Contaminated

A blistery childhood or a beautiful one. Both leave lasting impressions on us but not always in ways that we realise. A blistering childhood has been the cause of many to grow into beautiful people because they chose to create a world for themselves that did not echo the sadness from which they emerged. Equally so, a beautiful childhood has prompted many to assume a level of entitlement and aloofness that soured their souls and sent people gasping for air when exposed to the stench of their arrogance.

The circumstances of our childhood was probably never a matter of our choosing. Sometimes we may have even made choices that defined it when we were allowed such definition as children in the presence of barely formed adults, but there is a justifiable absolution for children that make such bad decisions in the presence of adults who should have known better. Such kindness is not so easy to dish out for adults who continue to choose badly due to a contaminated childhood.

The motivation behind the actions of parents are rarely known even by the parents themselves. This makes it that much more difficult for the child, the real child, to find a path out of that cycle as they try to understand why they hold such a deep sense of self-loathing, or a vacant stare of expectation, or worse, a longing for completeness.

The pain that sometimes shapes our lives in our early years often end up leaving us ambivalent in our later years. At times it feeds the resilience of our souls in our struggle against a cruel world, while at other times it hampers our expression in ways that make us contribute towards the cruelty we wish to escape. Recognising those traits that detract from our wholesomeness is only half the battle. The rest of that battle is fought for the rest of our lives as we consistently try to unlearn a form of unhealthy expression that we were raised to believe is entirely normal.

I see children that were raised in homes where explicit adult behaviour was flaunted as fashionable, personal hygiene as optional, and vulgarity of expression as humorous; and they struggle to operate in a setting where such behaviour is not tolerated. They struggle to rectify their ways, or reconcile their upbringing with what is demanded of them by society. The harshness of the demand undermines the burden of reality that they carry with them. But even that is a burden that they only reasonably comprehend much later in life.

Until they reach that stage of relative awareness, relative because it’s near impossible to be fully aware of the difference between your normal and society’s normal, they will struggle in relationships that often define them as uncooperative, unwilling, or simply unacceptable relative to what would otherwise be a normal expectation from a normal adult. But such a demand from them is not entirely unreasonable.

Tough love has never been so tough to implement. Parents that find themselves raising children from contaminated environments will likely spend a lifetime accepting that they are perceived to be disciplinarian monsters, while the fruits of their labour will be enjoyed by the normality experienced by their charges later in life. The point that needs to be made is a difficult one to articulate, partly because it holds such prominence for me, and partly because its definition escapes me.

The balance that is needed between discipline and compassion is that much more difficult to strike when the one who is charged with raising the contaminated child is themselves contaminated. Their effort becomes that much more valiant and admirable, but their state, if observed casually by the normal of society, leaves much to be desired.

[The point was barely reached, let alone sufficiently articulated in this post. Much reflection is still needed on this issue.]

Inherited Complacency

As parents, we always want what is best for our children, don’t we? The well-meaning and responsible ones, that is. The trials of our lives teach us lessons that we often wouldn’t wish on our enemies, and so we do our best to guide our children in a way that protects them from having to learn the same lessons themselves. Given how scarce mindfulness is, it is almost inevitable that such an endeavour will prompt a level of over-protection that ends up sheltering more than it protects them from those unpleasant experiences that caused us to snarl at the world.

We always start out with good intent, but because we spend so much time avoiding the perceived cruelty of our childhood or even our young adult lives…hold on…it doesn’t stop there, does it? I mean, the vast majority among us continue protecting ourselves from an ill conceived reality up to our last breaths. We immerse ourselves into a reality largely concocted from a cocktail of our own ill-informed perceptions, and then vow never to test that perception of reality from fear of having gotten it wrong twice over. So it is probably more accurate to say that we shield our children from the fears and trauma that we spend our lives avoiding.

