“Your accomplishments are not the most important parts of your life. Besides, any record you break will sooner or later be broken by someone else. Whether you excel in sports or in work, there will always be someone who comes along after you and does what you did but even better. The bar for success will only keep rising. It’s satisfying to strive for something greater, but keep in mind that none of us will have really succeeded unless we’ve done something to touch another human being’s soul.”
To come to the end of a day saying “I didn’t accomplish a thing,” can leave us feeling empty. When no project, task, or endeavor is begun, made progress on, or been completed, it is likely that we feel we’ve wasted our time, or perhaps that we’re wasting our life. It may in fact be true that we could have/should have gotten something done, but what is not true is that accomplishments are the measure of our worth; they are not the gold standard that determines our significance as a person.
Eliot Marshall who penned the opening quote of this reflection, is someone who spent a lifetime trying and failing to win acceptance through accomplishments. When he woke up to the futility of his efforts, Marshall realized that the recognition and acclaim that often follows from accomplishing our goals can feed and fatten our ego, but no amount of accomplishments will ever satisfy our deepest longings. We can find ourselves careening like bumper cars from one endeavor to another, one person to another, one task, project, one venture to another in an attempt to satisfy a longing that can only be fulfilled by touching another human being’s soul.
Soul is a word that refers to the sacred depth of our self; it is a dimension of our being wherein we experience meaning, connection, passion, and compassion. We are most alive when we are one with our soul. Touching a soul involves relating to a person in a way that makes them aware of their sacredness, and makes them feel more alive. It is not usually extraordinary or dramatic encounters that make people aware of their spiritual core; rather, it is the quality of our presence, our full focus on them that communicates the truth that they are worthwhile, valuable, one-of-a-kind, a sacred self. There may be days that go by without our accomplishing much, but if we are able to introduce just one person to their soul, we can count ourselves successful at what matters most.