What stops us from following our hearts? You CAN resolve this conflict.
Following the Heart Is Impossible
Following our hearts sometimes seems too scary to choose. Why is that? Why is the voice of the heart so easily extinguished? Why do so few people actually base their entire existences on living from their hearts?
For many, following the heart is a dream that we often put off because of all the reality responsibilities that always crowd in around us throughout our lives, obscuring all possibility of breaking through into your most desired life. The dictates of money and of what we call survival are so powerful and so compelling that to depart from the single path that society has mapped out for us seems utterly impossible.
Some of us try. Then almost instantly, our practical needs and considerations come crowding into our minds. We put aside the dictates of our hearts as guilty pleasures, knuckling down to do the bidding of our corporate masters, to conform to societal mores, and to bend our once independent thoughts to fit with the dictates of the arbiters of common sense. (We ourselves are presumed to have very little legitimate sense that’s not common.)
Yes, yes, we tell ourselves, I’ll follow my heart tomorrow—or the tomorrow after that—or the tomorrow after that. Many of us realize that tomorrow is a lie that will never come, but it’s a lie that we’re willing to believe.
We are, after all, complicit in lying to ourselves. We’re not going to blow the whistle.
The Poisons that Hold Us Back
Poisonous Lie #1: The future is predictable.
This is the lie behind the belief that it is impossible to accomplish your dreams. What’s real is that no one knows what the future holds. A mere decade ago, few people would have been able to imagine an iPhone. Two decades ago, Google was science fiction. Three-and-a-half decades ago, I first visualized the Joyful Wisdom Community apps which many of you have begun to use, but I considered this visualization science fiction until the early 90s.
The word impossible is not only meaningless—it’s one of the most destructive lies that we can believe. Any time you tell yourself that following your heart is impossible, consider the things that are possible today were considered impossible only a few years ago.
Poisonous Lie #2: We can’t follow our hearts, because we’re trapped. We must be realistic, mature, and responsible.
What’s true is that there are many people on earth who do follow their hearts, and many of them are arguably more responsible, mature, and realistic than we are. They’re the one’s who are making a difference, and who may ultimately save us all from global warming, international violence, rampant pollution, and epidemics of mental and spiritual illness. They prove that abandoning the voice of our hearts is not really realistic, mature, responsible, and secure.
It’s not really true that we are trapped into a path that forces us to give up what our hearts say. We trap ourselves by believing the lies that cause us to be so anxiety-ridden that we just can’t allow ourselves to do what we believe in our hearts. And we only fool ourselves with this obvious bunk. Others are capable of viewing our potential, but we fend them off with the lies that trap us.
Poisonous Lie #3: We can only follow our hearts if ___________. (Name your poison.)
This is a mega-normous lie: You can either follow your heart or be responsible. There are only two choices. Since the perfect conditions for following your heart will never occur in your life, you can give up that dream.
Most of us only see two options that we can choose from, and as Lie #1 and Lie #2 prove, both of these options are lies. Following your heart does not depend on a predictable future, and responsibilities are merely an excuse, a lie.
What’s true is that there are more than two options. I invite you to break free by inventing a third lie. What we need, if we’re truly going to break free, is a third fiction. That’s what I propose to you today: invent a new lie. Here, for example, is a new lie. Try this one on for size. “Sticking with the wisdom of the heart is always a choice.”
All of these lies can be proven, and it really is your decision which lies to believe. You can prove this last lie, for example, by thinking of artists who were devoted to their craft, but who eventually abandoned it to get a job. They might excuse their decisions by saying that society forced them to give up what their hearts had told them, and some of them may even become ashamed for ever living such a childish existence—but in the end, their choice really was a choice. History is filled with people who once followed their hearts, and then traded that life for a more conventional one.
The Dangers of Abandoning the Dictates of Your Heart
What happens when people either turn from following their hearts or never choose their hearts in the first place?
Danger #1: You disempower yourself.
If you dream a big dream and do nothing to fulfill that dream, what does it say to you about who you are? If you do nothing to build your dream today, what kind of affirmation are you giving yourself through your inaction? Your unspoken affirmation might say, for example, that you are powerless to achieve your goals. Or it might say that your dreams can never be connected to the flow of your life. Are those messages that you agree with?
When you observe yourself forsaking your dreams daily, you are establishing a habit—one which may not be so easy to break. When you build that habit of inaction, you are establishing a momentum of standing still.
Danger #2: You believe the lies and lose yourself.
When I was young, there was a mass movement of people who chose to follow their hearts. They were called hippies. In the years that followed, I could not believe the number of hippies who became straight, conservative, and focused only on making money.
I’ve been especially astounded by how many of them now look at their youth as a time of folly that they no longer respect or value. How could they literally give up their happy and empowered memories and the joy that they experienced in those times?