In so doing, we make assumptions about our children. We assume their level of resilience, their natural inclinations towards how they perceive the world, and so much more including what their passions are. At no point do we stop to consider that perhaps our tainted view of life has robbed us of an innocence that they still have, and rather than guiding them in the best application of that innocence, we force them to subdue it. You know, those moments when we believe that their sincerity is in fact naivety, so we preempt a negative outcome and send them off with a defensive disposition rather than advising them on how to effectively deal with betrayal of trust, or disappointment should it occur. The list of over-compensation on our part is endless.

And in this way, we raise fearful kids that appear healthy relative to our norms, but struggle to find their niche in this world, except through their unique permutation of the escapism with which we raised them. Apart from the inherent sadness of such an outcome, there is something that really gnaws at my peace when I consider the damage it does. It is the realisation that there are millions of oblivious innocents who don’t even know what they’re passionate about in life. They grew up so focused on the passions of their parents, that they readily adopted it as their own. They followed such adoption with a deliberate passion aimed at mastering what they do while rarely realising that such effort was focused on impressing their accomplishments to their parents, and not to passionately raise the bar in the discipline or skill for which they expended the best years of their lives.

Such a pursuit leaves us unfulfilled in such deep recesses of our souls, that we spend the latter years of our lives seeking it out, while never really knowing what it is that we seek. Moments of brutally honest reflection will prompt us to consider the reality that we are not the same as the people that shaped our views of the world. Yet the moment we protect our children from a threat that existed once a long time ago in our lives, we impose on them the bitterness of our perceptions of reality, while forgetting that such imposition makes us no better than those that raised us with bitter recollections as well.

And so the cycle feeds itself until at some point we stop and choose to question before we act. Apply our minds before we decide. Live with conscious action and not subconscious reaction. When that happens, we begin to afford ourselves a view of the world that is less tainted than the one we inherited. We see opportunities where threats once prevailed, and we see growth where subjugation appeared to be the only safe option.

The harsh reality is this. If we fail to live curiously, our children will either be exactly like us, or would not want to be anything like us. Parents often have a bad habit of expecting their children to live the lives that they (their parents) failed to live under the guise that such a failure was a result of the parent’s sacrifices to give their children a better life. It discards all the beauty and appreciation that results from the lessons learnt and instead focuses on the emotional distress that lingered when they saw themselves as victims rather than students of the world.

That’s one very powerful way of projecting your impotence and insecurity on subjects over whom you wield a great deal of emotional guilt. But of course, parents are benevolent by nature, and therefore are only capable of wanting the best for their children, so it can’t be possible that they would do such a dastardly deed like live vicariously through their offspring. Right? For some strange reason we tend to live as if our personal exploits are our personal exploits, and that parenting is something that is a formal endeavour in parallel with such exploits.

Stated more simply, we reserve a space in our lives for our exclusive indulgence, which is often the space where we express our passion most purely, without allowing our children to be a part of that expression or growth. We deny them the opportunity to witness our growth and in so doing, we shelter them from anything more than a life of compliance and complacency.

I think the emphasis we place on responsibility in the upbringing of our children is often exaggerated. Responsibility is definitely important, but so is exploration, personal expression, and living romantically. Not the sloppy mushy fairy tale romance that everyone gurgles at, but the romance that sees the world with less judgement and more understanding, Less fear and more embrace. Less safe and more conviction.

There will always be an easier path for them to take. But that’s not the path of excellence. We can’t lament the stagnation or decline of humanity if we constantly focus on doing what is safe. When being safe becomes the yardstick of success, and we know that not everyone achieves success, it means that anyone that falls short of that yardstick drags us down. It means that we set our targets low, and then celebrate any incremental achievement towards that low target, while never realising that we were capable of so much more.

If we hope for greatness for our children, we must be willing to accept that they will be able to achieve more in their lives than we did in ours, without seeing such achievement as an indictment against ourselves. It stands to reason that the student will always have the potential to exceed the accomplishments of their teacher. Providing a child with insight and developing their life skills rather than indoctrinating them with habits and rituals allows them to take what you’ve built and improve on it. It allows them to contribute positively towards this world instead of consuming only. It allows them to take us forward instead of maintain the status quo.

