What Will You Do? A Reframing of the Question

Don’t just do something, stand there! -White Rabbit

The world is a dichotomous place.  For every action there is a reaction.  For every instruction there is an alternative approach.  And so it becomes difficult to tease apart what is real and what is finely-crafted rhetoric.  Perhaps rhetoric is all this piece is.  But if it comes from a place of truth does that not make it real?  And if it comes from a place that is meant to disguise one’s true intentions is it not then rhetoric? It may not even matter, as it is only that we can’t expect what works for one to work for all.

Eastern and Western philosophies are sometimes (seemingly) at odds with each other.  And if one such philosophical approach must be true, then it becomes impossible to subscribe wholly to either because there’s an approximately 50/50 chance that it will lead to the wrong choice and, thus, the wrong approach to being.  I think one of the biggest paradoxes with religious faith is the notion that if only one can be correct, then how should I know which to choose?  And what are the odds that the one that is most prevalent where you happened to be born and subsequently indoctrinated into is the correct one?  Indeed, there’s a far better chance that you have been involuntarily signed up for heresy than for ascension to heaven or its analogs.

It’s a rather western approach to be ‘go getters’.  Want something in life?  Make it happen.  We’ve been taught this from a young age and it makes sense on the surface.  Work works when nothing else is working, right?  Nothing in life ever happened by just waiting to see what happens, right?  I mean, when Peyton Manning first heard about Andrew Luck, do you think he thought to himself that his legendary status would ultimately be strengthened by getting nudged out of Indianapolis and winning a championship in Denver before retiring on top?  Do you think that Walt Disney knew what lie ahead for himself when he was fired from his news job for a lack of ‘good ideas’?  Oprah was once fired for being ‘too emotionally invested in her stories’.  Einstein sucked at math in grade school and Darwin was a drop-out med student! And it’s not that any of these people knew what was to come, but they continued to move forward and prime themselves for opportunities within the field or ‘realm’ of what spoke to them.  Of what made them curious.  They remained open while instilling in themselves the habits, focus and discipline required to succeed rather than attaching themselves at the hip to some specific and particular outcome.

I’ve learned a bit about ‘eastern’ philosophies also have am often trying to decide where it all fits and what works best for me.  In this, I wondered, how can I ‘just be’ and simply ‘allow things to happen’ while ‘resting in awareness’ or ‘doing nothing’ (i.e. meditating) and still proactively work towards my goals and create the life I want and become the person I wish to be?  Are these things not completely at odds?  Isn’t filling every moment of my life with progress and hard work and busyness the one and only true path to success (let’s not bother with getting into defining success here)?

And what I’ve realized is that I’ve been misconstruing the western message I’ve been receiving.  I think most of us have been. Being able to do anything I put my mind to is not the same as expecting for anything I put my mind to to occur.  There are too many variables in the universe for that to be guaranteed.  But by finding that goal, and keeping the focus, we remain able to make the most of opportunities that the universe presents to us, as well as being more able to listen to and respond to internal cues that tell us when to act on something, when to follow curiosity.  Being detached from any one particular outcome but optimizing for the multiple possible outcomes that will come our way is the true key to success and happiness.  It isn’t always what we set out dreaming of that is best for us anyway.  But often it is opportunities that we couldn’t have even imagined when we started out that turn out to be the greatest.

Yesterday, a friend of mine commented on how he still doesn’t know what he’s going to do with his life. And I totally get it. We are both 33 years old. The thing is that there is nothing about being human that requires is to do something in particular that we can identify with for our entire lives. In fact, that is probably a great recipe for disappointment ultimately. Never before have I ever had less of a clue or expectation of what the future holds. Nor have I ever been happier and more generally at peace, contented and self-validated. I believe that there is a strong correlation between these two factors, and that it may even be a causal relationship.

Identintity is vital.  But identifying too strongly can be deadly. In order to achieve anything of purity in life, you must let go of any sense of pride, shame or identity at all with your job, career or vocation. This may sound scary, but don’t worry.  You’re going to get up to so much more.

In the end, we are human beings, not human doings.  And I think that it if we can buy into this a little more and just ‘be’ for a while rather than simply ‘do, do, do’, we might find that our calling has been looking for us all along. And maybe it hasn’t been able to find us yet because we have failed to follow the number 1 rule of being lost: stay put.

Because if the destination is unknowable, what is the rush?

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