Life throws a lot at everyone, and it starts immediately. As we grow and learn, it’s amazing how much we soak up like sponges and grasp. We learn what to do, what not to do. What to say and not say. What evokes a positive response and a negative response from others. We learn things that hurt and heal. Things that anger and soothe. Simply put, we learn the good and the bad and a whole lot in between.
As we progress, we take in a lot of conflicting information, guidance and instruction. Opinions are plentiful and everyone seems eager to share them. Of course, being human, we all have different ideas about what we consider we should “Do” and “Should Not Do.” When we’re really young, we take our cues from our parents or other authority figures. If a certain action gets a positive response, we repeat that behavior. If that action earns a negative response, we avoid repeating that behavior.
Eventually, whether by trial and error, trial by fire, or by stumbling onto a less traumatic path that nets more positive reactions than negative, we develop habit patterns. Beyond that, at some point, we start assessing for ourselves. We learn to assign weight to what we think is important and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what isn’t. We take the accumulated standards and sift through, deciding for ourselves which to keep and which to discard.
While there are no absolutes and there are always exceptions, especially early on, we deem everything important. But with experience and exposure, the weight we give to specific things changes.
Early during the cycle of life, we give the lion’s share of our attention to building the life we want. We have or develop a vision of success, and we set out to manifest it and make it our reality. It’s worth mentioning that our vision of success changes as we do. And those changes might be voluntary—we decide something is or is not working for us—or involuntary. Something happens and we’re forced to change, whether or not we want to change.
The point is, life has phases. And as we pass through those phases, we assign different values to what most matters to us. In the latter stages, we often look back at earlier phases and wonder what we were thinking, to deem whatever we were seeking important. The power of hindsight, right? In our current circumstance, it wasn’t important, but back when it happened, it was—at least, it was to us then. That’s a lesson to us.
We can’t view our personal history through the prism of what matters most now. We must view it through the prism and perspective of what mattered most then. And we must look at why it was important.
In that way, we are like our nation. We look back at history a hundred years ago, or two hundred years ago, and we are deeply moved at some things we find. At other things, ones we would never deem acceptable today, we cringe. But viewed in the context of that time, we see where the nation, where we were, when events happened. Collectively, we experienced, accessed, learned, and evolved. Simply put, we changed.
This is a good thing. I mean, can you imagine studying two-hundred years of history and everything remaining the same? That is the proverbial slow learning. When you think about it, it’s disheartening, too.
We do this (experience, access, learn and evolve) in our personal lives also. Just as we would be foolish to forget the lessons learned from our nation’s past (which would doom us to repeating those lessons), we would be foolish to forget our personal past lessons. We endured the rough patches once. We don’t want to have to slog through them again.
While our lens isn’t as long—decades, a few years, a lifetime versus two-hundred years—what most matters is that we continue to learn and grow. We never reach a phase in life where we stop learning and growing and evolving. Our interests and focus shifts. Our priorities shift and change. What most matters to us shifts and changes, too.
As the phases advance, we place less importance on the physical, we’re more balanced on the emotional, and we focus more intently on the spiritual. We understand the circle of life and that eternity lasts far longer than the blink in time we spend as mortals. In ways we couldn’t understand early on, we now get that every second of life is a gift and a treasure. That the soul is eternal and it requires as much if not more care than the physical body.
Wisdom encourages us to respect all phases of our lives. To grasp while young that the spiritual aspect of ourselves is the phase that will govern us long-term. While what we do in each phase of life matters and is important, it is the sum of all phases that brings us to the one that will have the greatest and most significant impact in our lives.
Because that is so, we dare not wait for that spiritual phase of our lives to incorporate the spiritual realm. It’s never too late to start, but it’s never too early to start either. In every phase, we should deliberately consider the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of what we say and do—and what we don’t do.
All three—the physical, emotional and spiritual—intertwine to become the whole that is us. All three aspects play a vital role in who we were, who we are, and who we become. All three are significant and important. Understanding that is what really matters most.
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