Through years and years of near incessant effort in progressing my life journey on the basis of academic and professional achievement, I had come to the simple-minded conclusion that my ability and focused effort were the sole determinants enabling my life’s outcomes. Applying a Newtonian approach to the life journey, I believed that the force and energy I apply directly and proportionally propel me forward and thus the greater my effort, so shall the output be.
One of the biggest emergent insights through meditation has been that I was only viewing the picture partially. I now believe that there are three distinct and equally important legs of the tripod that dictate outcomes in all aspects of my life. In order, these are starting point, environment and effort. In other words, it is a proportional combination of where we enter a situation, what the contextual (supportive or unconstructive) forces surround us in that set-up, and finally how we apply ourselves against the challenge at hand is what creates the outcomes.
Back to academic achievement as one personal example to illustrate this concept. If I had not been born to the parents who valued education as highly as they did, nor had the means to provide that learning opportunity, I would have been at a one-third deficit going into life (aside, naturally, from whatever innate abilities I came into the world with). Yet another third would have gone unaided had it not been for the caring support of teachers, mentors, friends, and relatives who helped nourish and cherish me throughout. So be it schoolmates with whom I had a special bond as kindred spirits, aunts and uncles who were great educators and took a deep personal interest in chiseling the raw intrinsic ability, or academicians in school and college who pushed me to be the very best that I could be while showering unconditional and unwavering support.
It is but only the final one third that can be attributed to the effort I put into sharing my journey and it is even hard to say if I would even have cultivated the dint of effort mindset had it not been for the first two ingredients of starting point benefit and supportive environment. While with this approach, it would be easy to take the glass half-empty (or more precisely two-thirds empty in this case) view of the situation as one can resign to the belief that since only a third of outcomes are derived from my effort, why try too hard? Quite the contrary, this insight has actually helped me to take the glass is one-thirds full approach in that if I only really control a third of my destiny through effort, I must as such triple my energies so as to maximize output on at least that score!
I find that these three sets of ingredients actually support and build on each other in inexplicable ways. For instance, the more I strive and invest time towards an objective or aim, the “starting point” for any future efforts becomes inherently stronger. The more I strive with a strong volition, the universe draws me towards like-minded people (and them towards me) who share the same noble purpose, which increases the “environmental support” I receive for my efforts to be successful. Overall, the “tripod of life” gem has been a big personal unlock. On the one hand, it has put my mind at ease that I can’t be too obsessed with outcomes and their correlation to my effort alone, since there are two other factors that contribute to my life’s outcomes. On the other hand, however, it has fueled yet greater effort on my part since that is really the only leg of the tripod that is in my direct control.