The tyranny of our task lists (including the relentless call to self-improvement) can easily distract us from what matters most. Strapped onto the treadmill of inner and outer demands, we lose sight of what may be the two most important questions to ask ourselves:
What are my persistent longings?
What brings me the deepest meaning and sense of gratification?
Avoiding these questions creates a cascade of troubling consequences—tension, impatience, loss of joy, and a gray-toning of our world. But there’s an act of self-care that almost immediately adds meaning, color, and warmth to our lives. This post will teach you that practice.
All of us experience times when we are touched with a sense of richer meaning; contentment, fun with loved ones and with ourselves, and that rare but delicious sense of deep inner comfort. Sometimes there are moments of wordless, nameless gratification that we don’t take the time to fully relish or decipher.
At other times there may be a sense of sadness, dissatisfaction, and longing. It’s easy to experience those feelings as an indication of some kind of personal failure but, in fact, they are the reverse—they’re the call to a richer, wider life. When we repeatedly press the snooze button on that longing, we feel a sense of flatness; a below-the-surface, anxious emptiness taints our days.
When we heed the messages that those moments of longing or deep gratification bring us, we initiate a positive cascade of consequences; a sense of relief, gratitude, generosity, and ease. When our longings and our joys feel finally dignified by us, a virtuous cycle of self-love is begun. This is a gift that we can give ourselves, and when we do, we’re more capable of enjoying and growing the love in our lives.
The following simple practice takes just minutes, but it helps activate the positive cascade of feelings and experiences that self-love brings.
Try this practice after a period of downtime, when you’re not feeling rushed—perhaps over a cup of tea or coffee. Take a few moments to just rest and reflect on the ripples of feelings within, no matter what they are. As you begin to sense whatever feelings come up, see if you can put words on them.
Now ask yourself these two questions:
What are the daily life-joys that mean the most to you?
What things in your day-to-day life give you the most sense of personal meaning, of real gratification?
The key here is not to second-guess your responses. If something feels true at the moment, go with it. What would your life be like if you more fully embraced, honored, and dignified those joys? How could you place these types of experiences closer to the center of your days?
In the blueprint of your life, the closer to the center that you place those joys, the more authentically successful your life will feel. Each conscious action you take toward giving those joys a more central place in your life is an act of authentic self-love.
What longings persistently arise for you? Naming and respecting your most central and continual longings is perhaps the greatest act of self-affirmation you can give yourself. Yes, longing can burn; it can ache and it can hurt. But the more it burns, the more it aches, the more urgent its message.
Watch for the tendency to minimize or ignore those longings. The ones that keep coming back, that keep whispering—or shouting—to you are the ones you most urgently need to listen to. As you create your life-goals, place your efforts to feed that longing toward the top of your list. To do so may be scary and risky, but the more you do so, the more passionate, directed, and self-honoring your life will become.
Most of us spend much of our mental energy avoiding or deflecting our responses to these two questions. We can shift our lives in profoundly positive ways simply by dignifying our joys and longings by acting on them as we create our lives every day.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join like-minded individuals in The Good Men Project Premium Community.
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
The Good Men Project is an Amazon.com affiliate. If you shop via THIS LINK, we will get a small commission and you will be supporting our Mission while still getting the quality products you would have purchased, anyway! Thank you for your continued support!
Photo credit: Getty Images