On Doing What You Want

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Mark Twain

There’s a lot you can learn from dancing in a public place like a subway station. The first few moments you instantly stop, pondering “What am I doing!? Everyone will think I’m insane!”. Then you realize no one was looking, you start again and go a little bit longer. Now you can feel the eyes on you, as you enter people’s field of view, they look puzzled, not knowing how to respond. It feels terrible. Everyone is judging you. Surely, someone will call the police, you’ll be locked away in a crazy house, never to be in front of your family and friends again. But that isn’t the reality, is it? As you get a minute or two into dancing, you realize nothing is happening, no one is doing anything, and everyone goes back to what they were doing.

So let’s shift the perspective a little. Imagine you saw someone you suspected was homeless and/or crazy in a subway station, and they started to dance. What would you really think? “Ah that’s weird, someone is dancing in the subway station”. Give yourself a gold star, that’s a pretty normal thing to think. Your perception doesn’t really harm them though, are they now more crazy because you suspected they were crazy? No, the reality is, if you’re like most people, you don’t really care.

The shocking reality is, strangers don’t really care about you either. We’re so terrified of what may happen if we do something unpredictable or outside of our comfort zone that we stop ourselves at every turn, for imaginary fears, that disappear as soon as we swap the perspective and see the situation for what it really is.

But let’s say dancing in strange places isn’t you’re thing. Perhaps you’re afraid of judgement in another way. You had a date this evening with a good book, a hot bath, and some good ol’ rest and relaxation, perhaps a glass of wine too? Just as you’re about to enter your blissful evening, your friend calls you. Your friends are heading to a demonstration, it turns out there is some sort of government corruption going on, and blah, blah, blah, you zone your friend out as your heart tears at the wine getting warm next to your tub. You can’t possibly choose to be so selfish as to treat yourself well when so much is going wrong in the world, right?

Wrong. You can choose whatever you want. If your passion for the issue is stronger then your need for taking some time to yourself, then by all means, go and demonstrate. Yet, if you’re doing it to avoid confrontation, and do it out of guilt, you’ll build resentment over time. You don’t need to say “Nah man, screw you, I’m going to take a bath and read stuff”, when it’s easy enough to say “That sounds awesome, I’m sure you guys will really make an impact there! I’ve got some things going on right now, but be sure to tell me how it goes after!”. If you responded with compassion, and your friends did not, then this issue is bigger then the current situation. Chances are, they don’t care about your involvement nearly as much as you think.

HOT TIP: There is no hot tip this week, I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for it.

It’s a subtle form of narcissism to think our choices and actions have such a large and meaningful impact on the lives of all of those around us. Yes, yes, it’s possible to do great things that inspire or change a lot of lives, but whether you decide to dance in a subway station or say no to some altruistic endeavors in favor of something seemingly selfish you would rather do more, no one is going too care much for too long.

Entertain the idea even just a little bit, that strangers and those around you, or even your closest friends, aren’t going to harshly judge you for something you want to do, and see how you feel differently. Imagine that no one really cares about you or what you’re doing, because it’s kind of true, and see how you behave when you’re driven by inspiration rather then a fear of judgement.

One thought on “On Doing What You Want

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