But most important in all of this, as I’ve said before, don’t set them aside in your avenues of expression and passion. Demonstrate your conviction in a way that they can enjoy and observe so that it builds a yearning in them to live with conviction, rather than to be complacent. Any complacency you see in them is a reflection of what they witnessed in you, while the conviction that they demonstrate in their lives is a reflection of the passion that you lived with while they traveled your journey with you.

I think that’s important. I think it’s important to understand that our children are not there to only live a subset of our lives with us and then move on to create their own version of the same. I think they are supposed to colour every experience of ours as they grow while witnessing our growth. In so doing, they learn through first hand experience that it’s perfectly fine not to have all the answers, to fail, and to stumble along the way. They’ll learn what it’s like to share their lives with those around them, rather than to live their lives expecting from those around them.

Let them inherit more than just the ability to cope with life or a cruel world. Instead, give them an inheritance of courage and skill to leave this world in a better state than it was before they arrived so that their presence was felt and appreciated, rather than existing and departing almost entirely unnoticed.

Self-Imposed

I set a deadline for myself. That deadline expires at the end of this month. It was to have a book completed by this time, but it did not anticipate much disruption that has taken place in between. Some of it beautiful, some of it not. Nonetheless, I set the deadline, and I’m missing the deadline. For many, that would be a futile exercise. For me, it was a self-imposed nudge in the right direction.

While my book is not written, and may never be at this rate, it did give me a lot to focus on. It forced me to consider issues and aspects that I otherwise didn’t see a need to contemplate. It was a big, hairy and audacious goal to begin with (to quote someone that will remain anonymous for purposes of this post), but I set it anyway. Not because I had no intention of achieving it, or at least trying, but because I have the conviction to achieve it some day. The fact that that day has not arrived as planned is not what is important. What is important is that I live with a conviction to achieve more than I think I can. More than most expect me to. And most importantly, more than can be reasonably expected of me.

This, I find, is much healthier and rewarding than self-imposed misery, self-imposed limitations, and self-imposed failures. Corny clichés flit through my mind right now about setting targets and goals, but I’ll spare you the pain of reading that.

What I do believe is important to share is the fact that not achieving your goals for good reason is not something to be ashamed of. Those that might use it as a reason to mock or ridicule you do you a favour by exposing their fickleness and insincerity, which is in fact a blessing because you know exactly who should be kept close, and who should be discarded.

Most people don’t believe in themselves. They also react aggressively towards those that provoke their fears and expose their self-imposed limitations. So if you’re waiting for someone else to believe in you before you take that big step, or set out on that long journey that only you can take, you’re wasting your life away for people that are inconsequential in their own lives, let alone yours.

Anything self-imposed should be a source of grounding, a source of inspiration, or at the least, a source of reflection. It should never be an end state. It should always be a prompt to begin anew.

Imagine if we all imposed excellence or at least a sincere yearning for excellence on ourselves? The world would be a very different place, governments would not have so much power to abuse the rights of those they are supposed to serve, and corporates would not yield the control they have over the lives of so many. If we desire excellence for ourselves, we’ll tolerate nothing less from others. The moment we do, we sow the seeds of insincerity because then it’s not excellence that we desire, but instead, it is a sense of superiority that we seek.

Our convictions are reflected in what we impose on ourselves, and what we demand from others. Insecurity in who we are defines how we express this conviction. Those that are distracted and unaware of their own convictions will easily misinterpret our insecurities as expressions of our unique characters. Meanwhile, those of us that have little reason to believe that we’re capable of more than the assumptions that others hold of us will readily succumb to the definition that society imposes on us.

[There’s a point in there somewhere, but I don’t feel like seeking it out right now.]

The one who loves less…

I once heard that the one who loves less is the one that controls the relationship. It sounds pretty obvious at face value, but it assumes that the expression of love is as obvious as well. It also assumes that the interpretation of control is in fact control and not influence. It assumes a lot. But with most satisfied to think in the shallow end of the emotional pool only, it’s no wonder that such proclamations gain unchallenged veracity.

