What on earth do you want?!
Really. What do you want? You. Not what you were told to want when you were little. Not what your social set thinks you're supposed to want. Not what contemporary culture says you should be wanting.
I ask each of my beloved clients, What is it that you want? And 98 percent of them cannot answer. No idea. Just yesterday, a wonderful young woman -- full of intelligence and talents and job success -- spent her time agonizing over not knowing what she wants. She's always been told by everyone how selfish she is to even consider not doing it their way.
Guess what? The only life you can live is yours. Not the one they think you should be living.
The stakes are high.
Christopher Edgar, in Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work, explains:
[People] get uncomfortable talking or thinking about what they want ... They've learned it's unsafe or shameful for them to even consider what they want. They've gotten used to being called "selfish," "stupid," "crazy," and other epithets by people around them if they come clean about their wishes.
Goldilocks... now there's someone who knew exactly what she wanted and needed. She never settled for anything other than just right.
Just right porridge, a just right chair, a bed neither too hard nor too soft.
And never once did she stop to call herself selfish.
There are so many layers to living a life: relationships, including the one with yourself; where you live; how you play; and why you work the way you do.
A simple mindfulness practice is one of the most powerful tools for understanding how to implement a just right philosophy.
Take business, for example. You, in relationship to your work life. Do you know what your just right feels like? Beginning with choice of career or job. Did you settle for the first chair you saw, squirming around on it, trying to make it workable when it's really way too hard or ridiculously too soft?
What about the people around you? Are they too hot, or too cold?
What do you want? Where is your just right?
It's quite possible that you're telling yourself that what I'm saying is nuts. That there's no such thing. Or it's for sissies, too stupid for manly men or grown-up women to consider.
Or that it doesn't matter, because you've got to pay the rent and buy the food and get the kids some clothes no matter what. Of course, those things matter! But it's too easy to forget that how you go about paying the bills and getting medical care can be accomplished in a lot of different ways.
1. "Self-knowledge is the key to happiness."
So said Gretchen Rubin, happiness guru, at the World Domination Summit (Portland, Ore., July 2013). Goldilocks knew herself, and settled for nothing less than what she needed. Mindful awareness of who you are, and what you need are the keys to the kingdom of happiness.
2. "When we acknowledge the truth of who we really are, we have to also acknowledge the truth of who we are not, and who we will never be."
This is a huge one. Our culture is based, in part, on the belief that you can do anything, if you just work hard enough. But Goldilocks knew she had a just right. She didn't work hard, she worked smart. She didn't just settle, she kept going until she found the right one. For her. Nothing wrong with a too-tall or too-small chair, it's just that neither was her thing. It's incredibly liberating to acknowledge who we are not. Because then we can mindfully pour all our efforts into who we are. Thereby living happily ever after.
3. "There's no right or wrong. It's only a matter of working with what you've got."
That's the mindful path toward success. In business, in relationships. In experiencing joy and pleasure and sorrow. About working with what you've got. Not judging yourself as inadequate or wrong, as many of my clients do. Not selling yourself out. Just working with what you've got.
4. "It's very easy to lose track of what's true about ourselves."
What are you not yet willing to acknowledge to yourself about what's true? Are you desperate to be a writer? A fireman? Can't go for it if you don't even know it's your truth.
5. "We can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own natures, our own values, our own interests."
Cultivating the practice of mindful awareness is all we need to do in order to build the foundation. It's the wellspring of self-knowledge.
6. "The thing is ... there's no right or wrong answer. There's no right or wrong approach."
All you need to do is to be aware of what works for you. That's it. Easy, right?
7. "To take the time to understand ourselves is really the biggest adventure of our whole life!"
Build your life around what is true for you. Sit in your just right chair, eating your just right porridge, sleeping in your just right bed.
Courtesy of Chris Guillebeau and crew, here's the link to Gretchen Rubin's #WDS2013 presentation.
For more by Melanie Harth, Ph.D., LMHC, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.