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Self Improvement – Why Bother?
Does it seem as if your life is so full of just trying to get things done that the ideas of acquiring new skills, enhancing your spiritual growth, or implementing a personal development plan seems almost impossible? And yet, is there also a gnawing question that lingers in your mind, “Is this all there is?” “Am I missing out on something that’s not on my to-do list?”
If any of this sounds familiar, then the next time you’re confronted with the hectic pace of daily life, take a moment and find the time to “bother” with your personal development. Gaining a clearer understanding of ourselves always adds value to our lives and can also increase our sense of significance and purpose in those daily activities.
Finding meaning in our lives starts when we begin investigating who we are and what is going on around us. We are the only one that can say for certain what is deeply important to us. So when WE DON’T take the time to stop and look at our life, it fills up with things that might not give us the kinds of joy and meaning we truly want.
Is Your Cup Overflowing?
Here’s an old Zen story that speaks to the truth of this:
A university teacher visited Nan-in, a Japanese master. The professor was interested in learning about the Zen philosophy. Nan-in served the professor tea. He poured tea in the professor’s cup until it was full. But he kept on pouring.
The professor watched the tea overflow his cup until he could no longer stop himself. “My cup is overflowing,” he said, “no more will go in!”
“Like this tea cup,” Nan-in replied, “you are full of your own ideas and opinions. How can you learn about Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
To learn anything new, you need some room for it in what you already know. With life’s crazy pace, every once and awhile it’s important to invest the time, energy and attention to let in new ideas and awareness.
That was Zen – This is Now
You can begin emptying your cup by examining what you believe and what you value.
o Do some things just seem “right or wrong”, “good or bad”, or “appropriate or inappropriate”?
o Are your beliefs broader than the set of cultural beliefs permeating our lives on an unconscious level?
o Are you easily able to recognize which beliefs are motivating your actions?
o Do you know the values that are reflected in your beliefs?
o Are you able to recognize when your beliefs are not accurately reflecting your core values?
Unless you occasionally take the time to consciously empty your cup of beliefs that do not fit with your core values, it will fill up with various cultural beliefs that come to you from the outside, which become the unconscious motivations influencing the choices you make and how you live your life.
As you empty your cup, you begin to make room in your life for the question, “Are the beliefs I hold as the truth really my own beliefs?”
Another question to ask is, “Did I knowingly choose these beliefs as my own or did I simply take them on without question?”
You answer these questions by exploring whether your beliefs support what you really value, or if they are just beliefs you learned simply because they have been part of our culture for hundreds or thousands of years.
Bother to Be – Continue to Ask – and Be Willing to Listen
To understand more about how cultural beliefs might be influencing you, look at the principles you live by and rules you follow. Or consider all those little adages you were told growing up such as, life is hard, it’s a dog eat dog world, only the strong survive, etc.
Explore these for yourself. Ask, “Do I truly believe these?” Do these principles, rules or sayings really support me in living the life I desire, one that is a reflection of what I truly value?
Here are a set of questions you can ask yourself as you go through your day that will help you figure this out for yourself:
o What do I really desire in this area of my life?
o What would I like to experience right here and right now?
o What motivates the action I’m about to take?
o Is what I’m about to do going to get me the results I really want?
o Is what I’m doing now really what want to do?
Take pause and remember that in the process of questioning, there are no hard and fast rules, no good or bad answer, no right or wrong beliefs. The purpose is to begin taking time for your self-improvement and spiritual development, to experience the fact that this is worth “bothering” with.
An Empty Cup Allows Room to Grow
We trust that as you uncover your own personal values, start developing empowering new beliefs that reflect those values, and begin taking actions that are in alignment with them, your discomfort or dissatisfaction with the hectic pace of life with begin to diminish.
You’ll start clearly recognizing which of your daily activities reflect what you value and experience an increased sense of significance and purpose in these. You’ll also start easily pruning away the clutter in your life as you get more clarity about what is important you and what is not.
As your life becomes more meaningful, taking the time for self-improvement will not only be worth bothering with, you will welcome it because you know you have plenty of room for it in your cup!