The handsome, sharp-dressed, silver-haired man struck a supremely confident pose and flashed a million-dollar smile. The glossy picture on display at my local bookstore caught my eye, but what really grabbed my attention was the almost visceral feeling of disgust that shot through me.
"That's weird," I thought to myself. "What is it about that guy's picture that I find so sickening?"
I didn't have an answer to that question at the time, but I've had some insights recently. In this blog I've described a number of goals that I want to achieve, such as publishing my book, earning my Flight Instructor Certificate, and training my first student. But the more I've pursued and written about these goals, the slower my progress has been, until it finally stopped entirely and even regressed as I looked on, incredulous. What could be going on? Don't I want these things?
In a post back in August, I speculated that my long hiatus from flying, and the delays in the achievement of my goals, were due at least in part to some internal conflict. And that, it turns out, is where Mr. Silver Hair comes in. As I reflected on the revulsion that his picture triggered in me, I realized that for some part of me, that picture symbolizes everything that I don't want to be!
At some level, I seem to believe that by achieving my goals, especially those publicly declared, I become "that guy": an obnoxious blowhard who annoys everyone with his boasting—a self-proclaimed hot-shot with an inflated sense of his own importance. But underlying that, there's a deeper belief that success proves that I place my own desires over the needs of others—and even more deeply, I'm committing the greatest sin of all: wantonly not suffering.
That's what it comes down to: I've been living by powerful maxims, unrecognized and unchallenged until now, that (a) pursuing my own desires is wrong, and (b) suffering is the only laudable state of being. Of course, looking at these ideas consciously in the light of day, I don't believe them at all!
On the contrary, it's become obvious to me over the years how much more powerful and capable we human beings are, and how much more we can contribute to others, when we pursue what we passionately enjoy rather than flagellating ourselves to do something we hate. That's why it astounds me that despite holding this belief consciously, my behavior has been governed by a much older, unconscious, totally opposite set of beliefs. But they are unconscious no longer.
I foresee a lot more flying in my future!
So sorry, Mr. Silver Hair. I didn't mean to go all judgmental on you—please don't take it personally. But even more, thank you for your help! You've made a huge contribution to my life without even knowing it.
Let that be a lesson to me.
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