Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Do what you love, not what makes you look good to others

I'm thinking about mantras, things that I can live by and that I can remind myself of whenever I find myself in a rut. It's inspired by The Happiness Project. I'm kind of working on my own project, but I'm not sure how prescriptive I want to be. Gretchen has 12 commandments, and this is along those lines. It's a phrase that keeps coming into my head lately. And I've actually written about this before.
I think I finished the Ph.D. this time and not the last time because I loved my topic. I had always loved it, but I didn't realize it until I started working on it. I had chosen my former topic because people told me I was good at it and because I thought it would land me "a good job." Once I realized there were no good jobs really, I just did what I wanted.
I have done many a thing in life because I thought it would make me look cool or look better to a particular group of people I was trying to impress. And most of the time it made me miserable. I've learned to recognize when that's happening, of course, but there are subtle ways it often comes back into play. I feel like I ought to do things a certain way, read certain things, or watch certain shows. And now I'm stopping and asking myself if I'm doing something because I want to or because I think it makes me look "right."

Now, I'm not eliminating doing things that I ought to, but don't want to do--like eating well, exercising, or cleaning up--but I focus on what I want to obtain out of those things, not those things themselves or what they say about who I am. For example, long ago, I wanted to be seen as "the kind of person that exercises," so I started jogging, tried to take up sports, etc. It. did. not. work. I am not the kind of person that exercises, but I can exercise if my goal fits something I really want for myself. Right now, I really do want to look good in a bathing suit, which I know sounds vain and all, but seriously, that's what I want.

So I'm trying to focus on that as I think about what I'm doing, what I'm going to do, and not be drawn to things that might garner great comments at cocktails parties, but that would make me really unhappy.
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