4 Nearly-Unattainable Goals To Achieve Before You Die

Photo: Claudiu Maxim / Shutterstock
woman sitting on dock by river

Let me tell you something you won’t believe if you haven’t heard of it before. A subset of Jain monks wears a Mupatti all the time. It’s sort of a face mask. And they don’t wear it to protect themselves from a viral pandemic. No. Quite the opposite, actually. They wear it to protect the microorganisms that are present in the air — yes, one of which is killing lakhs of humans right now.

The warm air that comes out of our mouths kills the microorganisms in the air. ‘Ahimsa’ (to not kill) is one of the pillars on which Jainism rests, and it’s not limited just to animals but extends to microorganisms as well. Hence they wear those clothed masks.

RELATED: 6 Rare Signs You Have A Champion Mentality

How do I know this? I come from a Jain family in India. Though I’m not really religious, my parents are. And my parents wear this Mupatti as well when they’re praying. And my brother and I are asked to wear them when we’re asked to pray as well.

Sounds weird, right? Being compassionate for microorganisms? A little too much, I guess. I thought so too. However, these Jain monks are the most compassionate people I know. My mother, being very religious, is the most compassionate non-monk person I know.

I guess, practicing compassion — even such crazy compassion for micro-organisms — made them excessively compassionate overall. Just to be clear, I’m nowhere near that. That level of compassion is something that I cannot even comprehend. Don’t worry, though; I’m not going to ask you to be compassionate for micro-organisms. But I am going to ask you to try to generate that level of compassion at least for humans.

I am asking that of myself as well. I see it as a moral achievement that is almost impossible to attain but one that we should try for anyway. If we shoot for the moon, we might land in the stars, right? And let me share some other high moral achievements with you that are probably impossible to attain, but we should try anyway. If not always, we can engage in them at least at times.

Here are 4 nearly-unattainable goals to achieve before you die: 

1. Assuming someone is suffering

Suffering is the first of the noble truths in Buddhism. Every being on this planet that breathes has to suffer at some point or another in life. We all know this, don’t we? But can we use this knowledge to be more mindful, compassionate humans? Yes, we can.

Say you’re going to the supermarket and a jerk behind you is honking like someone’s paying him to do that. On reaching the store, you have to deal with a really rude store owner. When you come back home and open your laptop, you find a halfwit leaving stupid and rude comments on your social media post.

On your way to the store, you mentally abuse the honking jerk. After leaving the store, you promise yourself that you’ll never set foot in that place again. On reading those comments, you’re all set to start a digital war on the internet. And these are all valid responses.

Although, I recently found a better way to deal with all of this. In an article, Jane Park shares a question to practice empathy for such people. She says that when we cross paths with such people, we should ask ourselves: What if they’re secretly suffering?

She says — “Anger” — or any other negative energy for that matter — “is the external expression of internal grief and sadness…” Instead of being mad at such people, can we learn to assume that they may be suffering and that their suffering is just taking ugly outlets? Can we learn to empathize instead?

If we’re able to do that, it enables us to be better people. So whenever someone directs their negative energy to you, try to assume that they’re suffering. Because even though they may not know it, they probably are suffering. No happy person radiates negative energy. If we try to see such moments not as a nuisance, but as opportunities to practice empathy instead, we’ll be much better people.

RELATED: 7 Unsexy Signs You Have Impressively High Social Intelligence

2. Mudita AKA sympathetic joy

Mudita is the Pali word for sympathetic or vicarious joy. The aptest example would be the joy a parent feels when their child accomplishes something. Mudita is simply the cousin of sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorrow on behalf of others. Mudita is to feel joy on behalf of others.

But our ability to feel Mudita for others is minimal. We may feel Mudita for just our family members and a few friends. But Buddhist monks train to feel Mudita for every human on this planet. What if we can learn to feel Mudita for everyone on this planet as well? That would exponentially enlarge our reserves of happiness, won’t it?

Someone once told me that they knew a person who believed that her superpower was that she was able to be genuinely happy for others. And I thought to myself, “Yes! That is a superpower. And it is so rare. I want this superpower as well.”

In the competitive world we live in, we easily feel threatened when we see someone doing good which prevents us from being truly happy for others. But we fail to realize that this envy robs us of our own happiness.

