What is gratitude?
It’s a conscious mental state, a deep and joyful feeling of the heart and a mindful effort not to take anything to anyone for granted. It’s when the soul is simply happy with little or much, small or big, pretty of ugly, sweet or bitter, and etc…It’s just the act of learning how to appreciate each moment or situation with a thankful attitude.
INSPIRATION: Early 1920's Circus Posters
MODEL: Chuckles the Clown
©Disney / Pixar
I was having a discussion with a friend recently who is holding himself back from doing the purposeful work he thinks he wants to pursue.
What’s holding him back?
Fear of putting himself out there in public. Fear of failure. Fear of being judged. Fear of choosing the wrong path. Fear of not being good enough.
Do any of these fears sound familiar? They’re very common, and hold a lot of people back from pushing themselves into the discomfort and uncertainty of meaningful work.
These fears cause us to procrastinate, distract ourselves, comfort ourselves with food and social media and shopping and games, avoid even thinking about it, and beat ourselves up for not doing anything.
If we could deal with these fears, we’d be rock stars.
I’d like to share a few techniques that will help, if you put them into practice.
Exposure Therapy: Don’t Start at the Superbowl
Most people make the mistake of imagining themselves at the scariest part of the journey of their meaningful work — speaking in front of a huge crowd if you want to do public presentations, having an audience of hundreds of thousands of people if you want to write a blog or do a podcast, managing a huge team if you want to run a non-profit organization.
But that’s like wanting to be a football player and starting at the Superbowl. You’re not ready for that kind of pressure. Instead, start with youth football, high school football, and then college football before even considering the big leagues.
If you’re an author, this means just write one blog post. No one will read it at first, so there’s no pressure. Then write another.
If you want to do public speaking, just speak in front of a few friends. Then a group of 10 people. One small step at a time, and you’ll get more and more prepared as you do each step.
This is known as “exposure therapy” — exposing you gradually to the thing you fear, starting with the least scary version of it. It is quite effective, and you can use it by structuring your progress gradually, starting very small.
Allow Yourself to Feel the Fear
This is where we bring in mindfulness — when you’re feeling fear, instead of turning away from it or trying to escape/avoid it … try turning towards it. Actually allow yourself to feel the fear. We don’t often want to feel it, but we have a greater capacity to feel fear than we give ourselves credit for.
Try it: notice how the fear feels in your body. Not your story about it, but the actual physical sensations of the fear in your body. Allow yourself to stay with it, to be with it, to tell yourself that it’s OK. Be friendly towards yourself and the feeling of fear, gentle, curious, open.
You will transform your relationship with it, even if it doesn’t go away. In fact, you’ll start to realize that you don’t need to get rid of the fear, you don’t need to do anything about it. It’s not a problem, it’s just a feeling, just an experience, just a part of the meaningful work you want to do.
Practice Dropping Your Ego
Fear comes up because we have a story about what might happen to us — for example, “If I try to write this book (or start this business), I’ll fail, people will judge me, because I’m not good enough.” (The last part might not be vocalized but is underlying the story.) This is natural, and it’s good to notice what our story is, to become more aware of it, and then to start to see its power over us.
Once we become more aware of the story, we can practice dropping it. And dropping the ego (self-centeredness) that is at the center of the story. How? By dropping into the present moment, becoming aware of the sensations of the body, the breath, the fear, and everything that surrounds you.
Dropping into the present moment, becoming fully immersed in what is happening right now, our ego drops away. The story about what might happen drops away. We can’t think about both at the same time. So the story will come back (along with our self concern) and then we practice dropping everything again and being present. Arise and drop, over and over, until we get good at letting go and being here.
Being in the present, we can do the work. Take the next step. Not worry about ourselves, but instead take action for the sake of the people we most deeply want to serve.
Open, Open, Open to Joy
So we’re taking small steps (exposing ourselves gradually to the fear), we’re feeling the fear, we’re dropping the ego and stepping into the present … now from this place, we can practice opening.
