Feeling Stuck

1250 Relax and Succeed - Tonight I dream tomorrow I doMany people today complain of being incapacitated by their choices and their search for inspiration, meaning and purpose. This discomfort arises not from being lost, but from being confused.

Without expansion and an increase in general understanding and wisdom, we would never grow. So clearly it is normal to start life lost, unsure of who you even want to be, or what you want to do. Even the small percentage of people who have a clear vision early in life will find that vision is time-limited by either fate or our own eventual lack of appreciation for something too common to be otherwise.

How we ‘find ourselves’ is we march forth, confused and uncertain. At the early stages we see some branches of our growth as disjointed from our primary aim, but as we age and wisdom grows we come to accept that the branches are the sources that feed the central truck of life and we find ourselves with fewer regrets.

1250 Relax and Succeed - If your life feels stuckLife we demand that we reinvent ourselves at least once every decade. Maybe it’s from healthy to cancer patient, maybe it’s from a parent of young adults to an empty nester, but whatever it is you will be lost at first as your brain attempts to adapt to its new role. We aren’t failing when we feel that, we’re just walking along blind, following a wall by feel. And where does this wall lead? Forward.

That’s the beautiful thing about life. As long as you’re moving forward you’re moving closer to your goal–even if you believe you’re going in the wrong direction. Because this isn’t about where you go, it’s about how much distance you cover. You can be Stephen Hawking and go to the far reaches of space in your wheelchair, or you can be a mother with four active, wonderful kids; both lives are full and therefore rich.

Free yourself of needing to figure it all out. Just move forward. It allows your mind to go quiet and the added awareness that results will do you far more good than all that thinking ever could have.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Following Your Calling

1245 Relax and Succeed - The things you are passionate aboutWhen a dictionary describes a calling they say something along the lines of, “a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.” Despite this definition most people get confused about how to recognise their calling or path because they too-often see it as strictly work-related, which confuses the perception process.

Yes, it’s good if you have a vocation; something you’re particularly well suited to, or something that you enjoy doing. But your calling doesn’t know borders like work and social. Your calling always impacts you because it’s a kind of compulsion.

It’s rarely the kind of thing you can explain to another person using words. It’s too subtle to be hacked up into individual pieces. That said, I’ll do my best to describe how you can find yours, and the value in trusting it.

1245 Relax and Succeed - If you don't follow your heart

When people feel like they have made a bad decision they know it because they tell themselves so in their thoughts, and the amount they do that will impact how much they feel the suffering. But people with a calling don’t ever ask whether something’s enjoyable or perfect or even as-described. They simply do it because there’s no other choice. It’s the same reason people don’t like being called hero after doing something heroic. They know full well that they had no choice–they were called to act. To not act would be more painful than to act.

You can see this in jobs and relationships. Once the pain of the job outweighs the value, the person can leave quite easily. But before that there’s a lot of ego-weighing going on. With a calling there’s no weighing because it’s irrelevant. It’s like telling someone who wants to be an Olympian that it’ll mean working-out all the time. Obstacles have no effect except to invigorate a response.

For the driven athlete it’s still a price, but it’s not a problem because it is a step on a journey they feel called to take. It doesn’t even mean they’ll make the whole journey. They could get the flu during the Olympics and ruin their chance at a medal. But they did not ruin their chance at enjoying life through having followed their calling. The Olympics last two weeks. The preparation often takes more than a decade1245 Relax and Succeed - It is only couragePart of the pain of leaving professional organized sports is that athletes must take on a singular approach to life when previously their dedication lead them to make themselves subservient to the needs of the team. Notice that: they permit their freedom of choice to be taken away in service to their calling. They feel they need to do it as a part of who and what they are.

It’s the same reason a leader feels comfortable making a decision for a hundred thousand employees. If that’s their calling, then they feel comfortable just like the athlete. It does not mean they’ll win the Olympics or an election or keep their CEO job, but they’ll be fully invested when they try. So will the guy who surrendered into his calling to become something that others wouldn’t see value in. It doesn’t have to be notable to be your calling.

Many people think it’s crazy that I’d work so hard to build such a beautiful home only to sacrifice it so that I can care for my parents. People say “put them in a home,” but that’s not what they want and I love them, and so I offered because I felt called to do it. The fact that it isolates me and is often boring, and that it prevents me from working as much as I’d like; in the end none of that personal “pain” matters. The price is irrelevant. I feel called. To not do it I would have to not be me. I always listen to this pull even when others think it’s crazy. That’s freedom.

