3 Questions to Help You Be a Rebel With a Cause

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5 minute read

“Even Jell-O needs a mold.” Fortunately, I was given this simple advice late in my twenty’s so that I could absorb and appreciate it. It made sense and helped me get out of my way creatively and personally. This is also what quieted my inner rebel and allowed me to move towards a more balanced view of my life and welcomed structure as a friend rather than a foe.

As a teen I was the typical teenage rebel. I jumped at saying “yes” to anything my parents said “no” to out of pure thoughtless defiance. I excelled at testing every implemented household rule possible. That’s where I found freedom; I needed it, even if it came with the inevitable consequences. Sure, smoking out of the bathroom window and then attempting to mask the stank with the perfume of the moment would be met the next morning with a Post-it slapped to the bathroom mirror in angered parental scribbles: “NO SMOKING! IT SMELLS LIKE A FRENCH WHORE HOUSE IN HERE!” But dammit, it was worth it.

So I thought.

In Living in the Light, Shakti Gawain discusses how many of us have both the authoritarian self and the rebel self. One may be more dominant externally but be sure that the flip side is rumbling inside. She suggests to pay attention; notice when one or the other is more active. Then drop to a deeper place inside to see what’s really going on; what you’re really needing at this time. It seems so simple, and yet, opens the door to clearing a lot of pent of emotions that get in the way of achieving our goals and living a life we truly want to live. This reminds me of insight I heard a long time ago: “In every truck driver there is a librarian and in every librarian there is a truck driver.” Neither is good or bad; they’re both there to help us in some way.

It wasn’t until I spent a few decades chasing my tail that I realized that this rebel without a cause thing was a real drag and incredibly exhausting. That’s when a little voice inside said, So why not put that restless relentless energy into finding out what you do care about? At first I was tempted to take that little voice out for a drink (or five) to quiet it down but instead I eased into it.

This question triggered something inside of me whether I liked it or not. It made me feel better and scared at the same time. Find out what I care about, huh? Challenge accepted. Well, kinda sorta. I loved the idea of going full throttle but then it was halted by second-guessing and then reignited by desire. Halted. Reignited. This stop-go in my brain was like a teen learning how to drive stick for the first time. But I soon realized that this step was necessary for me to feel the difference between second-guessing and critical thinking.

“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist

It took years for me to realize that daily focus on what I care about, what I value, what I love, what brings me joy is not what society wants us to view as self-indulgent but is a requirement for genuine self-fulfillment.

Once we agree to make it a daily ritual to check-in and make sure we’re on the right path then we’re more likely to present ourselves in a way that is truer to who we are. What does our day consist of? Who are we spending time with? This method keeps our eye on what truly matters and focuses there on repeat. By rising up your authoritarian self, you commit to this ritual and by firing up your rebel self, you strengthen your resiliency to conformity.

If we all allowed ourselves to make it a priority to check-in daily (or even multiple times a day, you rebel, you) to see how we were feeling, we could make significant shifts in all of our favors. It starts with you caring about you. This most likely means the first thing to go is a jam-packed schedule.
Fight the FOMO urge and just purge. Not only will you feel space inside and out, but you may find yourself not caring about missing out at all.

Then you may wonder, “What’s next? How do I start focusing on me?” This may be an odd foreign feeling.  If your primary identity is being a responsible caretaker, then chances are this may bring up major panic. If that’s the case – you need this more than ever. Your inner critic will berate, shame, and guilt you into not doing it – that’s when you rev up your inner rebel with a cause, thank your critic for sharing, and then get back to you.

“As blocked creatives, we focus not on our responsibilities to ourselves, but on our responsibilities to others. We tend to think such behavior makes us good people. It doesn’t. It makes us frustrated people.”*
– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
*Make note that the author is not talking about the stereotypical artist here. She believes, as do I that we are all creatives and unblocking ourselves leads to liberating our true self.

Allow yourself as much time as you need to answer the following three questions. They may fly out of you or you may want to focus on one at a time. Either way, write as much or as little as you like. Your mind may surprise you and have a lot to say that veers in different directions – that’s okay! Go with it. Most importantly: These answers are for your eyes only. Think of it along the lines of living your values instead of preaching them. Once your answers arise, and they will, see how you can integrate aspects of them into your daily life – without apology. It’s fun to start or end your day with this exercise. See what pops up in your dreams or how your day unfolds as you start it focusing on what you do want in your life.

1. If this were your last week on earth would you be happy doing what you’re doing?
This question is meant to wake you up; to pay attention. Where do you need to make some changes and where do you need to count your blessings? Write it all out – whatever comes to your mind.

2. If “yes” to question 1: Why? If “no” to question 1: What can you do about it? This question is all about raising your awareness of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Then the small shifts happen to either enhance what you have in place or to alter it.

3. How can you live your cause, mission, or joy out loud on a daily basis?
Remember, no talking about it. This is action oriented. It may be a solo walk alone. It may be taking a long lunch and seeing a movie. It may be setting reminders on your phone to “check-in” “breathe” “pause.” It may be planting an indoor herb garden. It may be calling a long-distance friend, or it may be putting down your damn phone. Resist the temptation to post, email, or text about your newfound freedom. No one likes a humble braggart.
This time is for you and you alone.

These questions are meant to help you focus on feeling better. It may take time. It may take facing some hard truths. It may take no real effort at all. No matter where you fall, find comfort in befriending your inner trailblazer and blaze on.

If you find yourself needing more direction or revelations that you’re jonesing to share, email me and let me know. I will help you stay on “trail”. 😉


Rebel Without a Cause (1955. Director: Nicholas Ray; Writers: Stewart Stern and Irving Shulman) A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.

Jim Stark: Nobody talks to children.

Judy: No, they just tell them.

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