“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver
Ever since our childhood, we are imprinted with a desire to be successful. Maybe even more so than an encouragement to allow for happiness. Our parents, our teachers, society at large, implicitly and explicitly build within the growing child the expectation for ambition, for striving towards a set of goals largely predefined. We learn to expect success to look a certain way: years of communal schooling, a degree or several, a well-paying job, a secure relationship, marriage, children. Climbing the corporate ladder. We slowly turn numb to the voice inside, and particularly try to muffle it when what it speaks to us is in discord with what those-who-know-better-and-care have been ushering us towards.
But truly, who knows better and cares more? Even people who undeniably love you, and who genuinely want accomplished their version of what’s best for you, do they truly know you better? Can they possibly care more? The life you live, the minutiae of the daily routine, the unrecognized and unfulfilled yearnings, those are internal beacons nobody else can see but you. And, if you’re like most of us, not even you. You’ve silenced them so long ago, as crazy, misguided, unworthy. Still, that does not kill them, and they continue to affect your life force. You know something is missing even though you might not know what. You might think at first that it’s a matter of quantity: you haven’t become successful enough. Your job could pay more. Your house could be bigger. Your children could be more brag-worthy. Your vacations more sparkly.
It’s hard to reach the realization that perhaps you’re trying to run faster and faster on the wrong track. That maybe the good boy or good girl you thought yourself to be has not taken the time to really examine his or her life. To see to what extent it makes your heart leap. Do you feel alive? Are you excited to be facing a new day?
There is nothing more important you could be working on uncovering, in this life, than your own version of success. What does it really mean, what can it really mean, for you. Why that salary? What does that money get you? At what price? Why this dynamic in your relationship? Are you giddy to be with the ones you’re with?
You’ve been entrusted with a miraculous existence, and it is your ultimate responsibility to savor it well. What makes you happiest? Do you do enough of it? Could you do more? Are the obstacles you perceive real? Do you consider self-sacrifice a virtue? Would you want your own children to live a life designed by others, or can you allow yourself to release the fear of anything different and entrust them to follow their own compass? Can they learn that by watching you live your life?
Ask yourself these questions, especially when you do sense that numbness. You are never stuck. There is always a way to live your life in better alignment. There are trade offs and it takes self-awareness and courage, but the reward is deeply stirring and it benefits more than just you. It can give permission to many others to engage in honest examination of their journey, question and uncover, course-correct and design for themselves the life they were born to live.