Love is never monolithic in its expression. A bunch of flowers for one may be an endearing gesture, while for another it could be superficial or fake. Some prefer to see conviction in a personal gesture or investment of time and effort, while others need the flowers to believe that they were remembered at a time when they weren’t present. Whether one form of expression is better than the other is not the point. The fact that it translates into a gesture that reflects intent, and in turn, is appreciated for what it was intended to convey is significantly more important.

Intent, therefore, is what counts. Intent, therefore, also demands sincerity. A gesture is only a gesture towards acquiring a specific desired outcome if that gesture proves to be an embrace of another, rather than the acquisition of benefits for personal gain. That seems a bit wordy, so here’s a slightly lighter take on this. If you give with the intention of receiving, you’re giving for your own benefit and not to sincerely express appreciation or endearment of another.

We all seek to control and/or influence. That is what determines our level of significance with our significant others. Whether such control or influence is driven maliciously or not remains a question of intent, and given the above, it’s near impossible to be absolutely certain about the intent of another. At best, we are able to measure the reciprocation with which our efforts are met. The greater the reciprocation, the more likely we are to believe that there is an equal conviction on their part in responding to our efforts. The less the reciprocation, the more likely we’ll recede from the belief that we’re being taken for granted, or are simply not being appreciated at all.

The one that controls the relationship is not always the one that loves less. Quite often, conviction in the potential outcome drives some to be controlling when they find that they are unable to subtly influence the behaviour of those they love in the direction that they truly believe will benefit them. Benefit to both the one influencing, and personal benefit to the one being influenced. Perhaps, by the same logic, I could argue that the one who controls less may love less, because in doing so, it could easily reflect a lack of conviction on their part. It could suggest a lack of belief in the innate goodness or the beautiful potential that has yet to be realised from the relationship.

It’s all about what’s in it for us. If I aim to extract more benefit for myself than I hope to contribute for others, then definitely my efforts at controlling or influencing the outcome will be self-serving. In that case, my love for myself will be greater than my love for any wholesomeness to be achieved with another. However, if my aim is to extract a benefit for the other, without sacrificing myself in the process, then perhaps it could be argued that I am the one that loves more. If I sacrifice myself in the process, it simply means that I see myself as lacking in value to those around me, and therefore need to expend myself in their service if I ever hope to achieve any level of significance in their lives. A truly unhealthy state to be.

Friends for Enemies

Friends. I’ve always found this to be a quaint notion. Something that offers a sense of endearing companionship while providing a comforting distraction from our isolation in this world. I’m obviously cynical on the subject because I’ve experienced and witnessed true friendship quickly recede when reality became unpalatable. So I wonder if there is really something called true friendship?

I think it’s all about that beautiful old principle about what’s in it for me. More than this, it also relates to our inflated sense of self, and how well the friendship nurtures that self-image. There are memes in abundance regarding the nature of true friends that would point out your shortcomings and not only make you feel good. But there are unfortunately not nearly an abundance of friends who want their shortcomings pointed out.

One of my favourite sayings in this regard has been attributed to a number of different historical personalities, but its truth remains…well, true. It says that the friend of my enemy is my enemy, which in turn implies that the enemy of my friend is also my enemy. I guess that also means that the friend of my friend is my friend and the enemy of my enemy is also my friend. Anyway, point is, those that hate what we hate find a sense of association with what we value, and vice versa. Most would confine the understanding of this with just the relationship that they maintain with others, but I think it goes beyond that. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that it is more accurate to view this within the context of our characters, and which good or bad traits we recognise as friends or foe.

Within the above context, suddenly the person that hates my bad traits and looks to encourage me to abandon such traits becomes my friend. However, that assumes that I sincerely want to improve that aspect about myself. It assumes that the bad trait is not something I hold on to as a definition of my self relative to a defence I need to prevail in this world. It assumes that I live with conviction, and that I strive to improve with every day that is offered to me. That’s a grossly inaccurate assumption. I struggle to find people that actively and sincerely seek to better themselves. To recognise their shortcomings and to bravely embrace the changes that are needed to raise the standard of their contribution to this world.

