Questioner: I just don’t know what I want to do as my career or job. Every time I get an idea, I seem to find a hundred reasons NOT to do it. Can you help me untangle this mess?
Subhan: There is a Sufi mystic named Rumi who said, “Look for the answer in your question.” What an insight!
Let’s take his advice and look at your question: You say, “Every time I get an idea, I seem to find a hundred reasons NOT to do it.” This indicates that you DO have ideas that interest you! It is what a part of the mind does with these ideas that causes your difficulty.
Your question reveals two parts inside of you. One part has ideas. They may even be adventurous! The other part – what I call the critical mind – gives you a hundred reasons in opposition, which form a powerful obstacle that stops you from truly exploring the idea. This critical mind criticizes it, makes it wrong, makes it unattractive, makes it not good enough, etc. In a short time you lose any excitement and adventurous feeling that you may have had about the idea.
Realize that the mind’s critique that leads you to, “It is not what I want,” is probably just to stop you from going to an unpredictable place where it doesn’t want you to go. But instead of it saying that it is unpredictable or dangerous, the critical mind gives a litany of perfectly logical reasons why it isn’t the place to go. In that way, it constantly keeps you away from the new…and stuck in the old – which it considers SAFE!
The problem is that life lives and breaths in adventure and the unknown, not in the safe and the predictable.
And it is one thing to experience something and decide that it isn’t for you. It is quite another thing when this decision becomes a continuing pattern of the mind. Then it is pointing to a deeper, hidden motivation.
And watch how the mind insists that, although this particular idea isn’t right, just keep waiting and hoping that the REAL thing will come down the pike. This keeps you from total despair. And you stay hooked to the future, looking for what is ABOUT to come, rather than exploring what is already in front of you that interests you. It is like “waiting for godot”…and godot never comes!
So what to do? When there is an initial experience of attraction to a career idea, pursue it!
Use what I call the “Adventure-Risk Zone” analysis. This analysis says, Find and take small steps into the Adventure-Risk Zone in the direction of the idea, but not so big that they trigger the resistance of the critical mind. You can then experiment taking steps towards your idea and learn which ones work and which ones don’t.
Once you understand how the critical mind functions, you can learn to bring your awareness and understanding in when the mind uses this obstacle. It is a knack that you can learn. And it certainly helps to have support while you are learning this. It is extremely helpful to have the support of people who know and understand how the critical mind functions. They can be resources and mirrors so that you can see what is happening unconsciously in the mind. And you can learn to break these patterns once you become aware of them. Then you can see that the pattern IS THERE, and move through and beyond it!
To sum it up: The critical mind finds the new and adventurous repugnant because it requires change to happen; it invites in the unknown; it is unpredictable. The mind sees this as very dangerous. So it does whatever it can to halt the process. It is this continuing pattern of stopping anything from materializing that begins to give the critical mind’s intention away. And once this is seen and understood, it is possible to challenge the mind and move beyond it when you become aware that it is going into the pattern again.
(In our FTWYL classes and workshops, we now do a substantial amount of work learning how to recognize and effectively deal with the critical mind.)
©2010 subhan schenker