“A Journey of a thousand miles
begins beneath the feet”,
Lao Tzu, Verse 10, Chap 24, Tao Te Ching
A new year and a new decade have arrived. Many of us are once again thinking about resolutions and goals. According to Inc.com [magazine], the failure rate is 80 percent. for new years’ resolutions. I have been fortunate to turn my life around and accomplish some very important longevity goals, Here are a few simple but very powerful principles to follow for big successes.
Work On The Self First
The Road to hell is paved with good intentions”,
–Saint Bernard of Clairvaus, C.1150
Before working on goals or changing bad habits, you must first lay the foundation for self-discipline. This discipline of the “self” is to realize how the ego will sabotage your best intentions and to cultivate sovereignty to control it [the ego self]. Sovereignty is the Tao spiritual principle of being aware of and mindfully managing the ego with its incessant desires. The ego is the never-ending source of misguided intentions and faults. At the very beginning, when you awaken to what you must stop and face the truth of the goal intention and determine what it is you are committing to do and why you feel it is important. Is the goal or self-improvement grounded in altruism and virtue or is it simply just another scheme for the ego to seek fame and fortune at the expense of others? Mindfulness is the higher self, paying attention to the crazy intentions and actions of the ego, and not letting it dominate your mind. This is one of the central principles of Sovereignty. Before you start on your goals, you must cultivate the ability and the spiritual discipline to stay awake (not distracted), present and mindful so that you can rise to your spirit self and control ego.
Take One Step At A Time
The “journey of a thousand miles” quote from Lao Tzu is simple yet powerful advice for being in the present moment and working on the self. The power of being patient and experiencing life is unleashed when in that instant you realize you are about to make a bad choice that leads to failure. Only then can you reign over the ego and stay on course. The moment of choice that leads to failure is often subtle and is lost in a moment of distraction.
Example: If you have decided that intermediate fasting is the method for losing weight, then you must adhere to the guidelines of the method. It is often in a moment of stress that we turn to something to make us feel better. If you are mindful of the stress and paying attention you can realize the choice you are about to make. As you are about to eat before you are supposed to, your discipline (Sovereignty) will override the whining ego and practice patience. In that moment you do this you move away from your weak ego-self and exercise your sovereign power to make a wise choice. Try to take it one step at a time, meaning just try to get through the next minute, then the next half hour, and the next hour. Moment by moment you deny ego and remember your discipline and find ways to stay on course. If you can hold this pattern long enough, the new habit will become stronger and ego weakness will begin to lose its power over you. With practice, you will catch your “self” with that fork full of sugary cake just before it plunges into your mouth and just set it down. In the beginning, it is hard, yet with repetition, you will cultivate will power and discipline.
When you are sovereign, you are awake and aware and then you can ask your “self” does this take me closer to or further from my goal? If you can be sovereign and rule over this ego impulse you will have a greater chance of success. Take it one step at a time.
Keep it simple
The ego loves complexity. However, complexity often leads to complications. Complexity creates a higher probability of failure. The more moving parts, the more complication, and complexity the greater chance for something to go wrong. The steps you design to reach your goal should be simple effective steps that you can follow through on even when you run into problems and challenges. Moderation is a good guide for your goal strategies. Often meaningful goals have some level of challenge but they are achievable if you do not allow your “self” to become distracted and lose your way. Something always happens or goes awry along the way and in challenging times, the simple effective strategy is best. Complicated and complex plans will fall apart when you are getting hit with multiple challenges.
Moderation is the principle of avoiding extremes and absolutism. Being extremely strict and never allowing yourself a moment of decadence is also a trap. In your pursuit of goal achievement be mindful being too extreme. Being too rigid in your adherence to following your plan can lead to a feeling of deprivation. Try to be flexible about how you solve the problems you encounter. If left unattended, deprivation can become a trap leading to failure. Being sovereign doesn’t mean you never enjoy life; it means that you can enjoy the things you love in moderation. If you have followed the rules accordingly, then you might have earned a piece of cake, but be aware of the ego’s sense entitlement. Enjoy the cake, enjoy the moment, taste the sugar and let the ecstasy fill your pallet. Then let it go and don’t look back or your ego will become attached. You must not let the desire of ego control you. If given a foothold the ego will take over the mind and emotions and use extremely clever justifications for giving up and making the wrong choice. In your daily meditation practice reflect on what you did and why you did it. Deprivation builds in the ego until it becomes too powerful for your new sovereign mind to hold its presence. You can become overcome by needful distraction where the ego will take over and the goal is lost. As the sovereign, do yourself a favor and design strategies for getting through those tough moments. Then get through the experience one moment at a time.
Finish what you start
There are times when you will fail. It is almost guaranteed. The sovereign will recognize the failure and not give up. When you have fallen in failure, face it head-on with honesty and understanding of where and how you failed. The ego will never be honest and assume the blame. The moment you accept the failure and own it you are moving back into sovereignty. The higher self understands that challenges are inevitable and knows that it is not the problem but how we react that is where failure traps us. Working on the self is the discipline of picking yourself back up, shake off the ego and resume your journey with the determination of being the sovereign. In the first paragraph, working on the self, you gave due diligence to that moment in the future where things happened and you failed. This is the moment at hand where you are mindfully aware of what you are doing and why. Remember your commitment and make necessary course changes. When a ship sets sail and heads for the next port they sometimes run into storms. They either have to go around the storm or even get blown off course. The crew works on getting through the storm and then the ship makes necessary course correction and resumes its journey to the port. This can be a helpful metaphor where the ship and crew are mind and body and the distant port is your goal/destiny. The storm is the inevitable problem or distraction that will happen to you. The ship’s captain (the sovereign) keeps the crew and ship (mind and body) safe and moving towards the port. All ship’s captains know there will be storms, so they train and prepare for them accordingly. As the sovereign, you train your-self (meditation and mindfulness practice) to expect the unexpected and finish what you start.
Your goal is your journey of a thousand miles. It begins right here right now (beneath the feet). Through awareness and discipline, each step takes you towards your goal without getting lost through the distraction and weakness of the ego.
Cultivating longevity is cultivating your destiny. Your destiny is created one choice at a time in each moment. Are you going to let the crazy ego determine your destiny? Or can you awaken and become the Sovereign who navigates life’s challenges with skill and success. Good luck with your future.
For more on Sovereignty, please sample my book: Sovereignty – The Tao Principle of Spiritual Discipline