What if the way we must find for our lives is not an answer but a question?

“Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far away in the future,
you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.”*

‘The idea, then, is to force your brain off those predictable paths to purposefully “thinking wrong” – coming up with ideas that seem to make no sense, mixing and matching things that don’t normally go together.’**

Predictable is the dangerous path.  It’s akin to Theory U‘s downloaded path, to Mindfulness’ autopilot.  I’ve noticed how I miss so much because of the speed at which I move through life with predictability.  I try to slow down in order to notice more – three or four slow breaths now helps me to stop the rush.

Erwin McManus makes the connection between noticing more and our quest for enlightenment:

‘It should be obvious that those who live enlightened lives have demonstrated a unique ability to learn from everyone and everything around them.’^

Living our questions is also about unfolding the stories in which we set our questions.  Richard Rohr reflects the transformational nature for us of living what we love:

‘I see it in human beings all the time, we all become what we love.’^^

Erwin McManus helps us to see more of the detail of what is happening here:

‘We persevere in the confidence that we ourselves are being transformed.  Perseverance produces character, and character, hope.  And hope, we will discover, is the ultimate gift gained in wisdom.’^

Seeing our lives as stories lived around questions is about drawing lines through the randomness and complexity of life.  Predictability hates questions because they enable us to see our lives for what they can be rather than what they are.

What is your question?  (You’re allowed more than one.)

(*Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(^^From Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance.)

secrets of joy

When we live out our joy then we leave our joy lying around for others to find.

Life provides us with opportunities of making things that give us joy – thoughts, relationships, artefacts – that we can hide for others to find – because we don’t always have opportunity to give directly.

Maria Popova speaks of what I think of as conversations with purpose in this way: ‘the possibility of planting into another mind a seed sprouted in ours and watching it blossom into a breathtaking flower of mutual understanding’.*

Of course, there’s always risk involved.  The beautiful thought – or relationship of artefact –  can be misunderstood or not valued.  Sometimes, though, in the relationship that forms between two or more people, a possibility can grow even more, and, because of this, it is worth it.

(*From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Telling is Listening.)

the jungle of motivation

No one wants to be Sisyphus.

He’s the guy In Greek mythology who, because of his hubris, was condemned by Zeus to endlessly roll a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down because of an enchantment placed upon it.

Here is the “Sisyphic” condition: being caught in an endeavour without meaning or purpose.  None of us want to find ourselves or to condemn others to live in this place devoid of motivation.

The following words from Dan Ariely, Duke University’s Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics, describes motivation as a jungle.  My interest and curiosity were piqued as soon as I read them:

‘Motivation is a forest full of twisting trees, unexplored rivers, threatening insects, weird plants, and colourful birds.’*

Motivation’s complexity – because not everything is equally important in the jungle and we can end up placing greater value on the wrong things – means we can be tempted to overlook the source of our own motivation in favour of something more predictable or measurable, such as the product.  Yet, whilst others will be able to copy our super-widget, they will not be able to copy our story.

‘We are the CEOs of our own lives.’*

Here are three invaluable things when it comes to motivation, what it is to be human:

Autonomy: no one is completely free but we can each embrace how more or less free we are – when we face our experiences, our character, our story, our choices – and then we can grow them.

Mastery: we have each developed skills into talents into strengths over many thousands of hours; the ways we think, relate, communicate, and execute are unique and are full of the kinds of detail that not only can be repeated but also developed and innovated.

Purpose: the purpose bigger than ourselves that we want to contribute to, moving us towards investing in the lives of others – perhaps the greatest of all contributions: ‘the place where [our] deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,’ as Frederick Buechner put it.

All of these can be turned into the kinds of habit and practice that make it possible for us to turn up to our days with meaning and purpose.  Motivation may be a jungle but we can know our jungles.

(*From Dan Ariely’s Payoff.)