Posts Tagged ‘personal development’

I normally don’t write a post for Thanksgiving Day because I figure a lot of you will be too busy inducing food comas and hanging out with people to read any blogs. But some of you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and others of you might want a well-deserved five-minute break from all activities Thanksgiving, so this year, here I am.

And guess what. I’m not even going to be talking about gratitude. Revolutionary, I know.

Although I will post a vanity pic of my first ever homemade cranberry sauce.

Instead, I want to talk about emotions. Our culture often puts certain value judgements on emotions. We have the “We must always be happy” myth. We also have the “tears are for wimps” myth. And we have the “Emotions are bad and must be suppressed–yay detachment!” idea.

I’m the first to agree that the ability to reframe and see the positive side of life is a great gift. Those of you who are regular readers have seen me write about that several times. Positivity helps with emotional resilience, and I think it tends to make people generally happier. All of which is fabulous.

But it’s fine when we have emotions besides happiness. It’s fine to sit there and admit to yourself that something really sucks. It’s fine to be frightened, or angry, or sad, or confused. It’s fine to be completely and utterly miserable. It’s fine to have a bad day. It’s fine if you don’t like Thanksgiving, or if your family is stressing you out, or if you’re worried that the mashed potatoes aren’t going to turn out. It’s fine if you feel shy because look and see all of these people you don’t know.

You don’t need my permission to feel however it is that you feel right now. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Go ahead and feel it. You don’t have to do anything about it, after all. A feeling doesn’t have to propel you into action. It can simply be.

We can repress and get down on ourselves when we aren’t feeling exactly what we’re “supposed” to feel. Or we can celebrate the fact that we’re alive right now and we get to feel the full spectrum of emotions. Some of them are tougher, for sure. Some of them we wish we weren’t feeling. But most of them happen to most of us at one point or another.

The idea that we must be constantly happy at all times is not particularly helpful. In fact, I find it downright exhausting. My favorite people are the ones that are okay with me however I happen to be feeling right then, even if I’m feeling cranky, or stressed, or really sad. The ones that need me to be happy all the time are not privy to the entireness of Amy, and I think that’s too bad. But regardless, I get to experience the entireness of Amy, just as all of you get to experience the entireness of who you are and how you feel. This is a beautiful thing. And it is part of being human.

Maybe there’s some irony in me being positive about not being positive and having emotions like sadness and fear and anger. But I don’t think we hear this message enough. It’s okay to feel how we feel. It’s okay if we don’t exist in an ecstatic cloud of happiness all the time.

It’s okay to accept the humanity of emotion.

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A couple of weeks ago I watched a TED talk by Brene Brown entitled “The Power of Vulnerability.” It’s twenty minutes long, but I highly recommend watching it when you get the chance. Brene Brown is a researcher who spent years studying vulnerability, shame, and human connection, and she shares valuable insights from her work and how it has affected her own life.

I’ve been seeing a common theme coming up this year, and it comes up again in this talk: that connection and well-being come from the inside, that they arise from our own beliefs and attitudes about ourselves.

I saw it in James Altucher’s post about Kamal Ravikant, who was desperately ill and miserable until he turned things around for himself and ended up writing a short book about the experience. His secret? He told himself that he loved himself a billion and one times.

I saw it in the reading I was doing about attachment styles. Apparently people with a healthy attachment style tend to assume that their needs will be met. And guess what? More often than not, their needs are met, one way or another. Part of this is probably because they are asking for what they need, and part of it is because they are attracting other people who are okay meeting some of these needs. The fact that they assume their needs are okay and will be met shows a greater sense of self worth.

And now here is Brene Brown, telling us that the one thing separating those people who experience a lot of love and belonging in their lives from those who do not is a sense of worthiness. When we believe that we are worthy of love and connection, when we believe that we are enough just as we are, then we can embrace our vulnerability, find our authenticity, and achieve greater connection.

And in her list of traits that these “heart whole” people have in common, she mentions them having compassion for themselves, because otherwise they are unable to have compassion for other people. This idea relates back to the Nice vs. Kind trap and one of the reasons being a people pleaser ultimately doesn’t work out so well.

At the end of last year, I wrote a post called “You are Worth It,” giving this message in yet another way.

This idea of worthiness circles back around on itself in a feedback loop. Take the recent World Fantasy Convention as an example. I entered into the convention feeling comfortable and like I belonged. Because of that, I was more relaxed, having a better time, and able to be very much Amy. So I could connect more easily with both people I knew and people I was meeting. Then people started joking that I knew everyone (not true, but thank you!), which made me feel like I belonged even more, and so made me connect more. Rinse and repeat.

