“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman
Riding my scooter home one night, a glorious moon back-dropped a silent city. The breeze was balmy and the ocean over the cliff drop was a deep, inky black.
“IT’S GOOD TO BE ALIVE,” I shouted to the surprised mansions in Vaucluse – and when I got home to my apartment I texted the same thing to my husband (if it’s not documented it didn’t happen, right?).
My brother agrees it’s the best way to get around, saying that when he’s on his bike, he “feels like a free man.”
All of us know this appetite for freedom.
It’s the same appetite that draws us out into the world to travel; to dance like crazy until five AM; to surf and swim; to dive under the ocean; jump out of planes; to make love; stay up all night with close friends and bottles of wine; to tuck into an amazing meal; to nestle into our families; to let music wash over us; to curl up under the covers; to get up at dawn; to wander our favourite book store alone.
It’s all delicious. It’s all good.
But too often we turn off this appetite, following some arbitrary rules about life, which ironically prevent us from actually living.
Many people have lost their deep sense of what simply feels right; believing everything should be hard-fought and won to be of any real value. They use fear as their key driver, instead of finding flow… In fact, many people step out of their instincts, and choose instead to live in their heads.
Anxiety is directly tied to the time we spend lost in thought. And we’re spending nearly 47% of our days doing just that, according to the Do Lectures Stress Report.
But this kind of approach inevitably winds up in decisions being made on what “looks good,” and not on what “feels right” — A sure-fire formula for dissatisfaction, not to mention stress-related illness.
Following your nose to find your purpose
“So what does riding scooters in the moonlight pay these days?” you might ask.
Well, I’m not about to quit my job to find out!
But the point is not about connecting the dots perfectly before making any change, but reconnecting to what brings joy, as a way of directing yourself towards a future that is most likely to bring fulfilment and make you happy. See, our deepest longings are the windows through which we can connect to ourselves, an anchor to what is important.
I learned this perspective from Dr. Lorin Roche, Ph.D., trained meditation teacher and author. He teaches this technique as a starting point to meditation, believing that when we connect to our inner yearnings we strip away the unnecessary layers of expectation and judgement – something that all meditation aims to do. It’s simple, but powerful; and the lesson is not only transformative in meditation, but as a general attitude to life.
He calls it “being your best bad self,” recognising the value of the rebel in us, and the value of the sincere seeker too.
“Your instincts do not necessarily feel “spiritual.” Far from it. They feel down-home, selfish and spontaneous. The instincts are seat-of-the-pants and gut feelings. And they are often the first thing that gets thrown overboard when people try to be spiritual. But they are the essence of spirituality. They represent deep wisdom. These instincts move us to explore the world, survive, thrive, communicate, bond, reproduce and rejoice … Longing is your best clue to what is good for you … just notice what is awakened in your body when you listen to what you love with complete abandon.” ~ Dr. Lorin Roche, Meditation Made Easy.
What has longing got to do with work?
Everything! Your instincts are the window into finding work you love and – if you so desire – creating a business with meaning.
It’s not about finding work nirvana – a place where you’re ecstatic all the time – because the reality is that at times you will feel frustrated, at times you will get irritated with others, at times you will have to succumb to drudgery (especially if you do your own BAS statements!); but on the whole, you will feel content with the space you occupy, excited by future possibilities, and more often than not, you pack up at the end of the day feeling like you have achieved good work.
Simply put? It just feels right.
In my next post I’ll share some practical ideas for finding your individual purpose.
Johanna is the founder of Make Do Co., a business, culture and branding firm dedicated to helping meaningful businesses have impact. Make Do works with organisations to unearth their higher purpose; to build a culture of energy and quality; and to help them to tell their stories so powerfully, the world listens. We also host public retreats, workshops and events to promote a more meaningful way of living and working.