The busier you are, the easier it becomes to sacrifice your values.
If you aren't careful, you'll blink and wake up living the life you never wanted--a life filled with regret, mediocrity, and complacency.
You'll lay awake late at night contemplating all of the things you missed--your child's developmental milestone, your partner's emotional needs, and a moment of connection with something larger than yourself.
That's because if you don't prioritize what matters, life chooses for you. And life doesn't care about your wellbeing--it only cares about your productivity, output, and your economic participation.
In this mechanical world, you're reduced to a number--the number of zeros in your bank account. The material goods you purchase. And the number of hours you work each week.
This tendency towards productivity at the expense of wellbeing is engrained in the achievement-oriented mainstream culture of the U.S.
Our society doesn't care about you or your needs, wants, and desires--it cares about profit. And the result of this rampant consumerism is increased suffering, especially for people who allow their careers to define their self-worth.
Becoming hyper-focused on achieving society's definition of success at the expense of your wellbeing is easy to do when the pace of life is this fast.
We're trained like rats in a cage to perform our duties and are rewarded with little breaks--moments of pleasure that we idolize as happiness but are merely fleeting moments of dissociation from our pain.
This may sound like a dark portrayal of modern life, but when you wake up and immediately grab your phone, you're itching for that first hit--a quick spike in mental stimulation from interactive screens rather than connection to human beings, including yourself.
And that's just one of many examples illustrating your lust for temporary pleasure instead of lasting fulfillment. The same could be said of your obsession over money, food, and sex. Or titles and recognition.
Each are moments, experiences, and things that you're trained by your culture to worship. But none of them leads to anything profound or eternal.
You indulge in one moment and then die in the next, same as everyone else. Realizing in that process that you lived the life everyone told you to live instead of the one you wanted--the one you knew deep down that you should have lived.
The only thing that can save you is to wake up.
To recognize your present circumstance. Appreciate its significance. And see through the myths of your culture.
In order to wake up from this false life being dreamed, you must pause. Find stillness. And encounter profound, deafening silence.
Without stepping away from the game, there's no way to realize that you're being played.
While many practices within the domain of self-growth are absolutely vital to this awakening, including coaching, therapy, diet, and exercise, only one has been completely disconnected from the pace of modern life.
Only one has been utilized over centuries to help individuals awaken to their situation. That one practice is meditation. And it is the most undervalued and underestimated self-growth practice.
I tell my friends and clients that meditation is always the first practice to go when you're living a busy and ambitious life. Because when you're focused on productivity and achievement, sitting in silence feels like a complete waste of time.
Trying to meditate while your thoughts move at 500 mph is like trying to stop a runaway train. It doesn't feel good. It makes you uncomfortable. And that's exactly why it needs to be prioritized.
Meditation isn't about productivity, although it may paradoxically boost your ability tofocus at work. At its esoteric core, meditation is about providing a mirror into your experience--the one you're creating moment-to-moment with your mind.
In the humbling silence of meditation, you are face-to-face with yourself.
With nowhere to go and nowhere to hide, your ego seeks to escape through thoughts, fantasies, and ideas about the past and future, while creating commentary about the present.
This difficult experience should tell you something. It should help inform how you live your life. And it should re-orient you to the importance of that which is beyond mind.
Meditation wakes you up by enlivening your heart and, through consistent practice, re-training your mind to simply be present with what is rather than thinking about or trying to change it.
That re-training can and will improve your life--not only by transforming the way you show up in your career-related interactions, but also by reminding you about what's truly important in this lifetime.
When you pause long enough to discover your values and see the ways that you're falling short of carrying them out, you have the opportunity for change. To start living the life you've always wanted instead of the one society told you to live.
And in that space between what's happening and your reaction to it, freedom awaits.