Transcript Episode 34 : Navigating the Ideal Life

Introduction

Welcome to Sing With Your Feet, the podcast in which we sit down in the pilot seat of our lives and start figuring out what all the lights and buttons and beeps are for.

The podcast in which we suspend disbelief for just a minute, and imagine that where we are, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves are not just the result of a bunch of ill-laid plans and poorly made decisions, but rather, a reality to which we have the power to consent.

The podcast in which we navigate a three-dimensional Venn Diagram as we realize that our Ideal Life is not a destination, but a flightpath.

My name is Lily Fields, and I am going to be your fairy godmother for the next half hour or so.

Let me be the first to congratulate you, Cinderella. You made it. You survived our nineteen episode series about the Ideal Life Themes. You survived rants and tangents and endless iterations of The Golden Rule, and you managed to do it without ever meaningfully waking up the Philosopher Princess. 

I raise my glass to you, Cinderella.

“Now now now, Lily Fields…” Ah! That’s you. Still out there objecting to everything I have to say like the adorable southern belle that you are. But I do wish you would have let me enjoy my glass of bubbly.

“Lily Fields, I have listened, I have taken notes, I have started asking myself those little questions every day. But I still don’t see how all of this fits together. And I still don’t see how this has done anything to help me learn to sing with my feet.”

Goodness, you are so cute, Cinderella. 

Today is the day we are going to put it all together. 

Today, I hope that by the end of the episode, you will see how Joy, Consent, Talent, Time, Treasure and all of the nineteen Ideal Life Themes work together.

I hope I can be clear enough this week, because next week, we are starting a new four-episode series about Curiosity, and we need these pieces to be in place so that we can dig into those four little questions that we ask ourselves every day to help us make…ooh, ooh, ooh…my favorite word and favorite idea is about to spill out of my mouth, so watch out… do you know what it is??? Help us make progress.

I’ve brought my magic wand today, Cinderella, because today’s the day that it’s all going to come together. Here’s a little fairy dust…Are you ready?

Let’s go.

Getting Started:

For the last 33 episodes, I have talked to you about how important Joy is. I have talked about how Joy is the Fairy Dust that makes living worthwhile. I have told you that the theme song to this podcast is entitled La Joie, which is French for JOY.

And yet I don’t think that I have even once defined Joy. 

According to the dictionary, Joy is a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. 

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it calls back to Episode 30, which was about Contentment, which according to the dictionary definition was a state of well-being or happiness.

As you may remember in that episode, I went on to adulterate that definition of Contentment, turning it into a descriptor for a state of satisfaction with our lives–with what we own. I would add to that definition that it is also a state of satisfaction with our situation or the circumstances of our life. Because time was short, I didn’t get into the weeds with many of my theories about Contentment, but I am going to just that right now. Are you ready? This will lead back to Joy, I promise. But this is important, because the two are related.

I am going to give you three words that I want you to write down and ponder throughout the day. You can chalk these up to help you answer question number three of those four questions we ask ourselves every day as we ponder our Ideal Life. (Question number three, in case you are having trouble remembering, is the one that says, “What do I need to think about?”

The Three words to consider

Here are those words, and for reference, the order does matter:

  1. Contest
  2. Consent
  3. Contentment

Contest…to contest is to raise an argument against something or someone. Like when you contest a will, or you contest a charge on your bank statement. 

As human beings, we like to contest a lot of things, and many of us (uhm, me, for example) like to contest the circumstances of our life, many of which we cannot control. To contest something that we cannot control is, of course, futile. 

I mean, I contest the fact that I am developing lines around my mouth that make me resemble my grandmother. I don’t know who I would be arguing against, though. Because my problem isn’t with someone or something that can change their mind. My problem is with time itself.

It’s like being in the middle of July and complaining that it’s hot (notwithstanding that all concerns about climate are valid in my book.) It’s hot in July. And? Who am I going to go to complain about this, who could actually do something about it? My problem is with the very forces of nature.