If we’re able to engage in Mudita, we’ll definitely unlock our happier selves. Here are some principles to bear in mind if we’re to engage in Mudita —

  • Add Mudita to your vocabulary. Since we don’t have a word in English that translates to Mudita, we’re not able to think about the concept. So add it to your thought process, and you’re good to go.
  • Recognize your own hurt. If you’re unable to be happy for someone else, it may be possible that you’re hurt within and your hurt is taking ugly outlets.
  • Believe in abundance. Look, it’s natural to feel threatened when someone does good in life. But there’s no shortage of success and happiness in the world. No one is taking out of your bucket. There’s a true abundance of happiness in the world, and you can get it whenever you want.
  • Practice. Find opportunities. Try to be happy even when people you dislike succeed in life. It won’t be easy, but it will make you a better person.

3. Unconditional forgiveness

In Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty shares four levels of forgiveness:

  • Zero Forgiveness: “I won’t forgive you, no matter what.”
  • Conditional Forgiveness: “I’ll forgive him only if he apologizes.”
  • Transformational Forgiveness: In this type, we try to find the strength to forgive a person without needing an apology or expecting anything else in return.
  • Unconditional Forgiveness: This is the kind of forgiveness most parents have for their children. No matter what children do, parents forgive them.

Of course, the level of forgiveness we have depends on who the person is and what they have done. If the mistake is huge, we might hover at zero forgiveness. And if the person is someone extremely close to us, we might even forgive them unconditionally.

However, through self-introspection, we can begin to see how forgiving we are in a general sense. Most of us may operate under conditional forgiveness because according to research at Luther College, it becomes easier to forgive when someone realizes their mistake and apologizes.

But Jay suggests that we must aim for transformational forgiveness. And since this article is about shooting for the moon and going for the gold, we might as well aim for unconditional forgiveness.

And no, it does not mean that we should just forget everything that people have done to us. No. It’s essential that we know the kind of person we’re dealing with so that we can protect ourselves in the future. However, forgiveness is never about the other person. It’s about us.

In an article in Psychology Today, forgiveness is defined as the release of resentment or anger. It’s not about the other person. It’s a weight off of your shoulders. It’s not to say what happened was okay but to get over it for the sake of our own mental health. Forgiveness boosts our mental health by elevating mood, enhancing optimism, and guarding against anger, stress, anxiety, and depression.

If forgiveness is good for us, why not go all-in on it? That is why we should try to rise to the level of at least transformational and even unconditional forgiveness. To get here, we have to remind ourselves that forgiveness has nothing to do with what happened and even with who we’re forgiving. We’re just forgiving for the sake of our own mental health.

RELATED: 14 Life Cheat Codes That’ll Get You Ahead Of The Majority

4. Ending all judgement

The way we’re wired, you cannot actually stop judging people. Judgment actually enables us to understand the world better. That is why we’re so quick to judge. But even though ending all judgment is impossible, we can learn to tame our judgments pretty well.

What has helped me the most is the philosophy of Tabula Rasa. Tabula Rasa translates to ‘clean slate.’ It is a theory that states that babies are born without preconceived notions; that they are born as clean slates and that all knowledge comes from experience or perception. Is that insultingly obvious?

But let’s try to understand it further. A baby is born with a clean slate. And then, his external environment — mostly his parents — writes programs on his blank-slate-like mind which then he uses to run his entire life. But what if the programs that were written were wrong in the first place?

The way we live our life is decided by the programs that were written on our minds by our external environment. If you’re a good person who works hard and takes responsibility for his life, you’re lucky to have had the right programs written for you. However, when we judge a person who does something wrong, we fail to be mindful of the fact that maybe they were just unlucky as to what programs were written in their minds.

Our past shapes our present. And ultimately, external forces shape our past. Therefore, we have no right to hold ourselves superior to others just because we were lucky to have had good programming done to our brains.

Again, understanding this won’t mean that you will just stop judging people. Our brains make it impossible to do that. But we can get the next best thing. We can learn to tame our judgments. Here are two things we should all try to do.

  • We can learn to develop an eye to catch ourselves when we judge others.
  • We cannot control our brains from judging. However, we can control our mouths speaking. Judgments will always arise in our brains. Our only job is not to let them come to our mouths.

We’re all trying to be good people. Like any journey, there are milestones on this one as well. In this article, we discussed some extremely tough moral achievements to attain.

  • Assume suffering — when you’re subjected to a person’s negative energy, try to hold your own and recognize their internal grief instead of retaliating.
  • Mudita — try to be genuinely happy when other people do good in their life, especially when it’s someone you dislike.
  • Unconditional forgiveness — try to forgive people as fast as you can. This does not mean forgetting what they’ve done. Forgiveness is just for the sake of our own mental health.
  • Ending all judgment — judgments will arise but try not to let them come to your mouth.

RELATED: The #1 Reason You're Failing To Change Your Life In Spite Of Working Hard

Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.