I came across this quote from Danielle LaPorte yesterday: “You’ll know you’ve found the goals that are aligned with your core desired feelings when the path to your intentions makes you feel more alive, not less.”
It resonated so deeply and underscored a struggle that I think is not only personal, but also generational.
I know hard-work gets you places…but what if the place it gets you is not where you meant to go?
My generation grew up watching Fight Club. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but it’s an anthem against working hard to buy a beautiful house and fill it with impressive things only to spend all your time at work so you can afford all the things you’ve accumulated.
There’s been a huge push-back against materialism. It’s why making money wasn’t part of my career planning. Instead, I focused on what I wanted to do with the life-hours I’d be at work. If I was going to be at work for eight hours a day, I’d make that the highlight of my week, rather than what I get to do when I finally get to the weekend.
I hear a lot of complaints against Millennials for being entitled, for being the participation-trophy generation, and for expecting everything to be roses right out of college.
I can’t speak to every situation I don’t know personally, but I think at least some of that can be attributed to having been raised to live life with intention. We think about what we really want before just blindly accepting what our older compatriots might think is a good life. We think about what will really make us happy. (And since we’re young, forgive us if we’re wrong some of the time).
We know that money doesn’t make you happy. This study says that after reaching $75,000 per year, increasing salaries do not increase happiness.
When you meet a young person who seems lazy and entitled, you must realize that our ambitions are different. We’re ambitious about having jobs we don’t need a vacation from.
Let’s flush out that quote at the beginning. “You’ll know you’ve found the goals that are aligned with your core desired feelings when the path to your intentions makes you feel more alive, not less.”
When she says your “core desired feelings”, she’s asking you to think about how you want to feel when you achieve whatever your goal is. So if your goal is to have a million-dollar company….why? How will you feel when you’ve achieved that? She asks you to make that feeling the goal, rather than the $x-dollar company.
I’ll use a personal example to illustrate this. One of my goals is to have dinner on the table every night. The core desired feeling for that goal would be “nourished” and “together”. Together is not really a feeling. I’m looking for that Danish word that’s all the rage these days…Hygge?! That feeling of being cozy and enjoying life with loved ones. Communion. Breaking-bread.
So, if in my quest to “have dinner on the table every night”, I stress myself out and yell at my babies because they’re getting into everything and won’t get out of my way in the kitchen, then I have inadvertently destroyed the entire feeling behind my goal. So dinner’s on the table, but I’ll feel empty because the core desired feeling remains unsatisfied.
And yet. And yet.
Something bothers me about that quote. And that other one, “Make a life you don’t need a vacation from”. That one really bothers me. Maybe it’s because I just haven’t found happiness yet.
“…When the path to your intentions makes you feel more alive, not less”. I have to think that “feeling more alive” is going to come from bringing presence to the moment, not from choosing a different goal.
I think that even if we try hard to set up our life with intention, there are going to be things that come with the territory that we are not passionate about. When I thought about being a farmer, I pictured the tender transplants, my fingers in the dirt, watering the plants, plucking cherry tomatoes from the vine and eating them as I harvest. But along with that vitality comes the bookkeeping. The client-relations, the planning and calculating.
Along with the family dinner every night comes washing the dishes. I think there are going to be times, that are aligned with your goals, that do not make you feel more alive. There is going to be drudgery. There is going to be tedium. But it’s not the the goal that needs to change, or that I need to design my life in a way to avoid those things. All of that is life, too. The Full Catastrophe of Life*.
Rain, clouds, rainbows, sunshine, we live in a world of contrasts. There will be moments of feeling alive: of being totally entranced with what you’re doing, in a state of flow. And there will be moments of being distracted, feeling sick, feeling tired, and doing mediocre work as well.
Our task is to bring our full attention to each moment. To celebrate the privilege of living life in a human body that is capable of feeling the water run over our hands as we manipulate the dish under the water, all the while hearing the trickling streams of liquid as we rinse the front and the back, and we even get to see the sunshine reflecting off the surface of the dish and smell the soap. What a miracle! And even while all of this is happening, you are also capable of being aware of the sounds of your children playing or even fighting in the background. Sorry to get all corny here, but I think it’s important to remember often the incredible sensory capacity we are born with.
I know I can bring more presence to my daily life. I am starting a daily meditation practice to bring more mindfulness to the whole of my life. Want to join me?
*Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body & Mind to Face Stress, Pain & Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a meditation book by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I just love the title. Isn’t that a beautiful way to sum it all up?