We all want to find the one true thing.
The passion in life.
The pill to take.
The ultimate profession.
The perfect partner.
The way to eat.
The exercise routine to do forever, and then happily prancersize (look it up) off into the sunset.
And wow, wouldn’t it be great if it did work that way?
Find the lock to your key annnnd: done.
We crave stability and structure to help us feel safe. That is until we get bored, then we look for the next One Thing to try.
And yes, the routines, foods, movement practices, supplements, professions, and hobbies we try often do have something to offer us. But it takes more than one thing to keep us relatively sane and moving forward. It takes a team of things- practices, skills, types of food, coping mechanisms, relationships, and bedtimes.
To make matters more complex, life has endless variability that we need to adapt to, even as our bodies have their own dance of homeostasis going on. You would think we are on a giant orb spinning around as it spirals in a huge pattern through space. There is movement everywhere, from tiny cellular respiration to cosmic dances. No wonder we are in a constant state of flux.
It’s important to respect the different phases of life. To respect your own changing goals and desires and states of health. You’re not always going to be able to run the mile that fast, memorize that many facts, be interested in the same hobby, or even be drawn to the same friendships.
It’s a hard ask, but please be careful of what you decide to base your identity on.
Things that you hold dear to yourself today, the abilities or ideals that you define yourself with, are probably going to change at some point. And that’s a totally normal and natural process. It’s okay to become someone different from you are now. In fact, I’d worry more if you never did. Most of us at some point in our lives have moved away from people we love, stopped doing activities we thought we would do forever, and decided on a new favorite color or food. I won’t go so far as to say if you’re a dog person you’ll become a cat person, I mean that’s a really big reach, but you might begin enjoying small dogs instead of large ones.
I also want to mention the role changing life circumstances play.
Change is not always a choice. A diagnosis, a natural disaster, a global pandemic… all of these things change our circumstances in ways we don’t choose and have to deal with and adapt to. Luckily, the same bits you have collected along the way in better times will still help you.
As an example, I know that I have better energy, feel more at ease inside, and am generally happier when I have at least one dog, keep communication clear between myself and my closest loved ones, drink lots of water, get more sleep than is usually recommended, take time each week to be creative, learn new things, teach people something, do some type of resistance training a few days per week, and eat home-cooked meals. I need all these things. When I let even one slide for too long, I get indigestion, or apathetic and depressed. Sometimes I do leave them all behind and survive, say if I am traveling, am sick, or have a short-term project that needs a lot of my time, but I try to reinstate them as soon as possible.
Your list will be different than my list.
Sometimes in life, we feel a little lost (yet another normal human experience). If you read this and have no idea what your list would be, you may find my Values + Actions Worksheet helpful. Personal values are a great place to begin to find out what matters to you. Research shows that understanding and acting on personal values is the most reliable indicator of continued motivation in life.
And how does this help me understand and accept my own needs? Some of my top values are curiosity, integrity, creativity, and health. It’s easy to see why I enjoy learning and art projects and take the time to cook at home and get enough sleep.