The Becoming Treadmill

Carolyn - Frisco, Texas
Entered on March 24, 2008

I believe what is important is not what you can become, but what you are.

While waiting for an appointment, I recently picked up several magazines. After a good ten minutes skimming articles and article titles, I experienced my epiphany. All the articles provided me ways to become better than I was. I suppose that is a lamentable ambition – to always better one’s self. But what really hit me was the futility of it all. If I spend all my time and energy chasing the smarter, fitter, socially more responsible, fill-in-blank me, I will be on a becoming treadmill.

Maybe it is part of the human psyche – to reach for more. Never to be satisfied with what I am. Don’t get me wrong – I love to read the self-help books. All the experts give tips on becoming a better parent, lover, spouse, friend, environmental steward. All very useful advice, or is it?

Many of us chase becoming with such zest and energy. Is it part of our genes – human nature – to never be satisfied? Let’s face it, you can always be richer, fitter, kinder. I believe one reason we chase that person we can become, is we don’t much like the person that we are. I say stop. Stop becoming and start being.

I believe it is only in embracing who I am at this moment in time, that I can truly experience life in all its fullness and richness.

When I was a teenager, I played a mental game with myself. After a bad day, I’d make a deal with myself that I’d really start my life tomorrow. Wash my hands of that day and tomorrow I’d be more popular. I thought I was the only one who played the game, but I realize now a majority of people are in that trap. I wonder how many days I wasted starting my life tomorrow.

Am I perfect? No. Am I a work in progress? Yes. I am human and will continue to evolve and grow – hopefully up until the day I die. But I am also happy with who I am.

There is subtle difference between setting goals and running the becoming treadmill. Goals and dreams provide incentives for growth. They become unhealthy and counterproductive when they, by their very existence, prevent me from embracing the person I am at this moment in time.

There is a certain irony with the becoming obsession. In actuality, I can not become until I am. Until I accept the person that I am this very moment – warts and all – I can not evolve further.

I look around me and see so many people who have so much in their lives and yet feel so oddly empty and unhappy. They are all striving at becoming more successful, becoming wealthier, becoming a better parent, all that becoming but never being. We preach compassion to our children, but seldom do we turn this wonderful virtue, compassion, inwards. If we could only stop, reflect inward, and bestow compassion on ourselves, we would have little need to recklessly chase becoming.

Each day I challenge myself to stop – for just a moment. And in that moment of time, slow down to embrace myself and those around me. Until I own who I am, until I live in this moment, all the becoming will be for naught.

This I believe.