I’m not saying that we should not contest injustice when it is in our power to do something about it, or when there is an authority to whom we can contest. But I’m saying that as human beings, we get into the habit of contesting realities that are bigger than we are and that we cannot sway. 

This habit of constantly contesting and complaining is bad for us. Contesting everything puts us in the driver seat of a vehicle that’s going nowhere. 

Contesting and complaining build upon each other and we end up dissatisfied, always seeking out the flaws, injustice and errors in our lives–and not surprisingly, if we let this habit get out of control, we start finding the flaws and errors in other people, too. 

Again, I’m not saying that there aren’t situations that need to be faced and legitimate disputes that can be taken to the appropriate people or authorities. 

The Cockpit

I want you to take a second and imagine something with me. You are invited into an airplane cockpit and told that you can take the plane out for a spin if you would like. “How exciting” you think to yourself. So you settle into the cockpit.

There are dozens of lights on the dashboard. Some of them blink, some of them flash. There are a few strange beeps, and from time to time, a warning alarm sounds. There are exposed wires everywhere, plugged into sockets attached to gauges.

When we contest the circumstances of our lives that we cannot control, it is as if we, the untrained pilots that we are, are sitting in the cockpit of a plane, annoyed by the sounds and the lights and the beeps and the alarms and the wires and the sockets, and mad that the plane isn’t off the ground yet.

Are you with me? It’s that feeling of being overwhelmed…of being out of our element. 

I’ll come back to that example in a second. 

But I want to move on to the second word I told you to write down: Consent.

Consent. It’s a popular word nowadays. I just got a new computer for my birthday, and I cannot tell you how many times, in the set-up process for many of the apps I use, I had to click on a little box that said, “I consent.”

The “consent” I’m talking about is not that kind of consent. The checkbox kind of consent is the kind that is like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I just want to get on with this so I’m going to agree because if I don’t I can’t get down to business.”

The Consent I am talking about is enthusiastic and active. It’s not passive in any way, shape or form, and it accepts that whatever I might have been contesting, disputing or complaining about is not in my control.

To take the metaphor of the cockpit again, it’s sitting back and recognizing that all these buttons and warning lights and alarms exist for a reason, which, theoretically, is to get the plane into the air. However, because I am ignorant of the way they all work together, I must be willing to admit that I, as it stands today, am incapable of getting the plane off the ground.

I think that you and I, unless you have your pilot’s license, Cinderella, we would both enthusiastically agree that we are incapable of getting that plane off the ground. We would agree that we have everything physically needed to get it off the ground. But we are missing the knowledge.

Admitting that we don’t see the whole picture is the essence of the kind of Consent I am talking about. It is a deep consent, not the checkbox kind. It is consent that says, “I don’t know what I am doing here, or how I got here, or why I am in the circumstances I am in, but here. I. am. And I want to learn how to fly.”

When I talk about Consent, I mean an active acceptance of who and where we are. It’s a decision to accept our current circumstances as a starting point for our destiny. Once we have consented, we stop contesting. It’s part of the deal. Giving our consent to our lives means that we abandon our right to contest our circumstances. 

When I consent, I stop being annoyed with the little blinking light on the cockpit dashboard, or the beeping intercom, or the flashing warning alarms. When I consent, I become curious as to what those are for and how they are going to get me off the ground and into the air.

Contentment. Contentment is the result of giving our active, enthusiastic consent. Contentment, as we said, is a deep-rooted feeling of satisfaction. Contentment is the process of learning to appreciate what we have in front of us–getting to know what each of those buttons on the dashboard do.

These three elements: Our natural state of Contesting, which we agree to abandon by giving our Consent to our lives as they are now, becomes one of Contentment as we seek to understand our destiny.

And this, Cinderella, is the essence of Joy. Joy is the purest form of happiness, the kind that oozes out in tiny little doses as we discover who we are, what we love and are good at, and how our very existence makes this world a better place.

