Where is your life taking you?
That’s the question I heard Parker Palmer asking. The Quaker wise man was being interviewed. “I had to ask myself,” he said, “where my life was taking me, rather than just where I was trying to take my life.”
It’s important to try to take your life somewhere. Without some sense of drive or purpose or “fire in the belly” we mostly grow mold. I don’t think Palmer was speaking to people who’ve never pushed like hell to make something happen, never felt that fire. His question was meant only for people like himself—people who have already pushed and driven and seized the day, every day. Because inevitably, the place we are trying to take our life doesn’t appear. We don’t quite get there.
That turns out to be a left-handed blessing. We’re ready to hear this other question, “Where is my life trying to take me?” If you asked that question before you worked and sweated and pushed; if you asked that question before you sank into a chair depressed, half-broken, disillusioned, you would be a silly naïf. The way life works, you have to end up in that chair before this latter question poses itself.
Then you can begin to see things differently. Maybe I was pushing myself to be something or someone that I’m really not. Maybe I was trying to take my life where I had been taught to take it—to the place of “success” or “prominence” that my mother and father and everybody else in town seemed to value.
Many people report—later in life—that they were pushed to choose a career in a field that made more sense or made more money, rather than the field of their dreams. That’s not always bad advice, because not everyone can make a living doing what they love. But it’s worth remembering that early inclination when you’re sitting in that chair. Maybe now is a good time to stop pushing my life somewhere and allow it to pull me where it needs to go.
Don’t we wish that it was easy to let your life just “pull you” where it needs to go!
It isn’t. It takes work, just of another kind. Now it’s the labor of patience, the effort of letting go, the willingness to do our best without caring how “good” it is, or how efficient or successful it is. Let me tell you, I am not there yet. But I want to be, and I think—I hope—that counts for a lot.