Very Much Amy

The key point, though, is that the nifty cycle I described started with me. It began with me taking my career seriously and feeling like I belonged in a group of professionals. It began with me taking myself seriously, as a person worthy of respect. Without that, the cycle wouldn’t have had a chance to feed back on itself.

We talk a lot about authenticity: to connect with each other, and in a professional context, to connect with readers. This authenticity comes from the courage to be vulnerable. And make no mistake, it does take courage; this blog has taught me that. And here we find another loop: courage builds feelings of worthiness, and a feeling of self worth increases our courage. 

Let’s be brave together.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between being nice and being kind.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who also used to be a people pleaser. (There are few things more encouraging than finding and talking to people who used to be people pleasers and now are completely not that way at all.) He told me how he felt that in some ways, in order to change who he was and stop being a people pleaser, he had to swing to the other extreme for a time. But now he was at the place where he was hoping to become kinder and more generous.

A few days later Justine Musk posted her brilliant piece on nice vs. kind that does a great job defining terms, and everything clicked together for me.

Since I know not all of you are going to read her essay, I’ll quickly define the difference. Nice is doing things because you’re supposed to, because you feel you have to, because it’s expected, because you’re being pressured into it in some way, because you don’t feel you have the option to say no. Kind is doing things because you want to: you want to help, you want to be there for someone, you want to give of yourself.

Photo by Martina K

When you’re a people pleaser, when you’re nice all the time, you have trouble telling the difference between nice and kind. And forcing yourself into constant niceness erodes the capacity to be kind. Why? Because you are tired. Because you have nothing left to give.

In order to stop being a people pleaser, you have to start saying no. You have to pay conscious attention to the difference between nice and kind, and it’s difficult, and it takes a lot more energy than it would usually take. And my friend was correct. You swing over to the other side, because you’re saying no to being nice, but you haven’t yet built up your reserves to the point that you can be kind as often as you’d like.

I know because this is where I am right now. I want to be kind. But sometimes I can’t. And sometimes I’m accidentally nice, and sometimes I don’t have the energy NOT to be nice. Because as exhausting as it can be, nice is what I’m used to. Nice is my default setting, and as such, it’s what I tend to fall back on when I’m stressed or tired or in any way not one hundred percent.

Resetting a default, I’m finding, takes a lot of time and patience and mistakes and experimentation.

But I’m making progress. Understanding how kind is different than nice is a part of that progress. I am a lot less nice than I used to be. I say things that people don’t want to hear. I allow people to be uncomfortable instead of automatically smoothing things over. I say no and take care of myself instead.

Nice is something I’m happy to leave behind. Kindness is what I have to look forward to.

What about you? Do you have trouble telling the difference between nice and kind? What kind of balance do you try to strike between kindness and taking care of yourself?

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I just got back from L.A. and the annual SCBWI summer writing conference. I got to spend a lot of time with some truly incredible human beings, I got to hear Matthew Kirby be intelligent (if you ever have the opportunity to hear him talk, go!), I got to be inspired and fired up and reminded of a critical component of my own identity.

But I’m going to talk about something that was said at the conference that I disagree with. One of the keynotes given was “The Power of Quiet,” presented by Deborah Underwood. It was a good talk about, among other things, creativity, recent neuroscience research, the usefulness of daydreaming, and the importance of allowing for quiet time in our lives. But… Towards the end, Ms. Underwood basically said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that we don’t owe it to ourselves to make time for quiet, but rather that we owe it to the children who will read our books.

[Insert appropriate noise of pain and frustration here.]

Then today I was linked to an article by Amanda Craig in which she says, “Yet putting yourself last is one of the best things that can happen to a writer.” (This article, by the way, is a great way of inducing rage in yourself as it is one of the more misogynistic and offensive pieces of writing I’ve seen. Happily the commenters seem to agree with me, which does help prop up my hope for humanity.)

Both of these examples reference writers in particular, but I see this idea of selflessness, self sacrifice, and the deprioritization of self care all over the place. Our society propagates it, and while it is a popular idea, it can also be quite harmful. It is tempting to link it to our society’s issues with gender and the role of the female as the nurturing caregiver who puts everyone in front of herself, but actually I believe it’s a universal message that simply sometimes differs in presentation depending on gender.

