The best buildings are constructed on strong foundations. I think the same is true of people.
Using this perspective, what makes up a strong foundation?
I would argue that a strong foundation is built from strong materials and expert construction. This kind of foundation serves not only the original construction, but serves the opportunities for growth.
To me, the following materials are needed for optimal human foundations:
Integrity, Humility, Persistence, Enthusiasm, Joy, Wonder, Love, Purpose, and Gratitude.
If the foundation is strong and resilient enough, we build upon it to feel peace, fulfillment and happiness.
It also leads to health and longevity.
Let’s review these foundational elements.
Integrity is having no distance between what one says and does. It implies internal honesty and willingness to look at the truth from others’ eyes, as well as his/her own. Integrity is the stuff that trust is built on top of and is the major ingredient of authenticity. Being authentic is the critical step to self-actualization
Humility is the ability to act with reverence towards others and our world. It is the root of curiosity and leads the wise person to ask more questions and make fewer statements. It is the attribute of inner peace, as the more honest we each are, the more we realize how little we really know. It is estimated that the likelihood that any of us would be alive as ourselves on earth is 10 to the 2,640,000 power, which compares to the number of atoms (building blocks of all things) in the universe being 10 to the 80th power. Statistically, our life is an impossibility, but here we are. It is not hyperbole to say that each of us are indeed, a miracle. Wisdom leads us to more curiosity and wonder and less statements of fact and arrogance.
Persistence is the ability to get back off the floor and try again after failure. Remember, mastery is thought to be 10,000 hours of practice. Steve Jobs once said that the difference between successful and less successful people is pure persistence. Persistence is associated with optimism and a vision of a successful future. Jim Valvano, the late national championship-winning college basketball coach and namesake of the V Foundation for Cancer Research said, “Never, never, give up,” even as he was dying of cancer. Persistence is never giving up and looking for the next door to open, even if a previous one has closed.
Enthusiasm gives one the energy to tackle a project, activity or new day with vigor and energy. Enthusiasm is the engine of great teams and great people, yearning to move their cause and purpose forward each day. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm.” Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poet’s Society referred to carpe diem (seize the day.) Our enthusiasm helps us seize every day and elevate ourselves and others.
Joy gives us the emotional connection to our lives and activities that recharge our energy. Whether it is the joy of family, community, hobby, pet, music, art, nature or buying something for ourselves or others, joy leads to energy generation for others and regeneration for ourselves. A secret is to have joy for all things, even those that may initially feel negative. If looked at properly, these experiences are lessons that can help us clean up some of the darkness inside. To be in joy is a choice that we make consciously. If we find joys in miracles, we just need to start looking.
Wonder is the ability to look through the eyes of a child and be in love with each of our experiences. Do we often really taste the food we eat, savor the conversations or times we have with our friends and family or really see people as they are? I think not. Anais Nin, the poet and philosopher said wisely, “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” I believe that self-actualization, the highest achievement on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs is being able to see through our own eyes like we did when we were children again.
Love is the universal energy and is the thing that is the raw material of all things and people on our earth. Love lights us from the inside and connects all of us. I am not talking about romantic love, but the universal kind. The impact of love is transforming and to all of us, love is what we carry in our spirits and soul. Like the movie Ghost when the murdered Sam reappeared as a ghost to his girlfriend Molly and said, “It’s amazing Molly. The love inside, you take it with you.” I think we are love at our cores. Getting back in touch with it is healing.
Purpose is the reason to get out of bed each day and face a new day. It is the stuff of direction and draws our creativity and vision. In the Blue Zone areas of the world, a strong sense of purpose rises to the top of the attributes shared by the world’s oldest living people. The Japanese call this ikigai and pura vida in Costa Rica. Roy Spence, co-founder and CEO of The Purpose Institute, focuses on helping others find their purpose or their raison d’etre (reason for being). Finding one’s purpose is a blessing and a driving force for growth and longevity.
Gratitude may be the integrated foundational attribute of an evolved being. Understating what is graced and priceless to us is a condition that most do not find until they find them lacking – health, independence, freedom, strength, seeing, hearing, tasting, family, friends, safety, etc. We mostly get confused with stuff that really doesn’t matter – money, power, fame, position, address, title, etc. Understanding the difference between the signal and the noise in our life is to be blessed. A deep sense of gratitude leads to a really strong foundation and enables us to see and appreciate grace in our life.
These foundational elements provide ample support for the growth in one’s life.
Like Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Let’s appreciate every miracle, which is everything.