I’ve discovered a terrible lie we’ve all been told. I’m sure you have heard it: hard work always pays off.
To that, I’d like to respectfully say: bullshit.
The myth that “nothing but hard work will bring you success (or happiness, or love)” used to run me ragged. What I’ve discovered is that the more I do what I enjoy, the more success (and happiness, and love) I feel. There is nothing hard or work-like about it.
Relax and Listen To Your Body’s Wisdom
Recently, I visited one of my favorite places in the world: Ojo Caliente mineral hot springs. I spent two full days soaking, reading, walking, painting. Occasionally, conversation sparked with another soaker. Otherwise, there was a whole lotta nothing going on.
Back at home, I returned to my work with renewed enthusiasm and vigor. But something shifted. I realized that I don’t want to ever “work” again.
Shifting Your Perspective
When you have to force yourself to do something that feels like a struggle, you are essentially going against your body’s wisdom. Your body knows when a situation or an activity is aligned with your inner wisdom (or not) and it will tell you so: by becoming either relaxed and healthy (or stressed and sick.) The signs are pretty clear. But if you’re not paying attention, you could miss them. Or you might be in a temporary phase of working through something. Or you might chronically override your body’s messages and miss the life that was meant for you.
Relax and Notice What You Love
I’ve had just such a realization in the past few months. Though I have been pretty good about following the signs, there were some things I missed. For some reason, I ignored a part of me that was screaming to be recognized –my artistic nature– since childhood, in favor of striving for a goal that seemed more “realistic” or socially acceptable. The first phase of my career was in catering and restaurant management because that was my father’s line of work. Then I worked in mental health facilities and hospitals which felt noble and useful. I had a fantastic journey teaching yoga for 20+ years, (which I did and do love) but was constantly greedy for some sort of outside approval: a fashionable studio, a great salary, an exotic location, lots of appreciative students.
And so even when I did achieve these things, the joy was diluted. Satisfaction was elusive because the messages were coming from outside. I couldn’t hear my inner message telling me to write and make art. I need these things like I need food.
What Nourishes You?
One of my favorite things in the world is to spend an afternoon immersed in a great work of literature, or a contemporary art museum. My body literally vibrates when I am in the experience. My mind gets calm, clear and inspired. The message is clear. What I do with that message is up to me. This is a process that has not completely revealed itself yet, but I am doing my “practice” of painting and writing every day and seeing what unfolds.
This is not to say there is no labor in doing what you love, and I’m not advocating laziness. I worked like an indentured servant the past few weeks to organize, prepare, categorize and label my entire body of work (spanning 14 years) for a showing in the Crestone Open Studio Tour. It was alot of work! But it wasn’t really “work” if you know what I mean.
Do What You Love
It’s not much more complicated than this. But you can make it complicated. Many of us have self-imposed rules, or externally imposed rules. We have belief systems that subvert our truth. Or we don’t know what we love because we have endless distractions that hijack our attention and sabotage our awareness. This is truly a tragedy. When you relax and listen to your body’s wisdom your intentions are attuned to your actions.
Simply this: take time out every day to settle in and pay attention to your body’s wisdom. Listen to what circumstances make you hum, and what make you want to groan or grunt. Write down your observations throughout the day, or in the evenings before you go to bed. Then, (and this is the hard part) ACT on that wisdom. It doesn’t have to be big– just let your daily decisions be based on the information your body tells you. Let go of what needs to be recycled. Embrace what makes you thrive. Then let go and allow things to unfold. The more often you choose in alignment with your intuition, the more your inner wisdom will speak to you.
- Know your truth by listening to your body’s subtle messages
- Make choices based on this truth
- Let go of outcomes