People usually think that progress consists in the increase of knowledge, in the improvement of life, but that isn’t so. Progress consists only in the greater clarification of answers to the basic questions of life. The truth is always accessible to a man…because a man’s soul is a divine spark, the truth itself. It’s only a matter of removing from this divine spark, everything that obscures it. Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold. Leo Tolstoy
Around this time of the year, as we start counting down to Christmas and the end of the year, the mind inevitably turns to the question of – What have I done this year? How many goals have I ticked off? Have I done enough? And on and on…
We don’t do this to torture ourselves, although it can feel a bit tortuous doing an end-of-year review. Rather we do this so that we can assess, by some kind of measure, that we have made some progress this year. Progress on what exactly? Progress in our jobs or careers, our relationships, our family life – progress on this thing called life.
With each passing year, we feel like we should have a better grasp on life. To have it figured out just a little more. But then life just happens. And we realise that 95% of what we grew up thinking we were supposed to have figured out by now isn’t even remotely close to what life is really about.
Life, as it turns out, is one big, messy, and often overwhelming, work in progress. Completely malleable, constantly throwing new things and people our way (whether we like it or not). A roller coaster of peaks and troughs. Life is a continuous learning experience, which we signed up for by virtue of being born. And, as far as I can tell, this is the way life is, and always will be.
There won’t ever be a time when everything is figured out and makes sense. When we can sit back and feel like our work is done. There will always be things and people that challenge us. Ideas that inspire us to do more. Things we want to get better at or try for the first time. And that makes sense because why else are we alive?
In the Vedic worldview, to be alive is to be evolving. Always. Constantly. To be complete and finished as a human being is to stop evolving – the antithesis of what being alive (and being human) is about.
When viewed through this lens, our progress or evolution as a person is far greater than, and cannot be measured by, the achievement of goals or execution of life plan, but what we learned along the way and how we grew, regardless of whether we achieved the goals.
Instead of ticking the boxes, we ask ourselves:
What did I learn about myself this year?
How much kindness did I extend to everyone, including myself?
Was I able to grow my compassion large enough, to include myself and the parts that I find least lovable?
Did I expand my idea of love and the size of my heart to feel love in circumstances where love was possibly the last thing on my mind?
How well did I live this year?