Tag Archives: soul

Is Self-Care Selfish? How Do You Show Yourself Some Love?

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” –Eleanor Brownn

Hello friend,

This week, for the first time in years, I took a yoga class. It stirred something in me, reminding me of something important that I once let slip from my grasp.

The other day I was talking with my neighbor about the types of therapy he is doing for his ailing back. He mentioned physical therapy, electronic stimulation, lifting weights, and acupuncture. Then he said, “But what has helped the most is yoga. It is healing my back, but mostly I feel it healing my SOUL.” He glowed as he talked about how this nightly, 30-minute video routine makes him feel inside. I thought to myself, “This guy has learned a secret he must never forget!” I told him how I have always been a huge proponent of yoga. I realized as I was saying it, though, that my endorsement felt a little hollow.

I first tried a yoga class about 20 years ago and fell instantly in love. It felt so good to me on so many levels. My body felt healthier than ever. My mind was calm and clear. And there was something more, something spiritual. My soul felt good. Yoga made me feel like I was caring for myself, doing something that made my life better and allowed me to show up better for the world around me. I told myself I was in it for life. There was no way I would stop.

I stopped.

I can’t even explain why. I just got out of the habit. That sounds really lame to me now, knowing that I never stopped working out over all these years. I also never stopped telling people how wonderful and important yoga is. I was like the paid endorser who doesn’t really use the product.

I guess I just didn’t make it a priority. Not a high enough one, anyway. I never seemed to make the time to add it to my schedule or trade it for one of the other things I was doing. Oh, I brought it back a few different times over the years for short stints—and I loved it each time—but it never stuck. I suppose that, subconsciously anyway, I considered it an overindulgence, like I just couldn’t give myself that much of a treat. I was not worthy of the extra hour just for personal growth or soul therapy.

It is not as though yoga is alone in this neglect. I have long been aware of the wondrous effect that reading books has on my soul, and yet I almost never allow myself dedicated reading time (I let myself do it when I am falling asleep at night or on an exercise machine). Music is the same way. Meditation, too, I have always sworn by yet rarely followed my own advice, even for just ten minutes per day. I have no excuse.

I have always tried to be so conscious of my time and not wasting it, and yet somehow in my haste to be productive, I seem to have regularly forgotten to feed my soul its fill. I haven’t taken the best care of what matters most.

Oh sure, I have done quite well on some fronts. I have kept up a fitness routine, and that has been at least as good for my peace of mind as it has for my body. And of course, my daily journaling practice has stood strong for 20 years. That is a huge pillar of my self-care. It is clarity and sanity disguised as a blank book. I also make a point of spending a ton of time with my kids. They put wind in my sails.

And that’s about it for consistent self-care for me. In other areas that feel important to me, I either make an occasional attempt or fail completely.

One of the areas that I recognize now more than ever is getting outdoors and spending some time in Nature. This never fails to help me to reconnect to myself and to the Divine. Whether it is a walk through the forest or a quiet contemplation by a lake or stream, this is my nearest approximation of a church. It makes me feel whole again. And I just don’t do it enough. I am better about it in the Summer, even if it is something as simple as laying in my hammock and listening to the birds sing and the leaves rustle. I know I do best, though, when I get out away from the paved roads and buildings, and that is something I just don’t make the time for very often.

Something that I have improved on a bit in this last year is sleeping. Starting from the time my daughter was born almost nine years ago, I have really struggled in this department. I had an excuse for a few years when the kids were little, but I became too accustomed to being raggedy. As soon as they started sleeping better, I started using that extra time for personal growth things that I had put off, like taking classes and starting these letters to you. I was running myself into the ground trying to get it all done, going on the fumes of a mere four or five hours of sleep per night, every night. As I said, just in the last year I have made a more concerted effort to bring that number up closer to seven hours. I don’t always succeed, but I feel better when I do.

Nutrition is another one that I am just getting started with. After a lifetime of pretending I could eat mostly whatever I want and still feel good, I have lately started to pay closer attention to the ways different foods affect my energy and my comfort. I am beginning to cut things out of my diet. There is a long way to go, but it feels like the right direction for my long-term health and happiness.

The one thing that I haven’t tried but that consistently tugs at my thoughts is the inclusion of more art and creation in my life. Writing these letters to you is about as close as I get to that, and Writing Day is the most fulfilling day of my week. But I want more, and I want variety. Specifically, I feel music calling out to me. I mentioned earlier that even dedicated time for listening to music lifts me up, but what my soul is itching for is to learn how to play it. I own a guitar and a beginner book, but I have never given myself permission to take that time. The same goes with the piano. Even when I touch the keys briefly as I am cleaning the house, my spirit does a little dance. I know the signs are telling me to play.

These musical longings speak again to this issue I seem to have about indulgences. Somehow, somewhere along the way I seem to have confused self-care with selfishness. I allow myself time to write in my journal, and that feels like all I deserve. I give myself permission to exercise daily, but only if it is while the rest of my family is still sleeping. I offer all of my energies to my kids—which I love doing for me—because I can claim it as good for them. I can justify adjustments to my nutrition because it is not taking up any more time or directly affecting anyone else. If I let myself go to bed earlier, I have to write less.

That thing about wasting time and being inefficient—combined with these feelings of unworthiness and guilt about selfishness—is exactly why I don’t allow myself the other self-care activities that I know would do so much for me. Meditation. Nature walks. Learning the guitar and piano. Reading books. Listening to music. These are all things that require time that I seem to feel I don’t deserve. As though care for my soul is not reason enough. This realization saddens me. I want to think I am worth more than that to myself.

This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself granting special permission to go to yoga class this week. You see, I think a big reason yoga left my schedule is that it usually doesn’t feel like as much of a pure workout as lifting weights or running or something like that does, so I had a hard time justifying yoga instead of one of those (my efficiency hang-up at its most glaring). So it was a big deal for me when I substituted a cardiovascular workout for the yoga class (even though I did have to get up even earlier to make it). I consciously prioritized the benefits to my mind and spirit.

Whoa! It seems really strange even to type that thought! I just don’t do that very often, apparently.