What is practicing opening like? Imagine that you have to do the hard work to get your meaningful project started. You feel the fear and resistance, stay present with it, but open to the action of the task in front of you. You become fully present with the task, opening your mind and heart to it. You start to fully appreciate the beauty and joy of the task, opening yourself to this incredible experience, which might include discomfort, uncertainty, fear and resistance. All of it.
It’s all mixed in with the joy and gratitude you feel for being here, now, with this task. Doing it for people you care about. It’s fantastic, and you have the privilege of being able to do it.
The more I talk to people about their struggles, the more I realize that we all have some sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves.
I have it, and I’d be willing to bet everyone reading this does too. Consider some of the ways we’re dissatisfied with ourselves:
We constantly have a feeling that we should be better, doing more, more productive, more mindful, and so on.
We doubt ourselves when we have to speak in a group or in public, and feel that we’re not good enough to contribute.
We are unhappy with certain aspects of ourselves, like our bodies, the way our faces look, the way we procrastinate or get angry or lose patience as a partner or parent.
We think we need to improve.
This is a constant condition, and even if we get a compliment from someone, we find a way to undercut it in our minds because we think we’re not good enough for that compliment.
It affects our lives in so many ways: we might not be good at making friends, speaking in public or in a group, finding a partner, doing the work we’re passionate about, finding contentment with ourselves and our lives.
And we don’t like feeling this way, so we run. We find distraction, comfort in food or alcohol or drugs or shopping, lash out at other people when we’re feeling defensive about ourselves. It’s at the heart of nearly all of our problems.
So how do we deal with this underlying problem? The answer is profoundly simple, yet not easy.
Before I go into dealing with the problem, we should discuss something first — the idea that we need to be dissatisfied with ourselves to make life improvements.
Unhappiness with Self as a Motivator
I used to think, as many people do, that if we’re unhappy with ourselves, we’ll be driven to get better. And if we were all of a sudden content with ourselves, we’d stop doing anything.
I no longer believe this. I do think we’re often driven to make improvements because we’re dissatisfied with ourselves, and that’s not a bad thing. We have hope for something better.
When we are unhappy with ourselves, it’s hard to be happy when we do something good. We’re still dissatisfied. So doing something good, then, isn’t the reward it could be.
We have habits of running from this bad feeling about ourselves, so procrastination and distraction become the default mode, and this gets in the way of our efforts. In fact, we’ll never solve the problems of distraction and procrastination until we can learn to deal with this problem of unhappiness with self.
Unhappiness with self can get in the way of connecting with others (because we think we’re not good enough, and so can feel anxiety about meeting others). We can’t solve this, no matter how much we want to improve, until we address the underlying issue.
Even when we make an improvement, the feeling of dissatisfaction with self doesn’t go away. So we try to improve some more, and it still doesn’t go away. In my experience, it never does, until you’re ready to face it head on.
During this awesome period of self improvement driven by dissatisfaction, we don’t love ourselves. Which is a sad thing.
So is it possible to get things done and make improvements without dissatisfaction with self? I’ve discovered that the answer is a definite “yes.”
You can exercise and eat healthy not because you dislike your body and want to make it better … but because you love yourself and want to inspire your family. You can do work out of love for the people it will help. You can declutter, get out of debt, read more, and meditate not because you’re dissatisfied with yourself … but because you love yourself and others.
In fact, I would argue that you’re more likely to do all of those things if you love yourself, and less likely if you dislike yourself.
Dealing with Dissatisfaction
What can we do about our continual dissatisfaction with ourselves? How do we deal with self-doubt, feeling like we’re not good enough, unhappiness with certain parts of ourselves?
It turns out that these feelings are perfect opportunities — to learn about ourselves and how to be friends with ourselves.
Each time we have these feelings, we can pause and just notice.
Turn towards the feeling, seeing how it feels in your body. Be curious about how it feels, physically.
Instead of running from this feeling, stay with it. Instead of rejecting it, try opening up to it and accepting it.
Open yourself up to the pain of this feeling, and see it as a path to opening up your heart. In this way, getting in touch with the pain is a liberating act.
