As an angst-filled teen, I vowed to become perfect. But what did it mean to be perfect, I wondered, as I sat alone on the dark hillside by a creek, lost in delusions, visited by the occasional stranger, comforted by a fire several meters away.
Did perfection take all the knowledge in the world? Yes, I thought. Did it take a beautiful form? Of course! Did it take superhero acrobatic and combative skills? Indeed, it did. But that wasn’t enough. In fact, all that paled to what I coined true perfection. Namely, acts that better another’s life.
But, again, I was stumped. What did it mean to better another’s life? And which kind acts were the best? Atheist at the time, I dared consider another force: God. Somehow God needed to enter the equation.
And then I gave up my thought process and joined the misfits at the fire.
But today I’ve moved closer to discovering the meaning of perfection. For me, perfection flows from unconditional love, selfless serving, a deepening spirituality, and lifelong learning. But to achieve all this, I must watch my thoughts. And to achieve your highest awakening, you must guard your thoughts, too.
But how do we control our thoughts?
First, we need to know what kinds of thoughts to bear.
I believe we should watch our every thought, asking ourselves, “Does this thought build others up? Does this thought bring happiness to my loved ones, colleagues, acquaintances, or higher power?” If not, change the thought. Paul Friedman says a thought can be in only one of two states: constructive or destructive. He says there is no such thing as a neutral thought. Even silence is either constructive or destructive. But we’re always constructive if we speak—or stay silent—with the motive of unconditional love.
Second, ponder what makes our loved one(s) happy.
I believe we must strive to bring happiness to others. We can do so through kind thoughts, actions, and feelings. Only then can we achieve healthy relationships. If we offer kindness, but get rejected, we still win.
Author Howard Partridge says, “Check every thought that comes into your mind …. Negative, destructive, ungodly thoughts cannot board …. Dismiss them and set your mind on the things that you are called to do, the things that are good for your life. The things that inspire you” (36%). I flip his wisdom into “other” focus: I say, focus on the things that are good for your loved ones. The things that inspire them. The things that you are called to do to help others. Prioritize others’ happiness before your own. Then, your own happiness surely will grow.
Third, turn positive thinking into a habit.
Howard Partridge says, “You must be willing to change daily. Change is a habit that you want to create. Change the way you think about yourself. Change the way you think about the world. Change the way you think about God” (32%). I, at the time an atheist, once went to a Christian church. My friend asked me to join her, so I did. On stage sat a Christian woman. For about five minutes, the Christian woman beamed with euphoria, her eyes closed, her hands outstretched skyward, a smile widening on her face. The audience was silent. Shocked, I cried out, “What is she doing?!” I was hushed. After the strange on-stage euphoria, the Christian woman spoke. She said she had been sending unconditional love to God, to the audience—and to me, the person who cried out. It changed my life. And today I try to send others that same depth of love.
If I could go back in time, I’d say to my teen self, “I’ll never see perfection in myself, but I’ll humbly see it in others.”