And though I felt guilty for missing the cardio workout, oh my, how good that yoga class felt! It was a genuine treat. I was working at it, but it still felt like a pampering for my soul. I can still feel the effects on my mood even days later. What a discovery! This is what self-care feels like! I think I could get used to this. Well, you know, after a few visits to the shrink, maybe!

How about you? What does self-care look like to you? Walk yourself through your weekly slate of activities. Which items on your itinerary are aimed at getting yourself feeling connected, engaged, and at your best? Which ones are, like my journaling, your most ingrained habits, things that are a normal part of your life? How long have you been practicing those things? Could you imagine letting go of those habits? Which of your self-care practices is most important to you? Why? What practices have you tried and liked at some point but never made a part of your routine? Do you envision yourself returning to them? What will it take? Which ones have you had high expectations for but turned out to be just not your thing? Do you have any, like my guitar learning, that you haven’t tried but that your soul seems to be calling out for you to try? Why have you ignored that call to this point? What will get you to begin? Are your self-care activities more often done alone (e.g. meditating or reading) or with others (e.g. coffee with a friend or a yoga class)? Do you allot a certain amount of time each day that you proclaim as “Me Time” and really own it, or are you generally unaware of when you are taking care of yourself? Are you worthy of that dedicated time just for you? Are you only good at justifying it in the flow of your everyday life (e.g. nutrition), or are you good at claiming bigger chunks of time (e.g. a spa day or girls’ weekend), too? Is self-care intertwined with self-worth, i.e. the more we value ourselves, the more we care for ourselves? If so, what does your level of self-care say about how much you value yourself? How can you move that needle more in the right direction? How does it feel to be renewed from within? What best helps you get there? Leave me a reply and let me know: What does self-care look like to you?

You are totally worth it,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please pass it on. We are ALL worth it!

Olympic Fever: What makes The Games so addictive?

IMG_2888“We are all a part of God’s great big family. And the truth, you know, love is all we need. We are the world….” —Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie, “We Are The World”

Hello friend,

Last Friday evening, I had to pull the Dad Card on my six-year-old son, forcing him to watch the Opening Ceremonies of The Olympics in favor of the usual Disney Junior or Mario Kart. I put on my serious voice and explained to him how special The Games are and how much I loved watching them with my family when I was a kid. He wasn’t totally buying it, but he reluctantly agreed to give it a shot.

By noon the next day, that same kid was screaming at the television, “GO PO-LAND! GO PO-LAND!” as the Bicycle Road Race came to its dramatic conclusion (the Polish guy ended up with the bronze). And by six o’clock Sunday morning, as I was getting ready to sneak out to the gym so I could be back before the house woke up, he—who usually sleeps the latest of all of us—came bounding down the stairs and announced, “I want to watch The Olympics!”

What can I say? The kid has inherited the gene! He has a certified case of Olympic Fever!

It’s not just he and I, though. My wife has it. My daughter, too. It is rampant throughout the house. And, from what I hear, the rest of my extended family and friends have contracted it as well. It seems quite clear that Olympic Fever has hit epidemic proportions.

I watched a video on the Internet this week from the President and First Lady to the American Olympians. In it, they were talking about how Olympic-crazy their families were when they were growing up, how everything in the neighborhood would stop for those two weeks while everyone hunkered down in front of their televisions to be a part of the magic that is The Games.

But why? What is the magic? What is it about The Olympic Games that transforms the vast majority of us—sports fans and non-sports fans alike—into wild patriots who stay up way past our bedtimes every single night until they are finished? (Seriously, you know how, nine months after huge blizzards, lots of babies are born? Well, there has to be a two-week period of time nine months after each Olympics when absolutely zero babies are born!) What is the drug that is so addictive? What is the charm?

On first blush, the easy answer seems to be patriotism. After all, it is so much fun to chant “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” as the last seconds of a close win tick down. And who doesn’t take special pride in our amazing swimming and women’s gymnastics teams and those piles of gold medals they racked up? It just seems more fun when the national anthem being played is our own.

Another thing that draws us all in are the heart-touching personal stories of the athletes. These are people who have sacrificed so much for this one moment in time, some of them against all odds. The stories of their families—who have often given up more than the athlete herself—are spellbinding. Sometimes, I think I would rather watch the profile stories than the actual competitions.

But the competitions, too, expose part of the answer to our addiction to The Olympics, too. Quite simply, we appreciate excellence and achievement at the highest levels. Watching a Simone Biles Floor Exercise routine is about as jaw-dropping as a human physical feat gets. But really, awesomeness is everywhere you turn in Rio these days.

The competition itself, too, is a big appeal, especially for folks like me who like to watch a sporting battle any time of the year. A soccer game decided by penalty kicks, or the third game in a beach volleyball match, these are completely engrossing. With the big personalities in some of the sports, too, the individual showdowns are must-see events: Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte, stone-faced Michael Phelps vs. shadow-boxing Chad LeClos, Michael Phelps’ s iron will vs. Michael Phelps’s aging body. It is edge-of-your-seat stuff. Very compelling, very addicting.

All of these elements—patriotism, dramatic personal stories, physical excellence, and nail-biting competition—combine to make The Olympics required viewing in most homes across the land. You can decide for yourself which of them compels you the most.

However, after living in the middle of this Olympic vortex all week—and through every Olympiad for the last forty-plus years–and wondering about this magical, drug-like addiction that it engenders, I have come to believe that the true magic of The Games might not be any of those things at all. I think the root of Olympic Fever lies beneath all of that. It is about a feeling.

Think about that feeling you get in your heart during the Opening Ceremonies, specifically during the Parade of Nations. All of these human souls coming together under one roof with smiles on their faces. The audience erupts in generous applause for all of the athletes, all of the countries. The athletes come in a spirit of fairness and to give their very best effort to the cause. They stand together in the middle of the stadium, all dancing to the same music and being cheered, both in the stadium and in front of televisions all over the world simultaneously. There is a magnificent unity and generosity about the entire experience. Good will flows like a river. The world feels together and at peace for a beautiful, isolated moment. It is downright utopian.

This beautiful spirit continues through the Closing Ceremonies, which is typically an even bigger global party than the Opening Ceremonies. The athletes flow freely across country lines and revel with their competitors in a spirit of fellowship and a celebration of the wonder which they all just created together on fields and courts and hearts.

