Most of us have been taught to say and do things in a particular way. Fear of not fitting in, or worse, failing to please those we care about, often drives us away from doing and saying the things that make us come alive. 

Rather than risk the possibility of losing—our sense of community, identity as a person, and even our family—we (often unconsciously) settle into jobs, relationships, and even hobbies that leave us wanting to just get through each day. And there are days to just get through, but every day?

Can You Feel Your (Inner) Pulse?

Life is meant to be lived. Part of being alive is feeling a whole range of emotions—excitement, joy, grief, sadness, disappointment, happiness, and even peacefulness. That last one is powerful, and it often comes when we stop fighting our deepest desires and start taking tiny steps to doing the things that make us come alive.

What makes you come alive?

Is it…

Videogames?
Painting?
Writing?
Clothing?
Selling?
Parenting?
Fixing appliances?
Fitness?
Research?
Fishing?
Sports?
Presenting?
Teaching?
Children?

What It Means To Come Alive

Do you know what makes you come alive? Many people have ignored it for so long that they forget what it is.

Given our tendencies to think of alive as being the extraverted one who loves the spotlight (admittedly, this is me), let’s define it as a giddiness we feel when we’re learning and sharing. If you don’t think you ever feel giddy, ask your good friend what you light up about. 

My wife is a gamer who loves fitness, nutrition, cats, the outdoors, and beer. Get her talking on any of those topics, and her face lights up… a little. Not a lot, but a little. Her passion, while vastly different from mine, shines through. That little giddiness… that’s what I think I’m referring to as alive.

Are You Feeling Alive?

It’s what I feel right now, as I type these words. Putting words around the human experience makes me come alive. It can also scare the shit out of me, if I’m honest. 

I never know if something I write is going to connect, or if anyone will even hear or read what I created and shared. As I put my art (heart) out into the world, it feels vulnerable. That’s because I care about the work. I want it to have an impact… to make a difference. 

Even though I know my writing touches people, I still get scared that it won’t… that no one will read it, care about it, or worse yet, criticize what I’ve put into words. 

It doesn’t matter how many people send me messages like this one that came to me recently… 

“Your Gift of Compassion and Word Art is Healing my Spirit. Thank you.”

Letting Affirmations Cut Through The Noise Of Fear

I still feel fear. It’s pretty darn consistent, sounds like a bit of a broken record, and is trying to help me. “Thank you,” I’ve learned to say to my fear. “I see you, I hear you, I feel you, and I’ve got you,” I declare, often in the mirror, to ensure that my fear hears me.  

I don’t think that fear is going anywhere. Nor do I want it to… it’s trying to help me. That’s beautiful, just not always helpful. 

“Remember that it is far harder and more painful to be a blocked artist than it is to do the work.” – Julia Cameron 

The good news is that I have more discomfort when I don’t do the work, then when I do. When I do the work that makes me come alive, I’m doing my part, and that’s all I can ever do… the rest is not up to me, or you, or anyone. It’s up to the Universe. Peace is in doing my part, and then letting go.

Given our tendency to care about the things that make us come alive, it seems essential to remember what to focus our caring on. 

What To Care (and Not Care) About

Here are the two Most Important Things To Care About when it comes to doing the work that makes you come alive—

  1. The time and attention you give to the work that makes you come alive, and
  2. Sharing your lessons, successes, and your stories with others.

(Side note: the two most important words in life—come look. Life is in the sharing.)

Here are the three Least Important Things To Care About when it comes to doing the work that makes you come alive—

What others do (or don’t do) with it,

Whether others like it, and

Whether you’re the best at it.

The challenge comes when we think that we need other people to pick, like, and celebrate our creations. We don’t want our hard work to be for not, and yet, it is the work itself that makes us come alive. When we do work that matters to us, and that’s needed in the world, we’ve done the hard work of picking, liking, and even celebrating what most needs celebrating.

To discover what makes you come alive, notice what stirs your spirit, excites you, and then do those things… again, and again. Because your success is in doing the thing that makes you come alive, not the accolades or viewership of your work. 

Case In Point

In 2021, I received a phone from Brien asking me if I could deliver a TEDx talk in two weeks. Yes, two weeks. I didn’t have a twenty-minute talk already planned. I would have to create from scratch, and I told him that. 

“Get your ideas down,” he said, “and email them to me by Monday. We’ll see if we can get you ready by then.”

Excitement (and a little fear) rushed through my body as I headed out into the woods to think, pray, and imagine what I might say. Within a few hours, I had an email composed with some preliminary ideas for a talk that fit their theme. 

“Keep working at it,” he said, “see if you can clarify your main message.”

Over the next week, I poured myself into thinking, researching, and writing out my idea. Still, it lacked the clarity he needed to take a risk on including my (new) talk. As he looked for another speaker, I kept working at clarifying my idea. 

What Doing The Work That Makes You Come Alive Should Be Like

I was relentless. Why? Because I was having so much fun. Delivering the TEDx talk would have been icing on the cake, at this point, and not the cake itself. 

And that is what doing the work that makes us come alive should be like. 

Was I disappointed when he called to let me know my talk would not be included? Yes, of course. Who wouldn’t be? But… I was also grateful for every minute I spent thinking, researching, and imagining the impact of the words I had begun to formulate. I was also thankful to have Brien’s feedback on my ideas. 

Nothing Is Ever Wasted

Less than a year later, I stood on a stage in Tysons Corner, Virginia, grateful for all the effort I had put in a year before. While it wasn’t a TEDx stage (yet), it was an awesome group of four hundred women leaders. And… it was recorded. Here it is. Enjoy!

Each moment that we do the work that brings us alive, we get to feel alive, and isn’t that what life is for? So, please, listen to your inner cravings, and do (and share) the work that makes you come alive, because as Howard Thurman said, the world needs you. 

Here’s to your greatness, 

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister helps companies and leaders motivate and inspire excellence. For nearly 20 years, she has facilitated communication that results in trust, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit https://www.MistiBurmeister.com