Living from My Heart
tom walsh


What does it mean to live from my heart?  I often ask myself if I am living a true, authentic life that comes from my heart, or if I might be living my life more based on what I believe other people expect from me or what I think are the expectations that I need to fulfill in order to "get by" in life.  It's not an easy question to answer, no matter how much I'd like to tell myself that I'm living truly and honestly.

I haven't come up with criteria yet that will tell me one hundred percent of the time that my actions are on the right track, that I'm not doing something merely because it's convenient or because it's the easiest road to travel or because it helps me to avoid conflict or problems.   Perhaps I'm harder on myself than I need to be, but I think it's important to acknowledge the doubts when they're here.

You see, there are many more factors involved in my life than I would care to count.  For example, even though I have some very strong ethical dilemmas involving the school where I work, I continue to work there, mostly for financial reasons.  I do have a family that I need to continue to support, and the loss of the income would be pretty drastic for all of us.  So I continue to go to work each day in spite of the ethical problems that I have, and I tell myself that I still can do a good job for the students I work with in spite of the way things are.

According to most of the literature that I read, though, I'm making a mistake if I continue to work at a job that doesn't make me happy, even if providing for my family does give me a strong sense of satisfaction and knowing that my step-children are well provided for is more important to me than my own personal or professional satisfaction.

There's also another factor involved:  if I continue to search for other work and nothing comes up, then does that mean that I'm meant to continue at my current job?  I tend to think it does, for no matter how I feel about working there, I know that I'm learning some very important things about life and living by staying.  I also know that I'm able to provide a positive influence for the students with whom I work, and that much of what I do for them and with them is important to them.

If I had my heart's desire, I would no longer be there.  But is that what's best for me?  We have to let life give us its input and respect it, even if we don't understand it completely.

Or is this just rationalization for not having the courage, or for not trusting life or God enough to leave my job?

What happens if living from our hearts affects other people far too strongly for us to be able to do so completely?  Can we just disregard the effects on others in order to live genuinely and authentically?  There are those who argue not only that we can, but that we should, for the negative feelings that I have about work, for example, can negatively affect my family just as much as a shortage of money can.

For my part, though, as long as I continue to pursue every option available to me and meet with no success, I feel that I can see life's or God's hand in the picture, and that for reasons that I can't comprehend right now, I'm right where I'm meant to be, learning lessons that I need to learn.

In this way, even though I may not be living from my heart by having the "perfect" job for me, I'm accepting the gift of the job that I do have (when many people would be grateful to have a similar one), and I'm doing all I can to learn and experience what I need where I'm at.  And I can be sure that as long as I'm at peace concerning my motives and the outcomes of staying at the job I'm at, I truly am living from my heart and not making decisions based on fear or rationalizations or any other factors.

Why can't life be simpler?  I don't know, but my hunch is that if it were, we wouldn't get nearly as much from it. . . .

An interesting footnote:  I did end up leaving the job about a year and a half after I wrote this essay.  It felt very good leaving behind a job that was unfulfilling and that didn't allow me to be my authentic self.


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My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
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