We’ve all seen friends there. We’ve all been there ourselves: overwhelmed, confused, lost in evaluating a big life dilemma.
What should I do with my life? What job should I take? Should I move or not? Should I stay with the good, secure option or take a riskier road that has the potential to be great?
Sometimes thinking about these questions leads us into a tearing-out-our-hair, overwhelmed, utterly confused state. Intricate pro and con arguments swirl through our heads. We’re swimming, unable to keep up with the multiplicity of factors to weigh and reason through, and fearful because we sense there is no way to rationally predict the best outcome. Thinking gets us more and more stressed, further and further away from a connection to our desires, our truths, to clarity.
There are many ways to get out of this stuckness. One of my favorites is what I call “the bottom line” test.
The Bottom Line Test
Take a few deep breaths. Place your hands on your abdomen, wherever you feel your gut instinct. Connect to that place in your body.
Then ask yourself, “Am I doing what I came here to do?”
“Here,” meaning planet earth. This lifetime.
Am I doing what I came here to do?
Don’t ask your mind. Don’t ask your brain. Ask that center of knowing that sits deeper in you. Trust whatever comes up. Whatever idea, words, images, sensations, no matter how surprising, or seemingly non-sensical.
We all have an accessible inner compass that can answer this question at any stage in our lives.
If you hear, “I don’t know,” you have three options
- Breathe quietly for 5 minutes, connecting with the silence, your breath, your body. Then ask again.
- Ask yourself, “What if I did know? Then what would I say?”
- Ask yourself, “What do I need in order to know?” Trust whatever comes up here.
Am I doing what I came here to do?
If the answer is yes, you may know it already because you live with a sense of rightness, vitality, and awe in your life. You experience hard times, and there are plenty of fears you are called to confront, but you live with the satisfaction of knowing you are on your right path, knowing you are walking the road you are meant to walk.
If you’ve sold out on yourself somewhere along the way, prioritized convention over meaning or fear over your inner longings, you’ll feel the “no” answer arise in you in response to this question.
“No” Is A Beginning
If “no” is your answer, here’s the good news: By asking the question, and hearing the no, you just created movement. You can’t go back to the same state of unconsciousness about this. And here’s more good news: you don’t need to know what you came here to do right now. For the moment, just accept that you aren’t doing it.
Spend some time with that truth. Breathe it in. This “defeat,” this surrender, is really the beginning of your new, more powerful life.
Start to Look for Clues
Then, start to look for clues. Notice what you feel drawn to. Notice who you admire, your role models. They represent something that wants to emerge in you. Look for passions or loves you’ve lost along the way in life. Pay attention to the issues and problems in the world that particular sear your heart, that cause you a particular pain or heartache. That tells you something about the area in which you are meant to make a contribution.
You are here to do a particular piece of work for this world. That work may express itself in your job, your personal life, or your community work. Consider that you are here – given your gifts, given your insights, given your unique life experience – including the pain – to assist you in doing what you came here to do.
You’ll know it by the feeling of rightness it leaves in you. You’ll know it by the joy that doing it brings.
You’ll know it because it will smooth out the roughness in your soul. Doing what we came here to do, paradoxically, opens us to the goodness of life. It places us in the flow of life’s goodness. That melts us into more compassionate, generous, humble souls. And that is grace.