Where did that thought come from?
I’d been content with my life up until now: attending wintery plays, hiking through blustery landscapes and cooking warming root-vegetable pies. I might be in England, it might be cold, but leave me alone, I love it here.
There is only one reason that made this thought spring to my mind: my gorgeous friend Laura had just visited Nicaragua.
I met Laura in 2011 at a hostel in Brazil, on the first day of my year-long trip around the world. She said at the time that she could travel forever, but there was a part of me that couldn’t quite believe her.
Five years later she has remained true to words. Her wild and nomadic heart knows no end to travel, and she has forged a life for herself moving from one exotic country to the next, teaching yoga.
I made the conscious decision after 12 months on the road that my hunger for travel was sated. Suddenly, Laura’s glorious tales of beaches, sunshine and exploration made my “Mince Pie Monday” in the local village hall look like rubbish.
This is just one example of the perennial challenge of our age: to first know what our own honest desires are in the face of the endless options placed in front of us, and secondly, once we have made a decision and taken action to stay in line with our desires, to stay true to them despite being regularly exposed to different choices and opinions from others.
1. Recognise that the desires that warm my soul, are not necessarily aligned with the next person’s.
I evaluate which goals, loves, opinions, circumstances and desires light me up from inside that cannot be compared like-for-like with others, or may even be in direct conflict.
Despite the awareness that I have made my own conscious decisions that place me precisely where I am at this moment, when I hear Laura’s stories of nomadic adventures in beautiful locations I worry that I am missing out.
My wedding is approaching quickly and I am throwing my all into building my blog—two things I deeply desire. Not to mention how easily I forget my own personal preferences: I’m over dorm living, I’m a homebody who likes to have a base and I don’t really like beaches.
All these crucial details are lost in a kaleidoscope of fearful emotions in the heat of the moment.
I have to be honest with myself and have courage in my convictions: my opinions and personal desires in life cannot be made to overlap with others’. Although Laura and I are friends and have similar outlooks in many ways, we each have our own personal journeys and they are as unique as our fingerprints.
When I start to question myself in light of another’s influence, I sharpen my focus on my own personal journey.
2. Have an awareness of the things I like, but also make me feel a little ashamed.
I consider the things I like that I may feel ashamed to admit to others, and I notice how this can be influencing my opinion of myself and my behaviour.
As Laura and I walked through the blustery fields of Yorkshire, I noticed that I felt a little ashamed that I enjoyed the chilly wind on my face. Why? I must’ve watched too many episodes of California Dreams as a kid, because somewhere along the line I’ve bought into the stereotype that sunshine is hip.
When I feel influenced either directly or indirectly by others, I reflect on how I am actually feeling. When I take time to evaluate my emotions I get a little closer to understanding the beliefs I unconsciously apply to make sense of my world around me.
So I asked myself, “Is it true that if I live in a sunny place, I am a better person?” No, of course not, it’s a belief that I’ve formed, not a fact.
Beliefs change over time and with experience, so this reflective process is the first step toward consciously shaping an authentic life.
I observe my emotions, sit in the feeling, reflect on the driving belief and question the validity of my belief.
3. Remain crystal clear on my ultimate desires.
I observe how I may be pandering to my ego instead of authentically and creatively pursuing my own honest, personal desires.
Our desires are the ultimate driver of our actions. My heartfelt and carefully considered personal desire is to build my blog, yet after Laura’s visit, my tortured soul continued to thrash against the walls of my mind—I was consumed with the desire for adventure abroad.
My fiancé said to me, “You want to build your blog while living inexpensively, but there is a part of you that wonders ‘can I do that in style’.”
Yes, there was a part of the exotic option of traveling that was stroking my ego and concerned about other’s opinions and appearances, but ultimately would do nothing to help me reach my true desire.
Awareness of the influence of my ego in my decision-making helped me refocus my mind on my highest and most important desire—creating a blog to serve women struggling with authenticity.
As long as I reach my personal goals does it matter how I look as I achieve them?
4. Before I make any decisions to change my behaviour or goals, I have a cooling off period.
Am I ruminating on something that actually, upon reflection, serves no purpose for me at the present moment?
I realised the amount of time I was taking up debating a move to Central America was pretty irrelevant. For now, it is idle daydreaming rather than constructive planning. Letting the daydream go is brain space saved.
Can I put these thoughts away until there is a more appropriate time to consider them?
What can I be focusing on instead that will bring me closer to my true desires?
5. Have a bit of faith that the Universe has it all figured out.
Is there anything I would feel comfortable offloading to that something-bigger-than-me?
I’ve adopted the view that if I am meant to go to Nicaragua—or anywhere abroad—my path will be directed that way in the right place and time.
I’ve taken far too much responsibility for outcomes, and feel the need to have a level of control over many aspects of life that, in reality, would cause no adverse effect if I just let go.
We each have gut instincts, our intuition, and there is a world beyond our conscious understanding unfolding and creating a reality in alignment with our unconscious potentialities and desires at every moment. So, give your intuition some credit.
I ask myself: Can I give up some control and have faith that my unconscious abilities and the world at large will find a way to figure things out?
6. Get Real. Get talking. Be honest.
Talk it out.
After hours of being quiet, worrying and ruminating and debating pros and cons, that ultimately led to no resolution, it helped to just speak my mind.
If I were alone, I would have written my thoughts down in a journal, ensuring I am brutally honesty about my feelings as I went through the above questions one by one.
Who can I speak frankly to about this internal conflict? Or when can I make some time to reflect on it in writing?
It’s perfectly normal for others’ opinions to influence our thoughts and inform our behaviours; it happens day in, day out, often without us even noticing.
We can take some time to mindfully centre ourselves, and reflect on the importance of our unique existence and desires.
Observe our feelings, and the hidden beliefs that subconsciously lead us to worry that we are falling short of an expectation. Offload our worries where we can, and remember to lose a little control; with a little faith things will work out exactly how they ought to.
Laura is now in Bali enjoying the sunshine. Maybe Nicaragua will be right for me one day, but for now I continue to happily traipse through the snowy hills of the British countryside, knowing I’m precisely where I want to be.
This post was originally published on elephant journal.