The obsession with personal success is a uniquely human problem that exists only in relation to the (imaginary) false self. If a flower bud is killed by an early frost before it can open and blossom, we don’t feel that the flower is a failure, that it has missed the boat, ruined its life, or failed to live up to its potential. If one tree is shorter than another, we don’t think that the shorter tree was lazy, that it didn’t try hard enough, that it was a worthless slacker. But if WE don’t open and blossom in whatever way we imagine that we should, then quite often we DO end up thinking that we have ruined our life, missed the boat, and failed to live up to our potential. We easily label ourselves (or others) a failure or a loser.
We each have different ideas about what constitutes success—it might be how much money we make, or whether we have a great partner and a happy relationship, or what career we have, or how high we climb in some particular hierarchy, or how much recognition we get, or how many children we have and how well they do according to our standards of success. If we fall short of our ideal, we tend to take it personally. We think we “could” and “should” have done better. And likewise, when we succeed in some way, we often take credit, imagining that we did this and that anyone else can do it too (and if they don’t, it’s because they chose to be a loser while we chose to be a winner).
In the spiritual world, enlightenment (awakening, liberation, whatever the favorite term is) becomes the ultimate carrot, the final measure of success, the prize we are seeking, the attainment that we imagine will finally make us happy, worthy, successful and okay at last. We are endlessly fascinated by those who claim to be enlightened. We want to hear their stories of final awakening, and we long to have what apparently happened to them happen to us. We are seeking something, but what exactly is it?
We are deeply convinced that the liberation we are seeking is something other than THIS, Here / Now. Our core beliefs and favourite stories are “This Isn’t It” and “I’m Not There Yet.” Of course, wherever we imagine “there” to be, that imaginary destination is like the mirage-lake in the desert sands—the more we chase after it, the farther it recedes into the distance.