The entire Olympic experience is oozing with ideals that we all quietly long for. It is a kind of goodness. Unity. Positivity. Winning with excellence rather than by belittling the opponents. Fair play. Sportsmanship. Good will toward all humankind.

I think we cling to these ideals so desperately during these two weeks because, consciously or not, they are what we are always supposed to exemplify. It is how we are meant to live as humans. Our hearts and souls know it, even when our heads do not. The feeling in our hearts during those ceremonies and over the course of The Games is our still, small voice telling us, “This is how Life is supposed to be.”

You know that feeling you have inside when you are doing something you absolutely love to do? You are buzzing. Your heart is dancing. Your mind is calm and focused. You feel energetic, alive. Happy. Everything just feels right. That is how you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing! I think that, collectively, we feel a lot like that during The Olympics. Maybe we should take notice of that. Maybe our hearts are telling us something very, very important.

Think about what a welcome escape the Olympics are from the negative news of the day in our country. Instead of violence in the streets, strained race relations, and acrimonious politics, we get uplifting stories of courage, teamwork, perseverance, love, and triumph. It is a blessed coincidence that the Summer Olympics happen to fall on an election year every single time. Seriously, how great is it hear the names Michael Phelps and Simone Biles instead of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for a change? Phelps, Biles, and all of their teammates represent something in our hearts and minds that can’t be touched by the politicians. No wonder we don’t want to watch anything else for two weeks!

It is up to us to bring the spirit of The Games back into “real life” rather than let that old negativity and animosity creep back in and become the norm a few weeks from now. Maybe we should make that the new Olympic Oath? That is one vow I am ready to take!

How about you? Are you willing to keep the best of the Olympic spirit in your heart and in your actions even when The Games are complete? Open up your journal and explore what The Olympics mean to you and why. Do you have Olympic Fever? What are your favorite events to watch? How much does patriotism play a part for you in your investment in The Games? Do you only cheer for your country’s athletes? Do you get wrapped up in the athlete profile stories? Who’s story is particularly compelling for you? How much of why you watch is simply to see great performances from the best of the best? How much of it is the competition itself and the rivalries? What do you think is the factor that takes The Olympics from being something that is fun to casually follow, to something that so many people are completely addicted to? Is there something to my idea that there is a spirit that permeates The Games that is completely unique and compelling? Is there something in some other aspect of our society that approximates the global good will generated by The Olympics? Does my thought that Olympic Fever is our soul calling us to keep that sense of unity and peace in our lives resonate with you, or does it seem like a load of New Age nonsense? Are you better for your Olympic experience? What is the best lesson from The Olympics, the part of it that you can take with you into the world and the years before the next Olympiad comes around? Will you do that? Leave me a reply and let me know: How will you carry your Olympic flame?

Find reasons to be bigger,

William

P.S. If you have Olympic Fever, or if you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please pass it on. Our best qualities ought to be celebrated.

Enjoy Life or Improve It: What should we do with ourselves?

DSC_0819“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” –E.B. White

Hello friend,

Last month, I received a note from a dear uncle that scraped an open sore in my psyche. His words: “I worry about you—not that there’s anything wrong, but that I know you’re a person who is continually trying to make sense of the world, how you fit into it, and seeking to improve it. By my reckoning, those are all admirable traits. I mostly hope that you will be happy and fully enjoying each day of your life.” It was part of a very sweet and complimentary letter, and I very much appreciated his kindness. He means a great deal to me, and I believe he understands me better than most.

This is why the subtext of those words has lingered and festered in my mind over the ensuing weeks. The subtle message: If you spend your life trying to improve the world, you miss out on all the fun. Just enjoy the ride.

Don’t think that the concept of “Just Enjoy Life” is not appealing to me. It is. We should seek to be happy, to enjoy both the simple pleasures of this life and also the more elaborate ones. Life is to be enjoyed. Spending your precious time on things much bigger than you—and perhaps beyond your sphere of influence—can be reasonably considered a waste. I get it.

But I don’t really get it. Not in my soul, in my spirit, in my daemon, in my calling, in my Fate, or whatever you want to call this thing deep inside me that seems to be driving the bus. It has its own set of demands, and they seem to trump anything that my logical mind sees as reasonable.

Once in a while, I talk myself into “killing time” with something mindless or gratuitous. Maybe it is watching television or surfing the Internet, something purely for leisure. I might go for a bit without any repercussions, but before long, the boss notices that something is amiss. I start to remember all of the other, “more important” things I could be doing to advance my dreams and make my world better, and then I get anxious, antsy. It is like cabin fever for my brain. I am dying for an outlet of “productivity.” And even though I know leisure is part of a healthy lifestyle, it has to be the right kind of leisure for me. It has to also fulfill a need, like physical health (from going to the gym) or self-awareness (from writing in my journal) or peace (from a walk in the woods or a ride in the kayak). When I stop and smell the roses, it has a purpose.

My inner control panel has very sophisticated instruments to detect activities (and people) that don’t serve my greater good, and it is quick to alert me of things that waste my time. I just don’t tolerate these things well at all. They make my skin crawl, truly.

So, I do my thing. I stick to my priorities. I deal with people who are meaningful to me and spend my free time only on things that speak to my deepest passions. And I trust the control panel to alert me to anyone or anything that will distract me from my highest priorities. I am extremely protective of my time and energy.

I admit that I have high aspirations, both for myself and for the world. High aspirations require a higher level of dedication, a deeper commitment. I understand that one of the trade-offs of that commitment is less time fooling around and “taking it easy.”

It is tiring, though. I admit that, too. Every day the tasks of aspiration bark their orders at me and don’t much allow me to let up. Moments are not to be wasted. I sometimes get a little burnt out.

That is when I have one of those aforementioned evenings of forced leisure. I try to restore the proper balance. But, as I said, I never last long in leisure mode. I hear the ticking of the clock like firecrackers going off in my brain. I feel the time wasting. I start to go stir crazy. My projects call out to me. I ache to get back to them. So, the cycle continues.

