Module 2: Giving Yourself Permission to Want What You Really Want
You’ve set the intention to love yourself to success and fulfillment. Now comes the fun part! You get to choose what “success and fulfillment” looks and feels like—for you.
I realize it may sound simplistic and obvious to define what you want as the starting point (or restarting point) for creating a life you love, but you’d be surprised how often we compromise that central, essential aspect. We’re so accustomed to living our lives the way we’ve been conditioned to think they should be lived, that we’ve lost touch with what we truly, deeply want.
And that’s where the juice is—in what you truly, deeply want. Not what others want for you, or what you may have wanted when you chose your major in college, or even what you said you wanted when last you set New Year’s resolutions. This is all about being willing to listen deeply to your heart of hearts, day in and day out, and follow its lead. Only your heart of hearts consistently and authentically knows what matters to you most, and what aspects of yourself are now ready for creative self-expression.
Let me pause here and explain what I mean when I say “heart of hearts.” From my own personal experience, and after years of both teaching and learning about who we are and why we’re here, I have come to embrace the understanding that who we really are is far, far more than our bodies and personalities and histories. We are each a magnificent, eternal, individuated aspect of the Divine, here to express and enjoy our magnificence in countless, diverse ways. Most of our unique “beingness” is nonphysical, even as part of our consciousness is focused here, in physical bodies living in a material world.
When we lose connection with this large, wise, and eternal aspect of ourselves, we see ourselves and our world through the narrowing, filtering perspective of our physical senses. We see a discrete number of people competing for discrete, limited resources. This worldview gives rise to fear, greed, and competition—a pervasive sense of what I call “not-enoughness.”
So when we’re focused purely in the physical, material world, we make choices and take action to protect ourselves and ensure that we get enough of what is available. When we expand our awareness into our large, nonphysical being, we recognize the eternal, abundant nature of the universe and make choices that express and celebrate its—and our—endless diversity.
Our small self and Large Self are the aspects of our being that hold these different perspectives. I think these terms, to which I was first introduced by contemporary spiritual teacher Lola Jones, are simple and intuitively clear. Our small selves are rooted in separateness, fear, and lack, while our Large Selves are rooted in joy and abundance.
It doesn’t always appear that way on the surface, though. In my own life, it was my small self who chose a double major in accounting and economics during my sophomore year in college. If you’d known me at the time, you would not have recognized that choice as coming from fear. I didn’t. It seemed like a very smart thing to do, one that would guarantee options for great careers in which I could make good money, and then retire.
And that turned out to be true. When I graduated I had eight job offers from the eight top accounting firms in the world. I accepted one and started an upward career climb toward the corner office and, ultimately, a comfortable retirement.
It wasn’t until much later—when I finally admitted to myself how much I really, really didn’t like my job—that I saw my initial choice of a college major as having come from fear. Fear of disappointing my parents if I didn’t choose something sensible and fear of not making enough money if I’d chosen to study what I was actually interested in.
We’ll talk a lot more about fears—and how to navigate through them—in later modules, particularly in Module 8. For now what I want to emphasize is that my whole life shifted when I acknowledged that I didn’t like where I was, and gave myself permission to want what I really wanted.
That wanting came from what I now call my heart of hearts, the longings of my Large Self to live a life that expressed my unique talents and passions. I see now that what the small self wants—to protect itself, to prove its worth, to amass material possessions—can never lead to fulfillment because its wants arise from lack. What the Large Self wants—to express itself, to celebrate its worth, to enjoy material possessions—is the very definition of fulfillment.
Before we go on, I want to be very clear that the small self isn’t “bad.” It simply has a limited perspective, and the Large Self will always call us to grow beyond that perspective. That’s what this is all about: growing beyond our limited self-perceptions into new expressions of our talent and creativity. Judging the small self as wrong is the very antithesis of loving ourselves to success and fulfillment. Remember, judgment is always confining or diminishing. Our opportunity here is to gain awareness of our small self perspective, bring genuine compassion to its underlying sense of vulnerability, and cultivate the ability to live more and more from the perspective of the Large Self.
