Charles Starrett

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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.

Relief from restlessness

Nobody likes restlessness — that dissatisfaction with where we are in our work, or in life.

It’s natural to want to get rid of that feeling. Whether through distraction, or projects, or study, or travel, or something else, we try to find a way to get away from our dissatisfaction through doing. This the origin of the classic “mid-life crisis” trope, which can happen in any stage of life, before or after the supposed “middle.”

The problem is that none of these help with the restlessness. Usually all that happens is we get increasingly frustrated, on top of feeling restless.

The best relief from restlessness is not more doing. The answer is in the name.

Relief from restlessness comes in rest.

The source of restlessness is usually that our outside — what our work and life look like — and who we are inside are out-of-whack. And these usually go out-of-whack because we’ve lost touch with who we are. We’ve drifted from what is important to us. We’ve forgotten our own likes, dislikes, values, and goals under pressure from the world around us to be someone other than who we are.

If we spend enough years listening to other people’s suggestions and advice, no matter how well intentioned, it becomes easy to forget what matters to us. And so we lose track of our internal compass that keeps us on the path — aligning our outside reality with our inside reality.

A great first step to rediscovering that compass is to rest. Really rest. Don’t read books, or go to workshops, or spend nights and weekends filling out self-discovery worksheets.

Instead, learn to be still and quiet with yourself. Take the time to catch up on sleep if you need to. Pay attention to when and what you eat. Spend time in nature if you’re able.

But most of all, practice being quiet with yourself and notice. Bring your attention to your body. Notice how it feels and how those sensations change from moment-to-moment. Notice your thoughts: when they get caught in a loop, when they run off into fantasy, when the thoughts are happy ones, or sad ones. Notice what it feels like to be you, in this moment.

Notice when you judge or try to change things about your body or thoughts. See what happens if you let go of the judging, and don’t try to change anything, but just notice and be aware of your body and thoughts as they are right now.

Spend a few moments to practice noticing each day. And maybe one day, as you start to feel more at rest in your body, you’ll start to find the end of a thread that can lead you back to that compass you lost, and start to make changes around you that will make you feel more at rest in your work and life as well.

10 June 2022

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