Loving What We Do
I was invited to teach clinics in Australia for a climbing festival several years ago. A fellow USA climber, Timmy O’Neill, was also invited to give a presentation. We were both there because we had careers “doing what we love”: climbing. Timmy told me we were “living the dream.”
I wondered, “Was I living the dream?” I was doing what I loved: climbing and teaching mental training. Yet, I still felt anxious and not at peace. It would seem that “living the dream” would be more enjoyable and peaceful. If we’re unhappy and anxious then “doing what we love” isn’t much better than having a different career. I’ve come to realize that “living the dream” has more to do with “loving what we do” than “doing what we love.”
“Doing what we love” doesn’t address the processing of stress. It does put us into work situations that we prefer, but that’s about it. “Loving what we do” focuses our attention in the present moment so stress can be processed. We relax into the stress because we love the “doing” itself. That makes each moment more enjoyable.
Noticing Rushing & Anxious Tendencies
I felt anxious and not at peace because I was a victim to the mind’s tendency to seek comfort. I was rushing from one comfort zone to the next. I noticed that I did this in my climbing. I’d tense and my movements became rigid, when climbing through difficult sections. It’s amazing how climbing is a true reflection of how we act in the rest of our lives. Once I noticed my “rushing through stress” tendency in climbing, I began to observe it in my life. For instance, when I return from a teaching tour, there’s a lot of work to do. There’s work that I wasn’t able to do while I was away, plus work to debrief the tour. With all this work—stress—I feel anxious, until the work is finished.
Noticing these rushing and anxious tendencies develops awareness. Next, we take deliberate actions to move beyond them. In climbing, we focus on relaxing and breathing while climbing through difficult sections. In life, we focus on one task at a time. If we’re eating breakfast, then we focus on just doing that. If we’re prioritizing our daily “to do” list, then we focus on just doing that. In climbing and life, we notice the mind rush through stress. Then, we take a breath, relax, and focus on enjoying the current task.
Most of us aren’t “doing what we love.” And those that are, still have plenty of work that isn’t enjoyable. “Living the dream” means we want to experience stress. We want to be there, in the midst of it. That points toward a process, a process of “loving what we do.” If we “love what we do,” then the doing of it, no matter what our careers are, becomes more fulfilling and enjoyable. “Living the dream” means we’re living more completely in the present moment. We’re present for our lives, regardless of the particular circumstances, whether joyful and comfortable, or difficult and challenging. That dream doesn’t have to wait until we’re “doing what we love.” It’s here, now, doing whatever constitutes the present moment.
Practice Tip: Center Yourself
You’ll experience plenty of stress in climbing and life. Notice your tendency to escape the stress by rushing through it. Then, center yourself.
Take a deep breath, exhale strongly, and relax. Then, identify the current task. Focus on it. Tell yourself “Enjoy this moment.”
This Post Has 7 Comments
Thanks Arno, I can really relate to “loving what you do!”
I agree that most people aren’t able to “do what they love” for one reason or another. I’m no different, and have recently noticed that my job, one in which I thoroughly enjoyed at first, no longer is as satisfying or enjoyable as it once was.
But I also understand my way of processing events and situations is a habitual practice. So will it change with a different job, a different venue? I doubt it, but by using the present to learn how to navigate through many different types of situations, I believe I’m in a critical period for optimal learning!
Sometimes the stress can be overbearing, and since the lock down with Corona virus, I’ve experienced many times when I felt like quitting. Through living in the moment, and day by day, I don’t get caught up in the future as I once did. I don’t know where I would be without the Way, and the numerous books I’ve read over the years.
Thanks for commenting Robby. So much of our lives is doing things/tasks that aren’t enjoyable. But, we can gain more joy by simply focusing on doing them as well as we can in an attitude of appreciation. I wake up reminding myself that I’m grateful to be alive one more day.
One note about what you mentioned about “almost quitting.” I’m reading a really interesting book right now that I think you’ll gain a lot of value from, as I am also. It’s called “Mastering the Art of Quitting”. Check it out. a
Thank you for this lesson.
Yesterday and today I had discussions on exactly this topic with two people without being able to put into words with this clarity what I wanted to express.
Namely the fact that I am not unhappy because I work, I love what I do even if sometimes the stress is great. Wherever I am, I enjoy what it is. From my perspective, this is simple – maturity.
I think the practice tip is great!
Nice Roxana. Being grateful for this moment of being alive is very helpful. Continue to do what you love AND love what you do. 🙂
Yes! In fact I realize now that I Love the feeling of being Alive. ❤️
Spot on Arno, thank you again and again. Fear resides in the anxiety arising when our mind leaves the task of the present moment rushing toward a future that is uncertain. Returning our attention to the present moment grounds our body-mind, restoring the opportunity for action (agency) as well as the peace of mind of an engaged body/mind in the present. Perfect offering for any day but especially today. Travel well.
Nice Greg. Having foundation/grounding for the body/mind is so important. Continue to apply that in your life. It’ll give you balance. a