Occasionally, I have heard people say “fake it ‘til you make it” about the process of finding success in the world. The phrase suggests that it is best to act, dress, and behave like a successful person, even if you aren’t yet. There is some wisdom in that for creating a success mindset, and I think the same might apply to the process of spiritual growth.
Just like you can act with the confidence of a successful person even when you are not there yet, spiritual seekers can behave in an enlightened way, even when they have a long way to go toward true enlightenment. The journey toward spiritual enlightenment is not always an easy one, and it has many blind spots along the way. But, if you understand the basic principles of spiritual growth, you can begin behaving in a more enlightened way right now, and you will probably arrive at your goal of enlightenment faster, too. Here are ten simple values you can use in your life today:
- Choose positivity. The world will present you with many depressing, frustrating situations, but responding with sadness or anger will not help you change anything. Even if you can’t help feeling down inside, smile anyway. Neuroscience has shown that smiling, even a fake smile, helps to release hormones associated with peace and happiness. If you feel wronged by someone, do what you can to change the situation, but forgive as quickly as you can and move on rather than lingering in resentment and anger.
- Embrace challenges. Humans naturally want to delay or avoid facing obstacles. However, those difficulties were given to you by heaven for your own growth, so the quicker you face them and solve them, the sooner you will see their benefit. Every hardship you face is like a weight added to the barbell of a champion weightlifter. The more you overcome, the stronger your soul will grow.
- Nurture your own growth. Establishing a growth-oriented mindset is the best way to live a meaningful life. Don’t just let growth opportunities come to you, though. Actively seek to improve yourself day by day—physically, mentally, and spiritually—through a continuous process of self-examination and self-discipline.
- Pursue lofty goals. Don’t just look for goals with guaranteed results and clear payoffs. Ask yourself what you would be is there were no obstacles and no financial motivation, and ask yourself what you could do in this world that would give you great and lasting joy. Then, plan your path to that goal and move toward that steadily.
- Assume abundance. Financial constraints often cause people to hold themselves back, or they cause people endless worry about the future. The universe, though, is infinitely abundant, and it will provide you with what you need to become who you are meant to be. Step boldly forward toward your goals with the confidence that all will be provided for, and you will likely see unexpected opportunities for abundance.
- Acknowledge your own power. I teach my students to say an important phrase to themselves: “My mind is not me but mine.” This is important because too often people imagine that their thoughts and emotions are out of their control. In fact, you are the one in charge of your own life, and you are the one who has the power to change it.
- Trust your own brain. Most people do not come anywhere near to using the full potential of their brains. And you don’t have to be a “genius” to do amazing things. Every new creation and every solution to every problem in the human world started with brains that could think in new ways, so, if you want something new or different in your life, ask your brain to find the answer.
- Take good care of your body. Sometimes, spiritual people imagine that the physical body is not of much importance, that only the spiritual world really matters. That is not the case. Your physical body was given to you as your vehicle on this spiritual journey, so, just as you would change the oil in your car and give it high-quality gas to keep going, be sure to give your body the food, exercise, and rest that it needs to keep on top shape.
- Envision your best you. Don’t be satisfied with the “just doing okay” version of you. Yes, the world will accept this version, so long as you show up for work and pay your bills. On the outside, everything is fine with this, but inside you will not be satisfied. So, really think about who you would like to be and what you would really like to do in this world. In the long run, only that version of you will be enough.
- Live for the good of all. In Korea’s Tao tradition, we have a guiding philosophy called hongik, which means that we should live for “wide benefit” if we want to live in the best way possible. This means seeing everything from the broadest possible perspective, not just from our individual, selfish perspectives. A Western equivalent might be having a “service mindset,” but its reach and intention are more global than that. If you take on this broad mindset, you will tap into a wellspring of motivation because you are now living for all humanity and for the earth, too, not just for yourself. And this is most important: all the previous values can only grow well if they grow from the root of hongik. So, start each day by asking, “What can I do to be widely beneficial for all humanity?”
These ten values are about establishing a habit of enlightened living in your daily experience. Enlightenment is useless if it is only something we talk about or if it is only something monks experience in some mountain hideaway. What the world really needs is a culture of enlightenment, a culture that cultivates and nurtures the best in the human mind and soul. Of course, in most places in the world this is not at all a priority. But all cultures begin with what goes on in the hearts and minds of individual people. Creating your own enlightened “culture of one” might just lead to a more enlightened world culture sometime in the future.
You can learn more ways to cultivate enlightened living in my book Living Tao: Timeless Principles for Everyday Enlightenment.