We writers are an ambitious lot. We write books, blogs, and articles. We build platforms, read voraciously, navigate rocky inner and outer terrain, and invest huge amounts of time, energy, and money into our work. We are passionate. Some of us take jobs to support our families and our writing habit. Hours slip away while we toil at our craft. This is all fine—until it isn’t.
Many of us believe happiness and satisfaction will be ours when we achieve a certain writing goal. I don’t know about you, but soon after I achieve one writing goal, another pops up and takes its place. I’ve noticed this pattern in other areas of my life as well. A desire arises in my mind, which is fine, but then I attach and cling to it, and suddenly, without realizing it, my desire has turned into a craving that has control over me. I start working harder and harder to satisfy an unidentifiable hunger. I’m at its mercy.
The only way out of this predicament is to respect my desire, to act upon it, but then to detach from the result. This may sound easy, but it’s been brutally hard to master, especially when I unwittingly fuse my self-worth with my achievements. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Self-worth isn’t something that has to be earned. It’s inherent. We are all worthy. Our value has nothing to do with what we do, nor how well we do it. I understand this—mentally. As ideas. But grasping concepts is not the same thing as putting them into practice.
My striving is like a rat on a wheel. It’s unending. Like the rat, I sometimes go way too fast, and spin myself into a tizzy. At that point, all I want to do is get the hell off, stroll down a tree-lined boulevard, and release myself from the cage of my own making.
Freedom from striving comes when I let go of outcomes. It comes when I realize my job is to show up, do my work, resist the urge to judge it or myself, and fling myself, heart-first, into the wind. The challenge is to lean in, to trust that the universe supports me whether I fly or plunge. Though most of us would rather soar than collapse, both are worthwhile experiences. It’s what we think about them that gets people into trouble. In my meditation practice, I surf this strife as a neutral observer of my thoughts. This cultivates awareness. The Ancient Greek aphorism, “know thyself,” matters. It makes a difference.
Contrary to what I learned growing up, happiness and satisfaction reside within. They too are inherent to all humans, and not contingent upon getting or achieving. Striving for something or someone may bring momentary joy, but it’s a mistake to think something out there will ever bring genuine happiness.
When I get really honest about it, what fuels my striving is the misbelief that I’m not good enough. Wiggling in that can of worms are fears of letting people down, of being an imposter, of not measuring up. When I meet myself in this place, I flood myself with as much love and compassion as possible. I visualize my mother holding me, her baby, in her arms. I imagine the love I felt radiating from her. I didn’t do a thing to earn her love. It was just there. And this love is a gift I must continue to give myself. It’s the only sustenance my hunger requires.
So I step off the treadmill. Soak in a warm tub. Tenderly touch my own cheek. Imagine the places and times in my life I’ve felt cherished, call to mind those people, thoughts, and feelings. Bathe in them, too. Inhale their sweetness along with the scent of French lavender. And then I place my hand over my belly, and breathe.
How about you? What does your striving look like? What’s lurking underneath it? How do you to quell it? I’d love to hear from you.