Most are bent on embracing those struggles or shortcomings that resonate with others, and nothing more. When we show the world how brave we are to face off what everyone else is struggling with, it feeds our ego more than it develops our character. It proclaims that we are bold while others are meek, and in so doing gives us the courage to fight that good fight that defeats so many. And so we prop up our egos and assume that we’re sincere about improving who we are, while in the process convincing the shallow ones that we are indeed striving to improve. Yes, I speak with contempt of such endeavours because it only entrenches the insincerity that has eroded the wholesomeness of society and life in this self-indulgent world.

The one who reflects, recognises the ugly inside of them, and then simultaneously celebrates the beauty within, is more likely to demonstrate gratitude for their lot in life than the one who only sees the ugly and tries to disguise it as a noble struggle. Those that live their lives out in the social network limelight need the affirmation that is lacking when they look within. They need to see themselves through the lenses of others because their own lenses offer little or no comfort at all. Their enemies become their friends, and robs them of peace and energy as they go through life painstakingly maintaining the defenses that they need to make them feel whole.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The one who recognises the ugly in me and sincerely advises me about it is the one whom I should embrace. Not the one who convinces me that my darkness within is not a bad thing because everyone else has it. Not the one who tries to convince me that my darkness or my handicaps are not so bad because they want me to pull them closer for making me feel better about myself. They are self-serving at my expense, and I am left wanting because of it.

With friends like these, indeed, who needs enemies. Friends or enemies both offer the opportunity for growth, but only if we are honest in our reflections and introspections about who we really are, and what we stand for. If we’re comfortable glossing over our shortcomings because we’re more inclined to celebrate our few strengths or successes, it will be a short while before we lose our footing and feel the stench of complacency strangle the peace out of our lives because at some point, everyone gets that wake-up call. Everyone has an innate desire to shrug off the yoke that has held them back for so long and to move forward with or without the significant others that pacified them while they carried that yoke around. That’s when relationships are truly forged and defined, or discarded.

But it requires courage, and it requires conviction, and it requires brutal honesty, all of which are in short supply in a world of instant gratification where friends can be acquired and lifetime companions can be discarded in favour of a synthetic life. The more virtual our reality, the less real our lives will be. But death is not a virtual outcome. It’s not the end of a level or the expiration of a time limit on some game with in-app purchases. Perhaps that should read ‘inept purchases’. That is what we do. We sell our souls in favour of short term gains because we lack the courage to forge ahead into the unknown. We seek the comfort of certainty in the outcomes of our decisions, and therefore make decisions when we can rely on the predictable outcome, rather than making decisions because we uphold the principles that we profess to live by.

Still think you have friends? In fact, still think you’re capable of being your own best friend? Go on, be honest. I dare you!

Finding Balance (Part 2)

I need to step back from my life in order to regain an objective view (if that’s possible) of whether or not I am investing my time, energy, and resources as effectively as possible. Recently I’ve been contemplating how easily distracting it is to be coping well while losing sight of the fact that in coping we end up reacting, rather than owning.

Life happens based on what we perceive as being a priority. As we invest in those priorities, be they people or material outcomes, they increase or decrease in value for us. When we find ourselves enjoying success in any of them, we invest more. If we find a sense of fulfilment or joy in them, we invest more. Eventually, we focus on the success and the outcomes and how that makes us feel, while forgetting to question whether or not the investment is still in line with our original purpose for making the investment. In other words, we end up investing in our ego as the priority, with the original objective becoming a secondary concern.

It’s this cycle that I’m weary of. I pause for brief moments at times, and sometimes I’m caused to pause by health or other events, and in that brief moment I notice how little of my life is firmly in hand. Not from a controlling perspective, but from a deliberate investment perspective. How much of what I do am I doing because it is what I intended or needed to do, versus how much of it is purely because I am responding out of obligation or habit?

Part of the challenge of surrounding yourself with people that either don’t know you as well as they need to (often through no fault of their own but because of how inaccessible certain parts of us are) is that we have less sources of objective but meaningful criticism. This is exacerbated when we find ourselves surrounded by those that are at a life stage that we may have passed, or because they respect or admire us so much that they see no fault. When this becomes the make up of our social circles, be it significant others or professional acquaintances, we risk becoming heroes in our own minds.