See this difficult feeling as a sign of a good heart, soft and tender and loving. You wouldn’t care about being a good person, or a “good enough” person, if you didn’t have a good heart. There is a basic goodness beneath all of our difficulties, and we just need to stay and notice this goodness.
Smile at yourself, and cultivate an unconditional friendliness to all that you see.
Now, I’m not claiming that this is an easy method, nor that it will cure our difficulties in one fell swoop. But it can start to form a trusting relationship with yourself, which can make an amazing difference.
I recommend that you practice this each time you notice self-criticism, self-doubt, unhappiness with yourself, harshness towards what you see in yourself. It only has to take a minute, as you face what you feel and stay with it, with unconditional friendliness.
If you really want to focus on this powerful change, reflect on it once a day by journaling at the end of the day, reviewing how you did and what you can do to remember to practice.
In the end, I think you’ll find that love is a more powerful motivator than unhappiness with yourself. And I hope you’ll find a friendship with yourself that will radiate out into your relationships with everyone else you know and meet.
The more I work with people who are struggling with habits or life problems, the more I see how fears are holding us back.
Fears stop us from building healthy and productive habits. Fears cause us to procrastinate, keep us from finding work that is meaningful (or doing that work if we’ve found it). Fears keep us from finding friends or connecting with people on a deeper level. Fears keep us from being happy in each moment.
Underlying all of those fears are a few key fears:
Fear of failure or being unprepared
Fear of uncertainty
Fear of being inadequate or being rejected
The two key fears are the fears of uncertainty and not being good enough, and in my experience, they’re both the same thing. We’re afraid of the uncertain future (and uncertain situations) because we don’t think we’re good enough to handle whatever might come out of the chaos.
These two fears (uncertainty and inadequacy) affect our lives in so many ways, and yet we rarely face them. We don’t want to feel these fears, so we run. We distract ourselves. We keep busy instead of being still to feel them. We find comfort in food and smoking and alcohol and TV.
In the end, the running doesn’t work, but only makes things worse.
There’s an alternative: the Path of Fearlessness.
Three Keys to Developing Fearlessness
What would our lives be like if we didn’t have fear holding us back?
We might find the freedom and joy that comes in being present with each moment.
We might find the underlying goodness that’s always there in each of us.
We might be able to finally live the lives we’ve always wanted to live.
So how do we walk this Path of Fearlessness?
Three practices to work with:
Facing the fear mindfully. The truth is, we rarely allow ourselves to feel our fears. We run from them, pretend they aren’t there, distract ourselves, lash out at others, trying to find control. But we don’t even admit we have these fears, most of the time, let alone actually allow ourselves to feel them. So the practice is to just sit there when you notice yourself feeling any fear, and see if you can stay with it for awhile. Don’t stay with the story about the fear in your head, but rather how it feels in your body. See that it is stressful or painful or uncomfortable. Notice the particular physical feeling of this fear, this time. See if it changes. See what you can learn about it. See if you can be compassionate with it.
Seeing your underlying goodness. As we sit in meditation, we can see that this moment is actually pretty wonderful. And this moment includes ourselves. We are part of the unconditional goodness of every single moment, and if we sit still we can start to feel that. There is goodness in our hearts, all the time, if we allow ourselves to feel it. There is the ability to appreciate and wonder, to feel and to love, to be present and to be grateful. Start to appreciate this, and you’ll start to develop confidence that you’ll be OK, even in uncertainty, even if you’re being judged, even if you put yourself out there with vulnerability.
Embracing the joy of groundlessness. Uncertainty is scary because we don’t like the feeling of not having stable ground under our feet. We want certainty, control, stability, permanence … but life is filled with uncertainty, impermanence, shakiness, chaos. This causes the fear. Instead, we can start to embrace this uncertainty, see the beauty in impermanence, see the positivity of groundlessness. This uncertainty means we don’t know what will happen, which means we can be surprised by every moment! We can be filled with curiosity about what will emerge. We can reinvent ourselves each moment, because nothing is set, nothing is determined. There is joy in this groundlessness, if we embrace it.
