As kids, so many of us were told we could do anything, be anything. We could be anyone we wanted to be, as long as we dreamed, willed, and worked enough. The problem with thinking you can have anything is falling into the trap of wanting and believing you can have everything.
Why settle for less when you think you deserve anything in the world? That mindset sows the seeds for entitlement and dangerous ideas like wish fulfillment, the law of attraction, and manifesting your destiny.
Last I checked, you can’t just will something into existence unless you’ve got the power of a god. No amount of wishing, wanting, or dreaming makes this happen. Conversely, some of us think we can work ourselves into having everything we could ever want, too.
I (mostly) hate to break it to you, but that’s not true, either. Half the time, those of us slaving away sacrifice the wrong things. Or, we refuse to sacrifice the things needed for the everything we believe we deserve.
Sacrificing for your dreams is a good thing, if you’re doing it for the right reasons. Losing sleep, shedding blood, sweat, and tears—these things build empires and transform dreams into reality. If you don’t stop to think about the cost, you risk being the fool rushing in.
There’s a reason the tortoise wins instead of the hare. It’s not that neither of them worked or put in the effort, but the tortoise made sacrifices the hare wasn’t willing to make. But the world tells us we can get ahead by living like the hare.
Getting ahead isn’t just about the destination; it’s about the journey on the way, too. If you take time to stop and smell the roses, you’re less likely to miss out on life. You can appreciate your sacrifices earlier and celebrate the small wins, too.
Those small wins are often underestimated. But even the greatest of the greats knows when to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the view (even if it’s not at the top quite yet). The key to getting the big wins is reminding yourself why your sacrifices matter.
Believe it or not, passion, motivation, and discipline run out. These are renewable resources, but what it takes to maintain them is beyond sheer willpower. We’re not hardwired to go and go and go without stopping.
We’re made for connection and if we don’t keep in touch with our loved ones, we’re likely to lose sight of our dreams and goals. We are more than our purpose. We’re immortal souls full of life and endless possibility.
It’s this same inherent infinity the world confuses with deserving anything and everything. So much of this life is spent untangling near-truth from actuality. And the best falsehoods are closest to the truth, those lies we tell ourselves most easily.
Making the time to see the truth is essential to reaching the top. Flying to Everest’s summit isn’t the same as putting in the months of hard work to get there. Having the discipline to reach the loftiest goals doesn’t happen overnight.
It takes time to build good habits and to keep ourselves motivated along the way. Part of that motivation comes from a healthy relationship with hope. If you’re having a hard time experiencing the faith needed to hope, you’re likely suffering from low motivation, too.
The best motivation comes from within ourselves. Extrinsic motivation is fleeting and often prey to others’ motives. When we introspect, it forces us to face truths we might otherwise avoid.
Internal reflection protects us from moving too fast or slow towards our goals. It forces us to question our purpose and the why of ourselves behind that purpose. It also guides us towards making the right sacrifices and forgoing that comfy afternoon nap (a la Aesop’s hare).
But when we don’t introspect, we look outside our souls (i.e., outside God) for inspiration. External motivators emphasize that in-the-moment, YOLO garbage. They’re limited to finite, material, short-lived satisfactions.
Material wealth doesn’t matter for our souls. You can’t hoard life’s intangibles (e.g., spiritual gifts) either. I guess that means it’s something to be shared.
Initially, I’d consider the divine inheritance God made for us all. He not only created heaven and earth for us but filled us with the ability to love and create. Our endless chances for redemption, give us the gift of eternal life.
This merely begins the gifts bestowed on us that we don’t have to earn. These include:
- God’s unconditional, perpetual love;
- His patience and forgiveness of our repeated mistakes;
- His constant presence, so we’re never alone;
- and His choice to offer up His only son (which technically counts as offering up himself, as God and Christ are one and the same).
- Also, His choice to become flesh and walk among us.
I guess these are a few perks of having an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent being on your side. Keep in mind, these are aspects of spiritual wealth we don’t even work for. Remember, we’re also all granted the immortal parts of ourselves, our souls.
These parts of us have their own intrinsic value called dignity. Dignity is defined and discussed in-depth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), with particularly helpful cross-references. I’ve hyperlinked these texts to the Holy See for those of you who wish to research further.
These sections label seven articles of dignity: defining what it is, how we should express it, and why we have it. The ultimate goal of your dignity is that of fully devoted, lived, and expressed charity (i.e., God’s love).
“The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity”(CCC 1700).
Unearned wealth aside, let’s discuss the aspects of spiritual wealth we must continually work toward. Dignity calls us to actively work on ourselves. Your soul must live, love, and create to its fullest expression. You’re not really living life to the fullest if you only do so for yourself. Your soul power (i.e. dignity) is the accumulation and dispersal of spiritual wealth.
If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve often attempted to hoard my spiritual wealth. My selfishness derives itself from a place of fear and mistrust.
Thinking about my past behavior, I posed a query to my friend, “Why are dragons always bad? Why can’t they be helpful, instead of monstrously selfish?”
She told me, “Dragons symbolize greed. They represent an obsessive need, of that same eternal hunger and thirst we all crave. Instead of seeking love, their desires are corrupted, thus their hoarding of material wealth. Tolkien’s dragons are an allegorical tool for this corruption of common desires (e.g. a need to feel loved or fulfilled).”
So I proposed becoming a dragon of friendship. I feel that the best-version-of-myself is present when I try to embody friendship as best I can. I want to get to a point where I’m willing to offer up my spiritual wealth by laying my life down for another without even thinking about it.
True friendship is all about giving and living servant-hearted. Why not amass an incorporeal amount of spiritual wealth to give it all away? Mostly, because you can’t. Also, you should be giving it away all the time, so you only ever have small amounts.
If you could be an antithetical dragon of friendship, fire would spark impassioned blaze and warmth during despair and doubt. Talons would ward off foul gremlins of fear. Wings would carry friends to new adventures and belief in the not-so-impossible.
You wouldn’t be a beast slain by St. George but advance alongside him into battle, a fellow champion against wickedness. Make yourself into a creature of legend so that the real monsters are afraid to come out.
Thanks yet again for reading my thoughts on the inner workings of our storied lives. If you want to stay tuned for more content, sign up for email reminders!