This is not an idea I can support. Yes, it is good to be kind and treat each other well. It is good to help others. It is good to fulfill your responsibilities. Sometimes you have to compromise or put other people’s needs ahead of your own, particularly if you have children. Sometimes you have to juggle priorities and put important personal ones on the back burner for a while. Life happens.

But having needs is not only okay, it’s human. We all have needs. It is not necessary to put ourselves last in order to be virtuous or good writers or good family members or good citizens. It is not necessary to give ourselves permission to do something good for ourselves (and in this example, good for our careers as well) only because it might help other people down the line. It is not necessary to value ourselves so little. It’s as if we’re afraid that by giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, the ugly Selfish Monster will burst out of our foreheads and wreak havoc on the world.

Well, guess what? It takes a lot more for the Selfish Monster to show itself.

Putting yourself last is NOT the best thing that can happen to a writer. It keeps you from writing. It keeps you from feeding your creativity and inspiration. It keeps you weighed down on the floor instead of being able to fly. It encourages you to make poor business decisions. It keeps you from taking care of yourself, which means that stress and bad health are going to take their tolls…both on you and–shocking, I know–on your writing.

Give yourself permission to fly.

Putting yourself last is not the best thing that can happen to ANYONE. Sometimes it happens. But think about it. Putting yourself last literally means you’re putting the needs of every person you know, and society at large, and probably also random groups of strangers, in front of your own. All the time. How long is it possible to survive this way? Why do we valorize behavior that leads to unhealthy perfectionism, people pleasing behavior, and nervous breakdowns? How can you be the best possible version of you, which is on its own a huge service to the world, if you’re treating yourself so badly?

Someday I hope I’ll have the opportunity to give my own speech on this subject. But in the meantime, take care of yourselves. Cherish yourselves. Respect yourselves. Not just because you’re doing worthwhile, noble work (although that is awesome), but because you allow yourself, your life, and your experiences to have their own inherent and deeply personal value.

Please believe you’re worth it.

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Last week Theodora Goss wrote about becoming more fearless, and she had this to say:

“Perhaps it’s when you come to the realization that the point of life isn’t to be rich, or secure, or even to be loved — to be any of the things that people usually think is the point. The point of life is to live as deeply as possible, to experience fully. And that can be done in so many ways.”

I love this so much. I love it not only because I agree with it, but also because it redefines what “success” is. It allows us to be kind with ourselves about the inevitable mistakes and confusion and decisions that didn’t turn out the way we thought they would. Because all of that, the laughter and tears, the messes and triumphs, they all become woven into the tapestries of our lives. And to value all of them seems to me to be celebrating life in a more complete way.

It’s not that the other things Dora lists aren’t important. Money is useful for obvious reasons (read: not starving to death). Security–that feeling that the earth isn’t going to shift underneath you at any moment–well, I think some of us crave security more than others, and for those of us who do crave it, not having it can produce inordinate amounts of stress. And love–we all learned from The Christmas Carol that love, both the personal kind and the more general goodwill towards humans kind, is more important than wealth. And indeed, love of all kinds can be a deeply enriching experience.

However, all of these things can be stripped away. Here today, gone tomorrow. Huge financial crisis, lay-offs at work, a medical crisis, and your money is gone. Career change, bad health news, a house fire, and security is gone. Death, divorce, drifting away, and the love might not be gone, but it has certainly altered. Because the fundamental truth of being human is that the world and our experience of the world are in constant flux, whether we want that or not.

Photo by Dave Morrow

This is why I like what Dora said so very much. Because living as deeply as possible, that does not have to change, at least not until death. “As possible” is key here; we may not get to live as we would choose, but we can still have as our goal to live as fully as possible given our circumstances. There are so many possibilities of what that could look like. Maybe I can’t travel to China this year (wouldn’t that be a fabulous trip to take?), but I can go to Seattle. And write a novel. And read beautiful books. The challenge then becomes creating something meaningful out of what you can make possible.

Living like this takes a lot of courage, I think (which makes sense, given that Dora was talking about fearlessness). It is hard to let go of specific ideas of what we want. It is hard to create meaning when circumscribed in various ways. It is hard to accept that things change when we were comfortable or happy with the way they were before. It is hard to cast ourselves on the winds of life and attempt to steer even though we might not know exactly where we are going. (And if we do know, we are often wrong.)

