Our most fundamental relationship is the one we have with our self. Until that relationship is made whole, all of our relationships will suffer, and any step we take towards fulfillment will ultimately be unfulfilling.
This is actually good news. It means that enduring fulfillment is entirely within our control.
Our relationship with our self is reflected back to us through our everyday experiences. Each experience is a teachable moment where we can heal misconceptions, express humble gratitude, dismantle behaviors that no longer serve us, respond rather than react when our “buttons” are pushed, and bring new insight to a conceptually deadened reality.
In the process of healing my most fundamental relationship, I learned invaluable lessons about trust from my innocuous “everyday” activities such as laundry and cleaning. This prepared me for a deeper “relationship detox” as I turned my growing confidence towards increasingly complex relationships. My unwavering commitment to healing gave rise to a deeply rooted sense of personal mastery.
The most powerful teachers in our lives are also the most subtle. What lessons are your everyday experiences waiting to teach you?
We want our lives to count for something. We want our actions to impact the world in profound ways. Yet that notion can undermine our ability to even get out of bed in the morning. Unless we feel we have some ambition or some person to devote our actions to, we often feel incapable of doing anything.
I have been on all sides of that coin (including the edges). There was a time when I felt hopeless and useless, like a target in need of an arrow. Other times I have felt inspired but ineffective, like an arrow in need of a target. It seemed like this unsolvable riddle. I didn’t know what to do, so I wouldn’t do anything, hoping instead to be found: by some person or some ambition.
Then one day, quite unintentionally, the riddle was solved. I was in the midst of a crisis in the summer of 2009. The debilitating quandary at that precise moment: “I don’t know what to do. What can I do?”
The question arose from a place of utter futility. Those words were the last of everything I had. Once spoken, even though it was just to myself, those words emptied me of any hope of finding an answer.
In the pristine stillness that followed, a steady, rather nonchalant question met mine: “Well, what can you do right now?”
I looked around: I was standing in the midst of a kitchen overflowing with dishes and papers and spills and chaos. I answered emptily: “I can clean the kitchen”.
A disinterested reply followed: “Then do that.”
Heaving a sigh at the pointlessness of it all, I resigned myself to the task at hand. As I started hurrying through the dishes, awareness shifted away from the task and onto the rich warmth of the sun on my face. My pace slowed, igniting a spark of curiosity. What other richness was I overlooking?
My actions slowed even more, and I began to notice the wonderful play of energy within and around me. All of life had led me to this one epic moment. The miracle of it all unfolded before me. This was no dish I was washing: this was a pinnacle result of a rather extensive and daunting chain of events.
I felt humbled. My actions slowed even more as I created space to take in the magnitude of it all. As I moved through the kitchen, each area revealed a deeper sense of wonder. Each area served as an opportunity for me to experience and express humility for my prior arrogance of discounting these every day activities as burdensome.
Somewhere along the way I realized: I wasn’t cleaning the mess in the kitchen, I was cleaning the mess within myself. By the time I was done, I felt cleansed and alive. I was inspired: I was an arrow that had found its target. This was something tangible that I could share with the world.
The answer to the riddle: Purpose is not a question of what profound thing we can do, but simply a matter of doing what we can do in a profound way.
So let me ask you: What is one thing you resist doing because it seems burdensome? Is it possible that this task can become a gateway to inspiration? Perhaps our purpose is not a matter of what we do, but a matter of how we do what we do. A far more empowering question than “what can I do?” is the question: “What can I do right now?”
My life only exists in this moment, and then it’s gone. The choice I make in this moment is the choice I make for my entire life: it is the only one choice I have to make, and then it’s gone. How will I choose to live my life in this moment? How will I choose to spend the only moment I ever have?
Chances are you landed on my website because you are looking for instruction on how to expertly answer essential questions and reignite a sense of personal mastery in your life. You have proven exhaustively to yourself that employing other people’s “recipes for success” does not work (despite the guarantees and the raving testimonials), yet your own recipes have also failed to pan out.
You no longer trust yourself the way you once did, and perhaps you are unclear about whether lasting fulfillment is even an option for you. The only thing you are clear about is that you do not want to waste any more time, effort, or money wandering down blind alleys.
Perhaps you are actively taking steps toward a direction that “feels” most authentic, but there is an undermining uncertainty about whether the steps you are taking will actually lead to fulfillment. This is a difficult predicament because there are so many choices to make, and you have no reliable compass to guide those decisions.
Perhaps you feel you are on the brink of a breakthrough, yet your lack of clarity combined with your abundance of self-doubt precludes you from stepping in any direction. You are faced with the possibility of resigning to a “life less lived”, yet you are not entirely without hope or you would not be here.
