The Surest Indicator that You will Succeed in the Pursuit of Passion and Freedom

Photograph by Steve Snodgrass

 

What this power is I can not say; All I know is that it exists and becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.

~Alexander Graham Bell

Would you rather have one marshmallow right now or two after I come back after some time? A question put to four year old kids in the famous Marshmallow Test. The surest indicator of success in life, they say. If only it were that simple for us too. The pursuit of passion and freedom is like the marshmallow test for seekers of freedom. Even considering how damn tempting marshmallows can be to four year-olds.

The hidden cost

We have a wonderful life. Great enough to have provided us the opportunity and the means to set out in pursuit of passion and freedom. If we stand to lose nothing, then the worst that could happen is continuing to live the way we do. Just like the kids stood to gain nothing by not participating in the test, except a marshmallow or two. However, those fifteen minutes was to be a reflection of the rest of their lives, though they didn’t know it. For us, continuing the way we are is the worst case scenario, and one that we will fight tooth and nail to change. Going back to the lives we lived is not possible. We will never be satisfied with it. Unless we start following our path to discover our passion and freedom, we will never know what can make us truly happy and fulfilled. We must have faith that there is something at the end of this path.

Speaking of faith

The kids had no guarantee that they would get two marshmallows if they resisted the impulse to grab the one as soon as possible. But they never doubted that they would. To them words of an adult are absolute truth. They had faith that adults will do what they say. If only we could be so naive again. Our faith must take a greater leap. We have no guarantee that we will find our passion or freedom. Or if we will succeed after finding it. Yet, we must stay true to this pursuit. Religious or not, this path is not chosen by those who don’t have faith.  What assurance can we have that what we are doing will be fruitful, especially because it goes against the status quo. We do not have the luxury of choice in this matter,

Of choices

The kids had a clear cut choice to make. They could either eat one marshmallow or wait and eat two. The study says that the main difference that separated the two groups of kids was what they chose to do in the fifteen minutes. The ones who wanted to have two marshmallows exercised self restraint. They did whatever it took to not have to look at the marshmallow in front of them, or perhaps even think about it. We too must face the hundreds of choices that life throws our way. To go out drinking with friends or stay home and write a post? To watch the new superhero movie or to send those emails to prospects. To stay late in office to please the boss or to leave because we will quit anyway. Too often we let ourselves be distracted from our path. Sometimes we let ourselves be distracted by the path when we should be taking a break. It is difficult to know what to do when. However, making the choice is easy. Living with the consequence, not so much.

The hard part

I believe the main purpose of the marshmallow test was to see who could resist the temptation of instant gratification. This self restraint was the indicator of success later on in their lives. Unfortunately, our self restraint is tested in a different way. Most of us have scratched and stumbled our way into this pursuit for passion and freedom. Probably, having sampled a few years of the shallow and insipid world around us. Our ultimate goal in life then is to live a life that is fun, exciting, and fulfilling. We can’t wait for this end to come soon enough, but we must be patient. On the other hand, we must ensure that this end is attainable by testing and getting a few quick wins. It is hard to choose between quick wins and long term accomplishments. It is like telling the kids that they can have the second marshmallow only if they lick the first one but not eat it, while waiting for the adult to come back.

Is there an end to our pursuit? Will we get two marshmallows in the end? I don’t know. But we won’t ever find out if we give up now. If we give up now, we will always regret never finding out where this path might have lead. I believe that not giving up is the surest indicator of our future success. I will pursue my passion and freedom even if it takes me the rest of my life. What about you?

