Current popular mythology tells you to visualize what you want. If you get a vivid, clear, and emotionally gratifying image of what you want, it will come. And it will make you happy.
My experience is more like this:
- I don’t know what I want.
- I think I know what I want, but when it comes I want something else instead.
- I think I know what I want, but it hasn’t appeared.
- Today I know what I want, but tomorrow the want is different.
When it’s absolutely, unequivocally clear what you want, you don’t have to visualize a thing. You just take action to get it.
The question “what do I want?” is a trap. You could spend years trying to build your professional career around this question, working really hard to create a vision for your work. Just when you think you know what you want, the want changes.
Luckily, there is an easier way.
Instead of figuring out what you want, just listen to what’s being called to be done. I love the word “calling”. It’s a rich way to think about your actions in each moment. As one wonderful studio owner told me, “Instead of being so driven, I want to be drawn.”
Being “called” or “drawn” means our petty hang-ups, our likes and dislikes, our wants and desires, all take a back seat. What comes first and foremost is the calling.
Don’t mistake “calling” for a grandiose purpose or mission. You may be called to write bills, phone a friend, fold the laundry, or write an essay (my calling at the moment).
In fact, I did not want to write this essay today. My want, if I let it, would get in the way of the call to write these words. As I write, it is an exercise in saying yes to the call and no to personality whims that leave me tethered. I follow the call to write and learn to look deeper — how does this calling move me? What words arise on this page that I had no idea would come? How does this writing I do for you help me to see more clearly?
By listening to the call, I’ve noticed my business becomes self-organizing. I don’t need to figure it all out. The work takes on a hue unique to me, a personal brand. In the report Yoga’s Evolution, Kripalu’s president Ila Sarley calls this unique branding the “mojo” of a business.
What if all that mattered is following that very subtle, incredibility insistent, and sometimes irritating call to do a thing you would much prefer to walk away from?
Feel the fear, anxiety, or avoidance your want creates. Then follow the call.
If we place the calling in the driver’s seat, instead of the want, we don’t have to worry that we will get it right for some future gratification. Instead, we can live life now.