~ Bruce Lee
There are a vast array of options for self-transformation available in the modern world. The realms of popular psychology and self-improvement provide a variety of theories and methodologies to help you awaken your potential, create fulfilling families and careers, and live a happy and satisfying life. In addition, popular culture and social media exposes you to celebrities, athletes, politicians, and thought leaders who espouse and endorse tools, programs, and techniques for helping you become your best self. However, in addition to the information overload this ocean of self-improvement options, there’s one big disadvantage—they’re based on someone else’s experience.
Your Subjective ExperienceDon’t take this the wrong way. It’s not as if those paths don’t have value or that you won’t benefit from exploring new methods or resources. Quite the contrary—there are countless tools that can prove immensely beneficial in creating a successful life. However, you must recognize that no matter what approach or practice you embrace, it will always be filtered through your subjective experience. When considering a new method or philosophy for self-improvement, you will do well to remember the slang acronym YRMV, or your results may vary.
Why should this be? Well, put simply, in this entire universe, there is no one like you. You are a wholly unique combination of DNA, attributes, abilities, and experiences who has never existed before or will ever exist again. Your specialness is absolute. Therefore, any strict cookie-cutter approach to finding happiness and success built upon the experiences of others may end up feeling hollow and inauthentic.
Understanding Your Karmic SoftwareAccording to Vedanta, your true nature is pure spirit. You are part of a vast ocean of consciousness that is the infinite potential of all that was, all that is, and all that ever will be. You are inseparably part of the unbounded sea of awareness; however, what makes each wave (you) unique is based upon the distinctive interplay of the components of your karmic software: action, memory, and desire.
Here’s how it works. Whenever you take an action (any action, such as starting an exercise routine, applying for a job, ordering a cup of coffee, or asking your loved one to marry you), that action generates a memory of that experience unique to you. That memory, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, will then influence your next desire. Will you take that same action again or do something different the next time? That desire affects the next action in the cycle as the process continues.
Over time (and perhaps lifetimes), the subtle imprints of your choices and their consequences get mapped deep into the level of your soul, molding you into a unique expression of universal consciousness. Like a cosmic fingerprint, your karmic software has sculpted you into a one-of-a-kind holographic representation of pure awareness.
Karma Gives Way to DharmaThe manifestation of your individuality through the karmic process is closely linked to your Dharma, or your purpose in life. As your karmic choices differentiate you, they spontaneously trigger the evolutionary drive of your soul to fulfill its purpose and do what it came here to do. As you are a unique expression of the universe so, too, you have a unique Dharma or way to help the universe to grow and evolve.
The root of the word Dharma means “to uphold,” so in doing your Dharmic duty, you are supporting and nurturing the well-being of the entire universe. This recognition is crucial because it’s what allows you to own your story. In so doing realize that you can’t follow someone else’s script. You quite literally can’t be someone you’re not. As Krishna reminds Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 47: It is better to perform one’s own duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another. By fulfilling the obligations one is born with a person never comes to grief.
Nor is your Dharma fulfilled by playing small. You have come together to uphold the universe in our own way—not timidly, but with courage, confidence, and conviction.
Tap into your uniqueness and the expression of your Dharma by following the following six steps.
1. Make Regular Contact with Your Higher SelfBefore you can set out on a personal path to fulfillment, you have to be firmly established in who you are at the level of your soul. Routinely diving deep into the field of non-local awareness through meditation, yoga, pranayama, or other contemplative practices will help you maintain a regular connection to your Higher Self.
2. Invoke Archetypal EnergiesExplore archetypal individuals who you feel intuitively drawn to, be they historical figures, characters in books or film, or modern personalities. Identify the qualities or attributes that inspire you to be like them. Common archetypal themes include:
- Wise sage
Draw on these qualities to help you form a vision of what your life is calling you to do.
3. Identify Your PassionsTake a step back and ask yourself, “What lights me up?” What are you excited to do or take part in? Your passions aren’t the result of neurons firing randomly in your brain; they are the expression of your spirit punching its way up into your daily life to get your attention and give you clues as to what’s important to you. Don’t worry if others aren’t excited about them—these are your passions. Use them as the fuel to guide your life in the direction it is meant to go.
4. Determine Your Unique Skills and TalentsDeep within, you know those things at which you naturally excel. This isn’t being vain or conceited. It’s simply recognizing that there are certain things you are good at. Just like your passions, your skills and abilities are no accident; they have arisen out of the unique blend of experiences and choices that make you who you are. Whatever your abilities are, no matter how insignificant you may think them, know that they are yours for a reason. Honor them, develop them, and play to your strengths.
5. Serve Others, Serve the WorldHaving rooted yourself in spirit as well as blended archetypal energies, passions, and unique skills and talents together, the next step is to put those qualities together in service of the greater good. Find a way to make the lives of others better, support your community, nurture the planet. Discovering your Dharmic niche may be challenging, but like following the clues to a great mystery story, unveiling the secret at the end makes the journey that much more rewarding.
Remind yourself that there are no spare parts in the universe, and like the piece of a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, there is somewhere incredibly special where only you fit. Find that place and the universe will reward you in ways you can’t imagine.
6. Celebrate Your DistinctivenessFinally, embrace your uniqueness as part of the amazing diversity of an infinite universe. Fulfilling your Dharmic duty is a way to support the world while expressing your individuality. Know that the role you play can’t be played by another and rejoice in the recognition of your unique Divinity, or as Howard Jones shares in his song “Specialty”:
'Bout time you realized
You are a specialty
There is no one like you
Spend your life worrying
'Bout what you could have been
Can't you like being you?
Armed with these steps, go confidently in the direction of your life’s calling. Follow the path laid down by Karma and Dharma, fueled by passion and purpose, to the undiscovered territory of your most fulfilling life, awaiting your arrival.
Discover your life's purpose and find freedom in releasing your dharma to the Divine in You and Your Dharma, a four-part series with Devi Brown, available now in the Chopra App.