I know both those scenarios all too well.
The weight of this elusive American angst leaves the bulk of our society feeling lost and alone. I have found my own map through the perilous jungle of despair, yet experience informs me that my map will ultimately not be of much use to others.
What I can offer is help dispelling the myths and misconceptions that cloud your vision, creating the possibility for you to find your own map and compass.
For those who feel they have exhausted all viable avenues in search of fulfillment, I personally know the black hole you are in. Having “slingshotted” out the other side, I am in a rare position to offer a perspective that few can, yet I also know it is not a perspective that is easily heard let alone trusted.
I am told that I can be rather blunt at times, and that the things I say can seem overly simplified and without a shred of compassion. I recognize that truth, but I know that it is out of deepest compassion that I feel the occasional need to be so blunt. Coddling often serves to undermine efforts towards personal mastery, whereas drawing cold distinctions can effectively set personal mastery ablaze.
If you do not genuinely want to break free of uncertainty and own your life, then I am the last person you should be spending any time with. While I would deeply value your friendship and support, know that my primary interest in you is in helping reignite your experience of personal mastery IF that is something you are interested in as well.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
If you are trying to affect change through sheer willpower, chances are you will either a) not succeed, or b) not find the fulfillment you expected to find when you white-knuckle your way to “success”. From this perspective, willpower might as well be called “wontpower” because it won’t lead to fulfillment.
A triumph over willpower is no win at all. Willpower is our ally. Rather than trying to triumph over willpower, align with it and learn from it. Willpower is not keeping you from experiencing fulfillment. Willpower is guiding you to the true source of fulfillment. Be grateful for obstinate willpower.
For example: Let’s say I want to exercise more this year. Why do I want that? “Because I believe that if I exercise more I will be healthier and I will feel healthier.” Why is that important? “Because I believe if I am healthier and I feel healthier I will have a richer experience of life. I’ll have more energy, I’ll be able to do more, and perhaps I will even meet people who are also interested in having a richer experience of life.”
These are all good reasons. But I ask again: What is my current experience that prompts me to want these things in the first place? “I don’t feel like I have enough energy, I don’t feel like I am doing all the things I want to do, and I don’t feel like I have the people in my life who actually enrich my experience.” Okay: Now we are getting somewhere.
This last reason reveals a structural perspective of “lack”: “I don’t feel this, and I want to feel this, so I’m going to try doing that.” Extracting the key italicized words reveals a provocative insight: Willpower is telling us “don’t want that.” If we are unable to hear willpower’s wisdom, we will have to figure it out the hard way by trying (and failing) hundreds of times to affect positive change in pursuit of fulfillment.
The structure of “want” is most often a symptom of blindness to wealth. Having more, and doing more, never results in experiencing more fulfillment. Until we address the structural perspective of “lack”, even if we get the experiences we want, the structural perspective of “lack” will still be intact and will preclude us from experiencing the fulfillment we believed that experience would hold for us.
Most likely, however, we will never end up making it to that new experience. Established patterns of thoughts and behaviors will win out, and we will blame our defunct willpower as the obstacle to our fulfillment. As we have just seen, though, even if we get what we want we will not experience fulfillment. Willpower is not the obstacle to fulfillment: our idea of what fulfillment looks like is the obstacle to fulfillment.
What if instead of trying to change what we do in attempt to experience fulfillment, we instead clear up a fundamental misconception of fulfillment. Fulfillment does not come from any particular experience: pleasure and pain do. Fulfillment precedes experience, and when our understanding of fulfillment changes, we experience more pleasure even if at times there is also pain.
I hear what you’re saying: “How can I possibly be fulfilled in my current situation?!” I get that, really. Remember, though, that your current situation is in a constant state of flux: you are always changing, as is the world around you, without you having to do anything. Anything that changes is not real, and what is real radiates fulfillment.
By short-circuiting that structural perspective of “lack”, we begin to experience our intrinsic wealth. As we focus more on the irrefutable evidence of wealth, we inevitably find more evidence of it. We feel alive and engaged in a way we never have when we were trying to force our life to look like what we think it should look like. We see the beauty in the child rather than the handicap.
“In Plain English“: Willpower is telling us to want what we have instead of wanting what we do not have. Willpower will not budge on this point, so our only real option is to learn from it. When we do that, we naturally find more of what we want. Anything in our life that no longer serves us will either fall away of its own accord or will reveal the tools necessary to easily and compassionately extricate it.
Just my two cents, for what it is worth. I encourage you to experiment with the insights I share and discover for yourself what is true in your own experience. When you do, I would love to learn from your discovery! Please email me, or leave a comment, and let me know what you found.