Several years ago I listened to spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, talk about when he consciously chose to let go of many of his material possessions. He said the freedom he felt was incredible. He reached a point where he didn't need to define himself by outward evidence.

I found it an interesting concept, but was in no way willing to do this myself. At that point in my life, I had gone through several periods where my material possessions where removed from my life, more by my unconscious actions rather than a conscious chose. These were very painful periods for me which left me confused, feeling like a victim of circumstances and wondering if I would ever turn my life around.

By the time I was thirty, I had acquired enough to feel like I had it going on. Amazingly, after acquiring quite a bit, at that point I did make a conscious choice to let go of my worldly goods and begin a spiritual sabbatical. I had been "in search of" for several years, but this time, I felt a calling to dig deeper.

The journey I was about to begin was one of major self discovery that took me from Berkeley, California to the West Bank of Israel where I lived for the next six months. It took three months to get to Israel from when I first left California.

After feeling I was ready to reenter the culture I was most accustomed to and confident I would not be attached to the outward trappings life often offers, I made a choice to return to the Bay Area of California. It certainly didn't take long for me to get right back into a life where I defined my success or failure by what I owned and what awards and recognitions I received.

It seemed the more I was recognized for "achievement" the more I craved it. Little did I realize that nothing outward would fill this craving.

I have since then discovered it is definitely an inside job. My spiritual quest continued as I studied many of the greats. I so wanted the answer to when I would know I had arrived. Little by little I was getting glimpses of the answer, but something was still missing. I wasn't sure what.

A couple of years ago I was listening to Wayne Dyer where he was sharing how he made a decision to let go of those things that he had used in the past to define who he was such as plaques that he got for some particular award. As he spoke I thought, "Hmmm. Easy for you to say, but I'm definitely not ready to let go of all those business awards I worked so hard to get." By this point receiving recognitions and awards had become as familiar to me as daily breathing. It was simply a part of where my career had gone. I was arriving. Or so I thought.

Fast forward to today. As is the practice for many people at the beginning of a new year, I do a major clearing of things I have gathered over the last year or so. This year had a completely different feel to it than years past. Maybe it has to do with my age. Perhaps it has to do with the passing of my father a few months ago. Or maybe I have arrived, but not in the place I thought I needed to in order to feed the craving.

As I began the process of cleaning out the closet that is the "it goes in here because I may need it one day" I found several boxes with awards I received over the last few decades. As I looked in each of the boxes, I realized I had no attachment to any of them.

Not that I don't appreciate what it took to earn these, but I realized it is time to let them go. After over thirty years of trying to "get it" and find the answer, the answer had been revealing itself, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

Ironically, I was listening to Wayne Dyer during much of this process today of cleaning the closet and my office. When he got to the part about letting go of the things that define us, I couldn't help but smile. I realized I had the answer and had had it for quite some time.

The answer is simply who I am (and who any of us are for that matter) is not defined by the outward evidence. And yet, paradoxically, our outward evidence is a reflection of our beliefs.

What I also know to be true is when we are not attached to who we think we are based on our ego, yet we recognize our ego is a part of who we are, life becomes much simpler and easier.

I also know, when all is said and done and the next leg of my journey begins, I can't take any of it with me. This truth became very evident as my father transitioned to the next leg of his journey. The only thing that mattered at that point was saying my final goodbyes and knowing in my heart of hearts our life is defined most clearly by our capacity to share, love and bring joy to others.

How do you define who you are?

Author's Bio: 

Discover success insights from experts around the globe who are out there making a difference and making a great living in the process. Kathleen Gage interviews the best of the best with Power Up for Profits Podcast.