1245 Relax and Succeed - Some beautiful paths
Path

Don’t ask yourself what the perfect job or person or life for you is. Ask instead what do you want to do even when it’s hard? What would you do if you won the lottery or if you had to squeeze it in between three other jobs?

When you’re looking for your calling you’re not looking for joy or ease or wealth or fun. You’re looking for inspiration, effort and reward. You’re looking for something you’d make sacrifices for. For some that’s trading gridlocked traffic for the freedom of being a courier with no boss hanging over their head. For others it’s surrendering a successful life to care for a loved one. In the end it’s the same thing.

Stop looking for appealing things and start looking for things you’d pay a price for, whether that’s in the realm of a job, relationship or even a hobby. The appealing parts of life are for your ego, but the rewards in our lives don’t come from that basic attraction, the rewards come from the kind of devotion that exacts a price.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Ikigai

960 Relax and Succeed - Ikigai The reason to get up in the morningEven though they may not know the concept abstractly, when you listen to people discuss their work complaints they will always focus on where they can feel that their Ikigai has lost balance. The term is composed by compounding two ideas: iki which is to be alive; and kai, which is the worthwhile result of your being, otherwise stated as your reason for being, your motivation, or the meaning to your existence. Your raison d’etre. I’m sure you can feel the pull of that sensation just reading about it.

One way to help define Ikigai in your life is that it will not change in good times or in bad. Someone who loves firefighting will love it as much in the firehall as they will at a fire. A true writer will enjoy the research for their new book as much as they enjoy the writing of it. And almost everyone who works in a refugee camp will face daily tragedy and yet they continue with an enthusiasm and energy rarely seen in the corporate world.

Bruce Lee did it with martial arts, Prince did it with music, Kurosawa did it with film. My father did it with a roofing company. If that last one doesn’t seem to fit as well, that might point to your misunderstandings about its nature.

960 Relax and Succeed - IkigaiTo move around the concept; my father enjoyed earning his pay by doing the same level of work he would do on his own home. In doing so he would create value by making someone else’s home and property more secure and by providing for his own family. He also loved the feeling of great satisfaction that he took from his customer’s satisfaction, and in all the years he ran the company I can recall my father being taken advantage of twice, but I have no recollection at all of an unhappy customer. I also have no recollection of my father ever complaining about his job, he only preferred when it wasn’t raining so he could do it.

There is no shortage of unfulfilled office workers who derive no personal joy or meaning from their work. There is also no shortage of chronically poverty-stricken artists who have trouble finding or transmitting the value in what they do. Even among the “successful,” there are doctors who care and doctors who like expensive cars.

It is important to note, however, that the existence of a Porsche doesn’t translate to an absence of ikigai. Sometimes–but not always–great personal gain can come from the pursuit of our ikigai. But to the individual the gains will be irrelevant. If they were fantastically wealthy they would still pursue their ikigai; if they were not paid at all they would still do it with equal zeal. Wayne Dyer didn’t need money to motivated him, nor does Yo-Yo Ma. Once you are fed and sheltered nothing you can buy can offer more life satisfaction than your ikigai.

960 Relax and Succeed - These are free rangeLook at your life. Where is it out of balance? Because if you look at the stresses in this world they can easily be attributed to the fact that so many people are not balanced in this way. To do unfulfilling work with unappreciative people in a largely meaningless way is to court a type of death. It is one thing to make a beautiful cake that will be consumed only hours later in joy, and another thing altogether to make a cheap plastic toy that won’t survive the birthday party.

Today’s youth can sense the lack of ikigai in their parent’s lives. They feel the tension, the anger, the frustration and the lack of satisfaction. How many children in the world hear their parents discuss their life’s work with passion? What did you hear as a child, and if you have children what do they hear you communicate about your work? What emotional state would they most closely associate with your work?

You have not failed if you have not found your place yet. The journey itself is a honing process. But it is important to keep this concept in mind. Many people would never have taken promotions or jobs or would have never left the children in a day-home, etc. etc. etc. if they had paid more attention to the notion of ikigai.

Be still. Spend some real time meditating on this. You are not finding a mystery, you are realising your true self. You cannot get this wrong any more than you can get your favourite colour wrong. The only thing you can do is to never ask the question, which in a way is like never actually starting to live at all. It’s in you. Find it and release it. We’re waiting for you.

With love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.