Aspiration is the greatest ally anyone can have in their rise to success. It gives “you” a reason to move forward despite obstacles and setbacks. But why put “you” in quotation marks? Because there is more than one you to consider. Human beings have divided natures. As pointed out by Plato two millennia ago when he compared the soul to a chariot being pulled upward by a white horse and downward by a black horse. Depending on which horse you encourage, your personal fate is in your hands.

Setting aside a loaded word like soul, everyone has a choice to write their own story. In fact, every decision you make represents a stroke of the pen, so to speak, leading the main character – “you” – to the next stage of the narrative. “You” therefore is a creation. No one has a fixed identity, one bestowed at birth or in early childhood. Each person is open to revision as their story unfolds.

When you step back and ask “Who am I?” the author is looking at his creation. The process of building a self is a creative act. Even if you blame the outside world for your problems, even if you bemoan your bad luck or wish you had a missing X factor to improve your lot (more money, better parents, an Ivy League diploma), these thoughts also become part of your story. Mysteriously, the self is self-created. No one is exempt from this truth.

Which leads us back to aspirations. The “you” that has the greatest chance for success is driven by higher aspirations. The “you” that has no aspirations is very likely to fall short. Look at the difference between them:

Aspirational “You”

– is curious, open-minded, and eager for new experiences

– finds motivation from within

– wants to be self-sufficient

– speaks his own truth

– has inspiring role models

– feels attached to a higher purpose

“You” without aspirations

– looks out for number one and therefore feels insecure

– fears loss and is greedy for gain

– measures itself by external rewards (money, possessions, status, power)

– is reluctant to trust

– takes a defensive and self-protective stance

– has no higher values except self-interest

Even though I’ve described the aspirational “you” as more desirable than the “you” without aspirations, there’s a great deal of social pressure to think the opposite. In a “greed is good” ethos, the value of self-interest gets promoted in two ways. First, it’s supposedly the stance of winners, defined as overachieving, ruthless competitors. Second, if you don’t defend your self-interest, nobody else will. Does anyone want to be idealistic, soft, compliant, and non-competitive?

If you answer no, you are letting externals define your attitude, because there is nothing softabout having aspirations (consult the biographies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King), and keeping true to your aspirations is the opposite of being compliant. Defining the game as an either-or between winning and losing betrays the complexity of the life stories we all write every day. Moments of winning catch the spotlight. Outside the spotlight are years and decades of challenges, the main challenge being how to build a self that stands for who “you” really are.

In my own experience – and as a teacher of leadership skills – the most successful people are aspirational. They define their success in inner terms. They refuse to be bad actors in both senses of the word – bad at acting the roles assigned to them and bad in their personal behavior. In a society propelled by advertising, mass media, competition, and dynamic change, the temptation to run with the pack is strong, and the pack is always running for external rewards. And the pack gives you an easy identity as “one of us.” For all that, your life story has only one author, and its main character only one source. A “you” without aspirations will never be worthy of the possibilities that are hidden within.

Wellbeing and Visionary Leadership: Deepak Chopra in Mexico

Courtesy of YouTube/The Chopra Well

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