Those of us who strive to live Wild Awake often tend to have a lot going on at any given moment–if not outwardly, at least in our heads. There are just so many bright shiny objects seemingly screaming for our attention. And they all seem so important, FUN, urgent, exciting, or fleeting. There’s family and friends, work projects, movies, concerts, hikes, symphonies, potlucks,dance parties, climbs, plays, river runs, sunsets, star gazing, wine tasting, traveling, books to read, and SO MUCH MORE! And when it comes to the big picture of what we should DO with our lives, our purpose, there can be even more confusion! Should I set out to be an entrepreneur? Should I stay at home with the kids or go back to work part time? Is my calling to be a teacher or an inventor? An engineer or a ski bum? Should I take the risk of leaving my job that is sucking me bone dry? There are so many decisions…so how do we balance it all? First, let’s get clear on the
What do I want?
When taking in all our options, we often feel overwhelmed and end up attempting to do it all, or do nothing at all. While F.O.F (Fear of Failure) is often at the root of doing nothing, for those prone to the former, my friends introduced me to the term F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO leads to very busy schedules, very little sleep, very little sitting still, and can certainly also lead to a whole lot of good times. It seemed we often fell victim to this “affliction” of FOMO. We tried to do it all due to a fear of missing out…but missing out on what?
If we’re considering FOMO, what exactly is it that we are afraid of when we try to pack in so much? For many it is a fear of missing out on that one thing that would have really lit up our spirit. It isn’t always easy to tell in advance what that might be, so we just pack it all in. While the realization that life is precious and thus wanting to make the most of it is a beautiful practice, eventually it becomes clear that it doesn’t mean packing in every single moment with more and more events. But how do we narrow things down?
Decisions are harder to make when we aren’t clear about what we want. At the same time, the question of “what do I want?” can be so ambiguous. In considering all this, I wondered if my particular FOMO was not so much fearing that I’d miss out on “what I want” per se, but rather a resurfacing of my most dreaded childhood fear: the Fear of Being Bored (FOBB). As a kid I would cry from from boredom. I didn’t care about chocolate chip cookies or barbie dolls so much as I just didn’t want to be bored. It slayed me.
What would excite me?
Tim Ferriss says in The 4 Hour Work Week, “The opposite of happiness is boredom…The question you should be asking isn’t, ‘What do I want?’ or ‘What are my goals?’ but ‘What would excite me?’” He even refers to ADD as “Adventure Deficit Disorder.” Most psychological theories and spiritual traditions agree that we humans do the things we do because of one common goal: to be happy. If we strive for happiness, then what, conversely, are we avoiding? What are we fearing? Why does Tim think its opposite is boredom?
Let’s consider some alternatives for the opposite of happiness. What about sadness? Well, it doesn’t really seem to be the opposite of happiness. There are people who are not happy who aren’t necessarily sad. Same goes for anger. And anxiety. And fear. Sadness, fear, anxiety and anger…these are generally transient emotions you can have even while generally being happy. However, when someone is totally lacking happiness, they seem to have lost the spark. They have lost what excites them. I can start to see where Tim is going here…perhaps it is that we want to avoid being bored.
One of the most common things I hear from my coaching clients is that they want more. Not more stuff, but more zest. Their current jobs, relationships, or lifestyles are missing something. I began to notice that whether artist or engineer, student or CEO, climber or knitter: the most common way this unmet need is phrased is a lack of creativity in their lives. Things feel flat. Dull. And this doesn’t feel right! Why doesn’t this feel right? I believe it is because our baseline is to be creative, whether you think you’re a creative type or not. Our baseline is to be excited by life, whether that’s in quiet moments with our families, starting that business you’ve been dreaming about, going back to school, climbing an exposed rockface, seeing a project come to fruition, dressing up to hit the town, taking that year-long trip around the world, or heading out on a date with your partner. Even falling asleep after a long productive day can feel exciting!
To be “excited” by life doesn’t mean you need to always be jumping up and down and dancing all over the place (although those who know me would say that is how I tend to manifest excitement). Rather, it is a feeling of aliveness, of being Wild Awake, no matter what you are doing.
Live the Questions
So, my friends…if you’ve got FOMO, FOF, ADD or FOBB or any other such three and four-letter words, instead of asking “What do I want?” try asking yourself, “What would truly excite me?” Give it some time, and space, and silence. The soft still voice in you will speak (or shout!) and you will know. Sometimes its not what we want to hear. But you really do know deep down what excites you–on a day to day level, and a life purpose level. And if no answer arrives just yet, then do as Rilke says: “Live the questions.” But whatever you do, don’t ignore it. There is a saying, “The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of the questions you ask of yourself.” So keep asking! And allow the answers to shift and flow.
With summer, even more opportunities to experience life blossom, and you get to practice asking these questions each day. When you’re focused on doing what truly excites you in the moment, the decisions around what to do will be more clear, and you will be more present with whatever and whomever you are spending your precious life moments with.