What I’ve observed is that people who do this seem to go into denial about what they experienced because they are divided deep within. It’s painful to consciously realize that you once had joy that you voluntarily gave up. It’s easier to ridicule one’s past with embarrassment than to admit that you really liked what you experienced when you were free.
Danger #3: You believe the lies and lose other people.
People who are divided and who reject a part of themselves literally hate other people that remind them of what they hate in themselves. This is called projection.
You can tell what racists hate most about themselves by asking them what they hate about another race, nationality, or gender. The people most likely to be exposed in a sexual scandal are those who most oppress others for the same behavior.
When you believe the lies and divide yourself into a good self and a bad self, you also risk becoming a bigot and a hater. When you reject the dictates of your heart, you not only lose the loving, heart-directed, authentic, giving, and community-oriented parts of yourself, but you reject those attributes in people you know. Divided, we become cynics and creatures of disdain, projecting our hated selves onto others who we then disdain for the same reasons that we disdain those parts of ourselves that we reject.
Positive Lies that Can Help You
It’s pretty darn hard to combat the poisonous lies that stop you unless you replace them. Since none of us really know the truth, the only way we can really replace the poisonous lies is to make up some alternative lies. Here are some that I suggest.
Positive Lie #1: It’s only for two weeks.
Make a time-limited commitment to follow your heart. At the end of that two weeks, you can return to being reasonable, mature, responsible, and realistic. Perhaps you can come up with an alternative plan that is not only following your heart, but responsible and reasonable at the same time. The point is, you’re giving yourself a break, a vacation from the reasonable.
What’s true is that is also a lie. At the end of two weeks of following our hearts, we may ignore the agreement that we’ve made with ourselves to “put aside childish things.” At the end of two weeks, we may choose to put aside what our hearts have asked us to do for a short while until we’ve paid the bills, done the laundry, etc., and then we may choose to return to what we’ve begun.
At the end of two weeks, we may say to our jailors, “Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah. You’re never getting me into that cell again.” The reason for the time-limited lie is to seduce the jailors into letting us out of the cage. There might be some reasons to return to the cage, but if we’re in charge of whether we go back or not, we can negotiate the terms.
Siobhan tested this lie out in her own life after our group session about it. She writes: “I’ve been experiencing what it is like to give myself two weeks to focus more on a little intention of mine (to work independently of an employer) than I focus on the other competing parts of my life. It has been very satisfying and a great relief. I can easily imagine not giving it up.
“The points made are sound and important.”
Positive Lie #2: Now that I’ve tasted freedom, I’m unemployable.
This is a lie that writers and artists actually use. I’ve used it myself. In the mid-80s, I was a full-time, freelance magazine journalist, a member of the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, and I wrote a song that reflected what I heard in our PWAC meetings. People liked this song so well that when I sang it at a national convention, it was introduced as the “Official PWAC Theme Song,” (which was also a lie).
Some of the words were: “Addicted, Unemployable, Other jobs aren’t, So enjoyable, I don’t think I could do Anything Else….” (I still play the song on the piano—sometime you may hear it.)
Nonetheless, this is a lie—we are not unemployable, just because we spent a little time on “sabbatical” to follow our hearts. Many people have lived in freedom for a time, and then have given it up to take a straight job.
Nonetheless, this is a useful lie. By believing it, artists give themselves permission to live in poverty in a garret while they ply their trade, and as a result, we get great works of art, great literature, or other great accomplishments from people who truly are following their hearts.
Do artists have to live in garrets? No, that’s another lie, but that’s a subject of another blog, sometime.
Positive Lie #3: My daydreams are valuable.
If you think your dreams are impossible, I suggest that you put that lie aside and choose a lie that says your dreams are worth something. Here’s how you do it in reality.
Take notes whenever you have a daydream about something that you’d like to accomplish. Write them down, no matter how improbable they may seem.
Then ask yourself: “What is the first thing I would need to accomplish to move towards this dream?” Ignore he fact that this dream is impossible, and just record your answer. Describe it a little bit more, such as what it would look like. Set aside the second thing you’d need to accomplish for now and just focus on the first one.
Typically, the first thing you’d need to accomplish would be pretty formidable. That may be why you don’t do anything about it. So when you’ve got it written down, ask the same question, but in a more specific way. “What’s the first thing about this piece that I’d need to accomplish to move forward?”
Keep repeating this step, always looking for the very first thing to accomplish, until you’ve actually written down an initial action step that you could accomplish easily. Don’t solve all of the problems that you can think of, and don’t worry about the fact that the ultimate accomplishment is clearly impossible to its core. Just worry about that initial action step. Put that on a calendar to accomplish it at a specific time.
Believing in that daydream is also a lie. The future is unpredictable, and there’s also more reasons than you can count to prove your dream is impossible. Don’t worry about any of that. Just figure out the first action step to accomplish the first stage in the first part of the first accomplishment that you would need.
Don’t even take it seriously—it’s all lies, after all. Just do it.