My friend and fellow author, Brian E. Miller, had this meme posted on his Facebook wall over the weekend.
I had heard this Nietzsche quote before, but had not remembered it. So, seeing it again was both refreshing and inspirational. As someone who helps other people for a living, either through my coaching or my writing, this simple truth can’t be stated enough:
There is no one way.
I’ve seen it time and again with my clients, as well as in my personal life. What works for me may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for me.
In fact, research is basically based on this principal. Only when something works for a statistical majority, is it considered evidence-based. But even in those cases there are always outliers.
So, how do we figure out what works best for each of us as we meander through on this journey of life?
I would suggest that there are three basic criteria that you can use to assess the “thing” that you are trying out to see if it’s in alignment.
1. It makes you feel better/alive/happier/aligned, effortlessly. By answering the question: “How does it make you feel?” you get to identify a tangible result. If something you’re trying doesn’t positively impact your life in some noticeable way, perhaps it’s not the best fit right now.
2. You feel drawn to it. This is about intuitive knowing. some people are drawn to meditation, others are drawn to yoga, still others are drawn to boxing or running. These are all examples of a physical nature, but you get the idea. There’s a voice inside you that says, “Yes! That!” whenever you think about this thing. (Similarly, the voice feels repelled by other things. It’s good to be aware of both sides of this coin.)
3. You want to make time for it. It’s one thing to feel good about something, and even more so if you feel compelled in some way, but actively pursuing something is a HUGE statement of alignment. Making time for something or someone is like highlighting, underlining, and putting an exclamation point on the statement. It’s your body and soul’s way of signing up and showing up.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone (myself included) that if rationalization or justification are involved, we’re not actually in alignment. In other words, I love cake (yellow cake with fudge frosting, to be exact. Yum!), but if I were to use the criteria and say that
a) it makes me feel good (it does, cake makes me happy),
b) I desire it (see previous statement about happiness), and
c) I actively seek it out (well, in grad school I did),
I could then rationalize that it must be in alignment and therefore, good for me… and have it every day. Or I could justify having it more often than I should, based on these criteria. And that would simply be wrong. (Furthermore, if I had it that often, I probably wouldn’t feel good or desire it after a while, so it would ultimately fail the criteria test.)
You can see what I’m saying, right? To better understand the concept, let’s look at it in a more concrete way, using two examples: Yoga and hot water with lemon and honey.
– Both yoga and my morning hot water with lemon and honey make me feel good. (criteria 1)
– I wake up and actually want to have my hot water with lemon and honey every morning. My body desires it. Yoga, less so. (Criteria 2)
– Every morning, I make my hot water with lemon and honey and enjoy it before I do anything else. I haven’t been to a yoga class in almost 6 months. (Criteria 3)
From this example, I am nurturing my body with hot water, lemon, and honey daily, because it’s what it needs at this time, which is very clear. In fact, just last year I tried to do this same thing with no success. At that time, this wasn’t what I needed. Today it is.
This is why there is no one way – there is only the way that is right for you, right now.
Many people would probably tell me to “just go to the yoga class” because “you’ll feel better.” Thankfully, I don’t listen to those people anymore, and I surround myself with friends and wellness experts who get it and support the innate wisdom of my body and my soul as it expresses itself over time.
That being said, I’m also always open to new things that will enhance my life, which actually might be Criteria #4:
Once you have something that is working for you, don’t do it to the exclusion of trying other things that might also work.
You just might love kick-boxing, guitar, or Paleo, but you’ll never know unless you try and then ask yourself those three questions after you have given it a go.
At the end of the day, the most important question to ask yourself, though, is simply:
Why am I doing this thing or that thing? Is it for myself or for someone else? Is it because I’m basing my self-worth on it, or because I enjoy it? Is it something I want to do, or something I feel I “should” do?
We all have things we need to do to live. I’m not talking about those things. I’m talking about the things that invite us to thrive. What are they? And how are you going to choose to bring more of them into your life?