I'm not a fan of cliches. I certainly don't like to think my thoughts in cliche-form. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard a voice inside of me say, "Is this all there is?"
I was asking the question from my lovely living room in my lovely home, a stunning view of green out the window. I was asking it at time when I had a great job and a wonderful husband and good health and fabulous friends. And yet, the question was there, certain and clear: "Is this all there is?"
Something was missing.
It took months of the persistent presence of the question until I decided to try to answer it. Slowly, I started remembering the things I loved most, pursuits that had gotten lost in between school and jobs and growing up. I faced the truth that there were still-important dreams I'd left behind. I defrosted my writing muscles and got my creative life back. I stepped up the adventure quotient in my life. A year into the process, I leapt and changed careers. I started doing the work I really wanted to do.
Is life perfect now? Absolutely not. Is it more alive, more rich and a thousand times more thrilling? Absolutely.
Over the past couple of years I've learned that the question "Is this all there is?" has become a cliche because it's such a common experience, perhaps even a universal rite of passage. Things move along swimmingly in a modern, productive life -- but quite often, the person living that life feels empty, stifled, incomplete.
What gives rise to the question may be a professional longing or a personal one. It may stem from a spiritual lack or an emotional one. The question is universal; the answers about what's missing are individual.
Now I work with people going through their own "is this all there is?" rite of passage. From their journeys and from my own, here's what I've learned about this question:
(1) The answer is always no, this is not all there is. Simple as that. Look how much time I just saved you in figuring that out!
If something in you is asking, "is this all there is?" it is because the status quo is no longer enough. Something is missing, something is off, and yes, you can fix it.
(2) The timing is no accident. The moment when "is this all there is?" arrives is no accident. It means something new is ready to be born in you starting now. It is time for the next evolution of you.
(3) You can squash the question, or not. Many people squash the "is this all there is question?" by ignoring it, repressing it or arguing that the status quo is just how things have to be.
Problem is, squashing the question will make you a short-tempered, less pleasant, less generous human being. You may even do unhealthy things to distract and numb yourself. The alternative is to lean into the question. And you should, because ...
(4) This question is your friend. At first it may feel like "is this all there is" has come to turn your life upside down, to ruin the good and respectable things you've committed to and worked hard to achieve. "Is this all there is?" is actually your friend. It's come to guide you toward your right path. If you let it lead you, the question will bring you to a richer, more gorgeous, more alive life.
(5) Face the difficult truths. Usually, once we are willing to face what we really want in our lives, what we want becomes clear to us. The hard part is accepting it.
Please, don't avoid the truth about what isn't working and about what you want. Don't dance around it or argue it away. (Of course you will, because that is what we human beings do, but please, do that as briefly as possible.)
Bear the few excruciating moments of turning your heart toward the truth, because once you face it fully, it won't seem so overwhelming and scary. Say the difficult truths directly and simply -- if even only to yourself.
I don't like my job. I want to change careers. I don't want to live here anymore. I have big concerns or disappointments in this relationship. I made this decision, but now I've changed my mind.
On the other side of that honesty is freedom, movement, spaciousness. You'll notice that the moment you full accept and voice what's true, you'll already feel a sense of relief, a lessening of tension.
Think creatively about "the how." Things get tricky with "the how" -- how to get what you want. That's where all our fears and worries typically come in. That's where all our beliefs about not enough money, time or expertise show up. A belief that our dreams conflict with our responsibilities often surfaces. Watch out for your own limiting ideas here.
Hold the vision of what you want in mind, front and center. Opportunities to further the life change you want will begin to show up in your life.
Instead of asking, "is this possible?," identify the core of what you are seeking, and ask yourself, "how can I make this possible?" Brainstorm realistic and unrealistic options, and if you still feel stuck, bring in your allies to brainstorm with you.
When something in you says, "is this all there is?" life is calling you into the next evolution of you. You've outgrown what was. The next chapter is ready to be written. Greet it like a sacred door-opening that it is. Walk with it. Be afraid and keep walking. Treasures await.
Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer, coach and personal growth teacher who helps people live more authentic and compassionate lives. She received her MBA from Stanford University and her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Yale. You can read more at Tara's blog, Wise Living or find her on twitter @tarasophia.