“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” ~Lloyd Alexander
There was a time when I looked at the world without hope. My future felt dark because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I felt like I was a random player in a chaotic game. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t like life.
Luckily, I stumbled onto resources, ideas, and practices that helped me reconnect to my wisdom, my heart, and my interests.
I applied what I learned, and clarity emerged.
I’ll share what happened and how I gained clarity, but in order to do that, let’s start at the beginning.
The problem wasn’t that I didnt know what I wanted to do. It was thinking that I should know what I want.
When I think I should know, I put pressure on myself. I feel stressed out, and I feel like I’m not good enough because I haven’t got life figured out.
When I accept the present moment as it is, it frees up a tremendous amount of energy. When I stop resisting, I can start living.
When I look back at the darkest moments in my life, not only do I see their purpose, but I also see that, deep down, I always knew what step to take next.
But at the time I couldn’t see this because my vision was clouded by my fears.
The solution was to see through what held me back from connecting to my heart, and to my desires.
I did this by becoming mindful of how I was letting my fears dictate my life. I began to deliberately challenge my fears by taking action.
I took tiny steps forward. I listened to my heart as best as I could.
Instead of shrinking away from my fears, I wondered, “What would happen if I took a step forward anyway?”
By doing this, I discovered that most of my fears were false. They weren’t real. They didn’t come to pass, even though it felt like they would.
I realized that acting on what I was interested in right now was enough to start the ball rolling. With time, I could sense what was right for me.
Today, I feel like I have cat whiskers on my body, and I navigate through feeling.
Our desires can never be put out. They can be dampened and dismissed, but never extinguished.
3 Steps to Uncovering What You Want
So the question then becomes: How do we reconnect to our desires?
Well, I’m not going to tell you what to do, because there’s no real formula. And I’m not the expert on you. You are.
So what I’m going to do is share a few examples from my life. That way, you can pick what resonates with you and apply it to your life.
Don’t take what I say for granted. Instead, test it out.
1. Become quiet.
Whenever I feel confused and don’t know what to do, I take it as a sign to calm down. During those times, I notice that my mind is speeding along, trying to figure everything out.
I often lie down on my bed and just breathe. Sometimes I take a walk, and sometimes I watch a movie.
I don’t have a set routine. I listen to my heart. I notice what I feel pulled to do. I trust my body and my inner wisdom to know what is right for me at that moment.
But there are times when I don’t know what’s right. I just feel confused. When that happens, I become quiet and I focus my attention on my heart area.
My mind often tries to pull me back up, but I gently re-focus on my heart.
I ask my heart: What is important right now? And I wait. I don’t always get an answer, but I try to listen every day.
I’ve noticed that whenever I’m stressed, it’s not because life is stressful; it’s because I’m entertaining stressful thoughts.
Becoming quiet and reconnecting to my heart helps, especially when I don’t know what to do.
2. Explore through writing.
Something else that I’ve found immensely useful is writing.
I don’t use prompts. I don’t have a structure. I open up a notebook and start writing what’s on my mind.
I clear my mind by dumping it all on paper. This seems to give me better access to my heart. So I begin by writing what’s on my mind, and I end up writing what’s in my heart.
Some call this journaling. Some call it freewriting. Julia Cameron calls it writing your “Morning Pages.”
The label isn’t important. What’s important is the result.
After writing for ten to fifteen minutes, after getting all the craziness from my mind on paper, clarity emerges. I can feel my heart becoming warmer.
I sometimes ask my heart questions. I don’t always get great answers, but sometimes I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m connecting to an intelligence greater than me. And who knows, maybe I am?
The bottom line is that it works.
3. Take micro steps.
Once I reconnect to my heart, and clear some of the mind chatter, I begin asking myself: What tiny step can I take to reconnect with my desires?
You may want to rephrase this question. If you do, make sure you keep the focus on ridiculously tiny steps.
Sometimes the tiny step is to lie down. Relax and recharge. Stop trying to figure everything out. Stop stressing about the imagined future.
Micro steps are not only useful in reconnecting with your desires. I use them in everything I do.
The reason they work so well is that they bring you back to the present moment. Micro steps help you focus on what you can do with what you have.
You can’t predict the future. You can’t control outcomes. But you can do the best you can, right here, right now. When this realization sinks in, you relax and life becomes brighter.
The biggest mistake I make over and over again, even though I know all this, is getting stuck in my own thinking.
I notice my thinking trying to figure it all out. But all my thoughts are assumptions about life. They aren’t reality. Just thoughts.
This doesn’t mean we should condemn thoughts. It means we need to take our thoughts less seriously.
Because what if you let go of the story that you didn’t know what you want? You would simply enjoy what’s right here, right now. And if you felt drawn to do something, you’d do it.
When I watch my son play, he doesn’t know what he wants. He’s completely in the present moment, enjoying life. He’s almost three years old as I write this, yet he’s showing me how to live and enjoy life.
You see, I’ve noticed that I tend to take life too seriously. I take my thoughts, my fears, and my future seriously.
Yet what I’ve realized is that I’m always experiencing my life through my thoughts. I don’t feel the outside world. I feel my thoughts.
So when I help people find and follow their passion, even when they don’t know what they want, I discover that the spark never went out. It simply got obscured by their thinking.
I’m not going to tell you to make a radical change in your life. I’m going to tell you to take the tiniest step, and to bring your attention back into this very moment.
You only need to notice a tiny thing you enjoy doing, and follow it. This isn’t about picking the right thing.
Right now, it’s about simply learning to follow your interests, and reconnecting to your heart and joy.
Thinking man image via Shutterstock