Likes and Dislikes

By year two of meditation, I began to contemplate on what was wrong with my choices, with
inquiries such as: Why am I not happier? What is it about this life that isn’t working? What
thoughts are limiting me? But I couldn’t identify a positive path forward. It’s not like I suddenly
heard from deep down: Mark, you’re supposed to be a Navy SEAL officer. Get after it. No, first I
had to identify what, specifically, was wrong with my current path. When I started getting
answers, I was more aware of the things that needed changing, which was cool. But I didn’t
know what I was going to change them to, which wasn’t so cool.

At least I’d begun to see why I was shut down emotionally, and why I drowned my suffering
with beer and hard physical training in futile attempts to feel more alive. But with no clear
answers, I decided to make a list of all the things that I disliked and didn’t want to see in my life.
And then I made another list of the things I loved about living.

The Dislikes List included…a lot:

I didn’t like putting a suit on every day.
I didn’t enjoy playing the rat race game.
I didn’t like the profession I was in.

I didn’t like crunching numbers (I wasn’t great at math or accounting).
I didn’t care for New York City, except for my martial arts training.
I didn’t connect with the people I was around most of the day.
I didn’t like feeling like I had to sneak away from work to exercise.
I didn’t like living in a concrete jungle, disconnected from nature.
I didn’t like the idea of being inside every day, doing the same thing over and over.
I didn’t like having a cubicle as an office.
I didn’t like the idea of money and prestige as my only rewards for work.
I was turned off by the ego around how much one made as a measure of their life.

There were scads of things that I didn’t care for, or connect with, in my everyday world….
Yet, there I was, immersed in them all. Eek. Once my list of negatives was right there in front of
me, I could starkly see the gap in my reality versus my desires. Next, I compiled a list of my likes
and passions.

The Likes List included:

I loved being physically fit.
I loved adventure.
I loved a good challenge.
I enjoyed growth.
I craved constant improvement.
I loved reading.
I loved traveling.

I loved the outdoors and nature.
I liked silence. In fact, I was beginning to really enjoy spending time in silence.

When I was in the Adirondacks as a kid, I was at my most happy being alone in the
In the city, the silence of Zen practice was a substitute for the tranquility I’d felt in nature. This
line of contemplation uncovered what I was truly passionate about and led to defining what I
valued most. When I studied both lists with an open mind, I was able to see things objectively
and from a place of detachment. And I asked:

Is what I’m doing now in alignment with the things that I am passionate about and value

Of course, the answer was a big, fat from the top of my lungs “No!” I was in alignment with
what I didn’t like and didn’t value. The stories I’d been telling myself drove me to make choices
that made life miserable. Understanding that truth was groundbreaking. It allowed me to seek
answers to my dilemma through this series of questions:

How did I get myself onto this path? (Why did I make the decisions I made that led me here?)
What have I done well? (What am I good at?)
What are the top three activities I love to do?
What are my top three principles I want to guide my behavior as I make a stand?

What should (can) I do right now to align with my desires?
If this path is wrong, what path is right? (Do I know my calling?)
If I do know my calling, how can I move toward that path now?

It would take me about nine more months for this process to unfold until, finally, I’d have a
much clearer picture of what I stood for. And what I didn’t. And what I “could do now” to get
onto the right path. This story of how I went from a CPA to the SEALs personifies the profound
effect changing your inertia of direction can have on your life course.

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