WHAT’S DRIVING YOUR LIFE? For roughly the first half of my own life I never considered this question. When I consider it now the answer would seem to have been: attaining the goals and norms of our culture. Education, qualifications, boyfriend, career, home, friends, holidays. Not necessarily in that order. I was almost entirely ‘outside in’ although it was many years before I would understand that phrase. Essentially I was fully signed up to the notion that things outside of myself would deliver happiness or fulfilment. The fact that they didn’t, or at least not more than briefly, didn’t seem to register.
In my mid 20s my life went into free fall. Part of that, as I now see it, was my over-reliance on external things and concepts and my utter lack of a spiritual dimension to my life. From this place of crisis, I became open to another way of being and the world of feelings came to the fore. That was possibly one of the biggest errors of my life, leading to a rather unstable way of living. If someone is going after external goals, at least that will bring with it a certain capacity to withstand discomfort in the pursuit of the goal. For example if you want to learn to drive, you will go through the stages of kangarooing along the street or repeatedly stalling knowing that these are just part of the process.
If a person’s goal is to feel good all the time, because that is in fact impossible, they are likely to make a lot of choices that don’t really serve them. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, no thing or circumstance outside of our own thinking actually has the power to create any feeling in a person. One person is excited to sit an exam; another terrified. Or the same person has both feelings at different times. The feeling is 100% created from within not by the exam. Because it happens so invisibly and so immediately we are often unaware of that fact.
Second, like everything in nature, our thoughts ebb and flow. They do so unpredictably and irregularly like the weather. They are not consistent and predictable like the tide or phases of the moon.
These two factors combined mean that it is almost inevitable that at times we will experience discomfort during even our most cherished activities. Or with our most important people. If, as I was, you are ignorant of how things really work, there is a tendency for life to become unduly narrow. Each ‘distressing’ activity or person is shed in the mistaken belief that this will lead to better feelings. Negative feelings are not recognised as the reflection of transient negative thought – which is simply part of the human condition. Because they occur below the level of awareness, the feelings or discomfort are attributed to the circumstances and people we can see.
I was late to the discovery that my life could be driven by a much deeper and more reliable force. Behind the ebb and flow of transient thought and emotions is what the Quakers call the still, small voice within. Others have described it as Wisdom. Others as our Innate Wellbeing. However it is described, each of us is, at essence, unbroken and unbreakable. This essence is always present but can seem obscured when, as is inevitable, we are very caught up in thinking about circumstances. Yet like a North Star this clarity will re-emerge, guiding the right decision, delivering fresh ideas and insights, directing us towards compassion and connection.
Knowing that clarity will always emerge, gives me the ability to weather challenges and discomfort without going into meltdown or changing everything about my life. When action is required it becomes obvious and is less reactive. Inspiration, creativity and insight are daily experiences now.
The great irony for me is that the more I rely on Wisdom to drive my life, the more I achieve in the world. In the last decade I have possibly acquired more new skills than I have since school days. Relationships with family and friends have deepened. I also experience far more contentment, happiness and gratitude as spontaneous outcomes of this inner GPS.
If any of this appeals to you and you would like some help connecting with your own GPS, please get in touch.