Any time we spend doing something we don’t like is too much time spent on anything.
Sometimes (or many times), we stick with something that doesn’t allow our hearts to sing or our skin to flush.
We think that if we just hang on a little longer, it will “get better”.
We think we’ll learn to like it, we tell ourselves there’s a bigger purpose, a bigger picture.
The bigger picture is something that is so important to help us feel inspired by our work, but the day-to-day things we do, and the connections or inspiration they bring, is what feels more important, it’s what really counts at the end of each long day.
I remember when I was working as a researcher and a PhD student a few years ago. I was working for a university and an organisation that would have taken me into developing countries, working with Sport For Development. I was doing what I’d dreamt of doing since I was a teenager.
However, the ‘daily grind’ involved me on my own in a room with Google Scholar and a ton of books, each day, every day, except for the odd meeting and lecture. To some, this may be heaven, but I need people and I need more interaction.
The bigger picture of what I was doing was my absolute dream, but the day-to-day stuff wasn’t me.
I was miserable and lonely, and in daily conflict between the need to nourish me and my body, and the need to nourish my dreams.
Four months in, I quit. I decided the need to look after me came first, and that the need to foster my dreams and be of benefit in the world would follow if I listened to my heart, and listened to what my body and my mind needed in that moment.
My previous years of studying and work took me to where I was, but it wasn’t where my soul and my heart wanted to be. My heart was with the bigger picture, but my heart also needed the bigger picture to be part of my life, daily.
The bigger picture for me, during the initial months of that PhD and research work, was the feeling of making a difference, of being of benefit in the world. I have always known this is where my heart lies, and what makes it sing. It has also been what I’ve always found myself doing, and dreaming of doing.
Now, I’m a writer. I still hang out with words every day, and I still get to be a nerd. But instead of isolation, I interact with people. I get to be-of-benefit while also fulfiling my needs. I bring what I can to the world, I bring what I need to myself, and that is the most powerful thing I/we can do.
My bigger picture is what I do every day, and I’m learning to see that our every day is the bigger picture.
After a few years away from working in International Development, and a lot of moments spent giving myself a hard time about the fact that I’m not doing it anymore or that I’m not being of benefit to the world in the way I thought I would be, I realise that actually, I’m being the most benefit to the world when I’m working with something that nurtures me, but something that is also focused on the ‘bigger picture’.
I write to heal, but as I write, it inspires and informs those around me—physically or digitally.
That is my current bigger picture—a picture I need to feel connected with every day, through my work and through my play.
Working with, or in, or on something that isn’t being true to this not only feels destructive, but also feels disloyal and not as beneficial because I’m not being authentic or honest, either to myself, my work or the people I’m interacting with. The world needs people who are listening to their hearts—who are honest about what sets their hearts on fire and who let their hearts light up the room.
Let’s light up some rooms.
We need to find our voice, our calling, our unique skill, our unique thing and use it. We need to immerse ourselves in it so that it is as much a part of us as we are a part of it.
This ‘thing’ might not always be what we imagined, or how we might have wanted it to manifest, but by embracing whatever it is, is to allow ourselves to be our most authentic selves. That’s what we’re here to do, and what we’re here to see others do, too.
I think that as our (postmodern) worlds become more and more disconnected, more removed through technology, this is what we crave more than anything—honesty, authenticity, sincerity in whatever or whoever we engage with.
And the first, most honest, authentic, sincere being that we can find? It’s the one that lives right inside ourselves—the one that knows, truer than true, what it loves, what brings it alive and makes it soar.
There are practicalities, we know. And not all of us will have the privilege to focus exclusively on the things we love. There are bills to be paid, responsibilities to be met, commitments to fulfill.
Sometimes (or many times), we stick with something that doesn’t make our heart sing or our skin flush, because we think that if we just hang on a little longer, it will ‘get better’. We put up with the menial things that cast shadows across our faces and weigh heavy on our hearts because we think we’ll learn to like it. We tell ourselves what we’re doing is for a bigger purpose.
Maybe it is. And sometimes, holding out for that bigger purpose is all and entirely worth it in the end: a big(ger), stunning picture. But other times we wear ourselves down so fully in the process that by the time we achieve that bigger purpose, we’re too exhausted, too empty, too brittle to even enjoy it anymore.
Let’s reframe the picture. Instead of working towards a bigger picture in some illusory future, could we live it right now?
Amidst all the practicalities and reality of what ‘needs’ to be done, is there a way—any way?—that we could still work towards realizing a dream? Is there a little voice inside that’s whispering a hundred other possibilities to still pay the bills, be responsible, stay committed but also, on the side, develop a heart-love? Then eventually, move it from just being a side gig to taking centre stage?
Listen to that whisper and let it grow into a big, blaring boom.
I know that choosing to do what I love is a choice, but it feels like a choice I need to make rather than a choice I’m choosing to make-—it feels like a necessity. I couldn’t imagine doing anything different. I couldn’t imagine giving the hours of my day over to anybody, or anything, else.
Choosing to do what you love, choosing to do doing what I love, feels scary. It’s a risk. It’s a path where the destination is unknown, but it’s a path on which the destination doesn’t really matter.
What matters is the journey—and isn’t that what matters always and anyway?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Sugianto Suparman / Pixoto; Amani Omejer