But when I lie on my deathbed, I think this is what will matter to me, this passionate living of life. I’ll care a bit about the physical comforts that money can bring me, sure. I probably won’t care much about security given that I’ll be dying. I’ll care a lot about the people I love and the time I have been able to spend with them. And I’ll care about how I spent the time I had. I’ll care that I lived with all my being, that I did courageous things, that I listened to Thoreau and sucked the marrow right out of life.

How do you want to spend your life?

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I’ve written before about how travel can cause us to get to know people better. What I didn’t say was that travel can help us learn to know ourselves better.

This fact is perhaps why I care about travelling so deeply. Because all those things you can find out about your traveling companion? If you’re paying attention, you can also discover them about yourself.

Travel forces us to exist in liminal spaces, pushes us into in-betweens. We are no longer inhabiting our familiar landscapes, no longer in our comfortable personal worlds. We are past the comfort zone, pushing boundaries, encouraged to see what is around us with new eyes. Grocery shopping becomes glamorous and the tenth art masterwork we’ve seen today becomes mundane.

A fjord in Norway

Travel is taxing. We are often tired from long sits on airplanes, the passage of too many time zones, making our way from point A to point B in stifling heat or numbing cold. Our bodily needs become complicated as we try to manage our hunger, our thirst, our exposure to the sun, or our aching feet. The food may be different. The language may be different. Things go wrong and fall apart, and we are left feeling simultaneously buffeted by a large, impersonal world and lifted up by strangers’ acts of kindness and generosity.

It is because travel can be so uncomfortable that it is so rewarding. We find edges we didn’t know existed inside of us. We run headlong into our assumptions. Many of our outer trappings are stripped away even while we experiment with creating personal narratives for the people we meet. And meanwhile we are surrounded by brain food or soul food or the seeds of creative inspiration, or all three at once.

Sometimes we lose ourselves, and travel is one way to begin searching. Sometimes we crave change, and travel is one way to explore the possibilities. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are alive, and travel is one way to find peak experiences.

Exploring in Portugal

Travel is an active doing and a passive waiting. Travel is discomfort and pleasure, sublimity and boredom, a pain in the butt and the best time ever. Travel is flinging ourselves into the world and asking, Will you catch me? Which sometimes turns into, Can I catch myself?

We often think about travel as an exploration of the world. But it can also be an exploration of the self. In removing ourselves from our routines, our comforts, and our surroundings, we gain fresh perspective.

I had a friend ask, “By traveling, aren’t you running away from your problems?”

But sometimes traveling is running directly into our problems. We take ourselves wherever we go. The question is how serious we are about creating change. And traveling is one way to do just that.

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Let’s talk about failing.

Remember Adam Baker, producer of the documentary I’m Fine, Thanks? (The movie, incidentally, has now reached its funding goals, hooray!) He had this to say about how people overcome falling into complacency:

“They started to become comfortable being able to fail. I don’t mean they LIKED failing. Or even tried to fail. But they were o.k. with that being part of the process. Often, the desire NOT to fail was what kept people trapped for decades!”

How often do we hold ourselves back because we’re afraid to fail? Maybe people won’t like our final product (or us, heaven forbid). Maybe people will say no to us. Maybe people won’t buy our book, or listen to our songs, or even know we exist, even when we’ve given it our best shot. Maybe we’ll sound stupid. Maybe we’ll realize a major flaw only after our idea/plan/creative work has already been made public. Maybe maybe maybe.

So in order to protect ourselves from all those maybes, those things that might happen in the future, we fail before we even start, by not allowing ourselves to start (or finish). In this way we can preserve some illusion of perfection, of possibility, of “I could have done this if I’d really wanted to.” Some of us have been taught that failure is an unacceptable and unendurable sort of experience, and thus, we protect ourselves from the imagined agony it will cause.

Except. Failure only has the power over us that we grant it. Failure only causes us agonies if we allow it to do so. When we reframe failure to be okay, to be a learning experience, perhaps even a way of being able to tell that we’re saying yes to our own potential, then it loses its power to wound so deeply.

Even in the hero’s journey, the hero fails before succeeding.

“Boldness is genius.” I read this post by Sarah Peck recently, and it suits my current frame of mind (I even gave a spirited live reading of it, which I wish I had video of so we could laugh about it together). I’ve been trying to be more bold lately. And you know what has mostly happened?