So be willing to explore what your Large Self, which speaks to you through your heart of hearts, really wants. At the end of this module are some activities to stimulate or deepen your awareness of those longings. But before you dive into them, let me offer additional perspectives that you may find helpful.
Your longings exist on every level of your experience, not just the big, deep, I-want-to-change-the-world level. In fact, you cannot hope to connect with your deeper longings if you consistently ignore your smaller ones. They’re all connected and related, and they unfold from one to the next if you’re paying attention.
A simple yet important example of this dynamic is the need to rest. If you are chronically tired, yet keep pushing yourself to get things done, you will not have the presence of mind to notice your deeper longings—and you won’t have the energy and stamina to act on them, either.
That’s why the suggested activity in Module 1, Getting Back to Your Own Natural Rhythm, is so important. If you don’t learn to listen to yourself and your authentic impulses from day to day, and if you don’t honor your genuine energy and willingness to take action (or not), you form habits of action and attention that are out of alignment with who you really are.
So as you consider the question, “What do I really want?” start right where you are. Start small. Consider what you want in your life, right now. Maybe more time with someone who is always uplifting, or more naps, or the nerve to finally sign up for that dance class.
Your small self may protest that these things are insignificant at best and distracting at worst, but nothing could be further from the truth. Anything that reinforces your sense of aliveness is exactly what your Large Self wants you to experience. Remember that we are living in a vibrational universe. When you’re on the “aliveness frequency,” you draw to yourself more things and experiences on that frequency. We’re going for success and fulfillment here, so notice and cultivate whatever longings you have that get you to that frequency.
And that brings me to another perspective I want to share about giving yourself permission to want what you really want: Learn to focus on how you want to feel. A feeling is an indicator of the frequency you’re on, and as you learn to cultivate the feelings you want, you’ll not only be happier right now, you’ll attract more things that reinforce those feelings into your experience.
Focusing on how you want to feel is also an elegant and effective way to connect with your Large Self perspective. Sometimes when we focus too specifically on what we want, it’s the small self that jumps in to figure out what that should be. And we already know that what the small self wants, while it may be an improvement over where we are now, can never lead to the deeper levels of fulfillment that arise from the desires of our Large Self to create and express. When we focus on how we want to feel, we step outside the limits of what our small self thinks is possible. On the “good feeling frequency,” we open ourselves to the inspired ideas and experiences of the Large Self, which may be completely different from—and far more satisfying than—what the small self might have wanted.
A Good Story is Worth a Thousand Words (even if it’s less than 1,000 words)
I’ll share the story of a friend of mine, whom I’ll call Linda, to illustrate this point. Linda recently went through a highly tumultuous time at work. She works in a large, bureaucratic organization and the chaos was caused by a change in leadership at the highest levels. As part of the transition from one regime to the next, it was decided that certain positions would be redefined and everyone currently in those positions had to reapply for them. And the reapplication and interviewing process was detailed, demanding, and lengthy.
Linda is a high-potential employee with years of outstanding performance well documented in her file. She is accomplished, creative, proactive, and responsible—not to mention highly skilled and immensely talented. Yet the grueling process triggered a sense of self-doubt within her. She doesn’t like being interviewed, and kept wondering if she would make it through. She started to feel almost as if she would be lucky to keep her current job, in which she had excelled for years. (And which she was sick of, by the way.) And so from the perspective of her small self, what she wanted was merely to keep her job.
I kept encouraging her to shift her attention away from the tedium and drama of the reapplication process and reach for her Large Self perspective by focusing on her immense talents and contributions, and by getting clear about the kind of work she truly wanted and how she wanted to feel in her ideal job. I knew if she connected with the deepest truth about who she is and what she wants, she would invite opportunity to reflect that truth.
As the process dragged on and Linda’s concerns kept nagging her about how well she would interview, she decided to compile a portfolio of her achievements to present to the interviewing committee. It was an inspired idea. As Linda accumulated and organized the various reports and awards that documented the milestones of her career, she gained a newfound appreciation for herself— which was perfect, because appreciation was one of the feelings she wanted to experience in her ideal job. She was lifting herself to the vibration of the work she wanted.
