Updated: May 23, 2020
His book “ The Practice of Happiness” John Kehoe starts with an inspiring story of how he, being a 21-year-old claim examiner at a large insurance company, decides to leave his less than exciting corporate job in order to explore the life outside of his routine. He describes that at that moment a “delicious thought” entered his head which turned out to be a true calling. John Kehoe quit his job that very day to pursue his journey as a writer and, later, as a speaker. As a result, he was able to build a fulfilling life of joy and exploration, inspiring and helping millions of people around the world. His story is one of many exhilarating stories about the pure bliss and satisfaction you acquire when you make a decision to follow your heart. And it seems like there is nothing easier than just listening to the calling of your heart and, as a result, reap marvelous benefits that come in a form of unconditional happiness and tremendous success.
If it is so gratifying and with no risk involved, why then so few of us do it?
In this particular example with John Kehoe, you may argue that he was only 21-years old when he decided to turn his way around by following his heart, and you are too old to afford those risks. You have a family to support and other responsibilities, and it would be foolish of you to just quit your job. While your rationalization can be logical, it also no more than just an excuse. Because our excuses are often well-trained and speak loudly and eloquently, that completely undermines every suggestion our heart is trying to make. And if you are a chronic excuse maker, then your arguments come with a plethora of heavy artillery, completely silencing the voice of your heart. Following your heart is not about quitting your job, it's about learning what makes you happy and then slowly incorporating in your life. It's about living a life a pure joy and contentment, regardless of the conditions.
Solution: your heart, unlike your logical thinking, does not present arguments or facts. It just feels. It sends you very subtle messages that can get quickly dismissed, especially if you’ve only relied on your rationalization the whole life. But you can easily train yourself to listen and, more importantly, interpret accurately, the signals that your heart is sending you. Every time you are presented with a new idea, ask yourself, how you truly feel about it before finding an excuse that declares this idea as “stupid” or “impossible”. Just ask yourself “wouldn’t it be nice if___” (input the idea) and notice how your heart responds. Are you feeling the warmth inside or rather ache and worry? If you continue to apply this technique, soon your heart will start speaking with you in words and then full sentences.
2. Fear of the unknown
Discovering who you are can be the most rewarding and, at the same time, the scariest thing you will ever do. My whole practice is based on self-discovery and creating a successful life by enabling your true purpose to flourish. What I came to notice is that nearly every client struggles with learning who they really are. In this situation, the fear arises from the unknown, from discovering a completely new persona that lives within you. Once you identify that new person – happy, successful, ambitious, confident, and full of life – there is no way to hide it back (it's like releasing the genie from the lamp). Now your entire life is bound to change and here is a script of an internal monologue that may take place: “But what will others think? What am I supposed to say at work, that now I am going to start my own business and live happily ever after? Everybody is going to think I am a lunatic! I don’t even know how to be happy and successful! I will fail, just like I failed at everything else! Shut up, you dumb heart!” Solution: there are a few things that need to be considered here. First, the transformation is not as rapid as you think, and you will have plenty of time to adjust to your new life. Second, it is still going to be your life and you will be solely responsible for the design, development, and implementation of all its parts. Third, your heart has the purest intentions and it will only guide you towards happiness, prosperity, and clarity.
3. Herd mentality
Before you boo me, let me tell you that we all have what often has a negative connotation and being referred as herd mentality. Because we are social beings and learn from one another, it's nearly impossible to do something that isn't favored or expected by the majority (I am not talking about immoral or illegal activities here). In our society, we have so many right-thing-to-dos that we often don’t even question whether or not it aligns with what we want. Look around, for the most part we are living and striving towards very similar goals: school, career, and family. Our society dictates what you should wear, date/marry, drive, eat, experience, etc. At this point, it is very difficult for many of you to determine whether our possessions – tangible and non-tangible – were acquired due to your genuine desire or because you thought you should have gotten them.
During my 16+ years of studying personal development, there was one thing I learned that truly shook me: “Everything that we want we want for one reason only – we think it’s going to make us happy at the end” (Abraham Hicks). The meaning of this phrase is so simple and so obvious that it is almost embarrassing to admit I didn’t realize it until I heard it. This means, that all your pursuits, such as school, career, relationships, memberships, statuses, affiliations, etc., are done for one and only one real reason – to make you feel happy. So, imagine waking up one day having everything that would deem you a successful person – wealth, luxurious stuff, connection, status, family, and realizing that all this stuff that you worked so hard for makes no sense. None of it brings you the happiness you were promised, only emptiness and regret for wasted years…
Do you think it’s impossible? Why do you think the mid-life crisis exists?