I’ve said this since day one, Cinderella: you exist for a reason. You are who you are, with all the talents and geekery that you have, and when you put all those things to work in considered, thoughtful ways, your experience of your life will change. 

You will be living your Ideal Life.

Part One: The Three Elements of Destiny

Since April of this year, we have been looking at the 19 individual circles that comprise the Gorgeous Venn Diagram of our Ideal Lives. We have been looking at ways that the different circles overlap, and how this overlap is where we derive most of our motivation, and, even more more importantly, where we find the most joy. We’ll come back to those in part three of today’s episode. 

But right now, I want us to take a step back from this Venn Diagram for a second, and take a look at some of the factors that make up those flashing lights on the cockpit dashboard.

First of all, there are the three resources that your life possesses. We’ve talked about these at length before, but just to be thorough, those three resources are your Time, your Talent and your Treasure.

These three resources are unique to you. 

Time

When it comes to Time, we all have the same number of hours in a day, yes. But the number of days we each have will vary. How we use our time, how we fill our hours and days, and how we also strategically choose to leave our hours empty for rest are decisions we alone can make. 

Time is, then, one of the controls in that cockpit. We can raise and lower the throttle when it comes to how we use our time. Keep in mind: you alone control that precious resource of which you can get no more once it’s gone. How you use it depends on decisions you make. 

If you start getting a warning light about being out of time, then, my dear, you’re in trouble. So being carefully considerate about how you invest your time will help ensure that you don’t waste any of it.

Talent

Talent is one that we can impact. We can, like we talked about last week, invest in learning how to do something and even become an expert at it. Natural talent is one thing, but expertise is part of this resource too. Your know-how, whether acquired, like graphic design, or innate, like being a contortionist, makes you unique in all the world. 

I’m even going to add to Talent something that has to be learned, but that isn’t as easy to recognize as a talent, like parenting or being in a relationship. These do not come naturally to everyone, but they represent a significant part of who we are.

On the cockpit dashboard, you might have several buttons that represent your many different talents. The mixes you create by pressing on the buttons for your talents and throttling your time are going to show on little gauges on the dashboard. The amount of time you spend using each of your talents will determine the size of each gauge. 

It would become obvious to anyone who would look at your dashboard what is most important to you: the size of the gauges are hard to miss. Talent x Time is an equation that equals what you spend your life doing.

I’ll be honest, I have a few gauges on my dashboard that I’m embarrassed of. The amount of time I spend listening to podcasts about serial killers is one of them. The amount of time I spend seeking out Schadenfreude on Twitter is another. But I’m regularly examining this, always keeping an eye on those gauges as ones that I am willing to shut down to benefit other areas of my life.

Treasure

Lastly, there is the element of Treasure. Treasure is our money, and our possessions. We’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: we use up tons of emotional energy keeping track of our money and our stuff, protecting our money and our stuff, worrying about our money and our stuff. On your dashboard, if you are a normal person, this is one of those loud, beeping and flashing indicators. 

It constantly demands our attention. Making money is part of life, and so we have a big gauge called “Work”. This is one that mixes our treasure and our time. That gauge can be one that is super annoying, depending on how we feel about our work, or, it can be one that brings us a lot of joy. For someone whose job brings them a lot of joy, that gauge is one they probably never have to look at. For the rest of humanity who works by the sweat of their brow, it requires constant attention.

Incidentally: Wouldn’t it be cool to one day sit down in your cockpit, only to discover that the Treasure gauge is one that you barely have to worry about? It just kind of takes care of itself? I know I would. Treasure, in just the right amount, all the time, without having to do anything to get it there. For most of us this will never be the case.

So really leaning in and figuring out where the sweet spot of your talents and what you love to do meet is worth the work. Because when you love what you do, that gauge isn’t one you need to bother with anymore. That is one of the beautiful things about contentment.

