Making Choices (repost from April, 2011)

There is so much self-help noise around finding your passion, your purpose, your true calling, and yes, living your right life.

This call to action has gotten lots of people to reflect on life and sets off a quest to find the gold — the one thing that you’re supposed to be doing — that one thing that will bring peace and joy, and oh yeah, money would be nice.

And, if you don’t find it, you panic and convince yourself that you need more – more time, more money, more training, more education.  Because clearly there must be something wrong with you!  Meanwhile, back at the publishing houses, the self-help gurus are laughing all the way to the bank.  And don’t worry.  They’ll keep writing because they know you’ll keep searching.

What if your right life has many roads?  Not just one?   What if you’ve  been tricked into believing you had to make one choice, that one big important something — and if you don’t, there is something wrong with you.  What if you’ve been ignoring all the little whispers  — too many ideas, not focused enough, too big, too small whispers that may all be weaved into your true calling.  But we don’t listen because we are waiting for the one sure thing, and we’re waiting to know exactly what to do and how to do it, and so of course, we do nothing or we do too much.  Let me use the unlikely analogy of weight loss to explain.

Martha Beck weight loss coaches, particularly those trained by Brooke Castillo, Coach Extraordinaire and author of  If I Am So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight, refer to the terms “Fuel Food” and “Joy Food.”   Fuel food is what sustains you, keeps your energy up, keeps you going, and ideally makes up 90% of what you eat and is only eaten when you need it.  Joy Food is that 10% of pure pleasure that you indulge in every day.  The idea that Brooke conveys is that we often cross our signals, are not aware of when we’re truly hungry, and eat mostly for Joy or for feeling better (emotional eating), which leads to weight gain.

I believe that on this journey of tracking our right life, it’s easy to get our signals crossed.  If we jump on and grasp what makes us feel good, and then count on that one thing to bring us Fuel (joy, happiness, money), everything stops.

It seems, from my own experience and those of colleagues and clients who have shared with me their frustration with this journey, that this is not uncommon.  And, ironically, it seems the more passion and fire and creative talent we have, the more difficult and confusing this journey becomes.  Because we don’t fit easily into a box.  We don’t march along with the status quo, collect our checks and wait for the weekend, or vacation, or retirement, to enjoy our lives.  We want something to be passionate about NOW.

Another analogy.  On a recent training call, Martha Beck shared with us that she loves skiing.  Passionately.  She said it is the one thing that brings her into total peace, present moment, and all good things begin to come to her from that place.  Now, imagine, if Martha weren’t an amazing and wise healer, and she didn’t know what to do with all this peace and joy and present moment stuff.  What if her signals got crossed, and she grasped on to skiing, and became a sage ski instructor instead of a gifted writer?   I have no doubt that all of her joy and peace would stop and she would be miserable.  Because she would have tried to turn her joy into fuel, and never put her true gifts into action.

Using the Fuel Food analogy, what if all of our strengths and values and way of operating in the world is our fuel?  It’s what has manifested in this body on this earth, and meant to be applied to sustain us and keep us going.   And what if, like Martha’s skiing, the thing that connects us, that opens the sky and shines light on us, that makes our heart sing and pulls us into the oneness and peace of present moment, is our joy?

I think that this might just be where most of us get tripped up when making choices.  We don’t know how to discern or negotiate fuel from joy.  We get scared because the joy feels so damn good, and it’s really difficult for our ego self to NOT want to grasp or attach ourselves to the joy source.  So the quick, take the highway, antidote is to go unconscious, go on autopilot, do the structured, mindless, easier thing in order to avoid the pain and confusion of choosing.   Or give in to grasping and attaching to what feels good and “right”(which is also paradoxically attaching to fear of losing it) that often results in all kinds of addictions.  And extremism.  And ranting, polarized politicians.

In Native cultures the healer or medicine man or shaman of the tribe is said to be able to navigate and walk in two worlds – the material world and the spirit world.  This is one of my passions or calling to be a coach.  To guide people in navigating and experiencing both their personality and their spirit.  To lead them in finding the way in between the either-or choices.  That place somewhere in between unconscious, mindless living and obsessive grasping to feel good.  And this is what I, as a coach, a healer, a passionate, fiery, creative person — is learning for myself.   So watch for these signs which have happened to me and have stopped me several times from moving forward.

Steps to Choosing what’s next

First, when you get excited and drawn to (______fill in the blank) be careful not to be too graspy and get all attached to the Joy.  Don’t try to turn it into Fuel to sustain you.  Pure Joy is most often found in the natural world, and it is to be enjoyed, not bottled up and collected or sold.

Second, don’t think there’s any one way that you’re supposed to do something.  This will stop Joy dead in its tracks because it’s not naturally flowing and creative.  YOU are the only person who has experienced your life and know what you know.  The energy that flows through you is not flowing through anyone else.  You have one unique way that will integrate and interconnect, in flow, with the rest of the world.

Finally, don’t doubt yourself.  There have been many times in the process of starting my own business that I questioned whether “I” was doing something wrong.  Anyone who knows me, knows this is my default, automatic thought.  We all have a default.  You know, thoughts like “be the good girl…, do what you’re told…, you better get it right… sit still and don’t tell your mother or I’ll kill you. That pain.  Those thoughts.  The ones deeply embedded.  The important thing is to allow them to come up, watch them, and dispute them (because painful, self-critic thoughts are never true.)  And even when you work to turn the thoughts around and create new thoughts that are more true and that feel better, some core beliefs never completely go away.  I call it my “twitch.”  We all have a twitch to make peace with and accept.  Because any time I try to get rid of it, abolish it FOREVER, it gets bigger.  Make peace with your twitch, let it be, and move on.

So, slow down and take it all in.  Perhaps in the quest to find your passion, your purpose, your right life, you might need to get off the fast-track highway and wander through some of the side roads.   Take an inventory of your strengths, your true values, and your natural way of operating in the world.  And notice all the different ways in which they all uniquely intersect.  Discover all the different ways they could merge as a roadmap for you to follow and act upon.  Don’t just settle or resign yourself  to labeling the one thing.  Make the choice not to choose, but to be softly led, by the whispers of your heart — your true calling.

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