Examining Success

I have spent the last few months re-evaluating much of what I do, what I have, and my philosophy of life. For a long time I’ve been feeling out of sync with myself, with a few very glaring exceptions. After talking about it with a few people, I realized that I’m not alone in feeling this way, and part of the reason why I do get this distinct feeling, is because I have experienced balance, and have something to compare it to. So there is a silver lining! I then decided to examine those particular instances of perceived balance, so that I could understand what brought them about, and whether I could replicate them at will. There’s good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad news first, because it’s short and poignant: when I felt balance in my life it actually had very little to do with my particular circumstance, it wasn’t tied into my finances, my academic or career success, so there are no concrete ways to measure it. The balance I felt was a direct result of my conscious decision to make choices for myself with certainty, based on acquired knowledge, and despite opposition from a variety of sources. The good news is that because it came from the inside out, it’s quite possibly replicable in any circumstance, at any time, all I need is the determination to gain the required knowledge, and the courage to carry out my decision, knowing that I may initially find resistance.

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There seems to be a cosmic pull for me to venture into this abyss at this time in my life, because of a series of circumstances, and messages I’ve been receiving, which for some reason resonate with me at this point in my life and push me to delve into them deeper than I normally would. You probably have this feeling sometimes too; when you seem to see things (I’m not talking about social media, we all know that’s engineered to show you only what you might like), and they all seem to point in a particular direction, almost as though the Universe was trying to tell you something! Well, that’s what’s happening to me right now. It may be a bit of a mid-life crisis, as I’m nearing middle age, but I do recall having a similar, though much deeper existential crisis in my late teens and early twenties, which is how I came into Islam. I might write about that some other time, right now, let’s deal with the issue at hand.

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I’ve been a practicing Muslim for almost a quarter of a century now (that was worded to make it sound longer than it is, if only to affirm what I’m about to say next), so I have staved off all sorts of distractions that would normally pull at people who aren’t religiously affiliated or who struggle to find their truth. The struggle I’ve been facing for the last two and a half decades has more to do with my limitations, perceived, imposed, or otherwise. I’ve been struggling to find balance between what I feel I can do, what I think I should do, and what I’m expected to do. Being a wife and mother, and traveling a lot make finding, and more so maintaining a balance among these three, quite a challenge. Needless to say that I’ve failed more often than I care to remember. But I’ve also succeeded, and it was during these short bursts of success that I was able to advance in my path, and gain valuable ground in my inner journey. After all… what are struggles for, if not to show you that you can overcome them?

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This tug of war between internal and external expectations extends itself upon every realm of my life, from the foods I eat, prepare, and serve to my family; to the way I spend my time, money and energy; to the ever growing list of things I thought I would have checked by this stage in my life. What comes to bear upon all this is a deep sense of dissatisfaction, that not only I’m not doing everything I can, should or am expected to do, but that I’m letting my life go by and disappointing myself and those around me at the same time. This sort of thinking can become a catch 22, wherein you renew your aspirations, and when you fail, you berate yourself and wallow in self-pity for a while, wasting valuable time and energy that you then recuperate by renewing your commitment, just to fail once more. So what gives? How do I get out of this rut, break the cycle of failure and renewal and actually achieve a balance that can carry me forward, rather than around in circles? The answer might surprise you!

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What happens when you fail to achieve your goals, makes or breaks your progress. Are you glad for having had the opportunity to even try? Or are you ashamed that you let yourself and everyone else down? How you answer these questions determines the outlook that will carry you forward, or around in circles. If you feel ashamed, and want to hide your head in the sand for a while, you’ll fall back to old, round of the mill patterns that sustain your most basic need for immediate (ie: temporary/short term) survival, such as unhealthy or even destructive habits, while eschewing all benefits accrued during your upward clime towards your goal. During this time of pitiful self-indulgence, you don’t just hit pause, you actually retrograde, you loose progress, and eventually find yourself at the point where you started the last time you renewed your commitment. What gratitude does, is recognize the fact that you’ve made it this far, clenching your grip onto the progress made, and it grants you a breather to be able to replenish your energy and continue from where you stopped, rather than from where you started.

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This is a very simple, but effective tool to self-analysis, and I will continue to write about it over the next few weeks, so stay tuned, as there’s much more coming on this topic. For now, think about your own successes, and check if you can relate anything you’ve read so far to your own circumstance. Let me know in the comments if any of this resonated with you, and if you’d like me address anything in particular in future posts. Start drawing your dreams in the sand, and we’ll move onwards from there!

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Wishing you a forward progression towards your goals, I leave you for now, until next time!

One Sister

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