Today I’m presenting a one-day writing workshop in London, auspices of Alternatives. This past week I led a weeklong deep writing workshop here in London, in Bloomsbury, at the London Center of Arcadia University. It’s been a lovely week (with some afternoon drinking at the Princess Louise, a winning pub just down the street from the writing venue).
Writers in the deep writing group found it useful to hear about the following. So let me share an idea with you. Let’s say that you are a painter and that you are painting. (Congrats on that <smile>!) Should you also expect to find the experience of painting meaningful? You may hope that it will prove meaningful—but should you expect it to? No, I don’t believe so. Let me explain.
People rather naturally believe that if they engage in something that seems meaningful to them, like painting, the experience ought to feel meaningful. Sometimes it will; but often it won’t. It may prove very hard to coax the experience of meaning out of a slogging day of painting where not much has gotten accomplished, where you doubt the painting, where you doubt your prospects, and where all you are really feeling is gray and resigned.
As odd as it sounds at first hearing, we should not expect an experience to feel meaningful just because it is the right experience for us to have. You make your life purpose choices; you manage to live them; you don’t doubt their rightness for you; but because they may not be providing you with the experience of meaning often enough (or even occasionally), you may begin to doubt your own choices. The problem is with the expectation: if we live our life purpose choices without demanding that they provide us with the experience of meaning, we will do a much better job of sticking with them!
This sounds like the following: “I do things because they match my vision of how I want to live my life, not because they feel meaningful. Recovery may be more ‘boring’ than partying but I know why I am in recovery. Painting may prove more taxing than watching a show on television, but I know why I am painting. Having that hard chat with my mate may feel scarier than keeping silent, but I know why I need to speak. I do the things I need to do whether they bore me, tax me, scare me … or feel meaningful.”
The above is a very brief version of super-important ideas about the relationships among life purpose, meaning, and mood. Let me just give the headline here: if you decide that something like painting is valuable to do, do not also demand that it feel meaningful each time you engage in it. Sometimes it will; often it may not. If you start inadvertently saying, “Wow, that wasn’t a very meaning experience!” you are creating powerful reasons to stop painting.
Do the next right thing in life – and if that next right thing proves meaningful, shout and cheer! But if doesn’t—do not hold that against the thing you tried. You engaged in that activity because it matched your vision of life and that alone is reason to cheer.
If you’d like to learn more about these ideas, please take a peek at Life Purpose Boot Camp:
And if you’d like to study and teach these ideas, please think about taking the next life purpose boot camp instructor training:
Oh, and if you’d to join in the next European deep writing experience: it will be Paris, same time next year or thereabouts. If you’d like to get advance word of that, drop me an email (at firstname.lastname@example.org) with Paris as the subject line and I’ll keep you informed.