I suppose I just have to surrender to my internal wiring. I am almost certainly never going to be the guy who doesn’t have at least one thing he is aching to learn about or improve upon in any given moment. In spite of everything that is happening in our world today, I fully hope and expect to live a lot longer, and thus I expect to accomplish a lot before I leave this place. So, on the surface at least, I may never come across as the “just relax and enjoy” guy.

But that is not to say I don’t enjoy my life. I do. I love it, actually. I find myself often counting my blessings regarding my regular need to juggle so many high-priority tasks that I truly love. I love spending tons of time with my kids. I love writing in my journal. I love writing these letters to you. I love working on The Journal Project. The only thing I don’t love is the pressure of trying to squeeze all of these wonderful things into every day. It is a huge challenge, and even more so when I try to mix in some other, more “pure leisure” activities into the schedule. So, even though I am doing all of these things under the stress of deadlines and sleep deprivation, I am thoroughly happy and grateful that I get to be the guy who juggles them.

Sometimes I compare my kind of grinding happiness to the way a pro athlete goes through the wringer in a very tight and important competition. It is high drama. You see him tortured by his own errors or the luck of his opponent, totally dejected after the loss of a critical point and cursing himself in the process. It is like a Shakespearean tragedy. And yet, even after the worst of dramatic losses, when it hurts like his dog has been shot, if you asked him if he still likes to play and still wants to practice, he would look at you like you were insane. “Of course! I love it! Let’s go play it again right now!”

That’s how I see myself most days. Yes, trying to improve myself and the world every day is taxing and often frustrating. Sure, I have to pass on more leisurely activities that I know would be lots of fun. But do I regret the bargain I have made? Heck no! I get a great rush when I make a personal breakthrough or learn that I have made a positive impact on someone’s life. It feels like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.   And hey, I gotta be me!

How about you? How do you balance striving and leisure in your life? Open up your journal and give yourself an honest assessment. How driven are you? What is the thing that keeps you striving to be better? What is your level of obsession with that task? Is the growth you seek to gain from it purely personal, or does it also have an element of a greater good, of service to others? Do you allow yourself to take a vacation from it sometimes, to let yourself totally off the hook? Are you like me and get a little antsy when you are not doing something productive? Do you set aside time for fun and leisure? What do you do to “Just Enjoy Life”? Is it your primary goal? Is it more about an attitude, or is it about finding lots of activities that are enjoyable? Is it okay to be entirely about enjoyment, with no thought to self-improvement or the greater good? Isn’t being happy a type of gift to the world, too? Is there a proper mix for how to spread one’s time–such as 90% enjoyment, 10% service/improvement—or is the answer as individual as we are? Do you think someone like me, who is a little bit obsessed with the service/improvement part, is doing it wrong and likely to end up unhappy (and perhaps not even impactful anyway)? Does the world need a few people bent that way, anyway, so that the majority can be more pleasure-focused? Where do you fit? Leave me a reply and let me know: What drives you? 

Do your thing,

William

P.S. If this helped you to see yourself, share it. Encourage everyone with the light that you radiate!

My Favorite Quotes: The Words That Remind Me What Matters Most

fontcandy“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Hello friend,

Twenty years ago, when I first opened Thoreau’s Walden, little did I know that my life would never be the same. My mind had just begun to open to new messages, and Thoreau came in and absolutely blew the roof off the place. I had found my soul-mate! I was mesmerized by every last word, reading each passage over before moving on to make sure I absorbed it completely. It was as if he as writing directly to me, or, more accurately, writing right out of my own head. I wanted to highlight every paragraph, to quote every line. Some of my favorites:

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

“If I were confined to a corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had my thoughts about me.”

“It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”

“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

“Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Oh, I could go on and on! That book just melted into my soul. I tingled all over as those magical lines burned themselves into my brain, where I would draw on them many times in all the years that have followed. Beautiful words from beautiful minds have that way about them.

Over the course of my life, the three historical characters that I have gravitated towards most are Thoreau, Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. I have been captivated by their writings, their speeches, and the lives they led. When I try to come up with my favorite quotes from them, it is very difficult, as nearly everything on record is compelling to me.

With Gandhi, if you forced me to pick two, I might pick the simplest ones, both of which spoke to the way he led. The first is, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” The second echoes that sentiment. While visiting Bengal, a reporter asked him, “Do you have a message for the people of India?” His response: “My life is my message.” Oh, if we could all live up to that, just imagine our greatness!

With Dr. King, it is perhaps even more difficult to pin down a couple of favorites. One of them that has inspired me often with Journal of You, particularly when I have debated whether to write about a controversial or revealing topic—God, politics, sexuality, to name a few–is this challenge to the soul: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” That one slays my fears every time.

A good quotation is unbelievably powerful. It strikes you right at your core, making your hairs stand on end or unleashing sudden tears or smiles or knowing nods. Some of the ones that hit me at my foundation are about simple life lessons that I need to be reminded of:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” –Socrates

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” –Aristotle

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” –Norman Vincent Peale

“You never fail until you stop trying.” –Albert Einstein

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” –Persian saying

“Peace is every step.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” –Bill Keane (and others)

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” –George Bernard Shaw

“The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: I did not have time.” –Anonymous

“If not now, when? If not you, who?” –Hillel the Elder 

All of these hit home for me in slightly different ways. They are the little reminders that I need to stay clear about how to navigate this world successfully. They are the random–but pure gold–nuggets of wisdom. I love them individually.

On the other hand, I find that there is one category of quotations that I am drawn to most, one topic from which I can easily churn out a big list of favorites. My soul-stingers are the ones that remind me to seize the day and follow the calling of my heart unflinchingly. They can be summarized by three words from the great Joseph Campbell: “Follow your Bliss.” Here are some of the others in my “Follow your Bliss/This is Not a Dress Rehearsal” category:

“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” –Paulo Coelho

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” –T.S. Eliot

“I am here to live out loud.” –Émile Zola

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” —Thomas Jefferson

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough!” —Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” –A favorite Pinterest meme

“Leap and the net will appear.” –John Burroughs

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” –George Eliot

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring 

“When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it—don’t back down and don’t give up—then you’re going to mystify a lot of folks.” –Bob Dylan

“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anaïs Nin

“You know, we can’t get out of life alive! We can either die in the bleachers or die on the field. We might as well come down on the field and go for it!” –Les Brown

“Don’t die with your music still in you.” –Wayne Dyer (A spin on Thoreau’s line from Civil Disobedience and Other Essays: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”)

These are like zingers right into my heart. I get that surge of adrenaline and clarity whenever I read them. I think that says a lot about what drives me, what is in my soul’s code. These words have magical powers. They are the wind that fills my sails. When I read them, I think they were written just for me. That is the essence of a favorite quote. I do love them so.