Solution: happiness, as well as the pursuit of happiness, is very subjective and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Only you have the ability to identify what will make your soul sing, arch your lips upward, and feel utterly content. You can’t let others decide it for you because they do not have access to your heart. Your heart can communicate only to you, and everyone else out there has their own hearts so do not try to impose your idea of happiness onto them either.
4. Teachers and Gurus
Many teachers and trainers in the realm of personal development advise to work hard, persevere, climb the mountains, and break the walls on your pursuit of success. They tell you to change your circle of friends, wake up at 5 am, work out at least an hour a day, read 26 books a year, cut down on sugar, do more and be more. Well, some people may find this approach effective and I am sure many have achieved outstanding results by pushing themselves harder every day. Or maybe they just didn’t know they could’ve taken the path of least resistance by following their hearts calling.
Several years ago, when I experienced a chain of setbacks, I hired a life coach to help me get back in the saddle. Under his recommendations, my day would start at 6.30 am with 2-3 miles run and a green smoothie, then I would spend an hour in traffic getting to my corporate job, followed by 10 hours of very hard work to make myself a valuable employee in hopes for a raise. It seemed like a good plan: I was determined, I worked hard, I took care of my physical health, and I had a promising career in front of me. Every time my heart squeaked, I would shut it off, because I had a created a perfect image of a rising career woman and that blood-pumping thing had no stake in my business! I was miserable, but everybody kept reassuring me that it was a sign of being on the right path and that was the price I had to pay for my success. But I saw no results except that my self-condemnation grew bigger and more painful. And that’s when I realized that there was something completely wrong with this formula of success, or maybe it just wasn’t for me.
Solution: Here is the rule of thumb: if it feels wrong and painful – do not do it. It is not a success if it puts you to misery. When you follow your heart, on the other hand, you will be taking not only the easiest path, but also the most picturesque, exciting, and joyful one. You will be meeting the right people at the right time and will enjoy your work all the way through the journey.
5. Too much noise
Here I am referring to all the media around us that work tirelessly and efficiently trying to get our attention 24/7. We are never alone even when there are no people around us because our phones, computers, and TV’s give instant access to the loud world, completely grabbing our attention. We are constantly consumed by the information coming to us from our screens. We spend so much time on our phones, we forget to actually check in with the most important person in our lives – ourselves. Then there is traffic, family members, roommates, neighbors, coworkers, and clients. Lastly, let’s not forget about our internal conversation that, in many cases, is just a stream of negative self-talk that never shuts up.
Solution: assign at least 15 minutes a day to just be alone in complete silence (or more if your life circumstances allow you). Start with getting to know your good qualities, ask about how your day was, what you enjoyed, what was the highlight of your day. Treat this time with yourself as a sacred ritual where you can connect with yourself and recollect a few pleasant memories of the day. Shower yourself with love, compassion, and genuine interest. The benefits of this practice alone are astonishing!
6. Lack of self-love
This subject requires a separate conversation, or a book, or even a whole college course. Believe it or not, but lack of self-love is the root of all global problems. Sadly, our society has a distorted interpretation of self-love, commonly mistaking it for narcissism. Well, for starters, psychologists have proven that the underlying factor of narcissistic behavior is self-hatred. People who love themselves in a healthy way do not need validation from others, which is exactly opposite for narcissists who fully depend on other’s approval. (Please note, lack of self-love also does not mean that you are a narcissist).
Self-love is the purest form of being connected to yourself and following your heart. Although I can’t tell what comes first – the self-love or being in full harmony your heart, these two definitely work in tandem and may even indicate the same thing.
Self-love means compassion, acceptance, understanding, support, and trust. It’s the ability to empower and uplift yourself even when the rest of the world thinks you are a failure. It’s the knowledge that you deserve to live the life of your dreams in comfort and harmony. It’s deciding that you no longer want to compromise your happiness. It’s overcoming your internal guilt and putting yourself first. It’s the acceptance of your uniqueness as the most valuable aspect of who you are.
Solution: Start getting to know yourself as you would your romantic partner. Take yourself out on a date – maybe just a walk in a park and ice-cream. Buy yourself something nice and special that you would really enjoy. Make sure you check in with yourself a few times a day asking how your day is going (setting up calendar reminders on your phone could be a good idea). As the relationship strengthens, begin asking about your aspirations and goals for life, but do not respond with your usual criticism, just smile and reply that everything is possible.
Because everything is truly possible when you follow your heart.