My four year high-school had about 2000 students. And it was made very clear to each one of us that if we wanted to get into a really good college, two things were required. First, we needed to graduate near the top of the class. And even more critical, we needed very high SAT scores.
Back then you could only take the SAT two times, and your scores were averaged. So, I felt a ton of pressure riding on that test. According to the “all knowing” guidance counselors, my entire future was riding on crushing the SAT.
I remember sitting in the test room, sweat dripping from my palms onto a cache of freshly sharpened #2 pencils. The proctor shouted out BEGIN and I thought I was going to vomit.
If I nailed the test, I would be one step closer to my dream school. Otherwise, I would be a failure.
Imagine, on the other hand, a different kind of test. One you could retake as many times as you’d like, and instead of averaging the scores, you’d get to pick your highest ones. No pressure of failure. The opportunity to learn and grow – as often and as fast as you’d like.
There are two ways of looking at the world. Pass / fail or continuous growth. In the pass/fail version, we see life as a competition. For me to get ahead, I need to surpass others. For me to have a higher salary, someone else must have less since there is a limited pool of salary dollars. For me to be with the person of my dreams, someone else cannot have that person. For me to be granted enrollment at a certain coveted university, someone else must be denied that opportunity. And so on.
The other way of looking at the world is from that perspective of continuous growth. Every encounter becomes an opportunity for development. There is no win-lose, rather there is a shared connection. There is no pressure to excel, simply the joy in learning.
Even when we are faced with what the world denotes as challenging situations, we recognize them as another chance to learn.
Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you. (T-31.VIII.3)
Those are the only two choices open to us. Every moment of each day, we are choosing between one of those two thought systems. One will forever bring us misery, suffering, and sadness, perhaps with brief respites of temporary peace – while the other will always lead to joy. One is fraught with pressure and sacrifice and competition while the other is replete with union, sharing, and supportive growth.
Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll learn how to make the choice for happiness instead of hell – and experience a world of continuous growth instead of recurring misery. I look forward to seeing you then.