In my mentoring work, much effort is expended on helping clients understand the incredible costs involved in standing before a decision that needs to be made; unable to make that decision and move forward. What’s at stake is nothing short of your life. Failure means more years or decades of avoidance and loss. Yet over and over again I encounter individuals who have, knowing full well that their lives are not the ones that they should be leading, continued along a path that takes them further and further from that fulfillment.
You would think that the logic behind the need to change would be overwhelming. In an important sense it is. But in another sense it seems not to be compelling. It’s worth probing this dynamic in an effort to understand why you might stand before your destiny and never reach out to open the door that leads to it.
When you were younger you began to develop a vision of yourself. Increasingly, you came to see that vision as an accurate representation of whom you were and who you would become. If somebody should ask you “who are you”, you would respond by describing this vision. After years of development, it became increasingly difficult to maintain that there was an authentic you which not identical to that vision. You sacrificed opportunities, made compromises, pursued goals as they appeared achievable and generally walked the path that was more suited to this avatar you had created than to the authentic human being that was its creator.
In Buddhist thinking, the path to enlightenment begins with the realization that this virtual person which you have created in this virtual world is the primary reason that you are blocked from experiencing the authentic life which you could live. The key idea here is “grasping”. You hold tightly to this avatar because you are convinced that it represents who you are. You see this virtual person as the one stable point in a world of impermanence. In fact, as that authentic person as creator changes over time, the effort required to maintain the illusion that the avatar is reality increases. You can become increasingly distant from your own avatar.
In a world where youth and beauty is celebrated, your avatar might have those characteristics. But, as you age, the distance between the authentic you and that avatar increases. Beyond that, you may actually grow to understand that neither of these attributes are particularly important and, under some circumstances, come to see them as real liabilities.
You might have set out on a path which was strongly suggested by your parents. Perhaps you set out to become a doctor or lawyer. Maybe your parents thought you weren’t that smart or creative so you selected a life which did not require either. But now, you are discovering a creative side and are realizing that you’re smarter than you have given yourself credit for. There are literally hundreds of reasons why you might have chosen the path you’re on. None of the may be good reasons or relate well to the authentic person you are. But, at some point in your life, you start to suspect that you are headed off in the wrong direction.
It doesn’t matter how or why these suspicions begin to grow. It’s an unavoidable aspect of being human that they do. At some point in every person’s life (and at many points in some people’s lives) a crisis begins to build. You become concerned that you are not becoming who you should be. Sooner or later you face the question. “Why am I not living the life I should?” If you are lucky, that question changes into “How can I begin living the life I should be living?” At that point you stand before the door to your authentic future. But it remains closed to you until you reach out and open it. Some decide and, realizing the difficulty of finding a new way, reach out to those who have opened their doors. They begin their journey to their authentic life. Tragically, there are others who never try or actually turn away from the door and inhabit the virtual realm for as long as they are alive. Each of us faces these possibilities. Each of us must decide. So the question remains.
This is the very question before which you might procrastinate. Indeed most people do so for much longer than they would care to admit. The real question now becomes “how long are you going to stand before this door and not make an effort to open it?” How long?