I saw a sign the other day in one of those cute shops that has everything you could possibly need to make your home cosy – or just cluttered. It read, “Do More of What You Love.” I know… it’s corny, but it struck a chord. The ‘I’m 43 and I refuse to allow this to be another “nothing” year’ chord (stop by and read my post On Turning 43). Seeing that sign, I ground to a halt in the middle of Sydney’s lunch time mayhem – an island between those queuing for a cardboard lunch and those rushing by, frantic to squeeze as much as possible out of their 30 or 45 mins – and I realised that it was time to do more of what I love, every day.
Do More of What You Love, Every Day
As often happens when I am on the verge of a ‘new truth’, I was initially more sensitised to the opposite of where this truth would take me. I became aware of what I would describe as the ‘negative state’. I was immediately conscious of all the things what I didn’t love doing – waiting in line (for anything), sitting in meetings (even those I’ve called), shoe shopping (seriously), managing people’s egos (just deal with it) and so on went the list. But right at the end of that list was the big one – I didn’t want to focus on those things I didn’t love doing anymore. And there are a lot of things I do, that I don’t love. That we all do.
In the ‘Power of the Heart‘ Mark Nepo talks about one’s level of aliveness at any given time. In every aspect of your life, he encourages you to ask the question: what is my level of aliveness right now? This resonated deeply within me when I first heard it and since that day I have often found myself asking: How engaged am I right now? Am I part of this as an active, willing participant or an unwilling observer? Am I choosing this experience or am I hitching a ride? How connected and enlivened do I feel right now to be a part of this – whether it’s my work, a conversation with a friend, shopping, exercising, blogging or eating. Am I doing what I love? Because if I am, then I will feel alive.
Of course, there are times when I know I can’t just get up and walk away from what I’m doing – a work meeting, for example. (Never a great career move.) But I also acknowledge that my behaviour and attitude contributes to an environment and can, as such, shift it from being an experience that is sucking the life out of me, to something that is enriching me… and everyone else involved. And if not, then I’m learning the importance of recognising it for what it is and, at the earliest opportunity, walking away. OK sometimes running. Either way, I don’t hang around to contribute to the toxicity. And that only took me 43 years!
More and more often of late, I find myself enriching my environment by simply committing to Leaning In – in all aspects of my life. I move forward and towards people, and in return they move forwards and towards me. We are drawn to each other through positive connection. I meet the eyes of the woman serving me as I take my change and thank her, and her smile reaches back to me. I put forward a solution-based idea in a meeting and my colleagues are immediately engaged. It doesn’t matter if it’s the solution we settle on, only that the dialogue has commenced (OK, mostly ). I say hello to the other person in the elevator and they visibly relax. After all, we’ve been riding this elevator together for months now, it’s time someone broke the ice! I introduce myself to the barista who makes my coffee every day and we become more than parts of an anonymous transaction.
Doing what I love includes connecting to people in a positive and tangible way. In doing so I honour my spirit and my heart, which then elevates my mood and that of the other party. My real need to do more of what I love, every day, includes breaking free of the bubbles of social isolation and exclusivity that we have created around certain situations, encounters, relationships and experiences.
Which then led me to a second understanding – often I don’t do what I love because of the logistics I perceive to be involved.
Being single I often feel I have two options, either don’t go or call a friend. As a single woman my life is often the subject of great interest and, apparently, open to critique. Every event I attend alone is viewed as either some sort of sad, but brave attempt at living a full life or a fishing expedition. “Oh, good for you getting out there.” “Well, fingers crossed.” “Oh good plan! There should be lots of nice, single men there!”
On the flip-side, not having a hubby or a partner with whom I can regularly plan to do things (although I expect that can be fraught with as many logistics), in a world that is coupled-up, means that arranging something involves a lot of phone calls, emails, and text messages.
Over time I discovered that when an opportunity arose to do something, even if I knew I would love it, the thought of having to get in touch with friends, agree on a date and time that suited everyone, and then sort out all the other details (dinner or a drink before or after, where to meet, car sharing, who would arrange the payment, etc, etc) meant that my enthusiasm quickly flagged. Or worse – having to suffer a friend try to convince me that it didn’t sound like fun, so what about something else. Working in a job that has multiple layers of logistics and planning and need for consensus means that the last thing I want to do is replicate this in my personal life.
So, the answer? Get over myself – and everyone else – and go alone. Get over the fear of appearing ridiculous sitting in a cinema by myself, asking for a table for one, standing on my own as I wait to enter the theatre to watch something I know I would love. And get past the need to take a book, or check my phone to avoid looking out at the world, or using some other prop to give myself purpose until the lights go down and everyone forgets about the girl sitting on her own. Give myself permission to do what I love without explanation or justification.
There’s one more reason why I often don’t do the things I love. Something I think is true for many of us. And thats, doing the things we love has somehow become equated to ‘wasting time’ or ‘mucking around’ or ‘childish’. We live in a time when the emphasis is on productivity, goals and output, reaching quotas, achieving more, getting promoted, putting in the (extra) hours… And somewhere along the way, doing the things we love became viewed as the opposite of all that. But what if we changed that? What if productivity was about doing less but having more – more satisfaction, more time to read, more time to talk to your mum, more time to play with your kids. What if your goal was to have a work life balance? What if the quotas you set were about your level of happiness, your face to face connectivity with the world, how much fun you were having? What if there was no need to fight or stress or scramble over someone else for that promotion, simply because it’s “your time”? What if you admitted that you didn’t want to get promoted (at least not yet) and just enjoyed the work you were doing? What if you did the hours you were paid for, and then went home to the rest of your life? What if you began to value the person you are, her worth, her contribution, her time, her everything – by doing more of what you love, every day!
I didn’t buy that sign. I realised I didn’t need a sign to remind me of what I already knew to be true.
But I did start doing more of what I .
Here are ten things I love and that I am committed to doing without reserve and as often as I like:
- Yoga – stretch, breath, repeat.
- Taking time out of my work day to get a 30 minute foot massage. When someone tells me they wouldn’t be able to find the time in their day for that, I think; pack your lunch and spend the time you save waiting in line for it, giving back to yourself with a massage. Unless part of what you love is standing in line…
- Writing. This blog, my journal, my dream journal, my novels in their various stages. I’ve always fancied there was a writer trapped inside me, screaming to be let out. And so I’ve unleashed her – regardless of whether what I write is any good or is only read by my mum.
- Baking – banana cake, cupcakes, scones…
- Learning – I am endlessly thankful that I live in an age where information is so accessible.
- Drinking a cup of tea at a cafe, while sucking on pieces of chocolate and reading a good book. Also, the buying the book part. LOVE!
- Talking to my mum. About anything.
- Spending time with my friends – even if it’s by virtual means owing to the often vast distances between us.
- Brainstorming ideas for world domination… or just ways to improve lives.
- Being kind. Just because it feels so damn good.
Of the 43 things I intend to do this year – # 1 was yoga. This is #2.
Do More of What You Love, Every Day.
Go on, I challenge you.