The balance that eludes me is that despite being significantly productive by average standards, I am nagged with thoughts that I am not achieving nearly as much as I am capable of doing. The clutter, the noise, the distractions, and even the productive moments are so loosely strung together that the thread is almost invisible. Gaining visibility of that thread that pulls it all together will allow me to determine if its my own thread, or am I just a bead on someone else’s necklace? [That’s a weird analogy but I’m going to leave it there for now].

I need my own string of pearls. Costume jewellery (or junk jewellery as I prefer to call it) is far too easy to acquire and model into designs that are sparkly in appearance but lacking in true value. I need to ensure that the design of my life is in line with my understanding of the higher purpose that I profess to serve. Living responsively pacifies the yearning for movement in life, but it does little for the need for purpose. It’s for this reason that we sometimes find ourselves swamped with responsibility and inclusion, with no shortage of social contribution or familial relations, yet feel empty or unfulfilled.

More than being appreciated, I think we each have a deeper desire for leaving a legacy. That legacy is not materialistic in nature. Materialism satisfies the ego, not the spirit. The legacy has to testify to the improvement of the quality of life of others, or else our existence remains a commodity, or entirely inconsequential. Being inconsequential tears away at souls more often than we realise. It comes disguised as lacking in influence, or waiting for love, or even hoping for specific outcomes that are beyond our realistic reach. When our will to acquire that which remains elusive eventually fades, that’s when the feelings of being inconsequential set in; followed promptly by depression, self-loathing, lack of motivation, and often self-harm (not always with a blade either).

To avoid these pitfalls, I need to take time to step back, to observe and to account for the way in which my life is being expended. I see it as a traditional scale with the weight of my contribution to others on one side, and my extraction of benefit or personal gain on the other. The former must always be heavier, but never so heavy that it bottoms out. If it bottoms out, it means that I have failed to show due appreciation for myself, and for the abilities I have to contribute towards others. It means that I’ve become a martyr rather than a champion, or a pawn rather than a participant. And if the latter is weighed down, it means that I have become self-indulgent, quite possibly seeing others with contempt, ungrateful for what I have or receive, and a liability rather than an asset to society.

The quiet moments are needed for this to re-form to a shape that is wholesome and beneficial without detracting from the reality of my life. The outcome cannot be a dreamy one. It cannot be so superficial or esoteric that it offers little to no tangible value to those around me, or me. Instead, it must be substantial enough to encourage a recalibration of those areas of my life that are excessive in nature, or investment. It must provide a semblance of solace, and a tone that harmonises, without detracting from the responsibility that I have to act under circumstances that are not of my choosing nor of my preference.

Finding that balance, in many ways, embellishes the purpose of life. In fact, without it, there can be no purpose worth pursuing.

Finding Balance

When I was a kid, I remember my only concern when I got sick was how soon could I go out to play again. Recently though, each time I feel a severe illness setting in, my mind wanders towards considerations of this being my final moments. To date, the panic has not yet set in. Inevitability, although I may resist it initially at times, I find myself more inclined to embrace it and consider the options for my response instead.

Often, I try to trace my steps back to where I lost the balance in my life that led up to this moment of disruption. Illness, for me, has always been a sign that something is out of proportion in my life rather than being the victim of some external force in the universe. Yes, there are times when something deliberate external to my being afflicts me, but at those times I find that if I maintain my focus on balance, the impact with which it affects me is significantly less than most others that are exposed to similar circumstances.

More than anything else, I’ve found that acceptance of my contribution, or lack thereof, towards a given situation dissipates the unhealthy internal stressors that threaten my health or emotional wellbeing. The unnatural but common response is to defend ourselves against possible guilt in a negative outcome. So when we find ourselves faced with trying circumstances in our lives, we are most often inclined towards asking that repugnant question of ‘Why me?’. I could never figure out the logic that warrants such a question.

