“If you asked me for my New Year Resolution, it would be to find out who I am.”
– Cyril Cusack, actor
“… making those damn resolutions just depresses me more!”
I remember Anneke because she called in mid January, during a snowstorm. She booked a consultation, and arrived the next day, in spite of the heavy snowfall during the night, and the poorly cleared roads. She was obviously very determined to learn…and, that’s most important…for her future, and for my work.
Anneke was thirty nine years old nurse who worked in the emergency room of a local hospital. She was a Francophone with dark features and a welcoming smile…a somewhat typical French Canadian…if anything typical exists.
Anneke said she was single, at present. Then, she hesitated when I asked her about her last significant relationship. She eventually said, she wasn’t sure, she even wanted a significant other, at this point in her life.
“Why is that, Anneke?” I asked.
“Ken, every New Year’s Eve, I make a resolution to stop depressing, and get on with the life I want…but it never happens…making those damn resolutions just depresses me more!” she replied, frustration echoing in her voice.”
“What do you want in your life, Anneke?”
“Information is the resolution of uncertainty.”
– Claude Shannon, mathematician
“… you always felt passionate, joyful and happy!”
“Ken, I want a job I love…but, that doesn’t take so much out of me…physically and emotionally. I’ve been a nurse over ten years, and all ten, have been in the ER. And, I work shift work…it plays havoc, not just with my sleep, but also, my health and my relationships.”
“So you have been making resolutions about getting another job, and having more regular work hours, and even, a more stable relationship? Is that what you’re after, Anneke?”
“That’s most of it…but, I also want a clear direction for my future…I feel so confused about my work…I love it, and I hate it, at the same time.” she said, exasperated.
“Did you expect otherwise?”
“I thought when you’re doing what you love, you always felt passionate, joyful and happy!”
“I think you only get those feelings from street drugs and some prescription medications!” I said, with a strong tone of sarcasm.
“Are you saying, if I want to be happy, I need to take drugs, Ken?” she asked, disbelief spreading across her face, like spilled milk across a table.
“Anneke, I’m saying, if you believe, doing what you love, is not a balanced event in your life, then you maybe into some self sabotage… without even knowing it.”
“Balanced in what way, Ken?” she asked.
“… then…why do it at all…”
“Anneke, balanced in every way…balanced between pleasure and pain, balanced between support and challenge, and balanced between good and bad!”
She sat back in her chair confused, and then said, “I must have missed that class in school, Ken. Are you saying, when you do what you love, it has equal amounts of pleasured pain, all the time you are doing it?”
“Yes, I am, Anneke! Every moment, really, every second, of your life is a balanced event! So, when you are doing what you love, you will have both sides, each and every, time!”
“So, Ken, my question then is…why do it at all…if you can’t get more pleasure than pain, more support than challenge, more good than bad…why do anything at all?”
“That’s a great question, Anneke! Here’s why! You do it, and keep doing it, because it is purposeful for you, because it reflects your highest values…which means you are highly motivated to do it, …just to be who you are!”
“So, then my next question is…why is it so important to be who you are? Can’t we just follow what everyone else is doing…keep our head down, our mouth shut…draw our breath and draw our pay kind of thing?”
“Necessity of action takes away the fear of the act, and makes bold resolution the favourite of fortune.” – Francis Quarles, poet
“… you’ve been expecting more pleasure than pain…”
“Anneke, everyone is unconsciously purposeful. But, we humans, because we can think about thinking, we can be consciously purposeful…we can conceptualize, describe in words, our purpose. When we do that, and act consciously on our purpose, we experience fulfillment. The Oxford dictionary defines fulfillment as, “the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.”
“Then, since I’m always on purpose, at least unconsciously, then I just haven’t been aware of it…is that what’s going on?”
“Exactly! And, because you haven’t been aware, you have been expecting more pleasure than pain, more support than challenge…which does not occur in the natural world in which we all live. And so, you were carrying an illusion about your life and your work.” I added.
“Let me see if I get this, Ken. Everyone is on purpose unconsciously, but humans can be on purpose, consciously. Everyone gets equal amounts of pleasure and pain, at every second of their past life, present life and future life, and it’s natural. And, we put up with this natural law, because it enables us to be fulfilled, so, it’s the only way to have a purposeful life. Am I close?” she asked.
“You’re right on, Anneke! Now, let’s link that back to the current situation in your own life. Tell me how this law of nature can be linked to your relationships and your work.” I challenged.
“It is the only way I’m going to be able to move forward…”
She paused for a moment, integrating, what she had learned. She was a quick study and soon had it figured out.
Then she replied, “The first thing, I’ve realized, I don’t know my purpose or my highest values. The second thing, I’ve noticed, I have mostly been noticing the pain in my job and kind of ignoring the pleasures. How that?”
“Great…keep going!” I replied.
“And, the third thing I’ve realized is, since every event is always half and half…that means it hasn’t been mistake for me to be in my job for all this time, and it wasn’t a mistake to end my last relationship. I just need to go find the other side of those events…to find their natural balance…and then I will be OK with them…and so, OK with me! How am I doing? Is that true?”
“It sure is Anneke…and my job is to help you uncover those blind spots. Because I’m not in your values, I’m in my own, I can often see new perspectives, or information, you don’t, yet. Do you want to do that work?”
“Yes, Ken, I do! It is the only way I’m going to be able to move forward in my life…isn’t it?”
“I think you got it figured out quite well, Anneke! You may find, from now on, you don’t need to wait for New Years to make resolutions…new plans. You may notice yourself making resolution regularly, throughout your year, as your life plan evolves. And, because you’re making them in reference to your purpose and values, it will inspire and motivate you forward, with a sense of gratitude for your life, with a certainty of who you are, and with an appreciation for both, the pleasure and the pain, of your life. This is wisdom.”
“Ken, I feel wiser already. Can we get started today on my purpose and values?” she asked enthusiastically.
“Let’s do just that!” I replied.
“When time and space and change converge, we find place. We arrive in Place when we resolve things. Place is peace of mind and understanding. Place is knowledge of self. Place is resolution.”
– Abdullah Ibrahim, musician
“…seek gratitude instead of happiness…”
Anneke did uncover her purpose and values. She was surprised how her purpose explained a lot of her decisions, which had confused her, about her past. Her top values were less of a surprise, but, the order of the top three gave her pause. When she thought about it more, however, this also made perfect sense to her.
She initially thought her highest value would be family, but soon realized her health was a higher value and without it she couldn’t be part of her family. In a similar way, her work was also higher than her health. But, after carefully consideration, realized her work was one of the things which motivate her to take care of her health. When she was done, the hierarch of her values fit perfectly and enabled her to be consciously purposeful.
At our last session, I asked her what was her most important learning from the work she had done.
She replied, “Ken, that’s the easiest question you have ever asked me. The most important thing I’ve learned is to seek gratitude instead of happiness; to seek appreciation instead of success…if I do that daily…I will be fine!”
“The tantalizing discomfort of perplexity is what inspires otherwise ordinary men and women to extraordinary feats of ingenuity and creativity; nothing quite focuses the mind like dissonant details awaiting harmonious resolution.” – Brian Greene, physicist
Until Next time…
Now you know, you have a unique purpose and a unique set of values. And, you know, unless your living on purpose, and by your highest values, you will depress yourself. So, this is the year to take control of your own destiny, and live the life you have been dreaming about, for so long.
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Our next seminar, “A Transformation Day!” will focus on relationships. It will be on Saturday, February 27th, 2016 at our offices. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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