How about you? What are your favorite quotations? Open up your journal and start your own list. Is there one particular writer or speaker, like my Thoreau, whose phrases are burned upon your heart more than others? I think most of us just know our favorites when we see them, but are there any quotes that you recite frequently from memory? Are your favorites from all over the map, or do they tend to fall into a certain category, such as love, change, happiness, humor, motivation, family, leadership, or success? Why do you think you gravitate toward that topic? When you come across a quotation that strikes you at your core, what do you do about it? Do you see it as a message that was meant for you and allow it to direct your course of action, or do you dismiss it as mere chance and move on? Now that you have been creating your list, do you feel inclined to post it somewhere, or at least keep it in a notebook that you will open occasionally for a positive reminder? Which ones are your absolute favorites? Leave me a reply and let me know: Which words are yours to live by?

Do your best today,

William

P.S. If our search for quotes stirred your heart and mind a bit today, share it with your world. We could all use a little stirring!

Swimming Upstream: My Inability to Go With The Flow of LIFE

DSC_1074“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu

Hello friend,

That Lao Tzu was one wise dude! Just look at that quote above. “Natural…don’t resist…let reality be…let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. It all sounds so easy and relaxing. Heck, it calms me just to read the words! It is completely rational, too: resisting the realities of Life definitely makes things harder (or “creates sorrow,” as the sage would say). I am in complete agreement with the concept of letting it go and letting it flow. Acceptance of what is. It’s a philosophy I can get behind….theoretically. Put it on my bumper. Sign me up!

There’s just one little problem: I simply cannot do it!!! 

I am hopeless! I really am. I like to think I am the guy who is absorbed in the moment–very present and centered–and completely grateful for everything about my life. I am happy, too. Very much so. I wish everyone I know were as happy as I am. And yet, in the midst of all of this happiness and gratitude, I must admit to an undercurrent of tension that I have become increasingly aware of recently. I feel myself straining against the realities of my life. I am in a constant state of striving. And while striving all by itself is not a bad thing—it’s how we take the next step and grow and achieve—in my case, striving carries along with it my old friend Strife. Definition of strife: “1. Heated, often violent dissension; bitter conflict. 2. A contention: struggle between rivals. Whom, you might ask, am I struggling against? Who is my bitter rivalry with? LIFE. Yes, LIFE itself is what I seem to be always battling. The normal flow of things and the general rules of how things go seem to be always at odds with what I want and how quickly I want it.

I want more. More time. More money. More of the freedom that comes with time and money. More time with my wife and kids. More people to read my blog. More clients. More writing gigs. More impact. More Peace. More fitness. More knowledge. More hobbies. More skills. More leisure. More of the outward and inward signs of career success. MORE!

I have a problem with patience and tolerance. I am spoiled! I really am. I simply don’t endure things very well that are not exactly to my specifications. I want the world to go a certain way. MY way. I want my dreams to come true. I want the world to see in me the greatness that I see. I want the Universe to go out of its way to align circumstances in my favor so that I can give my gifts and have them be received and appreciated by great masses of people. I want to live big and leave a lasting impact in the ways that I choose. When all of that is not happening—you know, like today and all of the other days—I become very frustrated and annoyed with the Universe. “Why are you making it so difficult for me??? 

Maybe my issue—well, one of my issues—is that I don’t just want the Universe to cooperate with my dreams; I expect it to cooperate. I expect it will put that right person in my path who has read my blog and is dying to publish it in the form of a book. I expect my wife will get some huge pay raise at work so I will no longer have to work for anyone else and can focus on my own pursuits. I expect that when I finally finish my other book, people will be dying to buy it. I expect my consulting business and coaching business will catch on like wildfire.

Of course, my brain is well aware of the potential pitfalls of high expectations—especially when they are grounded in fantasy—and thinks it would be wiser to play it safe with my dreams in order to avoid being let down by the world. “The world,” after all, is full of examples of unfairness, unfulfilled dreams, and plain old bad luck. They seem to far outnumber the examples of amazing good fortune and dreams fulfilled. And Heaven knows I could avoid all of this existential angst by listening to my brain on this one. But I don’t seem to listen to my brain. It’s too logical most days. I prefer to listen to my heart. I want to follow my Bliss.

I have a lot of passions and interests. I am deeply driven toward self-knowledge, which is how my daily journaling practice began almost twenty years ago. I am perhaps even more passionate about helping others to know themselves and fulfill their potential. This is where my drive to write and speak and coach comes in. I am also insatiably curious. The list of topics that I want to study is endless. I could live happily in a library (especially if it had a well-equipped gym, because I am also passionate about health and fitness). I could read autobiographies forever. I am addicted to fresh air, too, and adore the outdoors. I am a student of religions and spirituality. I love sports, too. And travel. I am also dying to learn the guitar and the piano. Oh, and did I mention that I have these two amazing little kids that I try to spend every waking minute with (I only write these letters to you after they go to sleep)?

I REALLY want to do all of that stuff. With all of my soul, I do. Thus, I feel like I must. I don’t want to betray the callings of my soul by neglecting any of them. I feel like I wasted too much time earlier in my life by working too much instead of listening more closely to my heart and soul. I am unwilling to do that again. I have drawn the line in the sand. But how can I do all of that stuff I just listed? How do I fit it in, especially with the kids in there (believe me, I have tried to eliminate sleep from my schedule, but I just couldn’t sustain it)?

This is where the strife comes in. This is where I butt heads with LIFE and all of its normal rules and rhythms. The Rules step in and say, “Life is tough. Who ever said it was easy? Get a job that feeds your family. Pick a hobby to do one night per week. Maybe you can squeeze in one other thing to read about before bed. But don’t get greedy. Be realistic. There just isn’t time for more. You can’t improve everything all the time. Be like Lao Tzu: just let things flow. 

