing when it catches up with you? Whatever that is, you might wish to get on with it, starting today.
Dear Soul: Listen, I’m getting closer. The way I have it figured, I have about one more year of singing the all-consuming-paying-my-dues blues, then when I get the next promotion and a little extra financial margin, we’ll get together and create a life that loves to happen.
Dear Life: Yeah, but what if you just have one more year, period? As smart as you are, you still don’t get it. So let me spell it out for you. Two simple rules: Rule #1: Begin at once to live. Rule #2: Don’t postpone joy. Every day, every moment, start with rule #1 and proceed immediately to rule #2. And by the way, don’t be a dunce: begin at once!
Look, we all deal with the stress and busyness of life and a lot more. The world is a mixture of the beautiful and the awful. But you still have yourself and your soul, and you have this week of life. And that’s a lot! So here are your marching orders:
This week, remembering how short life is, I’ll follow two simple rules: Rule #1: Begin at once to live. Rule #2: Don’t postpone joy. I won’t be a dunce—I’ll begin at once!
“Don’t Forget To L.I.V.E.”
I’ve realized something about my brain: it’s often harder on me than my heart would be.
I can be very hard on myself, very condemning—and I bet I’m not the only one!
But I also realize there is a deeper part of me that might feel differently about my life than I do.
Of course, we all have this deeper part and it goes by many names: higher self, inner music, psyche, the better angels of our nature. The mystic poets often called it “soul”.
In a poem entitled, “Dig here,” The Angel Said, John of the cross imagines a conversation with his soul. He starts with these lines:
She caught me off guard when my soul said to me, “Have we met?”
So surprised I was to hear her speak like that, I chuckled.
Yeah, that sounds about right, I thought. I too have neglected my deep inner self. And that raises the question: is it possible to talk with your own soul?
I have a writer friend who thought about that question and wrote some dialogues he calls: Dear Soul, Dear Life. I’ll share a couple:
Dear Soul: I’m trying to find out everything that’s wrong with me.
Dear Life: Don’t worry, you’ll find out, and it’ll kill you! They don’t call it “Die-agnosis” for nothing. Instead, why not just learn the art of unmotivated celebration? Celebrating is so important to your life that you don’t even need a reason. In fact, it’s treason to need a reason. So go ahead, celebrate your life—early and late.
Dear Soul: I’m still not sure I have a plan for my life.
Dear Life: What I hope to be able to say about you is that you didn’t hesitate, that you didn’t wait, that you went ahead and you really lived. You lived even though you didn’t have a plan, until one day, in a quiet, intense moment, you realized: this is the plan. To LIVE, L.I.V.E.: Love Intensely, Value Everything.
Does that sound like something your higher self might say? I think it does.
And it also suggests our marching orders for the week:
This week, I’ll celebrate my life, early and late. I won’t wait. Celebration is so important to my life that I don’t even need a reason. And I won’t forget to LIVE, L.I.V.E.—Love Intensely, Value Everything.
The Clean Slate, Part 2: Something Brand New In The World
Last week we talked about the Etch-A-Sketch approach to life: the gift of clearing the slate and starting each day fresh and new.
But there’s another aspect to this quality of “newness”. As Emerson says: “The power that resides in you is new in nature.”
In other words…You are something brand new in the world. No one else knows what you can be or do, and you won’t know until you try.
So here’s a good exercise for the start of the year: take some time to appreciate the unique person you are, your special gifts and qualities, the place you fill in your world. And take time to look for the special gifts or qualities of others…and tell them!
Now, I know it’s not always easy to affirm that “newness” or uniqueness. Seems like as soon as we stick our head up in this world, someone or something tries to knock it down. I think e. e. cummings is right:
To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
So here’s some encouragement for this fight from our six-month-old granddaughter. Her name is Sophie and she had a big moment last week.
Until now, when we she was on her tummy on the carpet, all she could see was carpet. But last week, she pushed up with her little arms, straining her neck, and for the first time she looked up and around, eyes shining, grinning at us, so proud. So exuberant!
I thought, “Yes, Sophie. I understand. And I identify.”
I hope she’ll never stop pushing up, never stop reaching for that perspective that’s just a little higher; I hope she’ll never lose her sense of uniqueness or exuberance.
Somewhere I read: “Exuberance is the force of life that comes from faith.” Life goes so fast, doesn’t it? It seems we barely have time to stick our head up in this world before it’s over.
So here is my wish for you for this year: may you have moments—quiet, intense moments—when you push up just a little higher and look around at this incredible, fleeting thing called life…and taste the exuberance.
And this year, no matter what happens, may you remember that you are something brand new in the world.
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The 13th Century poet Rumi believed that a good model for your inner life is: “a conversation”.
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