On Living With Gusto

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart." – Confucius, ancient Chinese philosopher, thinker, teacher, and founder of the Ru school of Chinese thought (551-479 BCE)

When we think about the word "gusto," we automatically conjure up images of food. But the word really implies a joy of living, a full-hearted embracing of action. Gusto isn’t something that we achieve merely by thinking about it. Gusto requires action of the fullest measure.

So, when we talk about living with gusto, what do we really mean? While we could infer that this means that no half-measures count, that is not necessarily true. We can go for a goal by beginning our plan of action and then modify it according to progress realized or not along the way. That doesn’t mean that we give up on our goal or that we don’t put all our effort into it, just that we recognize there may be other implications that we need to pay attention to and put our actions behind.

The quote by Confucius, though it was uttered centuries ago, is as apt today as it was back in the ancient Chinese sage’s time. We are motivated by what is really important to us, what blooms in our heart and fills us with joy. When we have a fullness of heart, we feel satisfied and a sense of accomplishment. We get there by acting according to our heart and our mind, fulfilling a plan that we have carefully set out for ourselves.

Let’s look at what happens when we only give half-hearted thought to what it is we intend to accomplish in our recovery. If we only put forth tentative efforts or give up before we achieve the goal we’ve set for ourselves, we aren’t living with gusto. We aren’t going forward with all our heart. In fact, we’re sleepwalking through life, not recognizing the importance our actions or inactions have on today as well as tomorrow.

Suppose, however, that we’re new to recovery, having just completed treatment or come back into the 12-step rooms after one or several relapses. Maybe we feel we don’t have the heart to do anything more than put one foot in front of the other. We may even feel that it’s all we can do just to make it to meetings. That’s okay. It’s a start. No one ever said that recovery would be easy. In fact, there are the good days, the really good days, and the days that are not so good. Some days are so challenging that we wonder if we’re on the right path at all.

That’s when we turn to our sponsor and our fellow 12-step group members for support and encouragement. Each of them has been in a dark and scary place at one or more times in their recovery. They can help us realize that we can make it through as well. By learning from the experience how to overcome the challenges that come our way, we become stronger and more grounded in our foundation of recovery. The more we work the steps, the stronger we get, the easier it is to see the next goal as one that we really want to tackle.

The more we accomplish, the better we feel about ourselves and our progress in recovery. Our heart begins to fill up and we look forward to doing more with a brimming sense of self-discovery. That’s living with gusto. That’s going forward with all our heart.

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