Surrendering to the Guidance of Deep Intelligence.
I’ve finally done it. I quit.
Three weeks later, after intense ups and downs and many tears, I sit on my couch as usual, body aching, mood depressed, my head spilling over with existential questions which can be summarized as: What am I going to do now? There is no plan B.
I think about the last years. The ambitions I pursued, the sacrifices I made, the purpose I thought I was sure of. I was meant to do this! This is what I pridefully believed. And I remember several times at which I said something along the lines of: “I don’t really care about my personal happiness, it’s more important to know that I’m doing something against all the injustice in this world that breaks my heart.”
And I remember saying it like I meant it, but also that it felt hollow. It seemed like someone else was speaking these noble words. It made me feel like an imposter and I didn’t understand why.
The longer I pursued this path, the hollower it felt. The longer I tried, the more I had to force myself.
I thought it was worth it to break my spirit, my body and my mind in order to to this. Challenging myself to come up with the courage, the creativity, the endurance to become the person I thought I should be: a leader, an innovator, a creative. A political activist. A young and talented woman, speaking up. And burning out.
Still a part of me thinks I should have fought harder and tried better. It seems ungrateful, entitled and perfectionist to me to give up what I had.
For what, exactly? I ask myself. To chill out and do nothing?
Believe in your infinite potential. In search for answers, I’ve read this phrase on some social media and felt only anxiety instead of inspiration. Anxiety about missing out, about proving myself. Is it just my perception or is the whole internet obsessed with self-optimization, striving to realize their full potential? What does that even mean?
When I read about believing in infinite potential, I think about success, achievement, status, career, goals. The predominant interpretation of the concept seems deeply connected to capitalist culture and its worship of achievement.
Yes, the narrative of achievement as an inherently good and worthy pursuit can be inspiring. It appears like an empowering way to fulfill our natural needs for belonging, security, growth and recognition, even contribution. It seems reassuring that our success lies in our hands and we can make it happen all by ourselves.
But on a deeper level, achievement is outward-oriented. Achievement and potential are normally defined by what others recognize as such. Nowadays this may be to accomplish extraordinary things and to maximize performance, productivity or contribution. It may be to always strive for more, to turn ourselves into projects, to overcome ourselves again and again.
Following these ideals can become painful and confusing when in the mode of achievement the focal point of success lies (consciously or subconsciously) outside of ourselves. In this mode, many of us are tempted to abandon ourselves and our truth in order to fulfill someone else’s expectations. Instead of realizing our potential, we end up pleasing others.
This self-abandonment is rooted in the ancient mechanism of needing our tribe’s approval in order to survive. Ironically, a mechanism many of us seek to overcome by pursuing success in the first place.
What makes it so tricky to recognize is that today this mechanism is often camouflaged as the empowerment and progress of modern times like individual freedom and a new regard for human creativity, learning and entrepreneurial possibility.
But where do I find the truth that lies deeper? How can I transcend the mode of survival and reach beyond achievement? Where do I find my own focal point of success?
Relaxing into a deeper intelligence
There is a lot of truth in the narrative of achievement that resonates with our souls. There is a sacred quality to bettering ourselves. This is why it is crucial to understand the difference between the individualist hype for using our potential as fuel for external success, and our natural and sacred human desire for self-actualization.
The latter can never be reached by achieving more or working harder or changing who we are.
This is a harmful and dangerous misunderstanding.
The real path towards our potential lies inward: it’s about transcending the capitalist narrative by becoming more of who we really are and not somehow different. It’s less about striving, more about relaxing. Not about trying harder, but about letting go of anything that’s not in alignment with our being. It’s about connecting with our hearts more than with our mental chatter.
Ultimately, it is about developing the courage to fully show up for life instead of merely struggling to exist.
Scary and vulnerable as it may feel at first, relaxing into who we are allows us to leave the mode of survival and to access an incredible intelligence with deep reservoirs of inspiration and ability. In this state, we know what is good for us, what our souls truly crave, and how we can contribute.
The natural desire to realize our full potential has to emerge from this knowing, not from our desperate need to fit in. Therein, I believe, lies our infinite potential and transformative power.
Becoming who I am
But what am I going to do now? This question taints my new freedom.
When discussing my thoughts about quitting with others, I used to say, “Well, it’s not like I have an alternative dream or anything that I desperately want to realize. I would probably end up doing something similar somewhere else.”
I was comparing myself to all the people who tell their stories on the blogs and magazines I read. The ones who quit to become self-employed digital nomad life coaches, drinking green smoothies in Bali, living a perfectly Instagrammable life. Or the ones who quit their soul-sucking corporate jobs to become entrepreneurs, yoga teachers, world travelers, artists.
I don’t have a dream like this. The job I quit had been everything I ever dreamed of doing. And it had turned out to be a nightmare.
Sitting with the pain of this realization, I find the courage to acknowledge: I don’t want to become anything. I don’t want to achieve at all, I don’t want to improve and optimize and transcend. And I certainly don’t want to hack my productivity or live my best life (or what I associate with that).
This insight causes a surge of fear. It seems unthinkable to me. Where will the money come from, what will it lead to, if I don’t do anything, if I don’t function properly, if I choose a different way of being?
But I have to try. My survival depends on it, and this is no exaggeration. I feel existentially exhausted by my attempts to fit in and to stand out. Tears flow as I feel the violent self-denial and self-abandonment I put myself through. My heart is aching. It feels like trauma. I can’t go back to the way things were.
My soul is calling me home.
Trust in the deep guidance
If I had a dream that would count as such, it would be one of authenticity. To simply be who I am. To fearlessly follow my intuition. To fulfill my deepest needs without guilt or justification.
Letting go of achievement, I’m ready to face the possibility that my truly authentic life may be simple and quiet. Mediocre even.
For now all I want is to lie down and breathe. To feel and to hold my body gently — without shaping, improving, molding it. To listen to silence and the sounds of nature. To watch the sun rise and set over the ocean. I want to dig my feet into the sand and just be me.
Then I want to read the soothing words of poets and other quiet warriors who have stopped the struggle for success and surrendered to simplicity. Because this is exactly what I want to do. I want to learn how to be soft. I want to leave achievement behind me and fill my life completely with love in all its various expressions.
Relief. Resonance. Everything makes more sense now.
It is all there. My own deep intelligence. My very own desire to fulfill my potential in its purest sense.
I’ve said I don’t know what I want over and over and over again. But I’m admitting now that I do. Even though I can’t picture the exact manifestation, I can feel that I’m moving towards it rapidly. And I trust, I trust, I trust, that it is possible, and that I will find a way of life and love that works for my whole being.
It doesn’t come easily to me. This trust thing.
But I’m ready to listen to the Truth now.
Meeshanti is a dreamer, a thinker, a lover, a seeker and an activist with a sensitive (and sometimes dark) soul. As such, she integrates an extraordinarily sharp intellect and her sensitivity, intuition and perception to lead the way towards a better and more humane way of organizing life, organizations as well as society as a whole. You could contact her via Instagram.