I’ve failed. A lot more than usual. Things have fallen through. People have told me no. Vast quantities of uncertainty have wrapped their tendrils throughout my life. I’ve miscalculated the risks involved. I’ve been disappointed and frustrated. Sometimes I have a sensation not unlike banging my head repeatedly against a hard object.

But you know what? Failure? It’s not so bad. I haven’t disintegrated into a pile of green goo. My sense of self worth still exists. Sure, I don’t particularly enjoy being disappointed or frustrated, but I’m pretty sure I’d feel those emotions no matter what, and this way I’m not giving them power over me in the same way. I feel frustrated? Let’s try something new, take a break from whatever is getting under my skin. I feel disappointed? I’ll only dwell on it until I try the next thing. And if I’m being bold, that means I’m trying the next new thing a lot sooner.

The idea that failure always equals disaster is just plain wrong. Boldness IS genius. Comfort with failure unlocks many doors. And allowing ourselves to separate from all those crippling maybes is freedom.

How are you going to be bold this week?

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“I spend way too much time worrying about whether I’m okay enough for people.” – An anonymous friend

Right now I’m feeling angry. I’m angry that it can be so easy to feel the way my friend feels right now. I’m angry because I’ve felt that way before. I’m angry because now I understand how many people encouraged me to feel that way.

Jim Hines published a brilliant blog post yesterday about boundaries. Please please please, if you have ever liked anything I’ve written on this blog, go read what he has to say. Go right now. I’m serious. Go even if that means you won’t finish reading this.

No. No no no no no.

I grew up being taught, both implicitly and explicitly, that it wasn’t okay for me to say no. I drew a few lines in the sand, but now it pains me to think of how few, and how much inner turmoil I suffered to stand up for them.

A bit more than a year and a half ago, a person I was close to finally pushed me too far. And I started saying no, the way I wish I had done many years before.

This person tried to punish me for saying no. He didn’t want there to be a problem, so he simply ignored it. He pressured me to pretend everything was fine, to be okay with what had happened, to once more make a huge sacrifice for his own convenience. He sent me manipulative emails and the most passive aggressive birthday card imaginable. He took something he knew I cared about and tried to use it to force me to see him against my will.

I only talked about this as it was happening to a few people. Because I believed that not only did this person think it was not okay for me to say no, but that everyone else–society as a whole–would agree with him. I still think that’s true to a certain extent. Many people are not okay with the idea of boundaries, that we have the right to decide what we will and will not do in relation to other people. I’m sure many people would tell me to suck it up, to be the nice girl, the good girl, and preach the power of forgiveness. Even though they aren’t even involved in any way, they would tell me to go back to being a doormat. (Why? Why does me having power have to threaten the entire world order? I have no idea.)

As an old friend of mine used to say, that’s bullshit. I no longer want anybody in my life who is not okay with me saying no. Full stop. I have drawn my line in the sand and this time it runs all the way down to the earth’s core.

It is okay to say no. Even when people react with anger, hurt, and pique, it is okay to say no. Even if it means people will no longer like you, it’s okay to say no. (These are not the people who will love and cherish you and have your back and support you through good times and bad in any case.) It is okay to take care of yourself, and you deserve to be surrounded by people who will support you in doing that.

Never let anyone tell you differently.

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Today I have a really special treat for you. I’ve interviewed Adam Baker, the producer of the documentary I’m Fine, Thanks, which was one of the Kickstarter projects I highlighted on Tuesday. I was really excited to do this interview because the subject of the documentary, complacency, is so in line with what I talk about here on the Practical Free Spirit: priority setting, having adventures, being willing to take risks, and living an examined life.

So without further ado, here is the conversation Baker and I had:

What originally drew you to the topic of complacency in modern life?

My own story! Haha.

My wife and I were living that exact life that we discuss and talk about in the movie. We were doing o.k., but we weren’t doing what really made us come alive.

We made choices based on what we should do – or were supposed to do – and not really what was in line with our values.

In one of your blog posts, you said that two of the interviews made you cry. Will you tell us which two?

Well, at least two! But I’m sure I know the ones I was talking about then.
The first was Jonathan Fields’ interview. And that was twice. The first time was during an emotional story he told about 9/11 – and the second was when he told a different story about his daughter (I could relate as a parent).

The second interview was Victoria from Austin, TX. She’s a successful attorney who finds herself stuck between her career, wanting to stay at home with her young daughter, and her overwhelming debt from law school. The weight of her decisions was heavy for all of us in the room (you’ll have to wait and see it). 🙂

What are some ways in which we can combat complacency in our lives?

