What Do I Really Want Out Of Life?
by Harry Palmer
(Excerpted from “The Avatar Journal” and printed with the permission of Harry Palmer)
"What do I really want out of life?" is the bonus question for the discouragedly successful. It waits in the darkness for its cue—a moment of self-honesty—and then it slips through the curtains of consciousness and steals the show. It comes up on the day the new car loses its shine or the applause loses its meaning or the ashram loses its glitter. It stalks the early morning hours of fitful sleepers. What do I really want out of life?
Have you ever desired something—an object, or recognition, or a special relationship—and discovered that the pleasure of actually having it was disappointing? This is a special kind of disappointment. You're not disappointed by failing to obtain your desire; you're disappointed with the prize.
Most people console themselves by setting the goal a little higher. They say to themselves, "It wasn't a Porsche I really wanted. What I really wanted was a Lamborghini." "It wasn't a million dollars, it was ten million dollars." "It wasn't a fifty foot yacht; it was a hundred foot yacht." This leads to the twisted wisdom: How much would it take to make me happy?
The answer, a little more.
A little more—it's a sedative answer. It lulls the disappointment back to sleep and reaffirms the old guilt that one isn't striving hard enough or isn't living up to one's potential. A crazed society offers solace, "Try harder. You'll do better next time."
This plants the seed of anxiety in your mind, and "next time" is a reminder that time is running out. The pressure is on. You need to get it and get it soon. But what? Not this, not that. Maybe power. Maybe if you were president of your own company...
Can you sense the panic? Work harder. Get your statistics up. Stay motivated. Imitate the affluent. Get passionate. Remain focused; learn to ignore distractions. Study marketing. Create demand. Destroy the competition; business is business. One night you wake up to ring-ring. It's not the phone. It's your self-honesty bell. Is this really what I want out of life?
You need an answer and you need it right now. Where do you turn?
"I feel your pain," offers some new-age guru who sells you the advice: total renunciation, give it all up, want nothing. Trust. So you wrestle the mind to stillness. You surrender. Love everyone. You suffer ego-death. BE HERE NOW. The pain goes away, but so does your common sense. While you are trusting serenely, you are robbed, your dog is poisoned, and your house is burned. While you are loving everyone, your spouse files for a divorce.
Ah, but you understand, it must be your karma—a test of your faith. Uh-huh, stupid man talking. You achieve spiritual wisdom—for whom? How long can you play solitaire? How long can you rationalize the suffering of humanity? So you spread the word, this is how it is, honor your guru, save the world, anxiety, anxiety, anxiety. The honesty bell rings again. Is this really what I want out of life?
The idea that life is about acquiring possessions leads to disappointment. Real satisfaction (despite TV commercials) cannot be acquired by achievements or possessions. The idea that life is about surrendering your desires leads to disappointment. Real satisfaction (despite your guru's righteous insistence) cannot be acquired by embracing a doctrine of renunciation.
Real satisfaction... cannot be acquired by achievements or possessions. Real satisfaction... cannot be acquired by embracing a doctrine of renunciation.
Test them, only if you must.
Achievement pulls you one way; surrender pulls you the other. Your heart and mind divide. Conflict. So you compromise.
The word for this compromise is unhappy. The prognosis is a deepening mental depression terminating in socially adjusted unawareness. No kidding, you go crazy. Advertising and holy books medicate your contradiction with false promises until...ring-ring. (It's for you.)
Avatar is not anti-achievement nor anti-spiritual nor anti-compromise, but it does dispel the illusions that any of these is a path to real satisfaction.
The path to achieving real satisfaction in life is an honest, heads-up exploration of your beingness and the beliefs from which your doubts and answers arise. Who are you being and what do you believe?
The prize—and it is simple and singular—is waking up to who you really are and learning to live deliberately. When you know, the answer is, there is no question.
Fully alive, fully awake, this is what I really want out of life.
That's Avatar. If it's not number one on your wish list, ...ring, ring.
Avatar Doesn't Offer You Answers;
It Offers You The Tools To Find Your Answers.