How to Find Your Life’s Through-Line

Q: I was listening to a podcast about a Navy SEAL who’s become a motivational speaker. He was saying that for people like him who find that life is just plain hard, you have to always go at it really hard to get anywhere that you really want to do. You have to always be pushing. In his experience, those who are not willing to put in the time, to do some suffering, are not going to reach their goals.

The reality is that most people don’t need to accomplish what this guy feels he needs to accomplish. Now, let’s contrast his approach with an Instagram post someone sent me where the message was: “Just love yourself for who you are, and how you are. It’s okay if you don’t have a passion. You don’t have to have a purpose. And you don’t have to know where you’re going. None of this means you’re lost. You’re still okay. You’re still a good person. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

Both of those viewpoints have elements of truth to them—at different times, for different reasons.

Life is a walk through time and space. It’s about the terrain you’re walking on at the given moment. If you’re on flat terrain, it’s fine to stroll. If you want to run because you want to move through space more quickly, because there’s something you want to get to, then run.

But there will be times when you’re going up a mountain and you will need to exert more energy.

There are times when we’re meant to rest. There are times when we’re meant to expend effort. We have to remember to look at the big picture and know there’s no one-size-fits-all message. Where are you in space and time? What are you moving toward? Is it something you’ve chosen, or, is it that this is just the road you happen to be on, so this is what’s up next?

Q: Okay, on the same kind of topic, what about when we’re trying to manifest something in our life. People say that if we seriously focus ourselves on what we want, we will eventually experience it on some level. It’s about the ability to really care, to really be intense and devoted. Because with no great commitment involved, forget about it.

The thing with manifesting, again, is that there is a spectrum of outcomes to consider. Just living out the dream in your mind is a form of manifesting. You can experience the results for a moment. And that’s all some people are going to get. But to make it manifest physically requires a different energy and a different level of effort. That’s where the confusion of wishful thinking versus manifesting comes in.

I always use the example of a lemon. If I tell you I have a lemon in my hand, and I’ve been soaking it in hot water, and it’s super juicy, and I’m going to cut it open, and all its juices are running over the cutting board, and you pick up a slice and take a bite into it and suck on the juice, you can’t not salivate. That description creates that image in your mind, which your mind then translates as real and then creates a physiological response to that “reality.”

It’s the same thing you’re saying when you imagine having an accomplishment acknowledged. How would that feel? You’re imagining it in your mind. You are going to create a physiological response. But that doesn’t create the event. It only creates a physiological response.

It could be said that what you’re doing is training your body to live in that response mode, and that then begins attracting to you more physical realities that match that physical response. And there is some truth to that.

Q: The other part of this discussion sometimes becomes: Find your passion. Then you’ll be able to make happen what you want to make happen. That’s how you’ll find the drive, the will, the energy to make happen what you want to make happen.

The problem with that approach, as I see it, is that the word passion has been overused. In a weird way, it’s become a new-agey cliche of, don’t do anything unless you feel passionate about it, where it feels like it’s a perfect fit for you.

That also speaks to how some people see Gen Zers. “They don’t want to work because they don’t like the job. They think you have to like everything.” There’s a lot that might be said about that point of view about young people, but I’m interested here in showing the two extremes: You don’t have to like anything, and, you have to completely love it.

The problem with going through life based on our likes is that we’re often trying to back into what our passions are by not doing what we don’t like, hoping something’s going to trigger an awareness of what we actually do like.

There’s a much better, proactive way to go about all this.

To start, most people don’t know what their passions are because most people don’t know what their talents are.

This falls under what I call “tacit knowledge.” Most of our talents are such that we don’t verbally identify them as a talent. We just take them for granted because they come easily to us.

So, start by looking at what interests you naturally, and what seems to come easily to you. That’s where a talent is. That’s where something could become a passion.

But let’s also be aware that passions are often connected to a sense of purpose. Sure, I’m good at XYZ but I don’t have a passion attached to it. So I don’t do anything more with it. It’s just an ability I have.

We’re talking about a formula that has to make multiple connections. All of these seemingly isolated messages of find your passion, or the law of attraction, or life is hard just do it. All of these soundbite messages of how to live your life don’t connect all of the dots. But until all of those dots are connected, we’re going to have fits and spurts and broken efforts. Because there has to be a through-line.

If there’s no through-line, you’re just going to go whichever way the wind blows.

Q: How do you get to that through-line?

First, identify what you’re naturally interested in and good at. An easy way to start is by looking out into the world and seeing what you care about and then figuring out a way to connect those two things together. If you’re good at something and you don’t care about it, you’re not going to do anything with it. It’ll just be a fun thing that you’re good at.

So, rather than saying find your passion, instead start by finding what you care about.

There’s an assumption with “find your passion” that this is the thing you’re meant to do. That there’s one thing you came into this world to do. But there are many things all of us have come into this world to do. It’s almost never one thing. It’s many things. It’s who you’re meant to impact in relationships, what you’re meant to contribute to the world at large, what you’re meant to realize for yourself. There are all these levels of purpose and it’s not all the same. There is no one purpose.

If you were to force me to say what one purpose is for everyone, I would say that we’re all here for a walk through time to become awakened. That’s everybody’s purpose all of the time. That is the ultimate through-line. But most people don’t come to that awareness unless there’s some trauma that pushes them to that point, or some awakening experience, or some personally persistent pursuit of needing to understand how things work. I’m talking here of those who are forever looking for answers to those questions of why am I here, what’s my purpose, do I have free will, what is destined, is anything destined?