We found two common things amongst those that had successfully fought this problem:
  • They changed WHO they surrounded themselves with. The spent less time with people who brought them down and more with time with people who inspired and lifted them up. It was really that simple.
  • They started to become comfortable being able to fail. I don’t mean they LIKED failing. Or even tried to fail. But they were o.k. with that being part of the process. Often, the desire NOT to fail was what kept people trapped for decades!

Why do you think so many people are struggling with this issue right now?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the default life path. It’s encouraged and safe. It’s comfortable. So we all fall into that pattern.

It’s far easier to live someone else’s plan for your life – rather than to create your own plan. Creating your own plan is tough – REALLY tough.

But all the people we talked to said one thing – it was worth it!

What has been the hardest part of the process of making this documentary for you?

The sheer amount of work.

We spent 16-18 hour days on production while on the road. And, honestly, post production has almost been that crazy, as well!

We gave ourselves an incredibly short time frame – I’m sure we’ll be happy once it’s over – but during the process it can be stressful!

How did what you learned through making this film change you or the way you want to live your life?

It re-fortified my belief in what I’ve been trying to do for the last few years.

I’ve been working towards a more intentional life – but always have ups and downs. It’s the meaningful projects like this that remind me to stay the course!

What can people do if they’re interested in supporting this movie?

First, watch the Kickstarter trailer. (Amy interjects to add: Check it out! It’s a kick ass trailer.)

Second, if they feel compelled – back the project on Kickstarter (for as little as $5) – which gets you a download of the movie. We have many more levels for you to back, but kept it very affordable to help share with as many people as possible.

By supporting the Kickstarter, you ensure that this story can get out into the world. If we’re successful we’ll be able to share this with tens of thousands more people!

Lastly, just spread the word. Whether you can back the project or not – sharing the trailer and the campaign with your family and friends means a lot!

We’re on pace to become one of the most backed projects on Kickstarter (total number of people supporting us) – which is amazing!

Thank you, Baker, for taking the time to talk to us about your film. I can’t wait to see it! And I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be referencing this interview again, especially those excellent points on how to combat complacency.

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When I was in high school, I was very jealous of my classmates who already knew what they were going to do with their lives.

My father knew from childhood he wanted to be a scientist. He went straight from college to a PhD program in chemistry, and from there worked for a total of two or three companies. He worked at the same company for my entire childhood. My mother went straight from college to earning her teaching credential. She quit teaching when she became pregnant with my older sister.

I knew from age seven that I wanted to be a writer. In my clarity I was following in my dad’s footsteps, right? Only not so much. Imagine my alarm, at age ten or eleven, when I somehow began to think I wasn’t allowed to be a writer. Did my parents tell me this? I don’t remember. All I remember is that I knew I couldn’t be a writer because it wasn’t practical and I wouldn’t be able to earn money by doing it, and then I wouldn’t be able to afford the asthma medication I took daily. I was really upset until I soothed myself with the thought that I could always become a librarian.

From this point on, I didn’t feel like I knew what I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be a lawyer or a doctor. I wasn’t so sure about being a classroom teacher. I didn’t want to be a scientist. All of the exciting-sounding jobs in books were, I discovered, also impractical. So I decided to become a musician.

I know. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I’m so grateful I thought it anyway.

Photo by M.G. Kafkas

There’s a common line of thinking: “Follow your passion.” I don’t think this is bad advice, but I think it’s incomplete. I would say, follow your passion, BUT:

  • It may be hard to figure out what your passion is. Not everyone is born knowing in their bones what they want to do. And if you grow up exposed to limited career and life options, you might need to go digging to even become aware of the possibilities.
  • You may not be able to make a living following your passion. But you may have to try it to discover whether this is true or not. And the results may surprise you.
  • You might be able to make a living, but you might also have to compromise on your lifestyle. Some people don’t want to do this. Either choice is completely valid.
  • You may be perfectly happy not feeling passionate about your career. This doesn’t mean you can’t follow your passion anyway. I knew a dental receptionist who went sky diving every weekend because that was her true passion. I know writers who get up early or stay up late to squeeze in writing time. I know musicians who participate in community theater or play in bands by night.
  • Some people have more than one passion. So if you follow one and it doesn’t work out, you might want to fish around in your brain and see if you can discover another one.

There is no one right way to follow our passions. There are an infinite number of ways, and our job is to figure out which way we will follow right now.

How do you follow your passion in your life?

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