Those, then are the three elements of your destiny, and an overview of how they show up on your dashboard. Your Time, Your Talent and Your Treasure are three elements that are going to get this plan off the ground.

But there is another critical element before we can lift off into our Destiny. 

Part Two: The Wiring

A long time ago, I gave you a homework assignment. You were to think of a good memory for each of the years of your life, from age 0 to 18. I asked you to pick a few of those memories and go really in depth…writing out the circumstances, the details, who was there, who wasn’t there, the feelings. 

I asked you to draw some conclusions, make some generalizations about those circumstances.

And then I asked you to try to lay those generalizations over your life today. For example, I told a story about singing a Christmas carol backstage at a community theater when I was seven.

The memory was so much more than just singing a Christmas song. It was about a feeling of belonging, of being received as an equal among people I respected. It was, yes, about music and singing, but also about nostalgia and hope.

When I say I want you to overlay those generalizations onto your life as it is today, I mean, I want you to think about how those ideas exist in your life. And if they are absent entirely from your life, how you can pursue activities or relationships that can bring them into existence in your life as it is today.

Each of those memories contains a jumble of silver threads which, in our cockpit dashboard example, are the wiring that connect all the elements together on your dashboard, and bring them power. They are what motivate you, what energize you, what geek you out. They are what make you who you are.

When you plug in one of those wires into one of the gauges of time and talent, you will suddenly see that gauge come to life. 

Again, taking my earlier example from my childhood, one of my talents is music. I enjoy spending time making music, yes. I do it a lot, but not every experience of it is equally great. But when the wire of being received as an equal among people I respect gets plugged into that socket of the music gauge, suddenly, there is so much joy that results, that I experience a kind of lift-off. 

These silvery threads are completely unique to you and your life experience. So many of us choose to ignore these parts of us because we deem them foolish, unworthy of our attention. After all, they are attached to our own childhood, for which some of us tend to have a good amount of contempt. 

A willingness to comb through that jumble of memories is going to help us put our energy into the right efforts–efforts that will bring us joy.

And joy is what gets this plan off the ground.

Part Three: Our Flightpath

So here we go, I am going to ask you to imagine something, again.

You are piloting a plane. You are in this beautiful expanse of sky, humming along, when you see ahead of you a cloud. It’s too big to go around, and as you watch, you see that it is far more detailed than you originally gave it credit for.

It is actually a single-color spherical bubble, although from where you are, it looks like a circle. As you approach, you see that there is another bubble touching it, sort of, mixing with it in a kind of overlap, the colors of the two bubbles mixing according to their properties. That second bubble is also a sphere. 

Much to your surprise, as you get even closer, you see that there are a dozen or more of these spherical colorful cloudlike bubbles. Some are bigger than others, some are denser or more opaque than others. But each bubble is its own circle, of its own color.

There is no way around it: the only way is through.

Surely you have guessed it by now: these cloudlike bubbles are the 19 different Ideal Life Themes that we have been talking about in detail since April. 

You see, our Ideal Life is not a destination. Our Ideal Life is a flightpath through those clouds. 

For fun, I’m going to list off those nineteen different spheres your flightpath will take you through. Keep in mind, there are places where these clouds are going to be overlapping, and you will physically be flying your plane through these overlaps…using all your resources, and your own  special wiring to get you through.

  1. Your body and your Health
  2. Work
  3. Scheduling and Planning
  4. Parenting
  5. Keeping a clean house
  6. Spiritual life
  7. Sexuality
  8. Personal Style
  9. Habits and Routines
  10. Relationships
  11. Gravitas
  12. Decision Making
  13. Passions
  14. Marriage
  15. Commitments
  16. Contentment
  17. Mental Health
  18. Environment and Ecology
  19. Craft and Creativity

Now, this list of themes evokes certain thoughts for each. It might even dislodge a few feelings here and there. Not every one of these themes will be valid for you. It’s not the number of themes, or in our example, the number of clouds that we have to go through, that count. 

