In my last blog I wrote about finding personal values to help get more of what you want in life. I got to thinking about this topic because lately I have been feeling a bit dissatisfied about what I am doing. Clarifying values helps you to discover activities that you might enjoy more fully. Because when you align your activities with your values, you will feel more in tune with your true wants and desires.
However, the process is more nuanced than just generating a list of values then matching them to activities. For me, passion needs to play a role. I want to feel passionate and enlivened about what I am doing and I need the right mix of solitary and social activities to accomplish this. Frankly, I am always searching for passion and life-giving experiences. Perhaps that explains my career shifts from psychology professor to media executive to life coach to wedding celebrant back to life coach.
Most of my working years were in corporate where I was on the work treadmill. I was ambitious and excited about the next level up, always searching for more and more, even if it was more and more of something I didn’t really want. Not that I dismiss all my work. I did enjoy much of it, but did it really matter to me? Yes and no. The enjoyment of the work itself was lifted by the experience of being recognized as good at my work. The promotions helped me financially, sure, but equally important they helped me to feel respected, needed and contributing to the world. And I enjoyed working with others. Many of my core values were being met. But something was missing. I was always doing.
I see now that my “helping others” value got short-changed in my media career. Although I was certainly in a service role and could be seen as helping others, helping others for me has as its core a connection to social causes. I grew up surrounded by social activists. And though I enjoyed being part of the media industry, the work I did had no connection to making social changes in the world. I did have a positive impact on various individuals and companies just as they had a personal impact on me, but I wasn’t part of a larger cause. My value of helping others was never fully satisfied. And I had little time to think about the big-picture of my life.
I have a tendency to try many things because I enjoy variety and I am always on the search for more. That’s my learning and growing value. I love writing, coaching, psychology, philosophy, meditating, painting, dancing and beading to name a few. Although I have loved these endeavors most of my life, which one I have in focus shifts rather quickly. I am quite fickle. Yet when I think about causes that I am passionate about the list is constant and crystal clear: equality for all—no exclusions. I am starting to realize that helping others needs to be tied to that passion for me to fully realize my value.
I am passionate about feminism, racial equality, gay rights, animal rights and body love for all sizes and shapes and abilities. I am working to explore my own biases and sensitivities with the goal to be a more compassionate and helpful person in the world. Yet the question always stays with me: am I doing enough to promote these causes? Am I using my talents in the world to help leave a better world behind? Am I active enough? Or is it okay to simply live my vegan feminist life quietly having a smaller impact on the world? Is not my existence enough? Can’t I just be?
Being versus doing—that question of balance comes up all the time. In our society most of us are busy doers. Yet, being shouldn’t be dismissed because it is the basis for how you live your life and what you stand for, regardless of how much you do. I doubt that I will ever fully resolve the push and pull between being and doing. And that is alright because questioning and exploring what is true for me is clearly part of my DNA—part of what I value. It is my search for meaning. What’s yours?