Life is not about what we achieve. It is about who we become.

Life is not about what we achieve. It is about who we become.

Throughout 2020, a deep depression had thrust me into an introspective journey I never anticipated embarking on. For years, I had been racing through life, my eyes fixed on the next milestone, the next achievement. The pursuit of success, as defined by the growth of my company and the allure of financial independence, consumed me. I lived in a whirlwind of busyness—meetings, business trips, vacations—each activity a thread in the fabric of my distraction from the deeper questions of life and purpose.

In this dark period, the support of my wife, the unwavering presence of a few close friends, and the transformative experience at The Hoffman Retreat (mentioned in prior posts) became my lifelines. The deep depression, as crippling as it was, became a wake-up call, a catalyst for a commitment to my personal and spiritual growth that I had never before considered necessary. It was as if life had to bring me to a standstill, to a place of complete vulnerability, for me to finally confront the void I had been avoiding.

This period taught me a very important life lesson that I will never forget: true fulfillment comes not from what we achieve externally, but rather from who we become internally. 

I began to cultivate a practice of meditation, turning inward each day to listen to the silence, to find the peace beneath the turmoil. Evenings were spent in reflection, pen in hand, as I journaled my thoughts and feelings, focusing on gratitude and appreciation for even the smallest things. This shift from external seeking to internal exploration was profound. I constantly reminded myself that the fact that I was searching for meaning didn’t mean I was lost. I was on my way.

The journey was not without its moments of levity. I recalled a conversation with my executive coach, who had once remarked that anyone over the age of 35 who hadn't gone to therapy was "absolutely crazy." At the time, her words had drawn a hearty laugh from me. Yet, as I found myself opening up in therapy sessions, exploring the depths of my thoughts and feelings, I realized the wisdom in her remark. Therapy became a pivotal part of my journey, offering insights and growth that I could have never achieved on my own.

This process of introspection and healing brought an unexpected lightness to my being. Life flowed more freely; I felt more authentic, more aligned with my true self. My relationships deepened, my experiences enriched, and joy became a constant companion. It was as if, without changing anything externally, everything in my life had transformed.

Unfortunately, my glorious existence only lasted months as I was thrusted back into bed when one of our children experienced a significant setback. It served as a stark reminder that the journey of self-discovery and personal growth is not a linear path. It is full of twists and turns, high peaks, and deep valleys. And I found myself once again in a deep, dark valley. 

Yes, as parents we feel our children’s pain and setbacks as if they are our own. However, the question still lingered inside the depths of my soul, how could I go so quickly from flowing joyfully through life to being once again bedridden? 

Days and weeks went by, lying in bed, desperately searching for a deeper understanding within the far and few calm moments I had in between my dark thoughts and painful existence. Eventually, as I was scouring through my notes from the Hoffman Process, there it was, written in big bold letters, Self-Compassion, or actually, my lack thereof.

I now knew the theory, but from theory to application, and from application to embodiment, there is an enormous gap. I came to the weird realization that in part, my lack of Self-Compassion had actually gotten me very far in terms of external accomplishments: the big job, the top MBA, the big company sale, the big house, the big boat. However, it had also left me painfully broken inside. 

Just as a horse can be spurred forward by the sting of a whip, so too can we drive ourselves onward through relentless self-pressure to fulfill the surmounting expectations of our external world. Yet, with every accomplishment, unseen scars accumulate deep within our soul. Over time, these hidden wounds had grown, silently crippling me, until the weight of all those internal scars brought me to a complete halt. Despite the gleam of my successes, I found myself paralyzed, trapped by the very achievements I thought were triumphs. 

The lesson was as evident as it was dramatic: the cost of success, when fueled by self-neglect and a lack of self-compassion, is the withering of our soul, leaving us unable to move forward, imprisoned by our own unacknowledged pain.

Even though I had this clarity, I was still sunk in bed, once again in a deep depression. I asked myself with an internal voice of sheer desperation: What now?