I have a great book by Caitlin Matthews called The Celtic Spirit, which takes you through the Celtic year with daily readings. It’s taken me through several years and I always notice something new each time. This morning’s entry is entitled “Selling Our Souls” and it begins with this quote:
Very early in the life of every youth there wil be…the question of how far he ought to sell his soul for the sake of his life. —John Cowper Powys
Maybe it’s my history of taking jobs that eventually feel like I’ve sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a paycheck, but it really hit me this morning that life is a series of transactions, of sales and purchases, and yet not only do we not tend to think of it that way, but we tend not to think about what we’re buying and selling.
So many of us bristle at the idea of selling ourselves—me included!—and yet we do it all the time whether we realize it or not. We sell our services in a variety of roles, and expect some sort of compensation, in whatever form we find appropriate, in return. This is obviously true in the realm of dating and relationships, but it’s also true within myriad family interactions, friendships, work situations (interviewing for a job, certainly, but also once we land in that job), activities…we buy and sell, hire and fire all the time.
Where have you sold your soul, and has it been a good investment? What do you get in return? A paycheck? A relationship? Someone who will watch geeky sci-fi with you? Someone who helps you shop? Someone who makes you laugh? The ability to travel more often? Something else? The joy of helping someone else achieve a goal (especially one s/he thought was impossible)?
it seems to me that our souls are the most precious thing we possess. That doesn’t mean we should never share them with anyone else, but it does mean, for me at least, that we should share them wisely. We’ve all been in situations, be they jobs, friendships, marriages, to name a few, where we realize we’ve agreed to invest our souls in something that’s not giving us much in return. It can be hard to walk away from those things because we either don’t want to admit that we chose poorly or feel like a bad investment might be better than none at all, but as soon as I look at those relationships through the lens of what they’re doing to my soul, I have to pause to think about the level of that impact in a different, and often far more serious, way.
It also means we can measure better the things we get in return for our investments. When I was teaching, for instance, the negatives were always outweighed by the joy of watching a student succeed even when he thought he couldn’t, or the funny things that students would say, intentionally and unintentionally. What comes back to you as a result of your willingness to invest yourself in a job or a relationship?
I chose to become a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Laughter Yoga/Wellness instructor, and a Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach for the same reasons: they all called to me with a sense that not only would this work be fun, but that by investing myself in coaching others, helping them get in touch with their intuition, or bringing joy and laughter into the world, I would gain the satisfaction of knowing that I accomplished something for someone else. I definitely wouldn’t feel like I sold my soul for a paycheck.
We are the only ones who can make decisions for ourselves, and the only ones who can judge the quality of those choices. Try looking at the choices you make through the lens of soul investment; it might be just the tool you need to start following your own North Star.