A simple action framework that I use for career questions, dating, what I should do with my weekend, etc.
I’ve recently been talking to a cool company about doing some work with them. They approached me with exciting news about their expansion, and they wooed me with phrases like “we don’t make job descriptions, we just connect to talented people and find a way to make it work.”
My ego ballooned like a zeppelin about to lift off.
At the same time, I felt a shadow of uncertainty. Something didn’t feel right amidst these first date flirtations. But, there I was, ego all revved up and previous plans (working on this email series included) tossed to the wind.
Let’s start with this:
Love (to love) is an action, it’s an activity I do. It’s not merely a saying or even a feeling. It’s also, and primarily, an action, a thing I do.
If you’re giving yourself to something or someone, whether that’s 40 or more hours of your week to a job or a huge chunk of your life to a romantic partner or a friend, then that is a way that you are loving. You are giving attention, and attention is first and foremost an act of love.
So when I can’t decide if something or someone is worth my attention — worth my love — or not, I ask myself one simple question:
How is it loving me back?
Not, how does she / he / it make me feel. Feeling is one dimension of our experience, and it turns out it’s the most intangible, subjective, and fleeting. Strong feelings can turn into actions, into material reality, but there’s never a guarantee that they will — and sometimes you wouldn’t want them to.
For example, Person A can say they feel love for Person B, but end up saying mean things to them, acting subtly competitive or jealous, calling them or keeping them up at odd hours when they have to be up early the next day, being short with them because they made an unintentional mistake, the list goes on.
These are all actions that are not love even if Person A thinks they feel love for Person B. Love is in the doing.
Hey look, a table!
These are examples taken from the lives of real people I know, not angels and not losers.
We’re all involved in both love and unlove at different times. That includes me. That includes you.
Last year, when I was at a low point after ending a 5-year relationship and moving on from the startup that I’d babied and nurtured through its acquisition, I probably should have turned to the expert guidance of a trained therapist. Instead, I went the cheap route and started reading the book, The Road Less Traveled (http://www.amazon.com/Road-Less-Traveled-Timeless-Edition/dp/0743243153).
I want to share something from that book that beamed a bright light as I muddled through my personal swamp:
The real act of loving begins when we fall out of love.
Huh?? Actually, this is simple.
To me it means, love is more than the initial feeling of love, that exciting spark that most of us have felt for a person, a job, a place. It turns out that initial feeling love is pretty conditional — it depends on circumstance, it depends on time, and it depends on mood.
Deeper love is the work we do when we don’t feel like it. A person who is acting on deeper love won’t call you at 3 am with their drama of the moment before you give an anticipated 9 am presentation at work.
A person acting on deeper love is loving you, not just themselves.
If this is so obvious, then why do we still throw ourselves at the wall?
Actually, it’s not that complicated. It’s really very simple.
Love the things that love you back.
So, back to my work opportunity. How did this framework help me through uncertainty?
As currently stands, the Neverland portal startup opportunity is unlove in my life. That doesn’t mean I can’t go back for something different, if I’m brave enough to ask.
Like love? (heh).
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