Giving myself permission to follow my passion includes accepting that my life is an ongoing work in progress. There is no great that to get to, or be, or have. One nice thing about this is, it frees me to align my life with who I am in the present moment without guilt for wanting different things than I did yesterday or the day before that or the day before that. Hear me sign with relief. But this isn’t a license to be wishy-washy and self-delusional, splashing around and never arriving at alignment or peace or satisfaction.
So here I am creating a life I love.
I’m taking it slow.
I am Invictus.
“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
But I’m guiding it with a light touch.
I’m looking at my life with curiosity; wonder and awe…
sometimes even with a little doubt.
Still I’m giving myself permission to follow my passions.
—Pamela J. Alexander, “Untitled”
Fortunately, I have a method—it parallels how scientist investigates things and answer questions—to help me stay on track. It goes like this:
- I make an observation because I’m curious both about me and the world I live.
- I ask questions because after making an interesting observation, I want know as much as I can about what I think I know. (The below questions are adapted from Byron Katie’s inquiry.)
1) Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.) Is this based on your own experience or what someone else said?
2) Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
3) How do you react when you believe that thought?
4) Do you feel the thought in your body?
5) Who would you be without the thought?
- Then I form a hypothesis, summing up what happened, how I feel about it, noting any physical sensation that accompany my experience, etc.
- Then I conduct experiment because I want to know if the hypothesis was a fluke or repeatable.
- Then I analyze my data and draw a conclusion.
- Then I repeat the whole thing from time to time to see if still holds true.
The first time I did this exercise was on the heels of my graduating from university. I went to university full-time and worked full-time, so I had developed a very narrow focus just to keep the wheels on the bus! I had a single-minded concentration on working and going to school that I did little else, so I really needed to think about what I liked when those four years ended. That first time I actually pulled out pen and paper and made a list. At the end of that very short exercise, the fact that I liked to travel, to do yoga, to garden and going to museums among other things, lay in front of me, written in black and white. Armed with my list, I made it a priority to include those activities in my life as I moved forward.
I’ve run through this process several times in resent years, investigating my life. I’ve sorted through the good, the bad and the ugly. I use this same approach to both define what I want and to make sure that I’m stay true to who I am. Knowing all of this, I’ve again decided to return to my method as I pay particular attention to which activities and interests make me feel most energized. Why? 1) Because I’m ever evolving. 2) Because I’m in a new stage in my life with new challenges and opportunities. 3) Because I want different things now. 4) And well because for me “the mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for,” as Fyodor Dostoyevsky writes in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. I want to thrive, not just survive. All of the signs and signal of what’s right for me, are right here, right now and can only be known from where I am today. So I seek out what makes my heart sing, what makes me smile, what makes me feel at ease and what make time fly anew. I want more of the things I like to cascade through my life to overflowing, to stream through and be present in every part of it.
It’s been a long time since I wrote that first list. I still do many of the things on that first list and some even older likes have reemerged. Now the list again includes reading as well as drinking tea slowly and Tai Chi may soon find it’s way on the list. I’d like to believe that that Albert Einstein was right when he wrote in Out of My Later Years: The Scientist, Philosopher, and Man Portrayed Through His Own Words, that “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.” I’ve given myself permission to continue going down this road and see where it leads.
After we’ve given ourselves permission to follow our passion, how that interest reveals itself obviously depends on what it is and what stage one is in life. Some passion will turn out to be lifetime hobbies. Another could turn out to be a full flown career. And other still could fall by the wayside. But I’m certain that nothing you do is a mistake if you let your hopes, fear, actions and impulses inform you where you’re meant to go. And I assure you that you can have fun as you sort things out. Eleanor Roosevelt says, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Now that’s not too bad, is it? The more I take notice of my interest, the closer I get to discovering my passions and the easier it is to align with them. After that your passion will lead you to the best expression of it. But the first step is to let yourself explore what those interests are in the first place.