[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]
For many years, I’ve been trying to find the courage follow my dreams. I gave myself until the end of this year to finally make a move, but as my self-imposed deadline gets closer, I’m feeling more and more anxiety. The idea of changing my life literally hurts sometimes, even though I really do want to follow my passion. Without going into too much detail, I’ve basically always had the same dream. And in my heart, I know what I want to do, but I’ve always had too many doubts to move forward. I end up talking myself out of following through and instead just play it safe for another year. How do I stop holding myself back? How do I follow my heart when I keep talking myself out of it? How do I do what I love when it seems too terrifying to try?
Thanks for your help!
Stuck In Stability
Dear Stuck In Stability,
The mind and the heart often seem to battle over controlling the life of their owner. The mind usually wins because it’s extremely loud and convincing. The heart’s nature is to be more gentle and passive — it doesn’t like to fight. In contrast, the mind’s tendency is to be domineering and relentless, and it has a more up-front position in our psyche — it takes advantage of this proximity to maintain a tyrannical dictatorship over our behavior and choices. Meanwhile, the heart pulses with a subtle yet consistent yearning, never fully allowing us to tune out its mystical aspirations.
The mind tells us to be rational, calculating, and conservative, and continuously lists all the reasons we shouldn’t listen to our heart’s more deeply held desires. The heart is persistent as well, but it keeps whispering to us from deep within our soul, whereas our mind shouts right into our brain and dominates the conversation.
The mind can be like a fear-based movie projector, playing us previews of all the negative outcomes that could befall us by following our heart.
Why does the mind do all this?
In truth, the mind is afraid of the heart. The mind thinks it is you. The mind sees itself as your true identity, and it wants you to believe it too. It doesn’t like the idea that something as elusive and non-intellectual as the heart could be the most sincere expression of our true self. As the mind clings to its power position, it will use all its reasoning tools — often disguised as common sense — to dissuade us from listening to the heart’s more ethereal and intangible passions.
Of course, both our heart and mind are crucial elements of our being, and both help us define and express our true self. We must ultimately figure out how to make them work in harmony, and use each of their strengths for the best of what they offer. The first step is to eliminate the mind’s stronghold over our spirit.
The true duty of the mind is to serve the heart, not interfere with it. The mind’s intelligence is best used in carrying out the desires of the heart — directing the heart’s loving and creative power out into the physical world. The mind has the practical tools and intellect to bring the heart’s vision to life. Our true self emerges from the heart and is either blockaded or furthered by the mind.
The mind works at bridging the outer and the inner. And ultimately, the mind should learn to enjoy its role as a facilitator and gatekeeper. It can protect the heart and decide what to let in and what not to expose it to. The mind can also decide what parts of ourself to let out — opening our heart and sharing it with the world.
So, as Emily Dickinson so perfectly put it, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” The only question is, can we quiet our mind enough to listen to our heart? And can we build the adequate courage to follow it? Let your mind have its say, but remember that you don’t have to obey it like a slave. Your heart will never steer you wrong. Even if it’s painful, scary, and extremely challenging, the heart is the closest thing we have to perfection, and our life’s work should be learning to follow it, even when it hurts.
More:Ask Andrew W.K.