As a hippie, I read a lot of articles about being fulfilled.
I spend free moments bookmarking Facebook articles, and skimming through The New Yorker. I drink too much coffee, then lose myself in content. Overcaffeinated hippie.
A few weeks ago, my former co-worker Kyle shared something with me that really got me thinking. He said he had been thinking a lot about his time in college, and that he felt like it was on his mind because he wasn’t really living in the moment back then.
That he didn’t enjoy it as much as he should have.
I’ve talked a lot about the whole “live in the moment”, “stay present” thing. It’s taken me a pretty long fucking time to do it. But it’s a trait definitely worth cultivating, because one of the most liberating feelings is really trusting that things happen when they’re supposed to.
So through all of my “worldly” knowledge, (but mainly trial and error), here’s the best ways I’ve found, and others have found, to start trusting the timing of your life.
Stop being so fucking scared.
In my experience, the worst way to make a decision is because you’re scared of what will happen if you don’t. You stay with someone for way too long, you keep working that insanely stressful job, you put off going back to school – all in the interest of remaining comfortable.
Fear is always there to tell you that you can’t do it. That you’ll fail. That it’s better to be safe.
Fear isn’t smart. Fear is kind of a dimwit. Recognize your fear, but put it aside. I’ve always really liked how Elizabeth Gilbert describes overcoming fear:
“Your fear must not be allowed to make decisions about creativity, passion, inspiration, dreams. Your fear doesn’t understand these things, and so it makes the most boring possible decisions about them.”
Once you separate your goals from that feeling, you can start “recognizing fear for what it is, and learn to control it.”
You feel more ownership in every area of your life.
Trust your gut… even when you don’t like what it has to say.
Intuition is a funny thing. Aside from movies like Serendipity or any other fill in the blank magical rom com, intuition isn’t just for love and fairy tales. Intuition, when tapped into, is a powerful tool that can be used to help inform your day-to-day decisions.
But intuition won’t always have something encouraging to tell you. Laura Chung, a contributor for The Huffington Post, described in an recent article about how she knew it wasn’t going to work out between her and her boyfriend.
“I just knew in my gut that the timing wasn’t right for me and for us. It would’ve been so easy to have just gone with it because honestly, that’s what everyone seemed to be doing (settling).”
If you’re new to the whole trust-your-gut thing, take small steps. Play catch and release with your feelings. Ask yourself questions and see what answers pop into your head. Once you learn to listen to your intuition, you can learn to trust it with bigger and impactful decisions.
When you give up that particular type of control, it’s so much easier to be patient. Especially when you’re not getting what you think you want. You’ll see that everything is unfolding as it should be.
Use your curiosity as a compass.
When you feel lost, try to replace that feeling with curiosity. Another shameless plug for Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, is one of the greatest books to use to inspire new growth. In a nutshell, Gilbert explains that curiosity is the key to finding purpose and fulfillment.
During seasons of life where you’re not sure how to continue, it can be transformative to try a new hobby or pursue an interest. Actor Jim Carrey was featured in a fantastic Vimeo video about finding unexpected passion in painting, after what he calls “a bleak winter.”
Carrey, now “obsessed”, describes how finding himself as a painter and artist has helped him find new love, new meaning in his life.
If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, start by doing something. Anything that makes you happy, brings you joy. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even make sense.
“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
Start and see what happens. It can make all the difference while you’re waiting for the pieces to come together.
Treat life like a series of college courses.
I’m pretty impatient. The only thing that’s ever worked to ease that is to find a new approach to challenging situations or disappointments. One of the best teachers I’ve ever had, Temple University professor George Miller, once told my class there’s a learning opportunity in anything.
I’ve gone back to those words, that advice, so many times. In seemingly mundane moments, I’ve snapped myself back to that moment by saying:
“Hey – pay attention. What could you learn right now?”
Whether it’s realizing I need to have empathy for a frazzled parent, instead of being irritated, or forcing myself to be calm in traffic, there’s always something to gleam from a seemingly ordinary or frustrating experience.
The same goes for times when you’re stuck. In times where you need to see a situation through, approach it from an educational perspective. Envision yourself a student. This is a class.
What’s the homework? When are the tests? How can you prepare?
I’ve found that seeing inconvenience as something to be examined, instead of endured, I feel less discouraged. I find more meaning and can walk away from experiences having learned something new.