When we ask ‘Why me?’ we automatically imply that we’re underserving of what we’re experiencing, which suggests that we have an assumption of innocence. Worse than this, we also imply that it is perfectly acceptable for it to happen to someone else, because again the assumption is that they must be more deserving of it than we are. It assumes that we’re angelic in our ways, eternally sincere in our commitment to every relationship we participate in, and fully informed of the choices we’ve made, all of which have been made with utmost benevolence and wisdom. Yeah right.

We’re self-indulgent and selfish by nature. We look to the world and demand that it creates for us what we need, without first considering what we need to contribute to the world so that it has the capacity to offer what we all need. Wow, that’s up in the clouds even by my standard, so let me try to make it more practical than that. Choice is that horrible thing we have when it doesn’t work out in our favour, but it’s something we jealously defend when it does. Right there is the crux of balance.

Acceptance of the outcomes of the choices that we make, regardless of how good or bad those outcomes are, determines how healthy our response will be to the impact it has on our lives. Balance doesn’t just come from being a good person while not considering where you’re investing all that goodness. Nor does it come from living passively and waiting for others to uplift you. It comes from appreciating what we have, and then consciously utilising those resources and opportunities towards achieving a better state than the one we’re in. Towards achieving a better state than the one we’re in. That is what is important.

Far too often we focus on utilising what we have to simply protect or defend what we have. Then we bemoan the fact that others keep getting the good breaks in life while we continue to struggle just to keep our heads above water. We embrace fear before we embrace our strength because the repercussions of negativity are always more tangible and memorable than success. When we succeed at something, unless it is of a particularly notable achievement, we assume that it was merely deserved or expected.

It’s as if we have a desired circle of influence that we define for ourselves. The healthier our self-esteem, the larger that desired circle until our self-esteem outgrows our abilities and that circle then reflects our arrogance instead of our influence. This is similar to what we see with misguided political leaders that destroy countries in their insistence to wield the power that they have been flirting with for so long, while refusing to acknowledge that they lack the competence to do so effectively. The same principles apply in our own lives.

Theory aside, balance escapes us when we try to escape reality. The fear of accountability drives our behaviour more than we realise. That fear is not always an aversion to accountability. In fact, I’ve often witnessed it being an inclination to assume accountability for the choices of others. This is a double-edged dagger for many reasons the most important of which is that it results from either a self-loathing, or an inflated ego. The self-loathing drives us to assume accountability for the negative outcomes that result from the poor choices of those around us, leaving us to question our significance in their lives because we couldn’t influence them differently. The inflated ego tells us that we are accountable for the success that others enjoy simply because we played some miniscule role in setting them on the path that they eventually pursued.

Finding balance starts with being self-aware. That self-awareness must be accompanied by a sense of accountability for the current state we find ourselves in relative to the choices we made that caused us to arrive at this point. Once we get that right, our choices become more informed, and more effective because suddenly we’ll be focused on choosing to act in ways that we have good reason to believe will be effective towards achieving a consciously chosen outcome, rather than simply choosing to respond to avoid a negative outcome.

Our bodies are vessels of expression before anything else. Whether you consider the soul to be independent of the body, or you consider your seat of intelligence to be in the brain, either way, that source of intelligence and intelligent choice directs the body to express in due proportion. When we turn that intelligence into a harsh self-criticism, we effectively instruct our bodies to act against ourselves, which results in ailments that are a result of our own thought processes rather than external interference.

What we often miss is the fact that when we live under duress of our own minds, we weaken our ability to resist the harmful effects of the environments in which we exist. This completely undermines all our efforts to want to improve the state of our lives, while we sabotage ourselves before even setting out, eventually believing that fate dealt us a bad hand. Fate is what we make of it. If we didn’t have the power to choose, or for rational thought, we could justifiably blame fate for every woe in our lives. However, I believe that coincidence is not a chance occurrence. It is the fortuitous alignment of events that result from the collective choices of us, which presents opportunities that we would otherwise not have access to. How we perceive those opportunities, relative to our belief in our ability to influence its outcomes, determines whether they are wasted experiences, or moments that add value to our lives.