I believe the answer is revealed in a commencement speech given by Neil Gaiman. In it, he talks about never having a career, just having a list of everything he ever wanted to do with his life: write a novel, make a motion picture, make a comic book. He set those dreams up as his "Mountain" and then he made his decisions base on whether or not those decisions would take him closer, or farther away from, the Mountain. He got his first job as a journalist, because that allowed him to ask questions. He could get his answers on how to get further along towards his Mountain that way.
We all have a Mountain in us. It doesn't matter if the idea is big, that's what a Mountain is supposed to be! It's got to be something we can see from far away, large enough that it can attract and hold our attention, even if other things appear on the horizon. A Mountain is something that, after days of trudging a hard path, we can still look up and see that we're heading in the right direction.
That's why it has to be your Mountain, and not anyone else's. If the goal is to build our happiness, then it can't be someone else's Mountain. That makes them happy, not us.
Find Your Mountain
Take out a sheet of paper and make a list of everything you wanted to do with your life. It doesn't matter if it's impossible, put it down anyway. Impossible doesn't matter. The Dream is what's important. We first need to identify what those dreams are, then we can worry about possible or impossible. So close your eyes if you have to and think back to when you were a child, and everything you wanted, even if it's something as fantastic as meeting Spiderman. Just put it down. Did you want to walk on the face of the moon? Be a race car driver? Create your own neighborhood? Breathe underwater? Make video games? What ever came to you in a dream that you thought would be neat? What do you get your hair on fire about? Write it all down. Those are the stones that make up your mountain.
Not Sure? Hampered by Disability?
Don't worry. If you're unsure, or if nothing quite grabs you enough, that's okay. It may be that you have correctly surmised that you don't have anything you're (yet) passionate enough about. That's okay! I stumbled upon what I was looking for. I just followed what seemed like a good idea until then. And surprisingly, all my choices along the way, even though I didn't' realize it at the time, have played their part.
If disability stops you then try to come at the issue from a different angle. Perhaps there's a way to be involved in a new way that accommodates your needs. This isn't always possible, or sometimes it hurts too much to be involved in activities we used to love in a limited capacity. That's understandable and natural. In that case as well, it's probably just a matter of time. You need to explore as much as is possible, and draw from that new things that move you.
New technologies that empower the individual are being designed all the time. Things will become available that weren't before. You'll have new experiences, think new thoughts. Each day, a new beginning.
If you know a direction, excellent. Go there. If not, look inside for who you are, look outside for what you like, and live to experience new things you haven't tried before. It will come to you. You can relax.
I don't have enough money...
Contrary to popular belief, it's not the next big thing that's going to launch you. It's like that old nursery tale about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. Japanese Kaisen says “Don’t write a book, write a page…” You might not have enough money for the big plan, but you might have just enough to get a small project started that would allow you to showcase, demo, or even kick-start the next phase.
I don't have enough education...
First, find out if what you want to do requires an education. If it does, figure out if it's a formal education you need, or if certificates and exams are more the industry standard. Remember that where you graduate from doesn't always have to be where you started. Figure out where you want to be, and work your map backwards from there, until you're able to connect it to where you are now.
I don't have the spoons...
See if you can delay gratification, and just work on a slower time table. If you symptoms are managed, these things are possible, if we're able to not worry about when it gets done, jsut thatit gets done. We will have to reassure ourselves, however, that jsut because things are slow, doesn't mean they're forever stopped. It just takes a little more patience to see progress.
I don't have enough symptom/pain control...
Then don't worry about a Mountain right now. You're in Epic Battle! You've got other things to contend with. If you're able to do things with your Mountain, great! If not... no sweat! You've got other, higher priorities. Once your symptoms become managed, then you can look at really setting a course again. Notice I didn't say cured.... I said managed. Scientific studies have shown that if symptoms are managed, a chronic illness has little to no negative impact on a person's happiness. In fact, it can even be a benefit. However, if the symptoms are not managed, it can be a living hell that's taking all your concentration to deal with.
Don't worry. Your Mountain will wait for you. It will not abandon you. And you might be surprised at how far you're carried forward despite your limitations, once you get some breathing room and a chance to check over your shoulder. There's the constant feeling that you're missing out on life with an unmanaged chronic illness (sometimes even with managed ones). That's natural. That's because we long to do, when we have not been able to do. But that's like summeritis in the last few weeks of school, then a month into summer break, yelling, "I'm bored!" You know all too well what you're missing out on. So use now to make those lists of all the things you want to do, so that once things are managed, you can pounce on those dreams like a tabby on catnip! Or, if it's too much pain to think about it, just relax and know that time changes things. Opportunities arise from the strangest corners...
What are some of your suggestions, or tales of your experience, in looking for your Mountain?
Previously in this series: Building New Habits, Breaking Old Ones