When I was in my second year of university, I experienced a great deal of challenges with stress, anxiety and even stomach sickness. I didn't realize it at the time but the root cause of all these issues was the overwhelming feeling of pressure. Pressure to succeed, pressure to make something of myself and pressure to prove my value to the world. I was taught from a young age that success was achieved or accomplished and it didn't just come out of nowhere. I was taught that I had to work incredibly hard to prove my value to everyone else, and it was only when I got the results that I could feel good about myself and feel fulfilled.
And so my life became about the results -- and because I was in university, my life became about the grades.
I am sure many of you grew up with similar belief systems and had similar experiences. In our society, for the most part, we tend to value external forms of validation instead of internal. We strive to accomplish that elusive "American dream" where we think more accomplishments, more achievements, more money, and more power will validate our value and make us feel better about ourselves. But the challenge is, once we get there it is never enough. We always end up needing more to fill the empty void that we are feeling within. We end up always striving but never actually arriving.
I was following this path to the very last detail until I finally reached a boiling point and had a complete breakdown that same year. I was doing everything I was taught to do, following the path that was laid out for me by my parents, siblings, and teachers -- but was not getting to where I was told I would be. Something had to give!
In walked my dad, who had recently gone through a big-time transformation in his life at the age of 50 and was now on a mission to help others awaken to their true selves at a younger age. I looked to him for guidance and support and one of the first things he taught me completely changed my life!
He presented the idea that life is not about the results, the achievements or the accolades, but more so the learning and the growth that we have from each and every experience. He taught me that every experience was no longer good or bad, but instead an opportunity to learn and grow from. My new life purpose was now to learn and grow, period. Everything else I truly desired would be realized from learning and growing each step of the way. The most important part was that without the focus on learning and growth, every accomplishment and result I achieved was truly meaningless.
This concept turned my world inside out. As I began to apply this to my circumstances I felt a great deal of weight lifted off my shoulders and chest. The burden of the pressure that I was carrying for so long began to disintegrate. Instead of studying to get good grades, I studied to learn the material to the best of my ability -- and my best was always good enough.
For the first time in a long time, I felt liberated. Life was no longer about the results -- it was about the experiences, and how I chose to learn and grow from all of them. I shifted my entire value system and re-dedicated my life to my own evolution. I was no longer worried about my grades determining who I was, or how much I meant to the world -- I knew that as long as I was learning and growing from everything, that life would continue to unfold in wonderful and magical ways.
The funny thing about this entire process was that as soon as I made my life purpose about learning and growth, and removed any significance I had previously placed on the achievements, I actually started to achieve at a much higher level than ever before. When I studied to learn, my grades got better. But this time around, how I felt was no longer determined by the grades -- so when they came I could celebrate them, but still remain happy regardless of whether they were there or not. Such a simple shift in the way I was operating had such a profound effect on my life!
How can you make that shift yourself?
For the next few weeks, see if you can shift your perspective and take the focus off of the results and achievements in your life and put all your energy into learning and growing. Ask yourself consistently through every experience and circumstance: "What am I supposed to learn from this?" Once you get clear on the lesson, apply it to your life by changing your actions the next time this comes up, and that is how you truly grow!
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
For more by Michael Eisen, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.