I used to be someone who believed there was a point at which I’d have it “all figured out.”
When I was the most mired in uncertainty and confusion, and when I was most desperate to be happy (because I was so miserably unhappy with my work and my life in general), I clung to the idea that there would be some fixed point at which everything would be OK.
Now, I coach a lot of those same people.
And let me tell you — there’s nothing wrong with believing that things will get better. Hope is powerful and necessary, and in no uncertain terms should you ever forsake hope.
But … if you’re like I was, there’s a chance your hope might have turned a bit sour. Your optimism might be tinged with desperation. You might be so eager for life to be different that you’ve started to focus entirely on the result.
It’s easy to know when you’ve turned a bit desperate because you’ll hear yourself say things like, “When this thing happens, everything will be OK.” Or “I’ll be happy once I get to this point.”
I sincerely believed that once I got out of my unfulfilling job and became a coach, I’d be happy. I never expected it to be easy, but I believed that I would be mostly fulfilled and mostly happy.
AND NOW, LET ME DASH YOUR HOPES
You knew it was coming, but I’ve got to say it anyway … life doesn’t work this way.
(But I promise, I have even better news. Stay with me.)
The problem with hanging our hope on external results, of course, is that we can never predict the result. Not ever!
Life is undeniably, unequivocally weird. And monumentally unpredictable. When we attempt to hang our happiness on the outcome, we rob ourselves of the ability to be happy about any other outcome.
We also turn Life (yes, I’m turning it into a proper noun because I think it deserves that level of respect, don’t you?) into a boring series of tickable, checkable events … “Discover life’s purpose. Check. Get a job doing life’s purpose. Check. Buy a house in which I can live out said purpose. Check.”
Hanging our hopes and dreams on the result makes something that’s supposed to be exhilarating sort of … mundane.
CAN I TEMPT YOU TO ACCEPT THE MYSTERY OF LIFE?
You also knew this was coming, but I like to be clear … you are never going to figure it all out. Not ever! There isn’t enough time in the universe to answer all of the questions that you could ever have.
You can have one of two reactions to this news:
1. You can be annoyed and sort of insecurely passive-aggressive toward Life (“Ugh, I hate that I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just want to rush through the bad parts so I can get to the good stuff”).
2. You can revel in the mystery of what you don’t know and start seeing Life with (what I’ve just decided to entitle) “The Adventurer’s Spirit.”
I INTRODUCE TO YOU “THE ADVENTURER’S SPIRIT”
When I hear the word “Adventurer,” my mind automatically turns to figures like Charles Darwin or Amelia Earhart. I didn’t know them personally, but I like to think that all Adventurers have an approach to life that’s similar. Namely that:
- They’re more intrigued by what they don’t know than upset or overwhelmed by it.
- They see Life as a delicious, curious unfolding that always creates more questions than it answers … and that having more questions to answer is a good thing, rather than overwhelming, because it keeps you engaged.
- They don’t feel the need to control everything. In fact, they trust that it’s OK to be mostly not in control.
- They find everything, even the worst of times, more fascinating than debilitating.
- They see discomfort as a part of life, but know that it’s temporary and that it’s there to teach them something valuable.
- They don’t believe that their plan is better than the one Life has in store for them.
- They aren’t in a rush to check life accomplishments off of a list, but stay open to the unexpected events that life has in store.
- They romanticize the unknown, rather than get shut down or annoyed by it, and they generally trust in the mystery of Life.
On the best of days, it’s not particularly hard to romanticize the mystery of Life and to embrace the fact that you don’t, and never will, have all the answers or be able to control the outcome. But I’m asking you to embrace it on the worst of days, too.
Because here’s the thing: I’m pretty convinced that the quality of your life often hinges upon your ability to think that positively everything is interesting and useful, rather than frustrating and unwanted.
There will always be tough times. Unbeknownst to my former self, there is never a point at which life suddenly gets mostly easy and your bad days are few and far between. I learned the truth the hard way … I got what I wanted and became a coach, and I had to discover that I would still feel confusion, lethargy, and frustration on a regular basis. I had to learn that doubt and uncertainty are a part of life, as much as clarity and joy.
But when I’ve approached those times of fatigue, frustration, annoyance, doubt, and confusion with The Adventurer’s Spirit … things are always better.
CAN YOU FIND IT WITHIN YOU?
Could you possibly start to see Life less as a checklist of things you have not yet achieved on your route to happiness, and more so as a thrilling mystery that will never be 100% answered?
Can you be glad about the fact that Life will probably give you ten more questions every time you answer one?
Can you be OK with seeing everything as curious, interesting, and fascinating?
Can you realize that the bad times are teaching you something important? And that rushing through them often means you’re stealing your own ability to grow?
I promise, Life is way more fun when you’re going on an adventure, rather than relentlessly and aggressively pursuing results, while wishing you could fast forward through anything uncomfortable.
And those bad times? They’ll still hurt. That’s life. But the Adventurer’s Spirit gives the hurt a purpose … it lends a lesson to the pain; one that you can use on your next adventure.
So, I’ll either see you on the (proverbial, unless you actually own a ship) prow of your ship, wind whipping dramatically in your hair, ready for your next adventure and exhilarated by everything that you don’t know.
Or maybe I’ll see you hunched over your desk, muttering about how many lists remained un-checked, aggravated and afraid of what Life hasn’t yet revealed to you, and so desperate for control that you trust nothing and no one.
… your choice.
Rachel (+ Kristen)
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SPOTLIGHT ON … CURIOSITY OVER PASSION
We’re doing something new. At the end of each blog, we’re going to take a beat to share something meaningful with you. Maybe it’ll be something we read that really moved us. Maybe something we’re currently offering that’s going to really help you out (like the PPVE, when it’s around). Or maybe it’s an empowering story about one of our clients.
This week, we’re sharing something with you that we sent to a bunch of a clients, as well as EVERY one of our PPVE enrollees, last week.
We can say with near certainty that if you’re the kind of person who reads our blog, then you’ve probably struggled at some point to figure out your passion.
Which means that you know how overwhelming, frustrating, and BIG of a task “figuring out your passion” is. We get it (and we coach people around that ALL THE TIME). And Liz Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love and the new #1 NYT bestseller Big Magic) gets it, too.
Seriously, this is one of the most important messages we’ve heard in a long time. Liz talks about how she responds to people who say, “I would follow my passion if I knew what it was!” as well as why she thinks curiosity, not necessarily passion, is what you should be pursuing.
It’s golden! The whole thing is about 30 minutes long. You don’t have to watch it; we both just listened to the audio for the sake of convenience. The recording is from a live talk Liz did for the launch of Oprah’s new Super Soul TV website. We’re not sure how long the video will be available, so listen while you can.
And if you loved it as much as we did, let us know! We’d love to hear what you think.