When you’re in kindergarten and you behave well or you accomplish some task you get a gold star. In and of themselves, these gold stars are worthless. But they’re shiny, they represent your teacher’s approval and — perhaps most importantly — you stick them to a prominently displayed chart for your fellow students to see. Most adults never entirely outgrow this mentality. You do something productive like making money or cleaning the house or going to the dentist. There’s the unspoken idea you are somehow accumulating “points.” And somewhere down the line, the thinking goes, you get to trade in all these points for something you really want, kind of like redeeming your game coupons for prizes at Dave & Buster’s.
Accumulating anything — money, memories, accolades, good deeds, friends — does not lead to happiness. Saving up your gold stars now so you can enjoy them in the future is a losing proposition because the future never arrives.
The good news is, you don’t require more points or more gold stars. But it can take some significant deprogramming to realize this. Try meditating. Try leaving your cell phone at home. Try sitting on your back porch and listening to the grass grow. As they say in Tibetan Buddhism, There is nowhere to go, nothing to do. You don’t need to earn your place on the universe. You–exactly as you are–are absolutely essential to All That Is.