What is it that you do that you love most? What activity or passion has the most positive impact on you, sets you on fire, and makes you long for the next chance as soon as the previous one ends?
I am fortunate that I have discovered a couple of things that fall in to this category. If you have read any of my previous stuff, you probably already know that fly fishing is one of my biggest passions. As the blog post that I linked to in the sentence before this one shares, there are times while fly fishing that I am so immersed in what I am doing that I forget to eat. I literally am lost in the moment, time stands still, and the choppy body of water that is my brain becomes placid and smooth. It is a fantastic feeling, and highly addictive at times.
I just finished doing a talk for a small group, and the high of being front and center, the focal point, sharing information with others is another source of satisfaction for me. I love it, and I can’t wait until my next talk. I would do it again right now if they’d let me. I consider myself very lucky to love to do something that I can also get paid for. I would never become a fly fishing guide, as I don’t want to make that passion into a job. And I have the same thought process about public speaking. I really want it to be a fun, part-time job that at some point pays more than my day job does. The idea of walking out on stage in front of thousands of people to share my thoughts and ideas, and to get paid for the privilege of doing so, is a dream come true. But the grind and the pressure of it being my sole source of income is more than I want to deal with. I’ve been there before, and I don’t want to repeat it.
Despite loving the activities that I just mentioned, it is still surprising to me just how quickly the “high” of said activity wears off. The effects of a fishing trip linger for a day or two; I am more relaxed and calm for a couple of days after a long trip. But before long, daily life gets back up to speed and I find myself in the state of mind that I usually occupy. I can only describe that as semi-detached chaotic observation.
The mind is a funny thing; it can be so hard to keep it focused on what is right in front of you when you want, and conversely can be so hard to tune out some of the things right in front of you as well. I don’t think that anyone has true control over their thoughts, but some do a much better job of this than others. Taking the Tibetan monks and similar enlightenment-seeking souls out of the equation, most people are just trying to get by in life on the path of least resistance. Some of us look for the path less traveled, and challenge ourselves with delicious uncertainty on occasion. That’s my thing; I am not the type of adrenaline junkie that jumps out of a perfectly good airplane, but give me the challenge of pulling off a captivating talk in front of a thousand people…Hell ya, sign me up.
The important thing to keep in mind is this: It is the love of the process that matters. If you love the work, the process of getting ready for, and then executing the things you love to do, well then you really have something. When I was a racquetball player, I loved to train. I spent hours each day on the court and off, training, refining, improving. I loved the work. When I left that competitive world and switch over to doing sales, I took that same thought process and approach, and applied it to that new world. I know the highs of the wins wear off quickly, but if I could learn to love the work, then I would be successful AND happy. Ultimately that is the goal.
With fly fishing, racquetball, and my day job, I have reached a level of proficiency that requires no more real work, only maintenance. I could learn nothing new and be successful at all three. But that is not want I want. I like being in rarefied air, to achieve levels few others can. I am willing to do the work, hours upon hours of work, to get just a little bit better. If I love the process, I am finding happiness in the work, not the end results. The results will take care of themselves; I will win matches, catch fish, close deals. But I will be happy in the work, and to me that is the most important thing.
I am new at the speaking thing; I am encouraged by my results and progress thus far, but I am still a newbie. I have a lot to learn, and can grow in chunks instead of minute increments like at the three examples above. It is fun to see so much growth at something; I had almost forgotten what that was like for myself. I facilitate it in others frequently, but it has been a while since I directly experienced it. It’s been fun. But even with this, the high wears off quickly. I did a talk, I was on cloud nine for a bit, and now I am coming down. But since I love the work, it is not as bad. I find joy in the process of refining and preparing for the next one.
I highly recommend that you try to cultivate this in your life. If you can find something you love to do, and learn to extract joy and pleasure from the work, I believe this is the path to happiness. The older you get, the more you will realize that your time here on Earth is fleeting, and far too short for you to suffer and be miserable of your own volition. Make changes, take action, and get on the path that brings happiness and joy to your life. Getting rich doesn’t solve your problems and it doesn’t make you happy. Peace of mind, joy, and simple pleasures are the real wins in life.