“Your sickness is from you, but you do not perceive it and your remedy is within you, but you do not sense it. You presume you are a small entity, but within you is enfolded the entire Universe. You are indeed the evident book, by whose alphabets the hidden becomes manifest. Therefore you have no need to look beyond yourself. What you seek is within you, if only you reflect.” – Imam Ali (AS)
There’s something about the word “seek” that I like. Seeking, to me, sounds noble. It sounds like something smart people do. People who are interested in living life to the fullest “seek” different answers, better answers. They “seek” to understand why they are the way the are, or how they got to where they are. Because once they have the answers to these questions, then they can change them.
Seeking just sounds something we should be doing more of, like meditating and eating chia seeds. Seeking will lead us out of our circumstances. But here’s where the conundrum arises: seeking answers outside of our current circumstances implies our current circumstances (no matter how dreary) don’t already hold all the information we need to change them.
I was working with a client who believes that what was standing between her and happiness is her inability to “figure out the answer to all of this.” The implication was “all of this” was a holding pattern until she figured out “the real answer.” Once she had figured it out, her real life could finally start. There, in her real life, everything would be productive, explainable, and, of course, full of bliss.
Here are a few tips to help encourage you to seek less and reflect more on what you already know. (Pro tip: it’s usually the really obvious stuff that makes us say, “it can’t be that. I already knew that.” Those are usually the kinds of exclamations we’re looking for here.)
Don’t assume everyone knows more than you.
When you seek, you’re sifting through thousands of data points, hoping one might jump out at you. And, sure, every once in a while you might learn something really helpful or something you can incorporate into your day-to-day, but for the most part that’s not the case. You’re sifting through tons of stuff, other people’s stuff (even this essay is my stuff. You’re sifting through my stuff to get to your stuff.) Most if it will not apply to you, but more importantly, more concernedly – it reinforces the message, “other people have the answer.”
Assume you already have everything you need to answer any question you have.
Seeking separates you from yourself, making answers harder to find, and chipping away at your own trust in yourself. If you’re the kind of person who prefers feedback, make a hypothesis yourself and then bounce it off of someone. But notice what feels best in your body, as opposed to their reaction, or anything that may “sound right”.
Believe the first answer you came up with is the right answer.
Even if it’s just this one time you’re trying it because I’m making you. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to read books and articles written by other people, or stare at someone’s beautifully curated Instagram. But, ingesting too much of other people thoughts, ideas, and views of the world can stifle our own. Too much external focus creates imbalance. When we are inundated with other people’s ideas, thoughts, and reflections, we are barely leaving time/space to register our own.
Eventually you need to take all that you’re learning, watching, reading, and do something with it. You will need to put it through the alchemy of your own thoughts, opinions, and lived experience and produce something reflective of yourself. You will have to make something out of nothing.
That’s what creation is. It puts you back in the seat of agency, as opposed to seeking it elsewhere. This is why making art is therapeutic. Building on that, I’ll argue that anything we make is therapeutic. Whether it’s a meal, a job, a photo, an opinion, or an act of kindness, you need to create something of your own. It also includes making decisions. The act of deciding, for no other reason than just because, is healing. You will feel so much better once you’ve done it.
You’re seeking so much, you’re never going to find it.
Seeking sounds noble, but it can actually be stressful. We put so much emphasis on the answer being something we just haven’t found yet. We assume it can’t be something so obviously easy, or already within us. The act of seeking presumes other people know more about our lives than we do. It assume that the answer lies within someone else, and it will be lost if I don’t find it. No matter how subtle, there is still the undercurrent of “the answer is in other people’s stuff.” Now you know why people are always telling you to journal more. Journaling can be seeking, but within yourself. It’s a chance to see what your self has to say that maybe you’ve been missing, ignoring, or devaluing.
Instead, let’s assume the answers are right near you. Trust you are much more powerful than you know. You’ve already got a ton of brilliant answers. We don’t need to look for anymore. Let’s use what we’ve got and see what happens.
SARA KRAVITZ helps people who don’t know what they want but know it’s not this figure out if they should quit their jobs so they can stop dreading Sunday nights. She is a career coach, author, and speaker who helps helps people understand (but, like, really understand) that this doesn’t have to be life. You can climb out of every hole. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at times (in fact, you can probably guarantee it will be), but there’s always a solution. (Even for you.)
You can download her international, bestselling book, Just Tell Me What I Want, for free here.