What do you like to do?
Simple question. But, guess what? Years ago, after my late husband died, someone asked me that. “What do you like to do?” And it stopped me in my tracks. I really had to think. It was like being hit upside the head by a 2 x 4 covered in choice. And, of course choice is always abundant and available, but because of our various relationships in life – child, sibling, spouse, parent, grandparent, friend – and because we need money to survive, we often find ourselves performing tasks or participating in activities that we don’t particularly enjoy, that wouldn’t necessarily be our first choice.
I’ve been a go-with-the-flow type of person most of my life, so I’ve struggled with my personal purpose over the years, beaten myself up over it from time to time, but I’m buoyed by this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson: “To know what you like is the beginning of wisdom and old age.” Phew. It’s not too late.
Late or not though, according to Ryan Holiday, author of a book I’m currently reading – Ego is the Enemy – it’s truly an important question to answer on life’s journey because only “then can you say no, can you opt out of stupid races that don’t matter, or even exist”.
Writes Holiday, “According to Seneca (the Roman Stoic philosopher), the Greek word euthymia is one we should think of often: it is the sense of our own path and how to stay on it without getting distracted by all the others that intersect it. In other words, it’s not about beating the other guy. It’s not about having more than the others. It’s about being what you are, and being as good as possible at it, without succumbing to all the things that draw you away from it.”
Wow. Powerful. Euthymia translated to English? Tranquility. We could all use a little of that huh?
Here are a few suggestions from Holiday’s new book The Daily Stoic on how to get on, and stay on, The Right Path for you:
T rust Yourself: believe in your path and don’t let the myriad paths of others cause doubt.
H uman Condition: remember you are human. Death, the great equalizer, comes to all.
E mpathy: cultivate empathy, selflessness. Says Holiday, “This is what a virtuous person does.”
R esist & Persist: persist in your efforts, resist naysayers, discouragement and distractions.
I I, as in ego, kills. Says Holiday, ego is the “sworn enemy of our ability to learn and grow.”
G ratitude & Goodness: think of all you can be grateful for and become good now.
H umility: “Receive without pride, let go without attachment.” Marcus Aurelius (emperor)
T ake love, but give way more. “ – the love you take is equal to the love you make” The Beatles
P erfect your character: Aurelius warned against “frenzy, laziness or any pretending”.
A ccept: and identify what you can change, what you can’t.
T urn inward: again Aurelius: “Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness – ”
H eavenly walks: much can be solved/resolved by walking in nature, by day, or night (stars).
The Right Path is your path. Think long and hard on what you like to do, what really matters to you based on your values. And then reflect on where you find yourself from time to time, to ensure you haven’t stumbled onto someone else’s path by mistake.