I get that. It makes total sense to me. And sometimes, I can convince myself to follow along for a night, or even a few days at a time. I pull out a book and start to read for some leisure, or I do some mindless web-surfing some night after the kids go to bed. It seems okay at first. I tell myself, “See, this is what normal people do. I even think about finding a television series to follow.

But I don’t. I start feeling itchy. My soul intervenes. “Fit it all in! Carpe diem! Seize the day! MAKE YOUR LIFE EXTRAORDINARY!!!! 

That’s all it takes for me. I am back to swimming upstream again, grinding hard against the grain of LIFE, trying to fill a five-pound bag with ten pounds of my passions. I can’t help myself. It seems clear that my speed and the speed of the world will never match up. Heck, our roads don’t even go in the same direction! I am quite sure I will never be content. I will be striving for more, for better, for extraordinary. What can I say: I gotta be me!

How about you? How well do you go with the flow of LIFE? Open up your journal and bleed a little of your soul into it. Are you able to take Life as it comes and comfortably roll with it? Does the world allow you about as much time as you need to feel satisfied with your day or your week? Are there things that are important to you that you feel like you must consistently leave out of your schedule? What are they? How badly does that bother you? Is it just mildly disappointing or irritating, or does it pain your soul (my neglected passions pain me in a way I cannot even begin to describe)? Are there hobbies or interests—or even a career—that you would like to pursue before you die? Is there time available for you to begin? What is stopping you? If you have more passions than you have time to pursue them, do you think you simply have a time management problem, or do you really have an overabundance of interests by any measurement? What could you cut out of your day to make room for more of the stuff that makes your heart sing? How much do you accept the idea that LIFE is difficult and that you simply don’t get to do all of the things you want to do? Are you okay with that? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you struggling against The Rules of LIFE, or do you go with the flow?

I wish you Peace,

William

P.S. If this post resonates with you, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share it with your family and friends via social media or old-fashioned word-of-mouth. My hope is to positively impact as many people as possible every week, and I need your help to do that. Thanks in advance for your support.

Start Before You Are Ready

DSC_0544“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Hello friend,

Start before you are ready. I first heard those words about a year ago from some self-help guru. I loved the idea! It sounded so brave and bold. Don’t wait until you get all of your ducks in a row. Just throw caution to the wind and go for your dream! I figured that if I was ever given the chance, there was no doubt I would do it. Of course I would! Or would I?

As much as I like to think of myself as totally laid-back and easy, I have some serious perfectionist tendencies. For things I take an interest in, I want to do them exactly right. I like to score 100% on everything. In school, if I had a test with 100 regular questions plus five bonus questions, I was not satisfied simply with getting an “A” or even a 100%. I needed that 105. I had many classes in which I could easily have skipped assignments or tests at the end of the semester because I was so far into—or above–the “A” zone, but my mind could not allow it. Looking back, it caused a lot more stress and took me away from a lot more fun than I care to admit. Such is the curse of the perfectionist mind.

I also have an obsession with competence. Perhaps my least favorite feeling in the world is an awareness of my own incompetence. I hate not knowing the answer! I am extremely uncomfortable and stressed when I start a new job and don’t know the solution to every possible issue a customer might have. If I ask a supervisor or experienced co-worker for specific answers or protocol, I cannot stand to hear, “Oh, you’ll figure it out as you go.” I want the answers. The EXACT answers!

One of the unfortunate side effects of these mind traits on my personality is that, in general conversation, I have a hard time just saying, “I don’t know.” I can get defensive and be like, “Why would I know that?” or make excuses—or even attacks on the inquisitor. It really is an unattractive quality. So is its cousin quality: NEEDING TO BE RIGHT. In any disagreement, I rarely admit that I am wrong. I am not much of a compromiser, either. I like to think that this is because the knowledge and opinions that I hold are based on my thorough study of the issue, and thus, my COMPETENCE.

So, imagine the fireworks show going on inside me when faced with the prospect of making some major, life-changing moves into multiple new careers at the same time. Could a competence-obsessed perfectionist really survive such a deep dive into the new and unknown? Could my ego withstand such uncertainty? Well, we are about to find out!

I made official plunges into two new career paths IN THE LAST WEEK!!! Early in the week, I signed on to become a consultant with a premium skin care company. Then, at the end of the week, I filed my papers with the government to form my Life Coaching company. BOOM! Talk about a jolt to the system and an electrifying infusion of new energy (i.e., chaos) into my life.

And while it is all kinds of exciting to embark on these fabulous opportunities for service and fulfillment, it is also more than a little unsettling (ahem, terrifying). I have had more than one occasion in the last few days to stop and ask myself, “What are you doing to yourself? Why TWO THINGS at once? Why not just get comfortable—and competent—in one thing before considering another? What makes you think you are READY for this, when you are not even trained in one field and have no marketing or accounting skills in the other?”

I have to admit, that Voice of Doubt has some good points. It is a lot to take on, and my perfectionist mind will be scrambling to obtain a level of competence that I can be at peace with. And if you look at it objectively from the outside, you might conclude that, indeed, I am not ready. I don’t know much about skin care, and I don’t know if I have enough connections to really make it work in selling it. Heck, I don’t even know if I have the time to sell it. I have been putting many things on hold until my kids get older, figuring—hoping and praying, really—that more time may magically appear then. As for my Life Coaching business, at least I feel competent as a coach. The business part, however, has me quite nervous. I don’t have my website up and running. I don’t have business cards. I don’t know the first thing about accounting or owning my own business. I only know how to coach. So yeah, Voice of Doubt, you may be onto something. In a lot of ways, I am not ready.