No, these are not easy practices. But you can practice with them right now, and set aside a few minutes each morning to practice. You’ll see your confidence emerge, your fears dissipate a bit, your ability to appreciate each moment and yourself grow.
The Path of Fearlessness is one of mindfulness, of daily practice, and of finding the courage to face and push past the fears into joy.
These past two weeks have been hectic and exhausting for me. I’ve been in non-stop planning, coordinating, designing, cleaning, and traveling around mode.
Yesterday it was a long, tiring and busy day. Incredibly tiring, but busy.
In the midst of this busyness, I’ve been trying to remember the practice of “continual letting go.”
I see it as a Zen practice: whatever you think you know, let go of it. Whatever you are sure of, let go of it. My mantra is: You know nothing. The result is that when I remind myself of this, I try to see things from a fresh perspective. I realize that I think I know something but I don’t really, and so I try to see it as if I don’t know.
What’s the point of this? By continually letting go, we don’t have to be so stressed out. When we realize we don’t know:
We don’t have to be mad when someone is acting in a way we don’t like.
We don’t have to have anxiety when we don’t know if things will go as planned or hoped.
We don’t have to have all the answers. We can have questions and curiosity instead.
We don’t have to get into a tense “No I’m right” battle with anyone else.
We don’t judge other people as much, so we can be open to who they are and have a good relationship with them.
We don’t have to control things, but can instead just try to be helpful without controlling the outcome.
The benefit of this is that by continually letting go of what I think things should be, of what I think I know, of needing to have control or certainty … I can just let go and relax. I can do my best, but not stress out about it when things don’t go my way.
I don’t have to be afflicted by anything. I can be busy, but not afflicted by that busyness. I can be tired, but not afflicted by the fact of my tiredness. I can have things go differently than I planned, but not be afflicted by that fact. The first conditions (busy, tired, things not going as planned) are not always in my control. But I can let go of knowing, and so not be afflicted by any of these conditions. Being afflicted by the conditions of life is what causes our real problems.
So in the midst of tiredness, busyness, chaos … I try to remember to let go, continually.
When someone comes to me with something unexpected, I try to let go of what I thought the situation was. Then I open up to this new situation, with fresh eyes.
When someone is cross with me or grumpy, I try to let go of how I think they should be acting. And then be curious about why they’re acting that way, and love them in the midst of their suffering.
When things are messy or disorderly, not the way I like them, I try to let go of the way I think things should be. Then I try to see the situation with fresh eyes, understanding that there will always be chaos and mess, and that this too can be loved.
I see that I’m stressed and holding onto the way I want things to be, and so I tell myself I know nothing. And I let go. Then something else comes up and tightness comes up in my body, and I notice this and try to let go. I breathe, smile, and open up. I see things as a beginner. It happens again and again, often from one moment to the next, and I try to continuously let go, let go, let go.
And by letting go of what I know, I’m opening myself up to what’s in front of me. This unfolding moment of unexpectedness.
And it is truly magnificent.
Imagine a man who serves everyone around him deeply, so powerfully that they are all filled with their own sense of purpose. But he only does this when he is in the right mood, when he’s not distracted by online articles, when he’s not tired or lonely, when he’s not criticized by those around him and when his house and office are perfectly clean.
Those he fills with a sense of their own purpose would be less filled. Those he gives his love to would be deprived, because he has such a narrow range of when he’s willing to push himself to offer his gift to others.
This is how most of us live our lives. Shrinking from the challenge of focusing on our purpose-filled work, because we’re tired or sad or anxious or stressed, because we’re allowing ourselves to be distracted and pulled in thousands of directions.
This is our failing, and it’s our opportunity for growth.
When you are “not feeling it,” and are procrastinating on focusing on your purpose … this is a time to notice how you feel, notice that you’re shrinking away because you aren’t in the perfect mood … and then expand yourself.
You expand by:
Opening up your heart in the middle of pain or stress, and allowing yourself to fully feel. Don’t shrink away, but find the courage to be incredibly present with whatever you’re feeling.
