The Path to Enlightenment

Tom Henell is guest posting today. Tom is the husband and chief marketing exec of our household. He loves hiking, triathlons, puppies and fortunately me! He teaches Marketing 101 on the atly.com platform. If your creative business needs a marketing boost, Tom’s no nonsense approach can help! His course  and all atly classes (including Discover Your Passion) are 25% off today only! Use the coupon code LABORDAY25. The sale ends at midnight EST time!

image Tom Henell

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I rarely see a “life quote” that I don’t like.  I know, it’s cliché isn’t it?  Maybe my real calling was writing greeting cards.  I’ve become an idealistic dreamer, quoting Viktor Frankl, Buddha, Jesus, and Helen Keller all in the goal of creating direction for my life.

  • “Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time” – Viktor Frankl
  • “The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows” – Buddha
  • “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” – Jesus
  • “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

The challenge is that most people, including myself, have fallen into the acceptance of deferred living.  Deferred living is when we accept what we have to do today in exchange for the false belief that one day we will change.  Retirement is the largest example of deferred living.  We agree to work for 50 years (more often than not at a job that we don’t like), to save money, so when we are 70 years old and our children have grown, and our house is paid off, we can then enjoy the benefits of life.  We conveniently ignore the reality that, assuming we even live to the point of retirement, we will be in a state of decreased health and mind.   

Even if you love your job, we make choices to defer living on a regular basis.  Our calendar itself is based around this.  We start our work week on Monday with the goal of making it to Friday so we can then start enjoying life again.  In reality, Saturday and Sunday are no different than any other day of the week, but we treat them like the Kardashians of the Gregorian Calendar.  One is no different than the others, yet is exalted in the public eye.

It reached a point where I wanted to scream at people in my office, “DON’T YOU KNOW YOU COULD DIE TOMORROW?  WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?”

In reality, I was no more enlightened than anyone else…despite the Kanji symbols for “Enlightenment” tattooed on my back.  As example by the fact that I am a Caucasian male from New England, who has never been to China, or Japan, and has a Kanji tattoo.

I had my life quotes, I had my Kanji tattoo, and I had a pressing urgency that life was short and I needed to do something about it.  I even tried to do things to show that I understood this better than anyone else.  I rode motorcycles, I did adventure races, I climbed mountains, I ran triathlons, and I posted it all on Facebook to prove my enlightenment. 

The truth is I was no more enlightened than anyone else.  I thought I understood the issue, but the difference between going through the motions and reaching a true understanding recently became apparent to me.

What do you do when your obstacles are removed?

You need to be careful what you pray for, because sometimes God will provide you exactly that.  This is probably very entertaining for him.  I can just imagine Him sitting around with a bunch of angels saying, “Who are we going to mess with today?”

Two dramatic changes are taking place in my life that I credit to God’s graciousness…and, sense of humor. 

My son heads off to college this week.  Although my role as a parent is far from over, it has reached a significant turning point.  He is going to a great school, and he has a direction that he wants to pursue.  My position has transformed from indentured servant to remote advisor.  I will miss him tremendously, but I no longer have the geographic or time constraints of parenthood. 

In addition, my business partners recently approached me with an offer to buy me out of our business.  The proverbial offer I could not refuse.  Although, it is not enough money that I will never have to work again, I have suddenly found myself with few burdens or constraints.  I am now free to live the life I have created in quotes.  

Most people will be envious of this position.  I know I always thought I would be.  However, like most people when asked to put their money where their mouth is, I have found myself dumbfounded; standing frozen like a deer in the headlights.  This is the part where God laughs.  We spend our lives saying, if only I had:

  • the time
  • the money
  • the spouse
  • feel free to add your own “if only” here

Then God removes our “if only” and we stand here with nothing but opportunity ahead of us.  Are we able to get out of our own way?  We believe our life will change by one experience.  From that day forward we would appreciate every moment and fulfill our life destiny.  Nobody lies to us better than ourselves.

A study by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1978 showed that the overall happiness levels of lottery winners spiked when they won, but returned to pre-winning levels after just a few months. In terms of overall happiness, the lottery winners were not significantly happier than the non-winners.

This struck me as I took a nap yesterday (Sunday afternoon) on the couch in my home office.  I woke to a feeling of guilt.  Shouldn’t I be doing something?  Working on a business plan?  Painting the house?  I was suddenly enlightened to the disconnect between my reality and mental state.  It is one thing to say, “live in the moment”, it is another to go through the motions of living a life of adventure/travel/peace, and it is another level entirely to bring your mental state to truly accept it.   I understood that reaching that level is actually enlightenment, and I am tremendously far away from it.

The good news is that my heart is lighter.  I’m happy and excited about what the future holds.  And, I understand that the path to enlightenment is a journey.  It may be a longer journey than I anticipated, but I now have the time to pursue it.

 

5 Comments

  • Lyla Jake says:

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and enlightening post. Praying for much success for you and your family at this exciting crossroads!

  • Oh Tom! Such a thought-provoking post. I feel you were in my head. I too now have 7 days a week that I can be creative and pursue my dream, yet often times I feel myself putting up the road blocks that you mentioned. And also I feel that guilt- that I'm not reporting to anyone anymore…..I try to breathe through it and remind myself that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. Good luck to you. Great post!! (Great wife too!!)

  • BJ Lantz says:

    Great post, Tom. I so get this ~ it IS hard to "live it"!

  • Jenny Faw says:

    This post resonated with me! I am on the tale end of treatment for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. I am going to be fine, and my approach to life is brand new and in the moment. Thank you!

  • Sue Allemand says:

    Great post Tom! That's the DAILY challenge — to stay in the moment, amidst all that we encounter in the day – but your mind is in the right place and UP for the journey! Good luck on your new life adventure!

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