• I have always been a striver. The goal is always somewhere out there, never here right where I am. I can (read: should) always do more. Work more. Exercise more. Lose more weight. Read more. Learn more. Help more. Accomplish more. Achieve more. I should be smarter, faster, stronger. I should be higher up the ladder. I should eat better, be able to do a headstand, have more muscle mass. I should run farther. I should plan better classes, grade quicker, be more organized, have a neater desk. I should be more spiritual, more enlightened. I should meditate more often and longer. I should be wiser, kinder, more self controlled. I could go on and on.

    I was talking to a friend the other day about my propensity to strive, and she looked at me and said, “Yes, but at what cost?”

    Well. Talk about an epiphany.

    Indeed, shoulds come at great cost. Mental costs like stress and burnout. Physical costs like illnesses, overuse injuries, and chronic tiredness. Spiritual costs like fear and self judgment. But the greatest cost of all is peace.

    Being able to accept ourselves, just as we are in this moment, is being able to live within a state of grace. It doesn’t mean we never grow, improve, or change. It means that we live, grow, improve, and change because of grace and self-love, not from a belief in lack or constant self-condemnation.

    Many goals in this life are worth working towards. Good health is important. Being competent, even excellent, at a career is noble. Spiritual growth is always desirable. The question is, however, how am I attempting to reach these goals? By constantly pushing myself while ignoring family, friends, nature, rest, fun, unexpected opportunities and experiences? Or by knowing that I am enough right now and trusting my heart to lead me forward in perfect ways?

    Thanks to my friend, I have a new self-check mechanism. Any time I begin to feel myself striving—in any area of my life—I’m going to stop and ask myself, “Yes, but at what cost?” I’m going to tune in to my heart for guidance. And I’m going to live in peace and grace. Won’t you join me?