Elegant hands and wrists. A gorgeous body wrapped in a sharp suit. A white V-neck T-shirt. Not knowing he’s sexy. A sprinkling of grey. A scarily bright brain and slightly short fuse. These things are turn-ons for me — amongst other things.
Being turned on is amazing. A frisson of pleasure and anticipation. That visceral attraction, inexplicable and unexpected, is what finds people head over heels in love.
And when it’s not there, nothing, no amount of money, looks, charm or charisma can make it happen.
But, out of the blue you can find yourself turned on by the short, bald guy with the self self-deprecating sense of humour. It’s Mr Big vs. Harry in Sex and the City. A ‘coup de foudre’ and there you are, hit by passion and your ‘list’ goes out of the window.
Turn ons are things that cause emotions. And emotions make us happy or sad, smile or frown, lighter or heavier, tingle or not. Turn offs, well, they turn us off. The absence of passion is as tangible — and as heavy — as the euphoria of passion is breathtakingly light.
The secret is to recognise it. In affairs of the heart and the body, it’s pretty easy. Less so in work, if only because for many of us, we don’t expect to find it there.
But you need to.
Do you know what it feels like to be turned on at work? To really be absorbed in something that captures your attention, makes time fly, takes your breath away? Or to see someone doing something and think, ‘I want to do that!’
It can be small or big. It can be life-changing or mundane. Knitting a beautiful jumper or designing a ship. Making up bedtime stories for your kids or writing a novel. Coding a new game or clearing messy admin. What you love doing — and you can and will love many different things — is unique to you.
Start paying attention to what you like. Watch for when you get a rush of pleasure. Don’t analyse how or if you might make money, or a career, out of it. That’s like assessing a man for husband potential on the first date. Always scary (especially for him because men can smell that) — and usually wrong.
We fail to recognise that pleasure is designed to give us clues as well as goose bumps. Pleasure lets us see inside ourselves, to what makes us tick.
We forget what we used to love.
Recently I met a very successful lawyer. She’s 53 and is thinking she wants to change her life and career. In the middle of our conversation, she blurted out she simply doesn’t know how she ended up as a lawyer. She sort of sleep-walked into it to please her Greek parents. What she really wants to do is write about Eastern European history and culture. As a child, she was obsessed with it, amassing books and memorabilia.
As it happens she’s made enough money that she can go off and do that now. But what if she pops her clogs next week? It will have been a life spent living someone else’s ambitions, a spirit dampened and a talent withered.
Make a point of staying aware of pleasure, interest and fascination. It’s a muscle you’ve probably let waste a bit. You need to exercise it.
SUTRA: What turns you on makes you tick.
But what if you really don’t know what turns you on, and you’re so out of practice you don’t know where to start?
Well. You’re like that with yourself, almost certainly. Not entirely sure what flicks your switches — until it happens. Which leaves an awful lot of wonderful, pleasure-giving possibilities as just that — possible but not probable.
Learning what you like means getting out of your comfort zone. After all, you know what you know and that’s all that you know. Babies brought up on bland baby food often spit out strong flavours. It takes more than one attempt to get spinach down the average two year old’s throat if he has not been exposed to it early enough.
So, you have to make an effort to expose yourself to new things.
Practice being flexible so that your brain learns to be flexible and open to newness.
You can nudge this along in the most mundane elements of your day. Go to work a different way. Buy lunch in a new place each day. Look up at the tops of buildings, not down at the pavement. Trivial changes in routine loosen up the straightjacket around your brain and feelings.
Try a new activity. Do something a little scary. Extending just one bit of your comfort zone spreads like a virus to the whole of your life. You can’t be a little bit brave just like you can’t be a little bit pregnant.
Remember what you used to like when you were a kid. Try it out again. The lawyer who wanted to study history knew that when she was young and she knows it still.
What? It feels impractical to still want to be a rock star when you’re pushing sixty? Tell that to my friend Martin who has just released his second self-penned album. Has it made him money directly? No. Has it made him that rarest of animals: a creative accountant (not that kind of creative accountant)? Hell yeah. And he gets new clients and work because of it.
At work, offer to do something you’ve never done before. Ask to be shown how someone else does their work.
Volunteer somewhere just to see what it’s like.
Ask people to tell you what you’re good at, then see if it’s what you actually like doing. Because the two are not always the same. I, for instance, am pretty damned good at operational stuff. People pay me a lot of money to do it. I hate it.
Watch when other people are obviously turned on by what they do. How do they walk, talk, and present themselves. ? Store away what it looks like. Then you might notice when it happens to you. Finding your G- spot is about practice.
And lastly, do you know how a marketing guy in the 1970s doubled the sales of a shampoo almost overnight with just three words? He simply had the manufacturers put on the instructions on the back of the bottle ‘Rinse and repeat’.
You need to keep rinsing and repeating all through your life. To identify the thing you’ve kept doing but shouldn’t have and to dig out the wonderful new things you haven’t yet encountered or noticed.
SUTRA: Make discovering what pleasures you a habit. It won’t make you blind. It’ll open your eyes. Rinse and repeat.