But I hear another voice, too, trying to get a word in around the persistent chatter of that Voice of Doubt. This voice says, “Start before you are ready! If you wait until you feel comfortable and competent with every last skill and detail, you will be waiting forever, stuck in the same unsatisfying rut rather than alive in the hot pursuit of your dreams. Your best life is out there, just waiting for you to take a little risk. To reach the sweetest fruit, you have to go out on a limb. Go for it! (P.S. Besides, you ARE ready.)” That voice comes from a much deeper, more grounded place. It makes me nod my head and whisper things like “Yeah” and “I got this.” It feels different, too. It feels real and true to me—it resonates. It brings me a magical combination of peace and excitement that makes me feel certain that I am on the right path. That was the feeling I had in signing my papers this week to start my business, and the feeling I had while talking with my sister about the skin care company. I have come to know that this magical feeling is none other than my soul confirming that I am in my Truth. When my brain and my ego conspire to keep me down and convince me that I am not ready, I listen for that small, still voice inside me that knows better.

So, sure, in some sense—the perfectionist’s, the critic’s, and the ego’s sense—I will never be ready. So be it. I can see now that “Start before you are ready” is a motto for people who are stuck at the mercy of the perfectionist, the critic, and the ego (the combined Voice of Doubt). It is a valuable sentiment. In this moment of clarity, though, I also see that if you can tune your ears to that still, small voice—call it your soul, your intuition, your sixth sense, you name it—you will know with complete certainty that you are ready. I’m ready. I’m starting NOW!

How about you? What is it time for you to be starting? Open up your journal and listen for that still, small voice inside you. What does it whisper when you think about unpursued dreams and risks not taken? What move—big or small—is long overdue in your life? Is it career-related? Regarding relationships, do you need to take a risk by reaching out to someone to see if they belong in your circle, or do you need to cut a cord that someone else is strangling you with? Do you need to move on from something or someone, or perhaps just have a difficult conversation so you can move forward together? Do you think you would be satisfied with only a small shift, or is your soul aching for something major? How much do you try to tap into your intuition when making decisions? How does it speak to you—physical symptoms, emotions, obsessive thoughts, “gut” feelings? Do you trust it? What is the one thing that you make a million “I’m not ready” excuses about, that, deep down in your heart, you know you really must do? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you going to start before you are “ready”? 

You ARE ready,

William

Are You Wasting Your Life?

IMG_1196“Don’t die with your music still inside you.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer

Hello friend,

Did you ever read or hear something that completely stopped you in your tracks? I mean, totally stunned you, and in that instant gave you a smack-in-the-face reality check that made the state of your life crystal clear? I did.

I mentioned to you in my last post, “Falling Off The Tightrope”, that probably my greatest fear in this world is wasting my life, that I am not making the most of my time here. I also talked about how I am desperately trying—and failing—to do everything I possibly can to be productive and fulfill my dreams……after 8:30 P.M., when my kids fall asleep. I have enormous ambitions for those late-night hours: write these blog posts to you, write my own journal entries, work on “The Journal Project” to eventually produce the story of my life, study all of the many things I still want to learn, and on and on and on. That is my window of time available, and I am squeezing hard to fit it all in. It is a tall order, and no wonder that I have had such trouble finding the right balance.

That imbalance—specifically, the desire to accomplish more of the things that I love and feel called to do—creates a lot of tension in me. Turmoil. Stress. Anxiety. Quite simply, I want to do better than I am doing now. MUCH better. Even as I have recently become more clear about what is my soul’s calling and what lights me up, at the same time it becomes increasingly apparent how I am failing to make that positive contribution to the world in the scope that I feel capable of. I feel like I am running a losing race against my potential. That hurts my heart much more deeply than I can find words to explain. So, I keep rushing around trying to pack more and more in so I can make a greater contribution to the world before I die.

With all of this as background noise, I was, not so many months ago, going about my busy way. To ripen me even more for a wake-up call, I had just that morning had a situation at work that had gotten my blood pressure up and soured me a bit. I escaped for a quick workout in hopes of improving my mood, and when I hopped on the elliptical machine and turned on my e-reader, I found a “Quote of the Day” message in my inbox. Here is what it said:

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else.” –Eric Hoffer

I was absolutely shell-shocked. Stunned. You could have just as well hit me over the head with a baseball bat. I stood there dazed for a few moments before I could do anything else, and finally I started reading it over and over to slowly dissect and absorb it. It was a total “A-ha!” moment for me. Suddenly my life situation was crystal clear to me. I wouldn’t be trying to squeeze in a book or a kayak ride or a nature walk or learning the guitar or even just watching an occasional movie if I were writing full-time. Those things get edged out because I have to write and do The Journal Project in the few “free” moments I get, always feeling rushed and compromised.

I like my job. I like teaching people and helping them to gain more confidence in themselves. I really like being a small part of one of the highlights of someone’s week; that never gets old. However, thanks to the clarity that has come from a lot of soul-searching, my career has become my version of “wasting my life” by not being what my true purpose is. And because it occupies the time that it does, I am trying to hurry to do the rest and never succeeding at that. Thus it feels, as Hoffer says, as though I have no time for anything else because I am not spending the bulk of my time and energy on my calling. What a glorious feeling it would be to live my purpose—to literally work on my calling—from nine to five instead of 8:30 P.M. to oblivion. I could actually use the evening hours for hobbies and rest, and not even be stressed or guilt-ridden by that. That is a happy thought.

And so, it seems that the gauntlet has been thrown down. What am I going to DO about this moment of clarity, this reality check? It is, after all, much easier to understand my situation than it is to change it. The time for thinking has passed; the time for doing is upon me. Starting Journal of You was a direct result of that “A-ha!” moment. It was my first step out of my comfort zone, and it was my announcement to the Universe that I am in the ring at last, ready to give my gift. I can see now that this was the first of many necessary steps. This one has kept me in the post-8:30 P.M. hours, though. I must take some bolder steps in the direction of nine-to-five. These are the steps that will take more courage, more audacity.

I am definitely scared of the risks required to make the next big move, but I am getting to that tipping point of being MORE scared of the regret I will feel if I don’t. Now is the time to engage my soul and my dreams with this world. It is time to give my gift. Along with the Wayne Dyer quote at the top, the other thought that keeps pecking away at my mind is, “This is NOT a dress rehearsal!” If not now, when? It is my time to act with courage, to embrace the uncertainty, to be radically myself. I can do it. I will do it. Onward and upward! Let me never again have to wonder if I am wasting my life.