Feeling love for your experience, for whatever is causing you stress or pain, and not rejecting it. Seeing it as your teacher, your beautiful practice ground.
Reminding yourself of the gift you need to offer the world. Reminding yourself of your purpose. Bringing your open heart to that work.
Pushing yourself into the discomfort of focusing on that purpose, even if you are feeling sad or hurt or frustrated or distracted. Pushing yourself into the discomfort of saying no to all the distractions and busywork, and just doing what you need to do to offer your gift.
This is your challenge, in every moment. Expand your range by not needing conditions to be perfect. Not needing everything to be in order. Not needing to have all your messages responded to, all your inboxes and social media checked, all your articles read, all your crumbs swept up, before you dive into your purpose.
Expand your range by not allowing yourself to shrink. It’s like putting yourself in arctic conditions, in desert conditions, and practicing your art despite the unhappiness.
In fact, you use the unhappiness and chaos to offer your gift. You take that stress and pain, and you turn it into love. That brilliance is a part of your gift.
Let’s look at some specific practices for expanding your range of conditions so that you are no longer robbing the world of what you have to offer.
Practices to Expand Yourself
Once a day (to start with), create a space for practicing. Set yourself some purpose-filled work to do. Then try these practices:
Notice what you’re feeling. Are you tired, stressed, frustrated, angry, sad, lonely, distracted, hurt, anxious? Then fully feel it. Forget about everything else in the world and just be fully present with whatever you’re feeling. Not the narrative in your head about what you’re feeling, but the actual physical feeling in your chest, stomach, head.
Open your heart to that feeling. Love it. Don’t reject it, wish it would go away, try to get rid of it. Just freakin’ love it. And love its cause: the work stressing you out, the person who criticized you, the unhappy situation in your life. Love it as if it were the most beautiful thing on Earth. Which it is.
Open your heart in the middle of this discomfort, and then take the first step in doing your work. Do the first small action, the tiniest movement, in the middle of these arctic conditions. See it as training for your heart. Courage training. Hold your heart open as you do it, keeping in mind who you’re serving.
Love even fiercer as you do the next small step. Don’t let your people down. Imagine that you would die for them, do anything to serve them, and that you hold them powerfully in your heart.
Repeat these practices every day. See your range grow. See your gift grow out into the world, unhindered by life’s impediments. Sing your song powerfully and courageously, lifting up every soul around you. Then bow in gratitude to your practice.
Mac Miller has died of an apparent drug overdose, according to TMZ. The 26-year-old rapper, who has battled substance abuse in the past, was found by police today (Sept. 7) at around noon in his San Fernando Valley home and was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities were reportedly alerted by a friend who placed a 911 call from Miller’s home.
Last month, Mac released his latest album, Swimming, a 13-track LP that features guest spots from Thundercat, Syd and Snoop Dogg. Back in May, Mac Miller was arrested after being hit with DUI and hit-and-run charges.
As I write this, I’ve been dealing with a couple of hardships... right in the middle of traveling, sleep difficulties, big life changes, a workload that’s piling high, and more.
As you might imagine, there is a way of seeing all of this as stressful, annoying, difficult, and just generally sucky. I don’t see it that way at all, but it’s easy to get into that mindset, which means it all becomes that much more stressful.
When you’re in a state of stress or tiredness, it can also be easy to get annoyed at little things — the dog barking or construction noises outside, people making rude comments or being late (yet again), tech problems and the state of national politics. Yep, all of these and much more can be super annoying.
But being constantly annoyed isn’t good for us. We not only become less happy, we are less pleasant to our loved ones, less open to the world, less devoted to what we care most about, less focused on the important work we’re doing in the world.
Maybe we should get people to change, to be less frustrating, more on time for meetings, less inconsiderate! Yes, helping people to make positive changes is a good idea, but waiting to be happy until everyone and everything changes to the way you want them to be is a good way to be constantly unhappy and even more frustrated.
Let’s not wait until the world changes to be happy.
