Monday, October 16, 2017

Some thoughts on breaking out of the uncanny valley between perceived failure and the breakthrough into success...

I’m finally starting to see changes that I’ve long been working for in my life—Some of which have been so long in coming that I had started creating Plan Bs to replace them with. I’m witnessing the foreshadowing of changes I’ve wanted to see at work, I’m gradually increasing the number of print books that my writing is featured in, and I’m clarifying what to say yes or no to regarding being of service to others in ways that are in alignment with the lifestyle I’m creating.

So, my recent lack of focus, lack of motivation, and lack of interest in community activities I’m usually passionate about seemed counterintuitive to how I expected to feel after tasting these recent karmic cookies that have been put on my plate.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda makes the great point that “encountering a wall is proof of the progress that you have made so far” (Daisaku Ikeda, For Today and Tomorrow, October 8). So, after much reflection and daimoku, I decided that the wall I’ve been facing for the past few weeks is yet another valuable opportunity to challenge my long-standing self-doubts and skepticism that things can continue to “work out” in the way it now appears they can.

When I distilled the fruits of my recent reflections into four key insights, I realized that the factors behind these insights are not unique to me—which means that what I learned may be useful to you, too, if you fear sabotaging (or have sabotaged) your success with your self-doubts or lack of success-sustaining skills. So, here you go:

1) Our doubts and undervaluation of our successes are often much deeper-rooted than we think, and realizing this presents an excellent opportunity to finally challenge those delusions so we can enter the unfamiliar territory of self-actualization with empowerment and confidence instead of with disorientation and suspicions.

“It’s not important how you compare yourself to others but how you compare yourself to whom you were yesterday,” Daisaku Ikeda says. “If you see that you’ve advanced even one step, then you’ve achieved a victory.” (Living Buddhism, June 2017, page 28)

2) The unfamiliarity of this new territory means that now is the time to increase our diligence and our human-revolutionary efforts, not slip into complacency and think that the hard part is done. The transition period between what’s predictable (hard work with minimal or unrecognized payoff) and what’s unpredictable (seeing rewards and opportunities that require skill-sets we haven’t had reason to cultivate until now) is the most likely point for self-sabotage—such as relapse into addictive behaviors we think that good-fortune will help protect us against—because our new habits and new ways of thinking haven’t become firmly established yet. When I started looking at it this way, I realized why I’d seen some setbacks in my human revolution lately. It’s the whole “not seeing the forest for the trees” thing.

“The true victors in life,” Daisaku Ikeda says, “are those who, enduring repeated challenges and setbacks, have sent the roots of their being to such a depth that nothing can shake them.” (For Today and Tomorrow, March 15)

3) This is part of what Buddhism and other Eastern religions call “mastering your own mind.” In Nichiren Buddhism, we call this sort of thing “fundamental darkness,” which is a fancy and spooky-sounding term for the doubts we harbor about not only the value of humanity as a whole, but about the value of ourselves and each other as individuals. We doubt if we really are that important in the big picture, we doubt that we can really make the kinds of differences we want to see in the world around us, and we doubt if we even have the necessary qualifications to make any kind of worthwhile change in our current state—especially if we don’t have the college degree, community influence, wide acceptance of our peers, material success, or anything else society tells us are eligibility requirements for achieving greatness.

“The fundamental aim of Buddhism,” Daisaku Ikeda points out, “is to live in a way that is true to ourselves.” (Faith into Action, pg. 26)

4) And lastly, upon finally hearing some “yes” in areas of our lives that we’re far more accustomed to hearing “no”—or no response at all—an important question we now need to ask ourselves is: Now that we no longer have the protection of rejection, what do we want to anchor ourselves with?

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Image: "Eye of an Enlightened One," Karla Joy Huber, 1995; chalk pastel

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