How about you? How comfortable are you with the way you are spending your time on Earth? Open up your journal, and take a long look in the mirror. What is your potential? Seriously, how great can you be? How much can you contribute to the world? Don’t limit the meaning of “contribute;” it can be anything you decide (how many smiles you put on people’s faces, how well you raise your children, how honestly you share yourself with others, how professionally you do your job, and a zillion other seemingly invisible things are magnificent contributions). Does the difference between your contributions and your perceived potential bother you like it does me? How rushed do you feel? If you do feel rushed, is it because there is simply too much to do, or are you not spending your time the right way? How does your job and career path mesh with your dreams and your purpose? Is it integrally intertwined, totally unrelated, or somewhere in between? Is your work fulfilling? What one thing could you do today to more closely align your schedule with your calling? How can you live better? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you wasting your life?

Go boldly in the direction of your dreams,

William

Are You in a Shadow Career?

DSC_1071Hello friend,

An English Literature professor who always believed he would write novels.  An assistant to a cutting-edge entrepreneur who, deep down, believes that she would be a brilliant entrepreneur herself, if only she dared.  A construction worker whose true calling is to be an architect.  These people have one thing in common: shadow careers.

In the pandemonium of raising two little kids in recent years, one of my deepest passions—reading books—has mostly fallen off of my schedule.  However, two of the titles I that I have finished—The War of Art and Turning Pro—are from the same author, the brilliant Steven Pressfield.  These books are directly addressed to artists of all kinds but very much apply to anyone trying to diligently pursue their true calling.  Pressfield says that we pursue a shadow calling when we are frightened of owning our true calling.  “That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career,” he writes.  “Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same.  But a shadow career entails no real risk.”

This idea of the shadow career really struck a chord in my soul as I read.  Something was stirring.  I knew that I had some internal exploring to do.  It was time to shine a light on the work that I have chosen to call my career and see if it really represents my true calling, or if it is a mere metaphor for my “real career” that I don’t yet have.  Am I in a shadow career?

I teach Tennis for a living.  I have done it full-time for about 12 years.  Prior to that, I bounced around in other pursuits that very much interested me but that ultimately did not sustain.  In my last life crisis moment—when I dropped out of my Ph.D. program and needed to figure out what was next—I kept asking myself what it was that I have always loved to do that also offered actual jobs.  Tennis was my answer.  I had taught it for fun here and there prior to that, never considering it an actual career path.  But at that life moment, there it was.  Something I love that also earns a paycheck—that sounded like the perfect combination.

What I loved about teaching Tennis—indeed, what I still love about it—is that I get to coach.  I get a wonderful boost from helping people take steps towards excellence and personal growth.  I like delivering both the information and the inspiration.  I love the process of figuring out which button needs to be pushed at just the right moment to guide the student to a breakthrough and newfound confidence.  Even as a graduate student, my absolute favorite part of the gig was teaching a couple of discussion classes per week with college freshmen.  I loved leading them and opening their minds to new ideas.  It was a rush.  It is still a rush.  Another thing I love about coaching Tennis is that I regularly get to share in the best part of someone’s day (or week).  I don’t know that many professions that get to say that, so I don’t take it lightly.  I also greatly appreciate that I get to share the first great love of my life—Tennis–with others.  And I get to contribute to people’s fitness and overall wellness, which is enormously gratifying to me.  As I reread this paragraph, I am thinking this definitely sounds like my true calling.  Right?

Maybe not.  Maybe it is really just a great shadow career.  In the months surrounding my 40th birthday—I’m honestly not sure if it was the milestone birthday bringing it on or just the fascinating, inspirational stuff I was reading at the time—I started to really take stock of my life and wonder what I really wanted to do with the rest of it?  Was I really living my calling, or had I missed some signs along the way that were pointing me right to it?  I truly believe that our inner voice—our soul or intuition or the still, small voice, whatever you want to call it—is always communicating with us but that we are often either not paying attention to it or are hearing it but willfully choosing to listen to our logic or our senses instead.  So I started really listening to that inner voice, started looking for its signs.  I noticed when something gave me a big rush or made me feel at home or tingly.  I sensed how reading about or talking to some people totally entranced me, how I was envious of their careers or how they were shaping their world.  And I owned my longings rather than dismissing them.

It was also around this time that I began what I call “The Journal Project”, which was a thorough review of the nearly 50 journals I have filled in my adult life.  The combination of paying closer attention to the inner voice and doing an in-depth life review was totally enlightening when it came to this idea of my true calling.  What I found in both sources was a deep desire to be a writer/teacher/speaker/personal growth catalyst.  Every time I came across an entry in my journals about feeling called to write, I would get tingly all over my body and my hair would stand on end.  The still, small voice was speaking to me.  And it spoke so plainly and so frequently that after awhile, I could not ignore it.  I knew I needed to begin to move in the direction of my dreams.  My first book idea became very clear to me, as did the necessity of starting this blog as soon as possible.  I wanted my mission of helping people to know themselves better and to live more authentically and happily to have a vehicle immediately, even if I didn’t directly have a career in it for a while.

So, what does this say about my beloved Tennis career?  To me it says that it is a shadow career, a metaphor for my “real” career as a writer/speaker/life coach.  It certainly shadows it in many ways: I get to teach and inspire people, to share in their highs and lows while all the time seeking to build their confidence and push them toward growth and excellence.  It is a great job for me; it really is.  But, as it turns out, it just may not be the job for me.

So, how about YOU?  Are you in a shadow career?  Open up your journal and write about your career.  What drew you to it?  Do those same qualities keep you there still?  Are you just collecting a check, or is your work fulfilling as well?  How much is your career tied into your identity?  Most importantly, what do you really want to do?  Is your current career a shadow of that dream job, or perhaps not even in the ballpark?  Be honest: do you think you will pursue your dream?  Why or why not?  Are you playing small because it is comfortable and what you know?  What if you were meant to play a bigger game?

This topic obviously has a built-in challenge: if you admit you are not doing what you really want, you are forced to justify why not and why you aren’t—right now—about to make a move to change that.  Leave me a reply and tell me if you are in a shadow career.  I want to know: are you ready to step into your purpose?  What’s your next move???

Let your light shine,

William