Recently, I took part in an online workshop called The Inner View, with filmmaker Nic Askew. I had spent some time with Nic at one of his film retreats years ago, and I had a pretty good idea what I was signing up for. The expectation for this workshop was to drop any kind of expectation. All I had to do was to show up as myself — a refreshing concept in our results-driven world. Who else, after all, could I possibly show up as?

At one point during my one-on-one filming with Nic, he asked me, “What do you want the most?”

I was confused. “What do I want the most right now, in this moment?”

“No,” he replied. “What do you want the most in life?”

Inside that question lived a moment of clarity for me.

I have always been drawn to unconventional experiences like the workshop with Nic. I’m more interested in a person’s “human” qualities—the values they live by—than the labels and achievements many of us cloak ourselves in.

And yet, when describing who I am, even I default to the usual labels: where I live, my role as a mom, my work as a writer. These provide enough information, perhaps, for you to form a judgment about me. But they don’t give you a real sense of me as a human adventurer.

You see, underneath my cloak, I am so much more. We all are more.

This thinking is quite contrary to what many of us have been taught to believe. From a young age, we are molded to fit the constructs of our society. In school, we are taught to listen, not feel. We learn to stand in a straight line and memorize the knowledge given to us. We are celebrated for the cloaks we wear.

I do my fair share of wanting, chasing and achieving. I’m not opposed to the idea of productivity. In fact, I’ve learned to be a masterful doer. But Nic’s question went underneath all of that. It made me realize that my journey isn’t about chasing what I want. It’s about how I get to feel every day of my life.

I’m well aware that wanting something outside of myself is an endless chase. The satisfaction of achieving my goals and markers is powerful but usually short-lived. It is quickly replaced by more wanting: wanting to do more, have more and be more.

If I were to measure my life by the doing — by the actions I take – it would be like saying I’m okay with forever chasing a temporary feeling. But that’s a lot of work and effort simply to feel like I’m enough, like I’m okay exactly as I am. In fact, more often than not, the doing gets in the way of that feeling.

My answer to Nic’s question of what I most want in life? “Oh, that’s simple. I want a glad heart. A glad heart is a life worth living.”

A glad heart is open to whatever unfolds. It feels all the feelings. It doesn’t attempt to control what happens next because nobody knows what will happen next. We can trick ourselves by being proficient doers, but that doesn’t lead to a feeling of okayness. It doesn’t lead to a glad heart.

The daily journey of a glad heart isn’t about being happy all the time or smothering life experiences with positive thinking. Neither does a glad heart require you to numb your experience in order to feel like you’re okay. A glad heart allows all the emotions to bubble up. A glad heart accepts grief, sorrow, anger, joy, love, heartbreak, worry, fear, bliss and everything else underneath your cloak.

You are alive and here, and that means you are worthy of all the beauty, glory, messiness and ugliness of the human adventure.

All you have to do is show up as yourself. “And that’s easy. Who else, after all, could you show up as?”

“Hmm. I like that,” said Nic, “and yet I’m sure that’s not enough for some.”

“Perhaps,” I replied, “but a glad heart is everything to me.”

What about you? What do you most want in life?

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  • Emily Madill is an author and certified professional coach, ACC with a BA in business and psychology. Emily is one of Thrive Global's Editors-at-large and a coach at BetterUp. She has published 11 titles in the area of self-development and empowerment, both for children and adults. You can find her writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul:Think Positive for Kids; Thrive Global; The Huffington Post; TUT. com; Best Self Magazine; MindBodyGreen; The Muse;; TinyBuddha; Aspire Magazine and others. Emily has a private coaching practice and an online program offering courses that support others to create lasting habits around self-love, well-being and all things related to time and weekly planning. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, with her husband, two sons and their sweet rescue dog Annie. Learn more at: