Rudderless. That's how we can feel sometimes. Like we're navigating turbulent seas without direction or purpose. And that can sometimes feel exhilarating, liberating; kind of a choose-your-own-adventure ride. But more often, it feels downright scary. Fertile ground for self-doubt and let down.
This was true for me when I left my job after twenty years to explore my creativity. I mean, where was I headed? What was my plan? Why on earth did I feel so entitled to abandon structure, systems...salary? I was so used to following my life's project plan - with its clear progression, outlining what the world projected onto me as successful achievement - following a different path seemed crazy.
Until my coach, gave me this very simple piece of advice:
"Do what makes me feel alive."
At first, it honestly didn't make sense to me. The concept felt so whimsical and woo woo. Really? I'm supposed to just find my way through all of this unnavigable terrain by just...being alive?
And indeed, yes. That's it. It is that simple. And yet almost all of us are making choices and changes based on false perceptions of self worth. We're crashing into each other through all the smoke and mirrors our egos say validate us.
Got enough Facebook likes? Check.
Going on that fancy vacation? Check.
Have the job with at the big corporation with the bloated title? Yep.
Following all the systemic and social rules like a good little Americans? Uh huh.
I'm not suggesting we go rogue against all of the normalcy we're subscribed to. Jobs and family and money and structure are good things! Our society is built on them and there should absolutely be gratitude for that. But we can do both. We can have it all - both the practical everyday life stuff and the 'extracurricular' things that light up our soul's desire.
So I ask you: What sits quietly inside your heart, asking for a play date? What are the things that make you feel whole when you do them? Aligned and satiated?
For me it's writing and performing. They are absolute bliss. When I'm writing - no matter the subject or format - I am honoring my aliveness. Being in front of an audience, too, totally lights me up and makes me happy from the inside out. It literally comes from my soul and takes over every molecule of my being. I can't explain it, but there it is. Aliveness.
I've established a practice to ensure I come home to these two creative loves of mine; to make sure that what I'm signing on for in life supports them in some way. I just pause (sometimes in meditation) and ask my heart a question: will this bring me closer to my aliveness? Sometimes, I get a clear "hell yes!" Other times, a firm "no." But I'm always checking in with myself for those answers.
And it works! Trust me.
Some of us are crystal clear on what we truly love ("Of course! I've always wanted to be an ostrich trainer!") Many of us need a little help figuring it out.
I suggest free writing - ideally by hand vs. computer. There's just something special about letting your inner self shine through your heart and your hand on real, old school paper; unfiltered and unedited. Just write. Start from nothing. Or if that's tricky, write a letter to yourself from your Desire. Something like this: Dear (your name), this is your Desire and I want to tell you all the things you do that I love most... We did something like this at my Brave Magic retreat last summer with Liz Gilbert and Cheryl Strayd and it was pretty life changing.
Meditation works beautifully too - either by simply following your breath, and/or incorporating soft inquiry to your intuition through mantra. Something like, "What is my soul's desire?" or "What is it my heart longs to do?"
Walks in the woods, talks with good friends and trusted family or hey, just taking a look at all the stuff you do in life - creative or otherwise - and thinking a bit on how they make you feel. Then take all those that make you feel amazing and do more and more and more of them! Dance, sing, write, research, design, paint, calculate, perform, teach. All of it!
On a podcast I'm newly obsessed with called Truth Telling With Elizabeth Dialto, Elizabeth mentioned a bumper sticker she loved. It said, "If not for love, then why?" I freaking love that. And it got me thinking about being alive, in the context of all we're exploring here.
Because...If not for aliveness, then why?