Your Gifts Do Not Belong to You
In the final chapter of the #bookiwontshutupabout aka The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope, we meet the incredible life and calling of Gandhi. Gandhi is famous for his path of nonviolent resistance but it’s an insight gleaned from his spiritual journey towards this calling that interests me most.
Despite all of the gifts Gandhi possessed, he never regarded them as his own. Instead, he saw his gifts – his calling, his dharma – as belonging to the world. He felt he was bestowed with these great assets to help others, yes, but that did not mean they were his. Indeed, he held strongly the belief that “those who desired salvation should act like the trustee who, though having control over great possessions, regards not an iota of them as his own.”
A TRUSTEE! If you follow me on IG, you know I’ve been going on and on about this idea because it 👏🏽is 👏🏽CRITICAL 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽!! A trustee’s job after all, is not to figure out how to get the assets, but to simply remember, as Cope put it, “that the assets are to be used for one thing only: to maximize the mission.”
Let’s break this down: Let’s imagine that our 24 hours in our day was actually $24 and that we were our own mini organization that needed funding. The money was bestowed to us by some wealthy benefactor and, as a trustee of this $24/day, our only job is to use these funds to maximize our mission.
How would we spend this money differently knowing that it doesn’t belong to us but that we’ve been entrusted to use it wisely? Further, how would our commitments to our callings change when we realize that we aren’t in charge of finding the assets, just simply remembering where they are so that we can disperse them?
Do you feel like you hit the jackpot yet?! Because I do!!! With this knowledge, I see that I have a safety net. As long as I do my job and spend a bit of my $24 each day contributing to my mission, I know that I’ll be trusted to get another $24 tomorrow. I don’t have to build a brand in a day or run an empire, I just have to do what I can with $24. And when you think about, even the Oprahs and Beyoncés of the world are just doing what they can with their $24 every day. They, too, take little steps in the name of their missions each day that eventually compile and bring a grander vision to fruition. Granted they have about 800 people who also get $24 every day working for them but…I DIGRESS. You get the point: we can only do so much. And that’s a good thing!
When I read Gandhi’s message, I immediately realized that I don’t have to worry about judgement or rejection because, by putting myself out there every day, I’m simply doing my job. I don’t have to have any attachments to any outcome of my effort because it’s not even my assets that are on the line!
What burdens does this knowledge release for you? What fears can you let go of now that you know you don’t have to worry about your image, your reputation, or even your assets being on the line? How can you show up for your mission now that you realize you are really just working for it?
When we realize that we’re just a trustee, we also realize that we don’t have to be the development department. AKA we don’t have to obsess over developing our gifts before we can dive into our calling. All too often, we fall into the trap of thinking we are broken and need fixing before we can do great work in the world. Indeed it’s performing our calling every day NOT the search for an optimal self that brings us actual fulfillment. As Cope explains, “If you don’t find your work in the world and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it, you will inevitably make yourself your work. You will, in the very best case, dedicate your life to the perfection of your self…And the problem is simply this: This self-dedication is too small a work. It inevitably becomes a prison.” So remember, as a trustee, we aren’t in charge of finding the gifts. We just need to turn around every day and accept the gifts we’re being given.
How might a never-ending quest for self-development be hampering your ability to do your job as a trustee? How can you step out of the bondage of searching and get free now that you know to simply expect another $24 tomorrow?
And most importantly: How does your world shift when you realize this isn’t actually all hypothetical? After all, you actually do get 24 hours each day and you CAN devote that gift towards your mission… towards your calling…towards what makes you smile.