Competing with Yourself
Winning Isn't Everything
The urges that drive us to compete with others tend to be straightforward. Years of
both evolution and societal influences have shaped us to pit ourselves against our peers. The needs and desires that inspire us to compete with ourselves, however, are entirely personal and thus
far more complex. A need to outdo our earlier efforts—to confirm that we have grown as individuals—can motivate us to reach new heights of accomplishment. We are capable of using our
past achievements as a foundation from which we venture confidently into the unknown. Yet if this drive to compete with our former selves is the result of low self-worth or a need to prove
ourselves to others, even glowing successes can feel disheartening. Examining why we compete with ourselves enables us to positively identify those contests that will enrich our existence.
There are many reasons we strive to outdo ourselves. When we are ambitious in our quest for growth, we are driven to set and meet our own expectations. We do not look to external experiences of winning and losing to define our sense of self-worth. Rather, we are our own judges and coaches, monitoring our progress and gauging how successful we have become. Though we seek the thrill of accomplishment tirelessly, we do so out of a legitimate need to improve the world or to pave the way for those who will follow in our footsteps. Be careful, though, that your competitiveness is not the result of an unconscious need to show others that you are capable of meeting and then exceeding their standards.
Consider, too, that successful efforts that would be deemed more than good enough when evaluated from an external perspective may not satisfy our inner judge, who can drive us ruthlessly. In order to attain balance, we have to learn the art of patience even as we strive to achieve our highest vision of who we are. When we feel drained, tense, or unhappy as we pursue our goals, it may be that we are pushing ourselves for the wrong reasons. Our enthusiasm for our endeavors will return as soon as we recall that authentic evolution is a matter not of winning but of taking pride in our progress at any pace.
Intention and Intuition
The Purpose of an Altar
If you didn't grow up with an altar in your home, having an altar now may seem like
an exotic and unattainable idea. Yet having an altar does not have to be complicated or difficult, nor does it need to be based on a religion or a set of ideas that don't seem to relate to you. An
altar can be a simple, personal expression of what you want to focus on right now. You do not have to build anything or take up a lot of space. You do not have to buy anything new or follow a
complex set of instructions to create your altar. All you have to do is have a general understanding of what an altar is and the willingness to allow yourself access to this wonderful, ancient tool
At its most essential, an altar is simply a raised structure that serves as a resting place for meaningful objects. It focuses the eye and provides a place for contemplation and, if so desired, ritual. All of these elements can be quite simple. One idea for a simple altar is a pot with a bulb planted in it, set on a box. This altar to growth can act as a reminder to you that all living things bloom in their time. A simple ritual might be to write down dreams you would like to see come to fruition on scraps of paper. You might place these scraps of paper in the box, or under the flowerpot, or in an envelope you prop against the pot. As the flower grows, so will your dreams.
If you look around your home, you may find that you have already created altarlike arrangements without even really thinking about it; this is something we humans do quite naturally. A candle, a decorative box, and a vase of flowers are just a few of the common household objects that lend themselves naturally to the creation of an altar. Simply add intention and intuition, and you have created your first altar. Remember that it isn't necessarily about the objects you place at your altar—it is the time you spend with it daily, taking the time to be with it for your sacred time.
Of Equal Worth
The notion of humility as a virtue brings numerous images to mind. We tend to envision those rare individuals who humbly bear life's struggles while downplaying their own strengths. Yet humility is also associated with people whose insecurities compel them to judge themselves unfavorably as a matter of course. The true definition of humility, however, does not correspond precisely with either of these images. Humility is not passivity. Rather, it is an utter lack of self-importance. The individuals who embody the concept of humility appreciate that each human being on the planet occupies a unique place on an infinite spectrum of development. Though they can take pride in their own accomplishments, they also understand that the people they interact with each day are as valuable and have as much to offer the world as they themselves do.
To be humble is to accept that while there will always be individuals more and less advanced than yourself, those on all parts of the spectrum of development can provide you with insights that further your personal evolution. Recognizing these insights is a matter of opening yourself to the fact that not only do others think and feel differently than you, but their life experiences have shaped them in a very different way than yours have shaped you. This means that while you may have a greater understanding in some areas, others will always be able to teach you something. When you cultivate a genuine yearning to know what skills and talents those you encounter have been blessed with, you cannot help but learn humility. You instinctively understand that emotions like envy breed resistance that prevents you from growing, and that being flexible in your interactions with others will help you connect with unexpected mentors.
When you practice humility, you want to become as accomplished and evolved as you can possibly be, yet you are willing to submit to the expertise of others to do so. You understand the scope of your aptitudes yet you choose to eradicate arrogance from your attitude, and you can distinguish the value you possess as an individual while still acting in the interests of your fellow human beings. Humility, simply put, is a form of balance in which you can celebrate your own worth while sincerely believing that every other person on the planet is just as worthy as you.