Most of us spend a fair amount of time bumping around trying to find those answers. It’s like going on one of those Olympic luge runs. You’re on a track and looking for answers to those questions. The questions are the rims of the track. Some of those questions are trying to get you to take a hard turn. What a lot of people do is they don’t want to take the hard turn. It scares them. So, they go flying up and off the track. And then they either have to walk down the mountain or they have to walk back up to the track to pick up and start sliding again.

For those who choose to walk back up to the track, what they’re saying is, “I’m not done yet. I know it. I don’t know why I’m not done with this particular ride yet, but I’m not done yet. I gotta keep going.” The ones who choose to walk down the mountain are the ones who need more time to think about all of it. They will eventually take the ride back up to the mountain and go down again or find another luge run. Because the luge runs are endless. We don’t run out of them. What we run out of is courage, confidence, interest, stamina, support. That’s what makes life feel bumpy.

So, going back to that person who sent the meme, they’ve been feeling like life has been beating them up and aren’t fully ready to accept how they set it up that way. They have to unlearn how to set things up that way and then learn anew how to move their life forward.

Much of this we’re expected to just figure out for ourselves. And life can give us those lessons where, over time, if you keep making mistakes, you learn from those mistakes, and you can eventually figure it out.

But there’s a much faster and less painful way to do that. You can take an aptitude test to actually find out where your innate talents are and then match those talents with jobs that others with those talents like and do well at.

You can also talk to people you respect: “How do you see me? Where do you think I am right now? What do you see as my potential? If you were to pick a direction for me, what would you pick?”

You’re not likely to be given a blueprint. But getting feedback from others we respect can trigger vibrational threads in us that can begin helping us identify some truths about ourselves. And those truths can begin pointing us in a direction.

Be watchful for when somebody says something and you feel a shiver of awareness that causes you to say to yourself, “Oh yeah, that’s good, that’s part of the plan. I don’t know how yet, but that’s it.” Or, “No, that’s not it at all, but it’s good to know somebody sees me that way.”

It’s worth it to take the time to go through all of the people you respect and ask them to reflect back to you how they experience you and who they see you as. Eventually, you’ll get a sense of realizing, “Oh yeah that’s right, oh yeah that’s true, um no that’s their hang-up, that has nothing to do with me. Um oh that’s useful, I’m going to file that away for later. I don’t know what to make of that, but I’ll just leave that there for now.”

All useful information.

What will start happening is that you’ll begin getting a new set of tools laid out in front of you. And then you can say, “Okay, I’m getting an idea of what I can do with these tools. Let me try this.” And then you’re back moving forward again. And when I say moving forward—there is no forward, or backward, for that matter. There is only moving in a perceived direction that we’ve placed a value on.

If we use the example of Earth—you’re walking on the Earth. What’s forward, backward, up, down? There is none. Because if you walk long enough, you’ll arrive back at the same point. It’s just walking. It’s just being. It’s finding peace in being.

That student who sent the Instagram post was trying to give themselves permission to say it’s okay for me to not want to do anything right now. I don’t want to struggle right now. I need to give myself permission to recuperate.

After we go through a strenuous period, there is a need for recuperation. This is how we are biologically set up. No one, absolutely no one, can go indefinitely without sleep. You will die. No one, absolutely no one, can take an in-breath and not exhale in order to live. We are meant to have a flow of on/off, busy/quiet, active/peaceful. If we don’t accept that, if we think we can just set and forget the speed, we’re going to destroy ourselves.

So, yes, there is a time for recuperation. But we often don’t know when that time for recuperation is up because it feels so good. And so few people give themselves that time. So, when they do go into recuperation, it’s usually from burnout. And it takes a hell of a lot longer to recuperate from burnout than it does to recuperate from a strenuous activity where your body’s telling you, okay, it’s time to rest now, and you listen to that, and you rest.

Many of us don’t listen to our inner voice that tells us that’s enough now. There is a time for recuperation and a time when we need to get up from resting and take action again.

Unfortunately, if we need to recuperate from burnout, we’re usually well past our coping abilities, and we’ve imploded. Now, we have no sense of self anymore. Not only is there a need for physiological rest, there’s a need for emotional, intellectual, and spiritual rest. And those all heal at different rates.

It’s like trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again.  Many people find that incredibly difficult to do on their own. Usually, some outside force has to enter to make us get up and get going again. Either we have to pay a bill, or we’re hungry, and we have to go eat, but there will be some outside force that will make us get up.

The question is, once you’re up, how do you keep going? Let’s return for a moment to the conversation on inspiration. Very often, if we just look around, through synchronicity, something will show up that will shine a light in the direction we’re meant to go. A book will come. A conversation will come. A thought will come. Something you see on TV or something you hear in a song can spark something. Again, that thread will vibrate, and something inside you will say, “Oh yeah, that’s it.” But some people make themselves frantic, and then they panic. At that point,  they’re using physical energy rather than spiritual energy. “I’ll try this. No, that’s not it. I’ll try this. That’s not it.” You just need to keep yourself open, you have to be actively looking and listening. It will come to you.

Again, we are all on a walk through time. And on that walk through time, we’re all looking for certainty and the one right answer. But certainty can only be momentary. The one right answer doesn’t exist. The trick is to get comfortable with uncertainty. And the fastest way to do that is to know yourself and to properly take care of yourself.

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