Did you know that you already have what you really want out of life? I mean what you really want out of life - not the next bright shiny object, job promotion, trophy relationship or other kind of external object of your desire. If you find yourself conflicted between what you think you want and what seems to really matter, perhaps the answer is as simple as waking up.
Building on the obvious conflict between immediate and delayed satisfaction which we discussed last week, disappointment can be found on either end of the immediate-delayed spectrum..
Surely you have experienced the temporary fulfillment that comes with giving into immediate pleasure seeking behaviors ranging from eating all the ice cream to, well, you can fill in the blanks. You're full for a moment, but that soon passes and now you need more. Even worse is the realization that you may have actually done harm to your body or to your moral character along the way.
On the flip side, if you put off fulfillment or meaningful engagement today in favor of an equally mirage-like illusion of a better future, then you may easily wind up wondering why you ever wanted that object of your focus in the first place. Have you been there? Of course you have.
Are You Asleep to What You Truly Want Out of Life?
In both my personal life as well as my work with others, I have discovered the best answers always seem to come from within. Truly useful answers require that you "awaken to who you already are."
Could you be sleeping, or at least sleepwalking, through your life? If so, then it's time to awaken. However, you don't need a jarring alarm clock to get the job done.
Awakening is a natural process. Anything that sleeps will awaken sooner or later. The metaphor of awakening is quite simple yet quite powerful. In order to awaken, you must have been previously asleep. Isn't that nice and Zen-like?
The problem with this obvious metaphor lies in moving from the simplistic realization or "aha" moment of awareness and into the messy and not-so-easy process of translating the basic wisdom into something you can actually do in your daily life.
If you suspect you could be sleepwalking through life, ask yourself what are you awakening from and moving toward? This is a powerful question-answer combination hiding in plain sight. As you awaken yourself you may discover that what you truly seek in life has always been with you -- you just fell asleep to it.
By way of example, we all know the lovely notion of "child-like innocence." Sure, there are some more base aspects of being childlike that are less than lovely (like getting caught in immediate gratification and the insensitivity that often accompanies the right-now mentality of the child). However, most children bring an innate curiosity, willingness to learn, and desire to engage to their daily lives. They also come equipped with a natural tendency to gravitate toward loving, joy and creative expression.
How are you doing in terms of curiosity, joy and loving, or creative expression? Did some part of you fall asleep to these natural aspects of yourself sometime in your past? Did you experience some bruising life lesson along the way and learn a cautionary lesson about being open, creative or engaging? If so, you may be in a place in your life now where (re)awakening to these natural aspects of yourself would serve a useful purpose - especially now that you have an adult level of awareness and understanding that can help you make better, less risky choices than might have been available to you as a child.
How to Awaken to What You Truly Want Out of Life
I have learned a simple set of questions that if asked as you continue to awaken, can help you wind up making better choices both in the short term and the long term. The questions are implied in a provocative statement the late Eric Hoffer used to offer in his many speeches and interviews, "You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy." I like to paraphrase him this way: you can never get enough of what you don't really want.
The implied questions, then, go something like this:
- What do you want?
- What experience are you hoping to find?
- What difference would that make to you?
- Why does that matter to you?
- What do you want?
For these questions to produce real meaning, you may have to cycle through them over and over a few times in order to allow a deeper level of awareness to filter up. Your Self-Talk will probably take over right from the start filling in answers ranging from the mundane (sex, money, more or better fill-in-the-blank) to the stereotypical (house, job, kids, etc). However, keep cycling these questions to yourself, asking more deeply each time "and why would that matter to me?" You can ask these questions as a mental process, or perhaps more powerfully as a focus for your next meditation.
As you stay with these questions, sooner or later you will begin to hear the soft voice of your Soul-Talk speaking from deeply within. Your Soul-Talk will undoubtedly focus more on the qualitative experiences of life that produce deeper levels of fulfillment than the temporal focus on the material world.
As you awaken to the qualitative experiences that you truly seek in life, two tricky questions follow: How do you produce these qualitative experiences and how can you produce them while going through the day-to-day reality of life in the world? If you find yourself struggling with these last two questions, you may once again be stuck in the dilemma of your Self-Talk speaking more loudly than your Soul-Talk. However, even if that's the case, you can still ask your Soul-Talk to keep speaking and do your best to listen more intently.
If you do so, you will be more than pleasantly surprised by how much more fulfillment you will discover in your daily life. The choice is always yours -- you can keep listening to the Self-Talk cautioning you against pursuing what matters most or you can listen to your Soul-Talk reminding that you already possess that which you seek.
I'd love to hear from you about how you have found ways to awaken yourself to what matters most in your life. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
You can buy Workarounds That Work here.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.