At my urging, she also took the time to sit with her journal and describe the kind of job that would best fit her creativity and skill. It felt good to contemplate it and recognize that she was indeed ready for that kind of job. She regained a deep connection with the truth of her talent and passion, and with the feeling of being passionate and challenged in her work.
Fast-forward to the conclusion of the process. My friend did not retain the job she was in. She was promoted two grades—to the highest pay level—into a newly created position that hadn’t existed at the start of the process. And her new job description matched what she had written in her journal. Turns out her Large Self didn’t just want her to keep her current job, it wanted her to grow into greater levels of self-expression. And a whole new path was created for that to happen.
This story beautifully illustrates the power of giving ourselves permission to want what we truly want—not what we think we can have from our limited, fear-based perspective—and the effectiveness of focusing on how we want to feel as a means of connecting with our Large Self perspective and possibilities.
Now it’s your turn. Give yourself some quality time and space to connect with your own heart of hearts and ask what you truly want to create or experience in your life right now. The exercises at the end of this module will help you with that, but all you really need is a clear intention to give yourself permission to want what you really want, not what you think you should want. Now go have some fun with this!
But what about…?
What if I really can’t figure out what I want to do with my life?
Don’t fall prey to what I call the tyranny of the one big thing. There isn’t a singular experience or purpose you’re supposed to fulfill. You are magnificent, multi-talented, and ever-evolving. Your real purpose is to awaken to that truth and live joyfully, growing into new levels of creativity and self-expression. Think in terms of what you want, right now, rather than trying to figure out a particular career or vocation you’ll commit to for life. (Although if you’re strongly called to a particular career, by all means honor that.)
Remember, start where you are and begin to recognize your genuine longings on every level, whether they are for more rest, more time with your family, or that niggling desire to see what it feels like to run a 10k. As you become accustomed to recognizing and honoring your longings on every level, your life will take on a fluidity and congruency as each longing opens you to the next, and the next.
We’ll talk about how to actually realize those longings in the rest of this course. For now just give yourself the time and space to acknowledge what they are.
Activities & Practices
Checking In With Yourself
Memorize these three questions:
- How do I feel?
- What do I want or need?
- What could I give myself right now?
Commit to pausing throughout the day and asking these questions of yourself, then following through on your responses in whatever way you can. The most challenging aspect of this is actually remembering to check in, so experiment with ways to do it. For example, you might set the alarm on your cell phone to go off periodically as a reminder to check in, or you might decide to check in with yourself during natural breaks in your day (e.g., after your morning commute, before you eat lunch, as soon as you get home from work). Sticky notes are a low-tech but still effective way to create visual reminders, too. Or you could enlist a friend and agree to remind each other throughout the day. Experiment!
You may not be able to take immediate action after recognizing something you want or need, especially if it is something large, such as a more fulfilling job. But there is tremendous value and power in acknowledging what you want, and noticing any patterns or themes.
There is also tremendous value and power in taking small actions right away that honor what you want. Be willing to be creative and don’t judge any action as too small or insignificant. For example, you may feel tired and want to take a nap, but you’re headed to a meeting. What you could give yourself right now might be three deep, nourishing breaths and a promise to carve more time for rest into your life. Jot down the ideas that come to you and have fun finding ways to act on them.
Opening to Your Heart of Hearts
Contemplate these questions in your journal or just in the privacy and comfort of a still mind:
- What do I want to create or experience in my life right now?
- What might be ready to emerge in my life?
- What can I give myself permission to want?
- What talents and skills would I love to develop?
- What lights me up?
- If I could truly live the life I want to live, what might it look like?
- What desire have I held for a long time that I’m now ready to acknowledge?
- What could make my life easier and more fun right now?
- What qualities do I most want to experience? (e.g., peacefulness, joy, humor)
- How and where do I want to grow?
- How do I want to feel in my ideal life (or career, relationship, etc.)?
Feel free to create your own questions that open you to your heart of hearts.
Let these questions simmer for a while; don’t rush to answer them as you would questions on an exam. Pose them to your Large Self and go about your day, remaining open to fresh insights and inspiration. And when you’re ready, choose something that matters to you, that you’re willing now to begin creating in your life.