Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Doing What You Love Isn't Always Warm and Fuzzy

The common romantic belief about following one's bliss is that the life you lead will be full and filled with goodness. I embarked on my journey three years ago and its been quite a ride.To start, I planned on a few months of just doing nothing in particular. (By the way, doing nothing in particular is a LOT of fun and I highly recommend it.) Certain unforeseen events got me side-tracked for two years after that. I then had some re-adjusting to do and now finally, I'm back on the follow-my-bliss path: more or less.

You know what they say about the best laid plans going astray? Well, it turns out, even plans that are barely laid out do the same.

I've been leaning and growing and reviewing my accomplishments to date. I realized that none of what I achieved was what I had originally planned on. When I found Kizomba, I was already deep into dance and I wanted to use dance as a way to get people more connected with themselves and each other. Kizomba fits in really nicely with that. I also wanted to pursue teaching and coaching as part of my bliss. I had these ideas of building a Creative Lab Space for adults: much like what children have after school - filled with arts and so many other activities that are fun, engaging and something that one might not typically do as an adult because things like careers, school, family and life in general just gets in the way.

A midst the unforeseen circumstances, one such by-product is that I've been instrumental in building a small and still thriving dance scene simply because I wanted more people to dance with. I already invest a lot of time in dancing so I set out to find out more about the dance myself so I could teach others. Instead of travelling the world to learn, I brought some really wonderful instructors here to Seattle instead. So while I haven't really gotten that close to what  I thought I was going to do, I'm still happy with where things are. My experiences have been very rich: both good and bad.

These past few months however, I suffered from a crisis of faith in the pursuit of my bliss. My thoughts aren't all that cohesive yet but at least I'm motivated to write about it. I thought it would be good to share some of my insights into this thing people call "following your bliss".

 1) A Brave New World
Since I started to call myself "fun-employed" I've discovered that there are parts of me that are still learning about what I truly want from life. Its been interesting to separate the things that I thought I wanted from the things I truly want. There's not always a one to one ratio for that either. When I discover that something I thought I wanted or needed was really not mine - mostly like something I learned from my parents or the culture I grew up in - its not like there is a corresponding "OK, this is what I do want" that pops up immediately. Most of the time, I have to figure that out. So all that figuring out can be tiring and taxing and disappointing.

Doing something fun is not necessarily the same thing as doing something you are passionate about. I find a LOT of things fun and sifting through those fun things to figure out what really drives me isn't  easy.

 About 20 years ago, I worked with a career coach to find that thing that I could be passionate about and focus on since I found myself unhappy with the job that I was in. He concluded that I have a rare challenge. He said that because I am good at many things, I don't have one thing that drives me. As a consequence, traditional jobs will not satisfy me and to be truly happy, I will eventually have to craft my own job. Its an exciting prospect, but there isn't really anyone to follow or a template that I can use to give me guidance on where to start or even a measurement of whether I've achieved success or not. That's the price of making something up. The good thing is also the bad thing: there's no one to say what's right or wrong except for myself.

 2) Doing What You Love Might Become Overbearing
I am engaged in teaching and learning dance because dance has helped me in so many ways and I believe it can help others just as much. I get feedback that I am helping others all the time. But, recently, I've also realized that, in the sea of people that I know, I sometimes feel all alone.

I made it a practice to be actively grateful and this has been invaluable for me (I highly recommend it). There are times though, when the challenges I face and the people around me are simply too much to deal with. At their worst, I want to just hide in a shell or wish everything bad to go away or dream that someone will just make all those worries go away.

I do know that that someone is me (with some support from friends and family).

This is not the same thing as getting sick and tired of something and that doing what I do for fun as a job has made it less fun. I still love what I do. Its just when its consumes me both good and bad, its quite a lot to deal with. Which brings me to my next point: Support System and Balance

3) Support System and Balance
Somehow, my mind concluded that if I were pursuing my bliss, there would be no need to pay attention to balance because I would be blissful right? Well, not entirely.

The execution and day to day workings of all of the above take its toll and I do have to think about balance and support. I am blessed to have family and friends that I can count on. They love me and accept me for exactly what I am and they don't pull punches. They know when to just be there and they know how to push me forward if I need it.

 I'm also blessed to have encountered people that have given me inspiration, new ideas and encouragement in the most unexpected ways. I think of it as validation from the universe that I'm doing well.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that even though I'm doing what most people might only dream of trying, it still takes energy and it still requires a support system and balance. Definitely. Don't go at it alone and always find ways to recharge and stay excited about what you do.

4) And the Money Just Follows
No, not really.

 There's work to be done unless you're a trust fund baby, unexpectedly win the lottery, find a sugar-person that just wants to fund you as you live your life... you get my drift. I'm still working on defining my product and what I have to offer. Then, there's finding the audience that will compensate me for it and building the message to attract them and keep them with me.

While these things are common sense, they take time: trial and error, a little bit of luck and good timing.

5) Get To Know You
In the end, it boils down to me. Whether I'm doing that traditional career path that I learned from my upbringing or following my bliss, the buck stops here, with me.

When setting on the path to finding your bliss, it helps to have some awareness of you who are. Its not just about knowing what's fun and what makes you happy. Its also knowing what you value, what you stand for, what you can live with, what makes you feel joy and what you just don't want in your  life.

I had a pretty good idea of all these things when I started but the experiences I've had over the last three years have definitely tested the conviction behind my beliefs and actions. There are things that I have done to the best of my abilities that did not have a pretty ending. Imagine a scenario that tests your values and you don't even know what they are. Its takes time to figure out what you value and then time to put it through the wringer. Doing both at the same time can be exhausting.

So before you embark on your path to bliss, just make sure you do some homework about yourself.