Instead, let’s shift. I’m going to give you a simple practice, and a mantra, for dealing with every single annoyance on Earth.
First, a Simple Practice
When you’re annoyed, it’s a little pain. OK, sometimes a big pain. It’s a hurt that you react to with irritation, frustration or anger.
The first step is to deal with the hurt. And a simple loving-kindness meditation (as corny as that might sound to some of you) is a good healing treatment.
There are longer versions of this meditation, but here’s a simple version:
- Sit still for a moment. Notice the irritation or hurt. Notice how it feels, and stay with that sensation for a moment.
- Now, with a feeling of genuine kindness and love, say to yourself, “May I find an end to my pain. May I be happy.” Try to genuinely wish this for yourself.
- Repeat it several times, until it feels very genuine. Feel free to repeat it a few more times if it helps.
If you have a hard time wishing yourself happiness, start with someone who you love unconditionally — picture them in your mind, and send them a genuine wish: “May they find an end to their suffering. May they be happy.” Remember how this genuine wish feels, and then send it to yourself in the same way.
This can take just 10 seconds. And it helps you feel a little less difficulty.
Where Our Annoyance Comes From
Before we get into the mantra, it’s important to understand why we get annoyed in the first place. I know, it’s the other person’s fault, right? They’re being rude, inconsiderate, late, or just plain wrong.
But actually annoyances come from a way of interpreting the world. And it’s not helpful to us most of the time.
Here’s an example: this person is always late. This fact isn’t a problem in itself — it’s a problem because we interpret it that way.
The annoyance comes from a way of seeing this situation: “Their being late is inconsiderate! Why don’t they think of how it’s affecting me? Why can’t they take just a little time to make sure they show up on time, as I have?”
But this way of seeing the situation has a deeper layer that applies to other situations: “When people/the world aren’t how I want them to be, it’s annoying/frustrating/painful/sucky.”
When people don’t act the way we want them to act, we find this painful and frustrating. When the world isn’t the way we want it, we find it frustrating.
As you can imagine, this isn’t helpful. It makes us less happy, it makes us like people (and the world around us) less, it hurts our relationships and our work in the world.
So what we need is a new filter. We’ll accomplish that with a mantra.
A Mantra to Shift the World
The filter of how we see things, explained above, is not helpful. So we need a new one.
A filter of reality I’ve found useful is: “I celebrate the gorgeous divinity in every person and every thing.”
Imagine that — every single person is filled with a gorgeous divinity. The entire world, every object and every being, is filled with the same divinity.
What do I mean by “divinity”? If you’re religious, you already have a meaning of that word, but if you’re not, it can still have a powerful meaning. Even if you’re an atheist, you can see a godlike quality in the trees, the wind, the people you love, cherry blossoms falling to the ground, light filtering into your home in the early morning. There is a divinity in everything around us, if we choose to see and appreciate it.
So create a mantra that reminds you of that fact. Maybe, “Everything is filled with an awesome divinity! Hell yeah!”
Repeat the mantra to yourself during the day. Yell it out if you find a good space to do that. Say it with the enthusiasm it deserves!
The world around us, and every being in it, is filled with a gorgeous divinity that we can celebrate, fall in love with, moment to moment.
Even the rude people — it can be more of a challenge seeing the divinity in someone when they’re being an ass, but you’re up to the challenge. See the good heart underneath their reactiveness, the pain underneath their anger, the years of difficulty and stress that have resulted in them being who they are. And then see the beauty in their humanity, the sweetness in the connection between the two of you.
Life shifts when you practice this mantra. People become incredible beings filled with the wonders of the cosmos. Your heart becomes filled with joy and gratitude, and their being late becomes an opportunity to see what a gift it is that they are here with you at all.
Our days are often filled with things we have to do, and things we do to comfort ourselves from the stress and tiredness from doing what we have to do … so we end up putting off what we really want to do.
Think about that for a second: our days are filled with have to do stuff, and comforting stuff. With very little room for things we love to do.
