What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would you do if you knew nobody was watching?
I’ve always had a fascination with this Henry David Thoreau quote – “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Perhaps I first came across it when I was leading a life of quiet desperation myself? I don’t remember, but it seems plausible (and would be consistent with the modus operandi of the universe to give us what we need when we need it!).
(If the line resonates with you too, you might like to read this short, insightful analysis of the meaning of the full passage from Thoreau’s ‘Walden’).
There have been numerous times in my life when I had to a hard decision – do I stay as I am, leading this life of ‘quiet desperation’ or do I change something and see where it takes me?
I did it in 1999 – deciding to buy a one-way ticket to the UK after finishing my degree.
I did it again in 2006. I had a good job, with a great team and endless support from my managers. I had a comfortable home, close family and good friends. But I was remarkably unhappy.
When I got home from work I would watch TV and eat a packet of chocolate biscuits. I didn’t exercise regularly and wasn’t sleeping well.
I felt stuck. I didn’t know who or what I wanted to be.
If I did have the glimmer of an idea, I was worried about what people would think or say; or that I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Luckily something shifted for me and I’ve been able, over the last 14+ years, to find myself again through more ups, downs, choices, changes and gradual evolution. Slowly and steadily I’ve explored and learned; failed and learned; let things go to allow others into my life. It will be a constant process for the rest of my life, I’m sure!
Whether you’re at a low point in your life or just looking for something different, here are some things to think about and explore that can help you on your way.
Pour yourself a beverage of choice and let your mind wander!
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
We all start somewhere. And to if we want to move somewhere else, we need to take a risk.
It’s cliché but true that there’s no such thing as failure, only learning and growth. Sure, there are legitimate, often deep fears that can get in the way; and considerations around risk vs reward, security and safety vs possibility and belief. But there’s no joy in keeping yourself small and hidden.
If you’re ready to try something new and explore some new directions, ask yourself*:
- What do you love?
- What are you great at?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be paid for? (this may not be relevant if your ponderings aren’t work-related)
Journal about these questions, meditate on them, draw them or discuss them with others and see what ideas come to you. Where do your answers cross over? How could they connect in real life?
Maybe pick one thing to try and see where it leads!? Wherever it takes you and however ‘successful’ you are, the journey will most likely include learning, expansion … perhaps joy and wonder … even new inspirations and aspirations.
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? You can’t, so have at it!
*These questions are based on the Japanese concept of Ikigai – essentially your reason for being, your purpose (though also a whole lot more in traditional Japanese culture). There’s lots of information on the interwebs if you want to dive deeper, including this article from the BBC.)
What would you do if you knew nobody was watching?
We humans (with notable exceptions) have a tendency to care about what others think of us. We learn to moderate our behaviour, hide our true passions and interests, pretend in order to fit in.
But when it’s just you and you’re following your heart –
- Where does your mind go?
- What is the thread or theme in the TV shows, movies and books you like and are drawn to? Or perhaps there’s one that you can’t get enough of – what’s it about?
- What do you listen to podcasts about?
- What do you willingly and repeatedly spend time, energy and money on?
- What thing/s have you consistently returned to over time?
- What are you doing when time seems to fly by?
Just start by paying attention.
Then brainstorm what you notice.
Mind-map it. Draw lines between things that connect.
Slowly but surely you’ll find the answers to your questions – or at least some ideas to play with! Maybe it’s related to your working life; maybe it’s a hobby, something you could teach to others or a volunteering opportunity. The more we can lean into what lights us up, the more likely it is we’ll find flow, grace and enjoyment in our days (and our hearts).
This was the exact process I used after I finished my Grad Dip in Wellness, not truly knowing what I wanted to do with it and realising what I thought it was going to be wasn’t actually for me. Six years later here I am as a Reiki Master, yoga teacher in training and small business owner! And lately I’ve discovered other ideas as I pay attention to where my interests and needs are now!
What would you do if you knew nobody was watching? They’re not, so just get started!