When faced with a big choice, how do you make your decision? How many ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ appear?
When I’ve coached clients, time and time again the spectre of ‘success’ looms large over any career decision. For me personally, it took a while to see how heavily loaded my definition of success had become with outward measures of worthiness. Instead I now tend to think about what I am being called to be in service of, or my ‘Dharma’, a Sanksrit word meaning a person’s unique path or purpose. I find one piece of advice from the Bhagavad Gita in particular a source of continual inspiration: “It is better to do one’s own dharma imperfectly than another’s perfectly”.
Whenever I am confronted with a choice – becoming self-employed, moving house, saying yes or no to some work – I stop to feel into the choice: what speaks to me, what makes me feel small, or alive, or lethargic or irritable, or joyful, or vacant, or enraged. Whatever. It’s all valuable information rather than a distraction to get over. We like to pretend that there are ‘rational’ answers to life decisions but have you noticed how our clever minds can provide a post-hoc rationalisation of pretty much anything? Anything to prove to ourselves and the world that we really have got our shit together. But emotions are the absolutely essential drivers of action in this world: they assign meaning and value to our experiences and are therefore the foundations of reason.
This can all sound and feel terrifying. I have felt it as a falling sensation, or an unmooring. And it is becoming unmoored in a sense – from those external structures and values towards which your loyalty has historically guaranteed safety and approval. I’m suggesting that we owe a greater loyalty to our selves and the intimate truth of who we are. And just as we are both being and becoming simultaneously, we only discover our path as we walk it, step by step, seen and unseen. Perhaps there are missteps, faltering, falls even: but they feel so much better when they are completely and wholeheartedly your own! Perhaps the failure is part of it all – or as the zen proverb goes: “the obstacle is the path”.
We live in a world where the capacity to trust in our own path and our own instincts has been suppressed: from the measuring up work culture, to the litany of adverts working off the implicit belief that we are not quite complete, not quite enough. I saw an advert the other day for a bed that told me that the ‘perfect night’s sleep was forty years in the making’. As if deep rest wasn’t a birthright within reach for each and every one of us!
So it’s hard, right, to feel into your own path and to take the first step without knowing what comes after? It’s the work of a lifetime, littered with points of stuckness where energy gathers to create the next movement. To find the next move, the next step, there often needs to be an opening of space – psychologically, imaginatively, physically. Meditation and communing with nature – these are the ancient tried and trusted ways. You can also try one or all of the three questions below. Give yourself time – perhaps don’t even try to answer the questions but live and breathe them a little first.