Many of us think we are supposed to naturally experience happiness: as long as we aren’t in the midst of great tragedy or hardship, we should feel good. But that is not how it works. What happens naturally is that we receive a roadmap to those feelings–a totally unique, customized map–to our own joy. We have to recognize that we have the map. We have to read it. We have to follow its directions.
Most of us don’t do this. We have turned away from our own real lives. There are many reasons for this:
· We don’t know what we really want. We’ve never had the chance to really figure that out, or what we do know is so clouded by fears and negative thoughts we can’t see it clearly.
· We don’t want to miss out on the payoffs—financial wins, social prestige, emotional comfort—of taking a conventional path. Other people may have discouraged us from living our authentic passions and loves. We desire approval and admiration from family, friends, and colleagues. We like fitting in, living a life validated by others. We are unwilling to rock the boat.
· Our own internal critics are in the way. There is an inner voice telling us that the path we’ve dreamt of is unrealistic, silly, doomed for failure. We think we aren’t good enough, it’s too late, or it’s not possible given the practical constraints of our lives.
· We convince ourselves we have to choose between practical needs and financial security “versus” expressing ourselves. We make up the story that there is a conflict between responsibilities or even values — such as caring for our families- and living the lives we desire.
· And then, of course, there is plain ol’ fear — of risk, failure, of change and the unknown. Fear stops us from taking action.
Most of us never received the tools to deal with these forces. We simply don’t know how to nurture the dreams that reside within. We don’t know how to refute the inner critic or deal with the external critics in our lives. We don’t know how to work with fear.
Here’s the good news: There are real—often simple—tools to do all of these things. What I aim to offer in my work are those tools – the tools for the practical journey to discovering — or recovering — your authentic life. I offer the tools that worked for me, when I had to find my own way back to my authentic life, and I offer the tools I see working for my clients, again and again.
About three years ago, at the end of my very first coaching session with my own first coach, when I was in that place of longing and confusion, when I was living a life that was not my own right path, a question arose from deep inside my gut, and it sounded so odd to me at the time that I was almost too embarrassed and puzzled to ask it.
“Why does my heart need support to follow my heart?” I asked. The truth struck me as so strange, and sad: there were things in my life I had wanted, and other things I had wanted to reject, but along the way, my heart hadn’t had the courage to follow itself. How odd, I thought, that it was so hard for my heart to simply follow itself, to not stop itself.
“That is a wonderful question,” my coach replied. “Think about it this week, let your mind work on it as you go about your life. Recognize that this is the question that brought you to coaching.”
“Why does my heart need support to follow my heart?” I thought about the question for much longer than a week. I am still thinking about it: What gets in the way of us following our hearts—of pursuing our most real, juicy, meaningful lives?
Support for the heart comes from the inside and the outside. It’s a minute to minute and a lifelong project. It involves strengthening muscles, and repairing wounds. It requires swift emergency calls as well as slow, sustained friendship. It takes discovery and experimentation to find and understand who we really are. It takes the development of skills to manage fear and maintain focus and inspiration. It requires careful consideration of the kind of support and structures that will set one up for success- and efforts to put them in place.
I was struck with the why question, but perhaps the what question is more important: What does your heart need to follow itself? What does it need from you, from your mind, your will? What does it need in lifestyle, environment, relationship? What does it need permission for? You know. Just trust the answers.