Unconditional means “not subject to any conditions.” Do you unconditionally love your spouse? Do you unconditionally love your children? Do you genuinely want to experience happiness and joy? If you are honest with yourself, the answer is likely no. Our level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our lives and relationships is directly tied to conditions. If you disagree, do this exercise right now. Create a list of associations and scenarios in which you do not base your satisfaction on an expectation. We expect our spouse to act in a certain way and become disappointed or frustrated when they don’t behave according to our expectations. We expect our boss to treat us a certain way, but they don’t, so we become unsatisfied with the relationship. We go out to dinner, hoping for a specific experience, but the service or food is inconsistent with our expectations, leaving us frustrated and disappointed.
The reality is that we box in every aspect of our lives with our premeditated expectations. This is why so many people in our society live in misery day after day. We project our expectations onto the world and become overwhelmed, frustrated, and depressed when the results are not aligned with our expectations. It’s time to get a grip!
Not a single person will achieve a sustained level of happiness tied to a condition that must be met. The reality is that we will never be happy. Being happy in the moment is only possible without conditions. How do we learn to live without conditions? I am not a subject matter expert, but I am a student. Here are the lessons I have learned about the “unconditional surrender” to life.
The first step to living unconditionally is to develop conscious awareness. This is more difficult than you might think. Your spouse always talks over you. You love them except when they are disrespecting you by talking over you. Have you ever spoken with them about it, or have you allowed the frustration to build with every incident? Most of us have never mentioned our annoyances to our spouses in a constructive manner. Instead, we hold it in and allow it to gain energy until one day we explode in a rage when it occurs. Your spouse will finally get a piece of your mind, but your anger will not serve to resolve a thing. They are in defense mode and only see this single incident as a cause for your rage and can’t rationalize all of your anger. This happens with many of our relationships – bosses, coworkers, parents, children, etc. It happens because we have unknowingly been keeping score. What happens when we keep score? Someone has to lose.
The cycle can be broken with awareness. Awareness of emotion that is about to manifest itself seemingly out of nowhere. The best tool I have found to help with increasing awareness is meditation. Practicing meditation can help us learn to respond instead of reacting. It can help us preserve our energy for what matters most in our lives. Another beneficial tool for creating greater awareness is journaling. Using a pen and paper to capture thoughts can help release energy. Want clarity on who you are? Ask the question and write about it in your journal. The single most important person to get to know is you, and yet we live in a world obsessed with distractions from reality. Get to know yourself first and let go of your standards for everyone else.
Hell is in resistance. Heaven is in acceptance. Acceptance is peace. Resistance is war. We resist change every day. We resist reality. We resist acceptance. This is an unnecessary battle that we have fabricated within us to validate our existence. We resist because something challenges the premeditated expectation regarding an outcome or treatment. We resist because we have been keeping score to ensure we get our share.
Acceptance does not mean rolling over. Our objective should be contentment or a state of happiness and satisfaction. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to believe that we must fight for what we desire in life. There is a desire for revenge or a desire to prove the world wrong that motivates us to act in our own self-interest in pursuit of validation. The quest for validation is what drives and motivates many successful people. What is wrong with that, you might ask? Well, when is it ever enough? At what point is fulfillment achieved if contentment remains unrealized. It is never enough when we seek external validation for our internal insecurities. A way to overcome the resistance that drives our fear is to switch to acceptance out of love.
Unconditional love should start with self. It is challenging, if not impossible, to achieve contentment without a love of self. I am not talking about a selfish existence; I am talking about unconditional acceptance of who we are and loving it all. You can accept who you are right now. The challenge is that the voice inside your head that has been abusing you for all these years is difficult to shut up. Accept yourself and stop resisting. Instant and permanent peace will follow. Acceptance won’t damper the desire to succeed. It will help you get clear as to why you are doing what you are doing, and that leads to our next point.
If you want to experience all that life has to offer, it is best done in service to others. Service is the ultimate anti-depressant medication. Service cures many forms of mental suffering because it shifts the focus. Ask yourself, “How can I best contribute here?” If we ask ourselves what is in it for us, our lives become bitter, resentful, angry, frustrated, self-serving, depressed, caged, meaningless, or all of the above at varying times. Service without conditions is only possible when we do what we do with others in mind. We live in a “me, me, me” world these days, so when someone shows up ready to serve, they make an immediate impact. To show up prepared to help is to show up with humility, kindness, and an open heart. True service is a difficult undertaking. Genuine service is performed without expectations of anything in return. To find a vocation that will pay you, but that you would do without getting paid is a challenging mission. This is the mission because you are here to make a difference and do what only you can do. This is the story of the Wall Street star that opted to leave that life and teach high school math. To do what we love is to be of service.
Unconditional living is difficult to comprehend because we have been trained to judge everything. How did you like that parade? How do you feel about your car? How is your job? What about your neighbor? We judge all day, every day. The rise of social media has accelerated our judgment machine. Judging is only possible with conditions and standards.
To live without conditions requires us to become aware of the voice in our head. Utilize meditation and journaling as time spent understanding what matters to you and how you want to show up. Step two is accepting wherever you are and suspending judgment. If you want to stand out this world, stop judging. It isn’t about standing out. It is really about standing up. Accept what is, to make room for what is possible. Step three is to be of service to others. What would you joyfully do without pay? How could you find a way to do more of that? I am not going to say quit your job do that, but I will say find a way to serve more.
Want a more meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful life? Live unconditionally. Ban “when” from your vocabulary or replace it with “now”. I will be happy now. I will love you now. I will live healthier now. I will serve now.