Find out how to learn its language
Let me tell you how a brilliant manager changed my life in one short sentence.
“I think you could do anything you want here.”
It dawned on me that I didn’t really have the tools or conditions to work out what I wanted. At least not at my fingertips.
I could tell you how I knew what I didn’t want. I’d spent years using body-based and reflective practices to work with stress, leaving or changing situations when I was anxious, burnt out or unhappy. I was aware what “No” felt like, and was better at saying it, even if my People Pleaser freaked out a bit.
But what would it mean to say “yes”?
And not just a little yes.
Like a big “Yes, yes YES!!!”
It’s such an English thing to say “Things could be worse.”
But it could be SO MUCH BETTER!
I realised that I made life decisions primarily based on avoiding pain by pleasing others, not pursuing pleasure for myself.
I needed to learn to WANT things. To desire.
So that was what I was going to focus on next.
One area that had changed was my sex life, since starting a new relationship (yes, I seriously believe talking about sex will help you work out what you want from your career). There were times it still got a bit “meh” but generally our communication was open and exciting when things were going well between us.
Instead of my People Pleaser calling the shots, and going with what I thought the other person wanted, I’d learnt how to notice what was feeling good in my body and follow it. And I was with someone who wanted to explore that together, which made all the difference.
I’d also had some pretty blissful meditation experiences that taught me pleasure was something I could actively cultivate, even when annoyed, sad or just bored.
This was a clue.
I’ve written elsewhere about how I got through a break-up by realising that I was familiar with feeling and working with discomfort in my body. Now I was going to build a life by becoming familiar with feeling and working with pleasure.
I needed to stop overthinking things, trying to work out what was “rational” or realistic.
I had to recognise and let go of a lot of guilt about being happy, especially having spent years in work that supports people who are suffering acutely.
I was also going to need to develop a new relationship with my body based on following joy and excitement, not on avoiding suffering.
My body was able to tell me what I wanted, not just what I didn’t. I just needed to learn its language.
Aside from working out what the signals are, I have a better sense of the conditions I need to notice them and see where they might lead me.
Spending time on my own during the week
Getting into my body - meditation, dancing, doing nothing with a cup of tea,
Reducing stimulation from inputs that numb me out (like doom scrolling through FB and Instagram)
Trying new things out to see whether I like them or not, giving myself permission to change course if I don’t (like moving into a van with my partner and going self-employed)
Talking things through with friends - often I work things out by extroverting my feelings and thoughts
Going on retreat (on my own and with others) and doing a bit of a life audit to see whats lighting me up and what isn’t
Here’s my takeaway for you:
Learn how to let your body decide what’s a loud and clear “YES”, not just no. You can’t work it out with just your head. And you certainly can’t work it out based on what other people think and feel.
Only you can know what lights you up from the inside.