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Love and Work 

It’s a cold, rainy day. Winter in Seattle is a wet, dark season. Nothing good is on TV and there are no interesting emails in my inbox. What determines if I’m going to have a good day?

Accountability is taking the position that the results in my life come from my own choices, conscious or unconscious. This may or may not be True, but I’ve found that hosting this meme makes my life work better and leads to my feeling better than the alternative. When I take on the position of accountability, I give up the option of blaming the weather, the TV, and other people for my quality of life. I realize that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

Over the years I’ve learned more and more about what it means to be truly accountable. In particular, I’ve learned that looking for someone else to fulfill my emotional needs is always a trap. It is a “victim” position. But I do have emotional needs, and it’s difficult to fill them sitting by myself in isolation. How do I reconcile this?

Freud said that man has two basic needs: work and love. Maslow said that we all have several levels of needs, from basic survival all the way up to self-actualization. In Level 3 we recognize the basic importance of living a life purpose. All of these statements are subject to the standard of accountability. Am I a victim of not being clear about my life purpose? “Oh, if I were only clear about it, then I could be fulfilled.” In Maslow’s hierarchy, I could get trapped by thinking, “Oh, If only I could get my relationship needs met, then I could be self-actualized.” Following Freud’s advice, the trap could be, “I work hard, but oh, if only I could be loved.”

The trap is thinking that the solution to any of these problems lies outside of me.

My need for love is not filled by finding someone to love me. It is filled by me when I give love. The more I look for loving, giving role models in my life, the happier I am. I create the experience of love by giving it, not by getting it.

My life’s work is about doing, not about the quest for greater clarity. As an adult, it shouldn’t take more than five or 10 percent of my time to stay completely clear about my life purpose and to do all the learning I need to do to make my life work. Once I have even an inkling of my direction, it’s “ready, fire, aim, fire.” Further clarity is only gained by doing.

Yesterday I went running in the rain. It was pitch dark, coming down in thick cold glops, and there were big puddles all along the way. But all the discomfort, all the unhappiness, was about imagining how uncomfortable it would be. I put on my waterproof gear and just did it. Once I was going I barely noticed the rain.

Richard Brodie
November 1999

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Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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