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What Do You Want to Feel When You Grow Up?
How would our vibration have evolved differently if we were asked a few variations on the classic question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
*For your listening pleasure there is also an audio version of this article read by the author. It may include a few sidebars ;)
What if We Were Repeatedly Asked a Different Question Growing Up?
Imagine if we were all asked what we wanted to feel when we grew up. The subtle shift in focus in a child’s mind from being asked what they want to be would likely ripple across society in interesting ways. So often we achieve what we want to be…and then find life lackluster because doing what we want is not always accompanied by feeling what we want. The vibration of what we achieve doesn’t pair with the emotional vibration we want to experience.
Most all of us have probably personally experienced a few events where we strive for a goal, only to find ourselves a bit bummed because neither the road to the experience, nor the achievement itself, feel as satisfying as we expected. I have certainly projected feelings on to a future event in my mind that don’t come to fruition. The logic flaw I’ve observed in all these experiences is I think a path without very many of the emotions I want to experience… will somehow lead to those emotions. In an extreme example, a low vibration path loaded with anxiety rarely equals a high vibration relaxing outcome.
It’s like baking a cake with salty ingredients; then being shocked it tastes salty instead of sweet. The emotions we feel as we journey down our life paths are letting us know the emotions we’ll likely find in the big field at the end.
Let yourself drift back to being a child, and your grandparent asks you what you want to be when you grow up. Then, imagine they ask you what you want to feel when you grow up. How would those two life trajectories track?
Would what you want to be end up giving you the same feelings you imagine you’d like in answer to the second question? Would the two answers lead to different destinations, and thus vibrations? How would you live differently with a collection of feelings as an aiming point rather than a specific career path? Perhaps even trusting the career path will emerge from putting yourself in situations containing the feelings you’d like.
“Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong.” ~Ella Fitzgerald
Imagine how much more attention children would likely pay to their emotions, (and learn to use them as guidance toward the life they want) if this classic question were flipped. We might even be less likely to suppress feelings in pursuit of a goal; suppressing exhaustion or stress might work in pursuit of what we want to do, but through another lens these are strong warnings of low vibration pathways.
Now, should everything in life boil down to just what we want to feel? Nope. That’s imbalanced as well. Ideally, we want to flip through many different versions of this question to arrive at a wholistic answer. I’ve just offered one possible variation.
Purpose Is Not Always About What We Are “Born to Do”
As another variation, we could shift our goals away from career weighting, and imagine our purpose in life may orient around experiences, rather than what we do. If one of our main goals is to experience love we’re likely to put a lot of time in to our relationships, learning how to communicate well, and being vulnerable. What we “do” may be a second or third priority that earns enough to live, but isn’t the focus of our life most careers become. We could measure things like self worth not against how many promotions we’ve earned, but if we’ve developed skills to respectfully disagree with someone without turning it in to an inflammatory situation. Both are displays of prowess.
Sometimes we are so focused on finding this thing we want to “do” in life that we can also miss our highest vibration could alternatively be found experiencing creative flow, or how our body feels. It’s highly possible our purpose in life could be feeling what it’s like to have ridiculously good balance, or really dive in to the emotions that all come as a subset of courage. I have a lot of respect for what capitalism can provide, but this singular focus on what we want to do with our life instantly narrows our focus so it expresses through our jobs…and I doubt that’s true for everyone.
We can even shift the question again to, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” This transfers the focus to characteristics a child might want to develop. Compassion, courage, and honesty become points to ponder instead of veterinarian, teacher, or dentist. How would our lives shift if we pursued studies in areas that developed the character traits we’d like to embody?
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we are our most authentic we find our highest vibration. The question is then, how do we ask a wider array of questions to ourselves and our children that help us all develop in to the fullest expressions of ourselves? Who do we want to be? What do we want to feel? What we choose to do may be more of a natural outpouring from answering first two questions, and others not even discussed here.
