My eight-year-old neighbor Mark keeps me on my toes. Mark asks lots of questions, which I am sometimes tempted to dismiss as childish. But when I think about them, I usually discover a profound lesson.
The other day Mark asked me for a ride to the local grocery store so he could buy some popcorn (he would live on popcorn if his mother let him). I told Mark I could drive him there, but since I was going on into town, he would have to walk back, a short hike he often takes.
Then Mark asked me, "What do you think? Should I go with you?"
"Whatever you like, Mark," I told him. "It’s up to you."
"But what do you think I should do?" he asked again.
I thought about it for a moment, and I realized there was no "should" about it. My opinion of what he should do was irrelevant. His decision depended entirely on what he felt like doing.
"Do whatever you would like," I told him. "If you want to go, I’ll be happy to drive you. If you don’t feel like going, you can stay home and play video games or whatever you like. It’s up to you."
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This process went on for a few more rounds, until I was ready to leave. Then Mark announced, "Okay, I’ll go!" and he jumped into the car with me.
There Is No "Should" About It
After I dropped Mark off, I realized he was mirroring a part of myself that tries to find out what I should do, when there is no "should" about it -- only a "would." Sometimes when I am faced with a decision, I try to figure out how the various options fit into God’s plan for my destiny. But God’s plan for my destiny is happiness; if something would truly make me happy, behold God’s plan for my destiny.
Instead of asking some remote God who lives on a distant cloud what I should do, I need simply ask the God within me what to do. God’s radio frequency is pure joy. What I should do is what I would do.
"Shoulds" Dictated by External Sources
The world is full of "shoulds" dictated by external sources. Religion, society, family, and peers have all kinds of ideas about who you should be and what you should do. But no one outside you can know your personal path as well as you. Some of their "shoulds" match your "woulds" and some of them don’t.
Many people fall back on the seeming security of paths prescribed by external voices. Yet a small number of independent souls, probably such as you, find aliveness more attractive than convention. Convention means "convenient". It is convenient to take the well-trod route, for no one questions or challenges you. Yet those who take orders from outside sources do so at the dear cost of their passion and individual expression -- a terrible tradeoff, to be sure.
Integrity: External Acts Match Inner Knowing
The highest morality is personal integrity. You are in integrity when your external acts match your inner knowing. When you forsake your truth to please others, you fall out of integrity. Robert Louis Stevenson boldly declared,
"To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying ‘Amen’ to what the world tells that you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive."
And nothing is more important than keeping your soul alive.
In the film Tin Cup, Kevin Costner’s character proclaims, "When the defining moment comes along, you define the moment or the moment defines you." We have been led to believe that life determines who we are, when at every moment we determine what our life is. Your decisions are honorable because they are yours.
Choosing to Answer Your Soul's Calling
More and more I see and hear people using cell phones in public. Sometimes when I stand in line at an airport I hear several people within arm’s reach chatting away on their cell phones. Cell phones ring nearly everywhere I go in public. I find it interesting that each person’s cell phone has a distinctive ring. If everyone’s phone had the same ring, no one in a crowd would know whether or not to answer their phone.
Your soul’s calling also has a distinct tone. But you have to know what it is before you can answer it. The more you live by external shoulds, the farther you drift from the great love affair with your own spirit. The more you trust in your soul’s calling and hearken unto it, the more you live in a consciousness of profound love. As a Chasidic sage nobly stated, "Everyone should carefully observe which way his heart draws him, and then choose that way with all his strength."
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About The Author
Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books including A Course in Miracles Made Easy and of the newly-released Spirit Means Business. Join Alan for his life-changing Holistic Life Coach Training beginning September 1, 2020. For information on this program and Alan’s books, videos, audios, online courses, retreats, and other inspirational events and materials, visit www.alancohen.com