Everyone wants to lead a happy life, a meaningful life. In order to fulfill this goal our practice should be realistic. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
While I believe every goal can be achieved, eventually, there are limits to what can be done in the time available to us.
To me, this quote says that if we insist on achieving world peace in our lifetime, we’re going to be disappointed. Our lives won’t feel very happy and we won’t feel we’ve led a very meaningful existence.
That doesn’t mean we give up, though. It just means we have to work on a more realistic level. What is realistic to one person may not be for another, and that’s ok.
We will need to work, each within our abilities, towards our goals. In that manner, we can find happiness and meaning in our lives.
Why is being realistic important?
There is an old saying that it doesn’t matter how badly you want to see a sunrise, if you keep looking west in the morning, you’re never going to see one. You have to be realistic. That doesn’t mean you can’t try it some other way, just understand that your chances are rather limited.
That said, there are times, and people, which are extraordinary. When one person can make a significant difference. That can happen, if we are ready. But until such a chance comes to us, what shall we do with our time and our effort? Working in a realistic manner comes to my mind, how about you?
By working and doing what we can to promote our cause, we should be happy that things are moving. We may be frustrated at the slow pace, or what happens in the mean time, but at least we are doing something to help. Not everyone can say that, right?
We should also consider ourselves lucky to be able to be part of something larger than ourselves, which is a key part of living a meaningful life. In being part of the solution, we can be both realistic in our expectation, and idealistic in our hopes and dreams.
Where can I apply this in my life?
For the sake of this quote, let’s start with an assessment of where we are realistic and where we are not. I’ve been thinking about working on my project car, but other things keep happening. Until I get my daily driver and the ‘new’ car running reliably, I’m not going to have car-time available.
There are also all the other projects around the house. They are legion and multiplying by the day. Realistically, my project car doesn’t stand a chance. However, reality can be modified. If I decide to put aside some of the other tasks, I can make time to work on the project car instead.
What are some of the parts of your life where you aren’t being exactly realistic? Take some time and consider your options. Are you unrealistic about the availability or use of time? What about money, are you being realistic in your goals in both earning and spending?
What about the other aspects of your life? Are things going as well as you want in your social life, or are your expectations not exactly realistic? What of work, are your expectations realistic or not? It may be frustrating or even a little painful, but go through your dreams and goals and be honest about your approach to them.
Now consider each in turn. Which of them are more important and which are less so. Don’t try to be realistic at this stage (unless you really want to be), just determine which of them are important to you. Grab some paper and write down the top few, four or five would be a good number to start.
Pick one and consider what about it was unrealistic. Write those aspects of it down. Now consider what could be done to make it more realistic? In my case, my unrealistic view was how much time was available. I could make it more realistic by making more time available. That means not doing quite so much in other areas.
What are you willing to give up in one area in order to be more realistic with the things most important to you? How can you work on achieving your goals, and make better progress at the same time? How can you move things around in your life to make your life happier and more meaningful?
Life is about choices. We all have finite resources, and must choose how to best make use of them. Make choices which are going to lead you to happiness and a meaningful life.