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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.

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 career is, 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.


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Greg Leach

    Thank you for the heartful offering.
    I wish you and your family a contented and healthy New Year.
    Travel well, Greg.

  2. Lisa

    Great stuff Arno! I love it 🙂 It puts all of life into a much more useful perspective.

    …and it kind of debunks the whole industry of books, programs and courses a aimed at “finding the job you’re meant to be doing, that will make you happy, rich, etc etc blah blah blah” With your perspective, we’re all already doing it! So no stress…

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