Wandering is healthy in the quest for a life of meaning and purpose.
The kind of wandering I am thinking about today is the restlessness and discontent many of us experience at certain points in our life. An uncomfortable agitation, a disquiet in our spirit, a sense of longing for something we can’t quite name.
For much of my life, I interpreted the experience I am describing as evidence that I was doing something “wrong.” Something was broken that needed fixing. Something was lost that needed to be found. Clearly, these feelings of discontent indicated I had not yet found the right formula for satisfaction I was seeking.
I am beginning to see it differently. I am beginning to see this restlessness and sense of discontent as an invitation to go deeper, the voice of God or a part of me which needs me to pay attention.
Over the past month here on the blog, we have been talking about calling: the sense of purpose or drive which motivates us to do the things we do and live the way we live. Finding the unique ways we express love to others and acting like our better self, we begin to find the seeds of our purpose. I encourage you to go back and read those two posts if those ideas resonate with you.
When we connect to these first two clues to our calling, something inside us says “YES!” We experience a sense of recognition, a feeling of rightness, a moment of being in the zone. We feel connected to others and to our best self in a way that is deeply satisfying and uniquely authentic. We feel at home.
Yet, clues to our calling are also found when something inside us says “NO!” The sense of disquiet, the restlessness, the longing for something just out of reach beckons us just as loudly and perhaps more urgently towards our calling. Something is not right and this something needs our attention.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert talked about the power of NO in a Facebook post this week:
Your soul may also communicate with you through feelings of being APPALLED. This word (“appalled”) is the only word I feel is strong enough to convey the way your soul will sometimes express to you its absolute horror at the direction your life has taken. APPALLED. An appalled soul screams at you: “NO NO NO NO I HATE THIS NO NO NO!!!!”…We all hate this feeling. It is dreadful. It is the suck. It is a living hell. And yet this, too, is your soul speaking to you. It is not as sweet and delightful as when your soul says YES! (NO is never as light and lovely as YES.) But it is every bit as true. And you MUST listen to it, or you will never get unstuck.
While the word appalled is dramatic, I think it is just one of many words on the continuum of the ways our wandering heart says “this is no longer working for me.” When a new coaching client finds their way to me, it is almost always the discontent, the restlessness, the longing that motivates them to commit to the process of asking powerful questions about what they want from their life.
- What is no longer working?
- Does the way I spend my time reflect the deepest values and desires of my heart?
- What is draining the life out of me?
- By contrast, what lights me up and makes me feel alive?
Sometimes NOs are quiet, subtle adjustments and sometimes NOs are dramatic, major life changes. NO may be an invitation to a course correction, a next step or a new chapter. Sometimes YESes turn into NOs in different seasons, not because we were doing something wrong before, but because we are growing up and the only constant in life is change. Sometimes God whispers NO because we have gotten off track, but often God whispers NO because we are now ready for the next assignment or a new adventure in a way we weren’t ready yesterday. NO clears space for the next YES.Paying attention to NO is part of finding our best YES. Click To Tweet
I can get impatient when I think there is a specific answer I’m supposed to be uncovering, a singular destination which will mark my arrival. I’m beginning to understand the joy, adventure and learning found in the wandering and the questioning.
Enjoy the journey, my friends. Lean into the questions. Listen to the NOs and the YESes.
Not all those who wander are lost.