Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 11b
April 15, 2022
By Dan Coughlin
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The inner journey is hard enough all on its own, but it’s even harder if you try to go on it all on your own.
So far in this series we have looked at defining what key words mean to you, clarifying your selfishness that you want to surrender, deciding what virtues you want to keep and what you want to add, generating the morals you want guiding your life, and identifying your higher purpose at this moment.
That’s a lot of heavy lifting, especially to do on your own. So here are a few suggestions.
Find Trusted Friends
My idea of a trusted friend is someone you can go deep with into personal topics. You probably won’t get much more personal than discussing selfishness, virtues, morals, and a higher purpose. These topics are getting right into your innermost essence. Not the sort of thing you would toss around at a dinner party. See if you can think of someone you’ve known a long time who would be willing to discuss these ideas with you.
Over and over I am reminded of how powerful it is to say something out loud and have someone else hear it and give me feedback. You might think that what you are talking about is taboo and should never be shared with anyone else. My experience is that while it can be very uncomfortable at the beginning, it can also open up new ways of thinking and behaving. Just stating it out loud and hearing yourself talk about it can open up new ways of thinking about it.
The other person can be good for you, and you can be good for the other person. Of course, these are remarkably sensitive and personal conversations, and the content needs to be kept private between the two of you. Otherwise, you risk damaging your relationship with the other person and your own growth.
Seek Out Mentors
Some people really enjoy being mentors. I’m one of them. I like it when a middle school, high school, or college student, or a young adult asks me for advice. Volunteer mentors are honored when someone comes to them and asks for advice. A good mentor will be there for you on an on-going basis, not just a one-time conversation. A good mentor will allow you to talk about topics like your selfishness, morals, virtues, and higher purpose. And the person will keep the conversation confidential. There are different types of mentors: business, community, family, personal, etc. They are all important, and not all of them are going to be capable of discussing your inner journey with you. Don’t force your thoughts on to other people. Once you’ve built a bit of a relationship with a potential mentor you could ask if the person would be comfortable discussing these topics with you.
Hire a Personal Advisor
Another valuable relationship is where you invest in getting advice from a professional counselor. In my opinion, a good psychotherapist or spiritual director can be an invaluable relationship in your life. You are paying the person, but that doesn’t take away at all from the value of their guidance and input on your inner journey.
Join a Group that is Focused on the Inner Journey
There are different types of groups that you can be a part of to have deeper discussions. There are established programs where you can pay to join the group. There are groups who meet regularly and there is no charge. And you can form a group of people who are willing to dig into these topics in a respectful, discussion-oriented way.
For example, I’ve been in a remarkable group for the past 8 months called the Bridges Foundation (www.bridgesfoundation.org), and about 90 of us are going through The Spiritual Exercises from St. Ignatius of Loyola. There are large lectures, small group discussions, retreats, and weekly prayer companion one-on-one conversations. It’s a great example of many of the things I’m suggesting in this article where people dig into the inner journey.
Read and “Debate” with Writers and Speakers on These Topics
Another way to get other voices in your head rather than just your own is to read books on topics related to the inner journey. There are literally hundreds and maybe even thousands (and maybe even tens of thousands) of good books that touch on some aspect of selfishness, virtue, morals, and higher purpose.
The value of reading is not in blind acceptance. You don’t just have to accept whatever the writer is saying. The value in reading is in hearing an idea, reflecting on it, discerning (sifting) through the idea, possibly praying about the idea, and deciding what, if anything, you are going to do with the idea.
If you read 10 good books about the inner journey and reflect on 3-5 ideas from each book, you will almost for certain enhance your ability to make this inner journey even more effective.
Engaging in meaningful discussions about your inner journey requires a significant investment of time and effort. You won’t get a raise, a promotion, or public recognition for doing it. You won’t build a stronger body or lose weight in doing it. You won’t get a bigger or nicer home for doing it. Most people will have no idea what you are doing with your life. You might possibly get criticized for not doing something more “out there” where people can notice.
Your inner journey to excellence is about you, and your soul, and your struggle to be the person you want to be. Isn’t that enough of a reward?
However, there is more to the story. As you go on this inner journey, you may very well find that you are becoming more effective on your outer journey as well. You don’t have two separate lives. You just have one life. The inner part of you affects the outer part of you, the part that other people see every day. As you strengthen the one, you will strengthen the other.
It’s not about the material rewards. It’s about becoming the person you want to be and starting this journey on the inside. Then the person on the outside will also be the person you want to be going forward.
Republishing ArticlesMy newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.