Part 3: when are you going to _____ again?

You might have read parts ONE and TWO of this series on doing what you love.

This article assumes that a) you know what you love to do and b) you’ve started doing it. So let’s take a look now at maintaining a practice.

Life is a practice

You’ve dusted off the bugle that’s been tucked away in a box in your garage since 1988; you’ve played a few songs for friends who ooohed and ahhhed at your hidden talent. Now what?

Do you want to play the bugle more than once every few decades? Maybe. Maybe not.

According to Buddhist philosophy, life, like playing the bugle, is a practice. It’s not a destination, a goal, or an achievement. The reward is in the moment.

Here and now vs. goals

There tends to be some confusion about here/now living, certainly in my mind, maybe in yours. Goals are important. Especially in our rush-rush, do-do, production-oriented culture. Goals are how we save for a down payment on a home or run a marathon…or play more than one song on the bugle.

Yet when the focus is only on goals, especially rigid goals, life can feel stressful, unpleasant, not worth living. Why?

Hint: because you’re living in the future and not the present. Here and now is the only time and place that we connect with ourselves and others.

Changing habits

Think of the patterns you’ve developed in your life. Beginning with waking. You wake in the morning. Then what?

Here’s a story from someone I met recently. Notice that she has no goals in her statement or her practice. There is no mention of working towards an hour of meditation instead of five minutes. Or developing biceps the size of grapefruit. She enjoys the activities for what they are.

I start the day taking care of my mind and body. I meditate. Right away. Then I do stretching/yoga. Then a short upper body work-out with weights. Brush teeth, wash face, eat, etc.

That wasn’t always how I started my days, though. There were periods of my life when I’d rush out of the house, gulp a Venti from Starbucks, slam down a bagel with cream cheese, and dedicate the next eight or ten hours to someone else’s plan…putting in eight to ten hours at work, getting children to school, making sure they’re eating healthy enough, have stimulating activities, dinner, homework.

Working for any organization, company, or corporation takes time, energy, and more time and energy. If you’re a parent, you know that your days are not your own. Taking care of a relative in need? Burnout and compassion fatigue are common.

Locus of control

Let’s call focusing outside of yourself as an external locus of control for lack of a better term. To make this work, we have to bend the definition a little. Traditionally, the definition of locus of control includes personal responsibility and blame. According to Wikipedia:

A person’s “locus” (Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualized as either internal (the person believes they can control their life) or external (meaning they believe their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence, or by chance or fate). [1]

There’s a judgmental bent to the definition…blame being used by people who attribute their locus of control externally when life doesn’t go the way they would like.

Many times, we have to focus on external demands to feel good about ourselves. Work to earn money. Take care of children so they feel loved and appreciated. Pay attention to partner to maintain a relationship.

If you think that doing these things is out of your control, you will feel resentful, sorry for yourself, sad, or angry.

Accepting lack of control

How did we get to the topic of locus of control when the article is about doing what you love? Think about it. Does your life control you or do you control your life?

Twelve-step philosophy offers us the serenity prayer:

May I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

We can change this a bit too. May I have the serenity to accept that I have control to decide how I spend my time and energy. Then, can I set aside five minutes a day to practice doing what I love?

Bottom line: Consistency is more important than amount of time.

You do have the time and energy. Try practicing doing what you love five minutes a day. If need be, get up five minutes earlier. Then see what happens.

But, but, but…I feel your pain. Even five minutes a day takes discipline, presence, attention, love, patience, forgiveness, energy, lots of energy. Yes. The more you do what you love, the more you will find the time and energy to do it.