What matters is that we know what the contours of those spheres look like for each of us.

How do we know what the contours of each sphere looks like? On our Cockpit Dashboard, there is a kind of radar, which shoots out a prompt into the clouds that says, “In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…”

We get to know our flightpath by exploring it. Seeing where the overlaps are, and using the joy in those areas as refueling stations for our plane. Being aware of where certain areas of overlap sap us dry, and planning for it. Sometimes, it means seeking out the narrow band of overlap that will help keep us on track because we have found some way to make it meaningful.

We’ve described our Ideal Life in lots of different ways over these last few months. Once, I described it as a stained-glass window…an image I still like a lot, because the pieces are welded together with lovely silvery metal stabilizers. 

But the truth is that the Ideal Life isn’t something we just look at and study. It’s in three dimensions. We live it out every single day, navigating from overlap to overlap. Sometimes, we face headwinds, and on good days, we’ve got tailwinds. 

Knowing what who we want to be in our Ideal Life keeps us from flying blindly, from wasting our precious resources and things that don’t matter to us: We only get one life. We should really make an effort to live it with joy.

The Ideal Life Exercise

Your homework this week is something I have been encouraging you to do since day one. 

If you haven’t done it yet, it’s really time, Cinderella. I want you to answer that prompt, in my Ideal Life, I am a person who…who what?

I’m not asking you what job you want or what kind of house you want to live in or who your perfect spouse would be. I’m not even asking you what you do, necessarily. 

I want you to consider the kind of person you would be in your Ideal Life. Who you are influences what you do, and that’s why examining what is working and what isn’t working in your life won’t move you forward until you have done the heavy lifting of really thinking about who you would want to be in your Ideal Life.

If you get stuck, I want you to consider this question: What do I want the people I love to say about me at my funeral? It’s not a dark question. It’s a question that gets you thinking about who you want to be remembered for being. Your answers to that question will start getting you thinking about who you would be in your Ideal Life. I’m putting a link in the show notes to an article with 101 virtues that I dare not speak aloud, lest we awaken the Philosopher Princess.

Then, all that’s left is to just start putting those into practice and start living that way, right?

Right. Easy as pie.

Next week, we are going to start talking about the questions you’ll need to ask yourself every single day that will help you live according to who you want to be in your Ideal Life.

Don’t worry, Cinderella. I’ll help you survive the fairy dust storm.

Conclusion

You exist for a reason. Everything you have: your talents, your ideas, your experiences, your emotions…they all exist to make this world a better place. 

I do not say this lightly, Cinderella. I believe it with every fiber of my being, and I am putting my reputation as a fairy godmother on the line to prove it to you.

Who you are is unique and amazing. You simply have no idea how special and worthy you are. The only thing that seems to be missing is you believing in you. 

Now get to work, Cinderella. You’re cleared for takeoff.

 Closing

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe on your podcatcher, and please, if you enjoy something you’ve heard here please share it with someone you think could use a fairy godmother, too!

 A great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie as the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

 Show Notes

Talking Points: Getting to know the cockpit; what are all these gauges for?; mastering the wiring of your aircraft; your flightpath.

Does this not sound like a podcast about your Ideal Life? Well, it is, I promise you. You’ll need to suspend your disbelief for a second, Cinderella. But by the end, you’ll be cleared for takeoff.

 Links:

101 Virtues: https://lilyfieldschallenge.com/2021/01/20/the-virtue-game-play-along-at-home/

You can contact Lily by email: lily@lilyfieldschallenge.com, or find her other work here: https://linktr.ee/lilyfieldschallenge

A great big thank you to Seven Productions, https://7prod.fr/,  here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie for the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: Unhooking ourselves from the expectations of others; the lowest common denominator for joy; imagining our ideal holidays; taking care of ourselves. A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  2. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  3. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  4. Episode 37: I Need to Think!
  5. Episode 36: What Isn't Working?

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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