Can you relate to this?

I, together just about everyone I know, learned:

  • Be sensible

  • Be practical

  • Take risks if you must, but make sure they are not too big and are well researched.

  • Consider security. Pay up your RSP. Choose work has good chances for employment. Don’t leave a good paying job.

  • Pay your dues; then you can do what you want sometime later in your life.

  • Don’t raise eyebrows. Unconventional choices lead to suffering. Act responsibly.

  • You need to be able to justify with reason your choices. Intuition and feeling are a weak basis for important decisions.

  • The paths to personal and work success are well known. There are effective formulas for living. Follow them and succeed.

Clichés often become clichés because they are true, useful, and obvious. These lessons are not bad ones. Some truth sticks to them, like bread crumbs to a honeyed knife. They are hard to refute.

They are also incomplete. I recently talked with a man – a self-employed architect. He and his wife have 3 nice kids. He works incessantly, and in another cliché, smokes and drinks quite a bit. He’s got it all – a nice house (actually several nice houses) and lots of toys. He builds airplanes in his spare time with his brother. He’s a success, and all his family agrees. He also seems driven and inwardly miserable, for all that he’s a hilarious wise-cracker. Or so my intuition told me.

The heart’s longing is not always easy to define. In my case, almost never. Maybe yours speaks with a clearer voice. I know when my heart is longing, because what I’m doing does not satisfy it. But for what exactly? It’s like I get a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. Someone waved an arm northward. I’m supposed to go north. How far? Due north, or north-east? Silence. I see someone I admire, though, northward. I wonder what my life would be like if I lived like that…

The heart is also really not easy to hear. There is so much noise from other people’s opinions and examples. From past hurts and failures. From fear. Fear is the big deafener. Do I really want that, or am I just imagining something? Just dreaming. How much would I have to give up! I’ve invested years in safety, predicability. There’s no turning back now. My insurance is paid up.

I had to pay good money to have someone to teach me to dream again. To learn that my heart’s desire mattered. That it is possible to meet it. That it’s not clear cut how this happens, no matter what the books and conventions say. That hunches are wheels, and trust is an engine. And that daring is the fuel.

My dreams are not huge, but they, and my heart’s longing, are the source of my love and my life. I can’t turn totally away. I’m going …north-ish.

How about you? I dare you.

Brian Grady, Ph.D