There’s Happiness, and Then There’s Alignment
Taking this childhood questioning to a larger societal level, I wonder how Thomas Jefferson penning it in to the Declaration of Independence that we all have a right to, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” has shaped 200+ years of Western society. Many use happiness as a measuring stick for life. We have generations of people striving to look happy and share epic images of their lives. Yet, I suspect all of us can sense the images and smiles cultivated for a camera insinuate a vibrance that often isn’t as present in the actual moment.
If we measured the genuine contentment/peacefulness/happiness reflecting from the inner worlds of a people taking a group photo for the 7th time, I don’t think we’d be shocked to find the insides often wouldn’t match the photo. Sure there’s bad angles, and there’s when inner worlds don’t match the vibe we’re hoping will show up in the photo. So we keep trying. (We’ve all been there.)
The truly epic group photos don’t need to be taken more than once- because the glowing emotion captured is genuinely radiating from people. If we had a stressful week and we are happy at brunch with friends both emotional vibrations will reflect in our face on camera (as much as we’d like only one to show up). This is why most photos of children are magnetic; they are still highly aligned, aren’t trying to be anything, and own their authenticity. Even a photo of them grumpy can be captivating.
Having anger/sadness/worry inside while acting happy outside is subconsciously uncomfortable to be around. We are all better at sensing vibration than we think. When the emotional vibrations we sense from people don’t match the facial expressions and body language it creates unease. We are receiving conflicting messages, even if on a subconscious level. The more we align this rift of what we portray externally to what we feel internally, we shift in to a higher vibration. We feel more ease, it makes us more magnetic, and calming to be around. Hence, is the pursuit of transient happiness keeping us from expressing our authentic selves, and ironically keeping us from a happier and higher vibration life?
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
I’ll never forget the time I walked in to a massage and when the therapist asked how I was doing I said, “Today has been humiliating.” I then got on the table and began to cry in to the face cradle. Double humiliation. (After holding it together at the office I guess the faux beach wave sounds were just too soothing.) I ended up spilling out the whole story during my massage and it was one of the most connective moments with a stranger I’ve experienced. At the end the therapist gave me a huge genuine hug and thanked me for being real. I wasn’t the burden I thought I would be. My vulnerability was appreciated in a world where people act like they’re happy when they’re not.
Can Pursuing Happiness Cause Unhappiness?
Could the idea that we are supposed to pursue happiness be causing more unhappiness? For me the answer is yes. Human existence is challenging. I’ve started to reframe my life as if the Declaration was written to say we strive for, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Self Mastery.” Because that’s often what it really comes down to, isn’t it? The higher our self awareness and self mastery the more our life shifts in to a higher vibration, and we experience more of those fleeting moments we call genuine happiness. Yet, I hazard to say happiness is a state most humans don’t spend huge amounts of time in. Then ironically we feel worse about ourselves, and lower our vibration, because we feel we’re supposed to be more happy than we are. We assume we’re doing something wrong. (Or at least this is how I feel at times.)
If we look at life as a pursuit of self mastery, we’re certainly growing all the time aren’t we? Every time we go through a challenge we achieve a higher level of self mastery, and it’s something to celebrate. Something that feels like success. When we pursue happiness these rough patches can feel like failures.
I also wonder how these words subconsciously misdirect us to chase fleeting experiences of happiness, and aim us away from the more challenging path of inner work. Even though inner work often pays more consistent long term dividends through happiness’ less flamboyant emotional cousins: peace, fulfillment and contentment. How we attempt to find happiness can be more or less frustrating based on if we are chasing sustainable sources.
I’m not here to eschew happiness. However, I have to wonder how pursuit of something I suspect is closer to a side effect of balance in life is affecting us and our vibration. I suspect we may be a society chasing symptoms thinking they are starting points, and this slightly haphazard pursuit may lead us away from less obvious higher vibration pathways we might otherwise be curious to explore.
I’d also like to think that Thomas Jefferson, the well read inventor, violinist, singer, author and political figure, who spoke four languages, and was notorious for his study of botany and horticulture experiments…might ironically agree with me on the self mastery bit.
I appreciate your presence today.