For more than 30 years, I led my life trying to feel good and, most of all, trying not to feel bad. Far from achieving happiness, it led me into a succession of cul-de-sacs. And further and further from happiness. Yes, of course, I sometimes managed to feel good, often avoided feeling bad or worse, but in the end, I could feel that my life was shrinking. I had lost the map. Clearly, I did not have the right compass.
Any journey of discovery requires stepping out of your comfort zone.
And to get where we want to go, we need a working compass.
It’s important to have a compass
Unfortunately, most of us do not have a reliable inner compass. This comes from the fact that all too often our head, our heart and our fears can obscure our sense of direction.
By its almost infinite capacity to tell us stories, our head can convince us to take side roads that will never take us to where we really want to go. Our heart too can push us to actions that, though steps in the right direction, will not get us safely into port. Finally, our fears can too easily make us give up and push us into going around in circles.
To find our way, we need to set our compass firmly in the direction of what is important, what truly matters.
Stop for a moment to consider what is really important to you.
For me, it is to make myself useful and connecting with those I love. And for you?
It’s hard to identify what’s important
Identifying what’s important is not easy. Our minds can and will push us to choose external things: success, recognition, money, or inner feelings that can fall prey to the comparing machines of our mind: self-esteem, or sense of inner confidence. I’m not saying that these things can’t be important, but I doubt that they are really what is most important to you, anymore than they are to me. To find out, ask yourself the question: If I was successful, if I was recognized, if I had money, if I had higher self-esteem, etc. what would I do that I am not doing today? And how important is it for me to be able to do these things? Note that I am not asking your mind, I am asking your heart. Take a moment, close your eyes, and consider this question. If something is deeply important to you, your heart will tell you.
Qualities are important
If you listen to your heart, there is a good chance that the things your heart will reveal to you as important are qualities of your actions, more than tangible results, or inner feelings. There is a good chance that the qualities you’ll identify will be qualities that some of your actions may or may not bear. For example, if you identify your relationships—your intimate relationship, or the connection to your children—as important, see if you can identify the qualities you would like your actions towards your partner or children to embody.
It is often difficult to identify what is really important to us. This is why we will regularly come back to this issue. For now, we just need to set our compass on what’s important, what truly matters. By practicing noticing what’s important, you’ll develop your ability to recognize it and recognize in which direction your compass points.
Your noticing exercise: Take a few moments to write or simply consider your answers to the following questions:
Who and what is important to you?
What is most important to you about each thing and person you have chosen as important.
How important are these things or people in your life?