Thomas Merton once wrote: “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”
It's also true that most of us spend our time climbing the wrong direction; one friend recently told me, "I climbed to the top of the pinnacle only to sit down and realized how much it hurt."
Every spiritual tradition, at its heart, offers a downward pathway into the temple of the soul. If we cooperate with the life-journey, we may well learn the values of true wisdom:
depth rather than acquiring
awareness rather than ambition
wisdom rather than being right
humility not arrogance
gentleness not force
love not security
growth not comfort
relinquishment instead of clinging
A different, but wholly transforming way of being in the world.
And frankly, these are values not often learned until we travel the second half of life--a downward journey into limitation, physical decline, suffering, and eventually the final letting go, death.