You Already Know What To Do

Since I was a kid, my heart has been an x-ray machine, seeing through facades to glimpse people's true feelings. We all have that intuition, but it’s easier to ignore it and live in blissful oblivion. I’m not sure why we do that. Maybe confusion and denial are more comfortable. Maybe ambiguity makes life feel more exciting.

Anyway, you could say I have a sixth sense for cutting through the bullshit and seeing situations for what they truly are. But that’s not even the most interesting part – far from it. What fascinates me is my internal compass to sense what will fulfill me and what will drain me. Like many though, I’ll sometimes try to ignore that compass or talk myself out of following it. It’s crazy - it’s like I crave confusion over clarity, or I convince myself that the difficult path must be more rewarding. [1]

But then something shakes me out of that trance—a moving book, an eye-opening encounter, or a perspective-shifting experience. Suddenly, the fog clears and I remember what I knew all along: I already know what will make me feel alive…yet for reasons I struggle to understand, I often do the opposite or run away from it.

(A long, soul-searching sigh)

The way I think is more important than what I think. I want to be a determinate optimist about my future. And how can I do that? By opening my mind to new perspectives to achieve what I want.

“Do what you love” is another way of saying “Do what suits you.” But people prefer the first phrase because we tend to resist the notion that we each have an innate calling or set of talents unique to us alone. Admitting “this suits me” feels too final, too limiting.

Doing what suits you strips away expectations and shoulds. It's choosing to follow your heart's pull, not doing something begrudgingly because you feel obligated or were asked. Deciding to do what you feel like doing, as Murakami said:

What I mean is, I didn't start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn't become a novelist because someone asked me to.

One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run —simply because I wanted to. I've always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I'm wrong, but I won't change

From Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

There's a stark difference between "Ugh, I really don't want to do this but I have to" - treating yourself as a martyr to discipline - versus "I can't stop thinking about this new idea! I have to pursue it!" In the latter, you're consumed by a total obsession that leaves no room for anything else but complete immersion.

That driving, all-consuming compulsion is what Murakami experienced when he became a novelist and long-distance runner. One day, when you least expect it, an idea will ignite within – to start a project, travel somewhere new, or learn a subject intensely. In that moment, you’ll need to choose: Will you dismiss that inner nudge because it doesn't seem rational? Or will you honor that gut feeling, even if others question your "crazy" impulse?

Hint: Follow what you feel, even if it seems illogical at first. It will make sense long-term.

When Murakami first felt the urge to write, he ran a successful jazz club. That didn't stop him – he wrote his first two novels while still operating the business. But when he felt the call to write a more significant novel, the club’s demands prevented the extended stretches of creative flow he needed. So despite everyone warning he was crazy, he shut the business down to focus solely on writing.

Not surprisingly, the story behind this essay is similar. It had been a while since I had written but I felt a pull to write more. Absurdly, I convinced myself I had no ideas. But I couldn't ignore that feeling, so I simply asked: 'What's the most obvious thing to write about?' And just like that, the idea came to me. I felt it clearly, so I followed it.

Why focus on the obvious? What’s obvious to me is amazing to others. The ideas that develop seamlessly, the pursuits that come naturally to us – those are the gifts we’re meant to develop and share with the world.

Your unique predispositions and fascinations (what suits you) may not feel noteworthy initially (what’s obvious), because we correlate difficulty with reward, reward with discipline, and discipline with willpower.

But what if we flipped that mental script? What if we saw ease and flow not as empty, but as grace unfolding naturally?

Do what’s obvious → Do what you feel like doing → Do what suits you → Do what you love

How much of running, writing, or [insert any skill you admire] is about sheer willpower?

For those who have found fulfillment in these pursuits, they aren't burdensome tasks demanding superhuman self-discipline. The obstacles persist, and the barriers must be overcome - but a natural inclination makes the journey more fulfilling, lighter, almost effortless. [2]

This tempts me to rewrite it:

Do what’s easy → Do what’s obvious → Do what you feel like doing → Do what suits you → Do what you love

It reminds me of this meme I made about a phrase my computer science professor used to repeat like a mantra: “It’ll get easier.”

It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But, it does get easier.

Once you discover what suits you, what makes you feel alive, you must show up every day. That’s when discipline pays off – not in white-knuckling through activities you despise, but in protecting and nurturing your sacred callings.

Murakami understands this at his core. That’s why he never lets two consecutive days slip by without writing or running. Miss one day? It happens. Miss two? Then inertia grows stronger, making it exponentially harder to regain momentum.

His running habit is all about consistency: 6 miles per day, 6 days per week. That’s 36 miles weekly, 144 per month. Yet his dedication doesn’t arise from a rigid sense of duty, but from the understanding that he's fulfilling a profound inner need. [3]

The secret to nurturing long-term projects or callings? Pacing yourself patiently, as Murakami suggests:

I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day's work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.

From Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’ve experienced this first-hand. For nearly four years, daily writing became my obsession. Then life disrupted that rhythm last October, and I’ve spent months struggling to recapture my groove, growing restless with my slow pace. But unless I commit to cultivating that creative fire every day, I'll never get it burning bright again. It demands nurturing habits–like Murakami’s rule never to walk during runs, regardless of speed, because focusing on distance matters more than time.

Isn't it amazing how the things that truly ignite our souls often seem glaringly obvious, almost embarrassingly so, once we gather the courage to pursue them? Yet, we often suppress these callings, convinced they must be more complex or challenging to be truly worthwhile.

Sometimes, our greatest and most fulfilling callings come from the most obvious and unassuming sources like that persistent internal nudge we've been ignoring. The instructions couldn't be clearer... if only we'd stop overthinking and listen to our inner voice.

So, will you continue to overthink the "smart" path and remain stuck? Or will you finally let go of your doubts and embrace a simpler, more natural flow—doing whatever resonates with you, doing whatever you love?

The choice is yours.




[1] This is tricky and nuanced. Sometimes the axiom "the harder the struggle, the sweeter the reward" rings true. Some pursuits demand more of us, fewer people do it, and you might even get farther than most people, and therefore, more rewarding. I don’t disagree!

Yet what I’m talking about is how certain callings feel more difficult not because of their inherent complexity, but simply because we lack an innate affinity for them. In those cases, the hard path comes from forcing ourselves through activities that we know kill our souls.

That’s the “hard” I’m referring to.

[2] Another way to articulate this could be: “For people who run, running suits them.” Even if running doesn't seem like your thing at first, sticking with it long enough can transform a reluctant obligation into a profound passion. But again, you know this at your core.

This circles back to a deeper philosophical question: “Can you genuinely force yourself to love something? Or will it always feel like an uphill battle?”

Intuitively, my soul screams a resonant "No!"

But it gets complicated. There have been times in my life when I convinced myself I liked something, even though deep down, I didn't. This was especially true in college when I tried to force myself into specific engineering disciplines that didn't fit. The right choice was to create my own major, which I eventually did. But I fooled myself into thinking, "Oh, I really like this," when in reality, it was all bullshit.

Here's what I've learned: If you're unsure whether something truly excites you or if you're just following the crowd, give it your all.

Immerse yourself with intense focus and consistent effort.

Then, once you look back, you can determine whether you truly liked it. If not, you'll know it wasn't due to not trying hard enough, but because you gave it a deep commitment it couldn't fulfill. In other words, it simply wasn't meant for you.

[3] Murakami’s standards for serious running: 144 miles per month.

By the way, he’s also completed at least one marathon annually for over two decades.



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Tags: philosophy