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The Dangers of Living a Life in Defiance of the Status Quo

Photograph by David Weekly (Flickr), under Creative Commons License

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I inhale with my eyes closed I sense the freshness around me. The feel of the early morning chill is in the air, lending a crispness to every smell. A breeze blowing past me causes the hair on my forearms to rise. I hear it sighing as it makes its way through the trees. An occasional birdsong sounds somewhere in the distance.Grass extends out around me and trees with fresh spring growth. Dew drops glistening in the early morning sun, filtering through the trees, suffusing everything with a soft light. I look up at the sky with strips of thin puffy clouds dotting the blue and the tops of the tallest trees waving in the wind just at the corners of my vision. It is not silent, not truly. Yet, the aura of surreal serenity is undeniable. I look closely at the ground. I am not sure, but I think the grass is less dense where I am standing. It stretches off into the distance where the trees are so close that they form a canopy overhead. It feels good to be here. I step forward. My foot sinks ever so slightly as it touches the ground. I feel the twigs and the stones through the sole; I feel the gentle downward slope of the land. As the wind picks up behind me I look to the place where it will lead. The faint brown among the green, marking the path less traveled…

Walking the path less traveled is only for the courageous and adventurous. Everyone knows that it exists. Most people just can’t be bothered to find it, much less walk it. It is choice few make, and fewer follow through. Yet, that is why we are here. We made this choice willingly because the pain of living the boring life like everybody else became too hard to bear. However, this path is not painless either.

Discomfort

The one thing that will be a constant companion on this path is discomfort. In fact, it was the reason I chose this path. Do you ever feel that your life is so comfortable that you can’t be bothered with changing anything, even though you want to? Do you have days where you can see the decades of your life extending out in front of you, lived out by the people around you? The feeling of being able of accomplish much more but not seeing how? I felt all that. This path can definitely provide a for the dullness of a comfortable life. The good thing is, not every comfort has to be left behind. We can choose how much discomfort we can bear. For some it might be selling everything they have to roam the world; others might only be looking for having the option of quitting their jobs by having a second source of income. The level of discomfort is varied, but the experience is universal.

Fear

Walking this path takes courage. Everyday that we walk this path there is the fear of failure. Whether it is a new business or applying for a dream job, there is no guarantee of efforts paying off in the way we want; or paying off at all. It is a level of uncertainty that most people can’t live with. Following close behind will also be the fear of rejection. People close to us might not understand what we are trying to do, thinking that we are throwing your lives away. The people we are trying to help might not want the help. Living with failure and rejection are decisions most people are afraid to make. They prefer not having to make that decision at all. But, you and I are not most people. We have the courage to accept failure and rejection as a possible outcome. We are ready to try inspite of such debilitating fears.

Hard Work

I won’t deny it. It is very hard to walk this path. Once the newness and the sense of adventure wears off, the real grind begins. On one hand is the life that was, one we can’t give up on just yet. On the other is the dream life. Balancing both and trying to find a way through a maze, that is what today feels like. Sometimes it is tempting to slide back into old ways and sometimes the new life can’t seem to get here fast enough. But, we put one foot in front of the other everyday. Not knowing if it is solid pavement or quicksand. Yet, ready to face either. It is hard work, but we keep at it because it will eventually lead to what we seek.

Loneliness

I would like to say that there is whole community of people who are walking this same path as us. However, it is not completely true. While there are people who walk the path less traveled, everyone has their own path to walk. We can understand, share, and empathize. But, we can’t walk it for them. Or even with them. We understand what this path is about, but we can’t share all of it with everybody. While we are trying to be more authentic and congruent, it forces us to hide parts of the struggle from people we love. It is a paradox that can consume the sanity of the best of us. Yet, sometimes our worst enemy is inside us. Accepting faults, living with the past, not measuring up to self set standards. No one can help with these. We choose to walk this path despite, because the loneliness can also be a friend. It can define who we are and help us to do more good on this planet.

Whether we search for passion, purpose, freedom, or happiness. We must be willing to go where people don’t, and live in a way they can’t. The dangers are real, the tests are severe. The only thing that can help is knowing that we are not alone. Knowing that our toil is part of a bigger struggle. This post is a tribute to our common struggle. I hope that our brown streaked paths may cross one day. So that we may know there are others who walk the path less traveled. In defiance of society, through fear and discomfort, hard work, and solitary struggle. We stand united in spirit.