Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Live A Life That Fits Your Nature

An old friend of my parents’ is a physician by profession. He is a first-generation American and was the first one in his family to go to college - a super, super smart guy. What else could his family wish for him but to become a medical doctor in America? He had listened to their dreams all his life, and was convinced that it was his dream as well. Everybody’s dream came true. He shared a very successful practice with a partner, was kind to his patients and even made house calls.

It would have come as a great shock to everyone except his few close friends, had they discovered, how deeply unhappy Dr. D. (let's call him that) was as he went through his daily work routine. He was really only happy in his little greenhouse in the backyard, were he raised orchids, and very few knew that his real dream was to own a fruit orchard some day.

Dr. D. was by nature very shy, and I suspect that he suffered from a mild form of social anxiety. Seeing as many as 30+ patients a day was a genuine struggle for him that never eased. Not to disappoint his parents and appear ungrateful for the sacrifices they had made for him, he resolved to stick with it until their passing. His parents are still well and in their 90's, and Dr. D., although retired to some extent, still goes to the office -  living out a self-inflicted sentence instead of a happy life.

The dentist in my home town (I grew up at the shore) had the right idea – he sold his practice and bought a marina instead, which was more suited to his temperament and natural inclination. You may also remember an article I wrote a few months ago, in which I mentioned my husband’s personal struggle with a career change from a teaching professor of philosophy to a career in the medical industry. Again, the previous job had become an uncomfortable fit.

There are actually many people pursuing careers and goals that they are ill suited for, and they too will remain stressed and unhappy until they make a change. But many feel trapped by the need to keep up a certain lifestyle, family expectations, and accumulated financial responsibilities.

The only way out of this unhappy state is to make a change in line with your true nature, or what the Buddhists call one's "suchness.” Your "suchness" or true temperament will never allow you to feel comfortable, happy, or content, when you are engaged in activities that are alien to who you really are. Maybe you don’t  really like carrying a cell phone that keeps you 'on call' 24/7, deadlines make you feel stressed, wearing a suit and tie everyday, following orders that are clearly misguided, and having to say, "Yes Mr. Johnson" when you really want to scream, "Are you nuts??!!!".  And that’s okay.

The point is, when you live and strive for a goal, an inner ease and balance must be your partner. Hard work and challenges don't rock that boat when you know who you are, and that what you want will be a good “fit” for you.

1 comment:

  1. I don't disagree but it's frankly I need help on this one. I don't know how to tell the difference between my nature and nurture.

    You sometimes write article about how we should challenge our nature, that a person who doesn't feel they're good at math should strive to improve their skill anyway because it's a basic life skill.

    (And I feel the same way about introverts too... they don't have to become extroverts but there's a big difference between being able to enjoy solitude when you choose it vs. always wanting to escape to it.)

    Before I didn't like broccoli, now it's my favorite. Was learning to love inauthentic or such?

    How does one tell the difference between "I don't want to" and "I taught myself I don't want to."?