by Pamela Slim
When I was younger, I went crazy for Salsa. I don’t mean the kind involving chopped tomatoes and chili peppers, I mean the sexy, sweaty Latin dance variety.
Nothing, nothing, made me feel better than being whipped around the dance floor to the intoxicating rhythms of salsa music. While dancing, I felt like a combination of a Hollywood temptress, prom queen and Jennifer Beales in the finale of Flashdance.
My passion for salsa dancing was a little problematic since as an Anglo wannabe Latina, I didn’t have too many friends who shared my enthusiasm and were willing to go out dancing with me. Showing up as a single blond was not always recommended, as it was akin to putting a “cheap floozy looking for quick fling” sign on my chest. But my love for dancing overrode any fear of embarrassment.
Salsa dancing is one example of things in my life that make my essential self scream YES.
When I do it, I lose track of time, feel absolutely present in my body and have an involuntary silly grin plastered on my face.
Finding the things that delight and enthrall you is a critical step towards finding a life that not only fits you but thrills you. It helps you make complex decisions like whom to marry, where to go to college and whether or not to quit your job to start a business. It also works for simple things like which restaurant to go for dinner on Saturday night or which color to paint your toenails.
In my last post, I led you through an exercise about identifying your inner NO from Martha’s book Finding Your Own North Star that was sure to leave you drained and unenergized. I made you imagine a scenario where you were being judged by people you didn’t respect on things that you hated to do. I swear, I was not trying to chase you into the arms of a therapist, I just really wanted you to experience what it felt like when your essential self screamed NO.
Today, thank god, we get to swing in the opposite direction, into the people, places and things that make your essential self shout YES from the rooftops.
This slightly involved but very powerful exercise is lifted directly from Finding Your Own North Star, starting on page 38. There is a lot more detail in the book and some hilarious examples of each question, but this stripped down version should still give you enough information to be effective. Take out a pencil and paper, or click on this link to open a Word template: just-say-yes21 You are going to identify a number of ways in which your essential self says “yes.”
1. Nuclear energy.
List three things that can always get you moving (Examples: “The family New Year’s party,” “Playing pickup basketball,” “Going to the mountains.”)
Energy-inducing person, place or thing #1: ________
Energy-inducer #2: ________
Energy-inducer #3: ________
Look over the list and circle the response that makes you feel most enthusiastic.
2. To Your Health.
Try to remember three times when your health seemed better than usual. What was going on in your life at that time?
Situation #1: ________
Situation #2: ________
Situation #3: ________
Circle the situation that has the most positive associations for you right now.
3. Memories, Light the Corners of My Mind ...
Where’s your supermemory? If you can’t think of anything, you’re probably overlooking the obvious. Ask some friends and loved ones what they ‘ve noticed about your ability to pick up certain categories of information. List these categories below.
Info-type #1: ________
Info-type #2: ________
Info-type #3: ________
Circle the type of information that interests you most. Be honest; nothing you enjoy is stupid or trivial.
4. Time Warp.
Write down the types of activities that make you forget what time it is.
Activity #1: _______
Activity #3: _______
Circle the activity you find most absorbing.
5. Emotional Intelligence.
Name three people who make you feel socially adept and confident, people who seem to understand you and enjoy spending time with you.
Person #1: _______
Person #2: _______
Person #3: _______
Please circle the name of the person who makes you feel most comfortable and relaxed.
6. Magnetic Attraction.
List times when you felt strangely drawn to a person, place or thing. You may have temporarily become unable to concentrate on anything else. What was the object of your desire?
Urge to merge item #1: _______
Item #2: _______
Item #3: _______
Circle the thing that brings up the most positive feelings.
7. A Natural High.
List the last three times you experienced a wonderful mood, particularly if our good mood came at a strange time or from an action other people may have criticized.
Good-mood setting #1: _______
Good-mood setting #2: _______
Good-mood setting #3: _______
Circle the situation that makes you feel the happiest.
In the spaces below, list the answers you circled on the exercises.
A. Most high-energy activity: _______
B. Person who makes you feel most relaxed: _______
C. Best-health situation: _______
D. Information you remember most easily: _______
E. Activity most likely to make you forget the time: _______
F. Item that created the strongest Urge to Merge: _______
G. Best mood setting: _______
Fill in the blanks with the appropriate response.
Your Own Best-Case Scenario
It is an incredibly beautiful day. The air is clear, the scenery dazzling, and you’re setting out to do (A: Your most high-energy activity)
with (B: your favorite person)
You’ve got no other responsibilities, no immediate deadlines, and no major problems weighing you down. You feel great, even better than you did back when you were (C: your best health situation)
In fact, you are in the best physical shape of your life: strong, lean, robust and full of energy. You’re having a great conversation about (D: the information you remember most easily)
When a message arrives for you. It’s a letter from the president, saying that you have been chosen to receive a lifetime of financial support for doing (E: the activity that makes you forget time)
This will require you to spend a lot of time with (F: the person or situation that creates the Urge to Merge)
You feel just the way you did when (G: your best-mood setting)
happened, only more so. Lie back for a minute, take in the scenery, and enjoy knowing that this is basically how you’re going to spend the rest of your life.
As you did with the “worst-case scenario,” read over your “best-case” story carefully. Picture the images as vividly as you can, and notice how you feel. There’s considerable evidence that just visualizing this scene greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll experience something like it at some point in the future. In fact, no matter how impossibly wonderful it may appear, the scenario above is only a pale shadow of the splendid realities you’ll find on the path to your own North Star.
What does it feel like to you, this sense of your essential self saying “Yes! Due north!“? How would you describe the sensation– or is it a sensation at all? Many people experience their true path not as something that happens to them but as the simultaneous loss of self and complete connection with the universe. When the essential self is really in its element, you may be so involved with the work at hand, the people around you, and the things you’re learning that you won’t be aware of yourself as separate from them. This state is the goal of many mystical practices, both in Western religious tradition and in the East. It’s been described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as “flow,” by anthropologist Joseph Campbell as “following your bliss.” What do you call it?
Identifying your inner YES, along with last post’s inner NO, are critical steps in fine tuning your internal navigation system that will lead to better decisions and a more joyful life.
I ask you, maybe even beg, to take the time to complete the exercises. Please share what you learn here, as well as the questions that pop in your mind about what’s next.
In the meantime, pardon me as I take a spin around the dance floor.
(Update 10:24am PST: comments work now, please share your thoughts!)