HJ: When we follow our passions, the universe reveals it’s greatest wisdom to us. This is because, as Joseph Campbell puts it, following our bliss is our life purpose — our ‘Hero’s Journey’ where we learn the lessons and have the experiences that we came here to participate in. These lessons and experiences always catalyze rapid personal growth and teach us the deeper spiritual principles on which the universe operates.
Below, Dr. Susan Biali shares her insights into what the epiphanies she had on her own personal journey of following her passions. These are timeless nuggets of wisdom that we would all be wise to make note of and begin practicing in our own lives.
7 Things I Wish I’d Known 20 Years Ago
Seven Secrets to Creating A Life You’ll Love
By Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. | Psychology Today
I’m turning 39 this year, and am grateful for how much better and smoother life gets as every year goes by. It’s not that there aren’t any crises or dramas anymore, I’m just so much stronger and wiser as a person that they don’t affect me as powerfully (or as protractedly) as they used to.Ten years ago, I was a severely depressed Emergency Medicine resident, and life felt like a dreaded chore, something I had to somehow survive. Though I still had much to learn, and still do, the bottom I hit ten years ago was my turning point. Through a series of events that followed, I unearthed my long-buried passion for dancing, redesigned a career that was proving to have been a mistake (full-time medical practice), and re-discovered my faith in myself and in life. Today, life feels so different. It still has its challenges, but I’m doing what I love, I have a mission and tons of passion, I get to dance and laugh and play, and more things work than don’t work.
I wrote my new book, Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You after reflecting on what key elements had turned my life around. I hoped that young people would read the book, as my life would have been so different and I would have avoided so much grief and drama if someone had told me about these key life steps twenty years ago:
1) BE YOURSELF
It wasn’t until I was 28 and ready to end my life that a chief resident in my residency program ordered me to do this: “Take some time off, and think about who you are and what you really want to do with your life.” Until then, I’d never given a voice to the real me – I didn’t even know who she was. All my life I had followed the advice of wiser well-meaning adults, and looked at the examples of “success” in the culture around me, in order to make critical life choices such as what to study, what to become etc.
Thanks to that wise resident, instead of an Emergency physician I became a GP, flamenco dancer, author, speaker and coach, and now have a life I truly love.
Honor what your heart tells you, who you truly are, and what you dream of, no matter what anyone else says.
2) “LOVE” YOURSELF IN WAYS YOU WON’T REGRET
In our society we have many dysfunctional examples of how to “treat” yourself – delicious rich foods, expensive clothes, beautiful cars, lavish vacations, nights out partying and celebrating. We’re sold the lie that more is better, perpetuated by people who have already gotten to “more”, come up empty, and figure that the answer is that they simply haven’t gotten enough yet, and need more still.
Learn to take deep care of yourself. If you’re overweight, a double fudge sundae when you “deserve” it is not a gift to your body – it takes you farther away from your goals and dreams. If treating yourself through a spending spree on your credit card pushes you more into debt, it’s not doing you any favors and you’ll likely regret it later. I wish I could have all the money back that I spent on stupid things that I thought would make me feel good.
Think hard about what really nurtures you and moves you towards your goals, instead of focusing on what feels good in the moment (that you might regret later). That’s loving yourself.
3) LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
As a practicing medical doctor, I constantly witness how little we respect and listen to our bodies. If we get tired, or sick, we want an instant fix so that the body can keep going and do whatever we need it to do. In my experience, when you get sick your body is trying to tell you something. Maybe you need to start saying no to something, or someone. Maybe you’re going down the wrong path. Maybe you just need some down time, or a break, or need to play more. Stop and ask yourself, when your body acts up and gets your attention. You will have the answer.
4) WHEN YOU ARE RIGHT WITH YOURSELF, MR. (OR MISS) RIGHT WILL SHOW UP
I truly cannot believe it when I look back at some of the men that I thought were “the one”. I expended so much energy trying to keep them around, and then mourning them when (thank goodness) they disappeared. I had this idea that if I just got into the right relationship, everything in my life would finally work, as if it was some kind of magic ingredient that would make all things right.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally realized the great ironic truth: I would not get a relationship to work, and my life wouldn’t work, until I stopped focusing on finding Mr. Right and focused on doing what needed doing in my own life, instead. When you stop looking outside for fulfillment, that’s when the real magic starts to happen. Usually, that’s when the guy will finally show up or come around. By that point you no longer desperately need him, so the relationship actually has a hope of success.
5) ACTIVELY CREATE YOUR LIFE, DON’T LET IT JUST HAPPEN TO YOU
So many of us pick a safe but unfulfilling career, crash and watch mindless TV when we get home from work, see an entertaining movie on the weekends, take a week or two of vacation a year, and on it goes. The years start to just blend into each other.
My life became what it is today when I started to play more, indulged my creative side (launched by a fantastic book, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way) and took risks by following where my heart led me. If I hadn’t followed my crazy impulse to become a professional dancer in my late twenties, and hadn’t followed another crazy impulse to move my base to Mexico, I never would lived the adventure of having my own flamenco dance company in Cabo (and teaching Pink how to salsa), and probably would never have met my husband.
Who would you be if you played a little more, did something wildly creative, or took a few more risks with your life?
6) LEARN TO DELIGHT IN (AND WATCH FOR) THE DIVINE
The main reason that I have been able to do all that I have done in the last ten years is that I learned to rely on what seems to be a delicious divine plan for my life. Every crisis holds a gift inside, and some (such as my depression, or the man who left me for a dancer ten years younger than me) even offer a priceless key to a new and extremely fulfilling chapter in life. “Everything happens for a reason” has proven to be true, and when you live life looking at it that way, everything changes. No matter how bad something seems, you will be able to find something good that comes out of it. More often than not, it will be something great.
7) DON’T PUT OFF WHAT COUNTS MOST, ESPECIALLY IF IT SCARES YOU
I’ve sometimes procrastinated for years on a step that I’ve known all along I should take. When I finally take it, miracles start to happen. What would my life look like today, if I’d lived even more courageously and had had more faith in life, my instincts, and myself? I will never know. You, on the other hand, can start finding out, right now. Take that first step, and the next step. You know what they are. Don’t wait.