When will we find time to do what we love? When when things calm down, when the visitors leave and the trips we have planned are finished and the holidays are over and this busy project is wrapped up and the kids are grown up and we’re retired? Maybe when we’re dead there will be more time.
There will never be more time. Things are not going to change, get calmer or less busy. There will always be projects, trips, chores, errands, visitors, holidays, illness and death. What we’ve been stuck in for the last few months, the last few years — that’s exactly how life goes.
The challenge isn’t waiting for something to change … it’s making the time no matter what’s going on.
What do you really want to do, that you’ve been putting off? What do you love? What makes you happy, replenishes you, fills you up with joy, helps you fall in love with life? What connects you to the eternal? What is it that you feel you must do because life is too precious not to do it?
- Going for a beautiful walk
- Meditating, doing yoga, journaling, reflecting
- Hiking, biking, running, climbing, rowing, traipsing about
- Creating, making, building, crafting, blogging, vlogging, logging, hogging
- Communing with nature
- Communing with loved ones
- Communing with yourself
- Creating or growing a business, a venture, an organization, a community
- Making others’ lives better
- Working on a skill
So you’ve identified something you love doing, but you’ve been putting it off until the time is right … can you do it today?
What would open up in you if you knew for a certainty you were going to do this thing you love today? Even if only for 30 minutes?
Carve out that time. Do it now! Leo said so. Put it on your calendar, write a love note to yourself so you don’t forget, set a reminder, tell people you’re going to do it. And make. It. Happen.
Cut out some TV time. Cut out some Internet time. Cut out some time you spend on Facebook, messaging, email, chat, chores, shooting the breeze, drinking alcohol, smoking pot, eating snacks, whatever. Find the time, as if it were an imperative from the gods.
Make it something you can’t not do, because it’s so crucial to your life.
Do it every day for the next month, and see what changes. I challenge you to do it.
The other day, I was thinking about what advice I’d give to my future children as they think about what work they want to do in the world, as they grow up … and at first, I thought of the usual ways people think about it …
Try to do something to help others or make the world better, that you might enjoy.
Before you move on, consider the possibilities of serving others or making the world a better place:
- Volunteering to help the elderly, the homeless, underprivileged children, disaster relief, building homes for the homeless, taking care of animals, etc.
- Becoming a doctor or nurse or massage therapist or physical therapist or fitness trainer because you really want to help heal people or make them healthy.
- Taking care of children, teaching or studying child counseling, because you really want to help children get a great start in life, or blossom into who they want to be.
- Becoming an entrepreneur, or learning to program and then starting an app company that will change the world in a better way.
- Getting into government or social work to improve the conditions of the community you live in.
- Writing or coaching or teaching people online to help them solve their problems, improve their lives.
- Making fun spaces, restaurants, activities, hikes, so that people can find joy in their lives.
- Becoming a yoga or meditation teacher so people can find peace in their lives.
- Becoming a scientist to help alleviate the environmental crisis or find a cure for a terrible disease.
And so on. Each of these are just one of many possibilities of making someone’s life better, of serving a community, of making the world better. Each of them is filled with purpose, and if you choose one of them for that purpose, you will serve in that work feeling a sense of purpose each day.
There are endless ways to do that, of course — you could be a manager that serves a team, a customer service representative that puts smiles on people’s faces, a web designer that helps businesses shine online, and so forth. The point isn’t how you serve the world, but just serving the world in some way will help you feel filled with purpose.
If you choose a purposeful job that also seems like fun, that seems enjoyable, you’re way further along than most people.
It doesn’t have to be a typical job, either. You can volunteer or create something that doesn’t exist in your area (a place for peace and relaxation, a place for adults to play, a place for animal lovers to connect to each other), you could just connect other people of similar interests and make their lives better through connection and community. These don’t seem like typical jobs, but I bet you that if you served people in these (and other) ways, you’ll eventually find a career doing that, a career that feels purposeful and beautiful. It can take awhile to actually make a living doing it, but it will very likely happen. And even if it doesn’t, you still served people in a wonderful way, and were happy doing it.