It’s Like Breathing

I find it fascinating that I can have a conversation with certain people and I always know I’ll walk away from it with some kind of useful insight.  One of those people is Chris Garrett, blogger extraordinaire and co-author of what I consider to be one of seminal books on our craft, “ProBlogger“.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a lot of chances to talk at the recent SOBCon conference in Chicago, but when we did, it didn’t take long for us to dive into the philosophical pool.

Even when we weren’t trying.

It was a light discussion about singing and dancing and our feelings about participating in such activities.  I told Chris I didn’t have any problem cutting a rug or belting out a tune, even in a crowded room (or at a podium at a bloggers conference).   He, on the other hand, didn’t have the same inclinations- particularly in the dancing category.

He quickly added, with more than a tint of admiration, that for some in his family, dancing was “like breathing“.

Like breathing……………..”Kerplunk

We were now once again in the pool.

After absorbing that comment I then replied – “So what’s like breathing to you?”

I leave that for Chris to answer in a blog post of his own, but what this little exchange did for me was set off alarms in my own head.

What’s like breathing to me?  What are those things that help define who I am but are yet rarely thought about, because they come so naturally?

Chances are, if I give this more than casual thought, I can gain some valuable clarity about the state of my life and what should be the focus of my work, my play, my relationships, and everything in between.

Problem is, just like we rarely stop to ponder something so essential to our lives as breathing, there is often no reason for us to stop and try to figure out the “why” in our lives.

Why do I love to sing? Why does music move me?  Why does making a friend smile with wry humor so meaningful? Why do I feel so good around mountains? Why can I make a speech or presentation without having a panic attack?  Why is my leadership instinct to guide and nurture, instead of control? Why is my intellectual “default” to pick something up and read it, even if it’s a cookbook sitting in the kitchen (and I don’t even like to cook)?  Why do I practice yoga at 5:30 in the morning, even though I know it’s 5:30 in the morning?

That’s all like breathing to me, but it may be a good time to dive into those “whys” a little deeper, since Chris already pushed me into the pool.  So that I will do – and we’ll see what happens.

Thanks Chris for the help, and I look forward to your take on this.

How about you?  What’s like breathing in your life?  And more importantly, why?

C’mon in, the water’s fine!


  1. says

    I think I may be one of the people Chris is talking about when he says dancing is like breathing. Though I breathe much more often, it is a rare day that I don’t dance even just a little. Dancing for me is a form of meditation in that I get to turn off my brain. The music talks to me. It communicates with my body… and tells me what is coming or when to pause. Sometimes I can be outside myself and wonder what I will do next. It’s a little game I play with myself.

    I also dance with my eyes closed a lot and I find that I hum when I dance also. I used to catch myself doing these things and try to stop, but I came to realize that the JOY in dancing comes from being free to stretch, flex, spin, pop… and just be free. And it’s none of my business what people thing about my expression.

    Wow… Just thinking about dancing makes me smile. I feel a video brewing…

  2. says

    Terry, even though our conversations were short (too short, we need to fix that!), they were precious and gave me lots to think about (I think I tweeted something similar!).

    Still processing my response but I found your post about it brilliant as always 🙂

  3. says

    I think you’ve just put your finger on the one question that might just have the power to tame the ubiquitous monster To Do List, Terry: If something’s “like breathing” to us – there’s a reason. Think about that for a while, and all of a sudden it becomes much easier to prioritize all the many many possibilities for what we *could* be doing. Nice.

  4. says

    It’s always the simple questions we forget to truly ask ourselves… and they’re always the tough ones! I’m in extreme question-asking mode right now, so this post really resonated with me :).

  5. says

    Loving the idea that something is so natural it’s like breathing. Music for me.

    I actually start to get depressed if I don’t play some music every few days. In fact, when my partner notices that I’m getting moody and withdrawn, she tells me to go play some tunes. Works every time.

    Unfortunately, it’s easy for life to get in the way of these things, which is why blogs like this are important. I constantly need reminding not to get distracted by the seemingly important and go do what I need to do.

    Nice one,


  6. says

    I’m a big fan of you and Chris Garrett. And I’m loving your parallel posts on this topic. He was asking “what” and you’re asking the very challenging question of “why”? My “what” is hearing people’s stories, extracting meaning and helping them find their authentic voice (as I continue to work on finding my own!).

    The why? It’s just me. It makes me hum, it makes me feel alive, it makes me tingle, it’s never boring, and I have always done it.

    Have I always valued it? No, but I do now and that makes it even more delicious.

    Thanks for a tasty post, Terry!

    — Laurie, aka @intuitioneer

  7. says

    You could also look at which tasks you always find time to do – that too tells of your passions, of what’s important to you, and what’s like breathing.

  8. says

    This is great stuff!

    Thanks to both Terry and Chris for bringing this to us.

    This eliminates several impossible questions that we’ve all been brought up thinking.

    1) “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
    2) “who am I?”
    3) “what am I put here on earth to do?”

    Now…we can ask ourselves what’s as easy as breathing? If we’re truly honest in our answer we’ll find that joy, our purpose and our “mission” in life.

    Once again thanks so much for this!

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some breathing to do. 🙂


  9. says

    I think the more interesting question is why is something as easy as breathing? We all struggled to walk at some point, so why are some of us better dancers than others?

    I was first introduced to Dreyfus model of learning in the book “Pragmatic Thinking and Learning”. The last level in this model is the level of “expert”. The level where you not only do things so well that they are as natural as breathing, but that describing an activity at which you are an expert while trying to do it actually makes the activity harder to accomplish.

    In “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell shares with us the idea of this ten thousand hour rule. Gladwell says researchers find on average ten thousand hours is about the amount of time it requires to become expert at something. Which brings up the nature versus nurture question. In becoming a good dancer, how much of your success is dependent on being born in to the right family (genetics), and how much of your success is dependent on being born into the right family (support and encouragement).

    What is interesting to me is how frequently we forget that we are experts at something. We take it for granted that we do some things better than others (well most of us do). After all, we all put our pants on one leg at a time just like every one else. Being a technologist, this is a particularly sore point for people around me. I turn on the advanced settings on a program, or I set up a media center that requires several steps to get the thing “on”, and suddenly many people around me can’t use the thing.

    As someone concerned with usability, I constantly try to force myself to think of other people’s experience as they interact with something I’ve designed. Even with all that effort and concentration, I still make things that initially confuse people who are unaccustomed to them.

  10. says

    Immersing myself in nature. Running up a mountain (the Rockies, in fact). Finding just the right words to fit. Respecting your individuality. Looking for something better.

    Of the lot, this last one is the only negative. Working on making the opposite of that (enjoying this moment) like…um…breathing.

    Thanks for the post…

  11. says

    Wow, Terry. There’s so much to ponder in this post. Thanks for sharing it! And Chris too. I’m going to have to chew on this for a while. What great conversations you two have. 🙂

  12. says

    Beautiful post.

    Discovering what’s like breathing in our lives is not a trivial thing. Many people struggle with this question.

    Western society doesn’t particularly encourage us to live according to what feels like breathing.

    There’s so much suffering caused to people by being stuck in jobs, organizations, relationships and institutions that metaphysically asphyxiate them… but that lure them with false, vain values.

    Perhaps the very first step for the majority of people is to realize that they actually need to express certain things and to engage in certain activities as much as they need the air they breathe.

    And then gather the courage to build a life that allows them to take in enough oxygen…

    Only after those two first conditions are met, they’ll have the peace that will allow them to explore the why’s related to their metaphysical breathing.


  13. says

    I get up before the dawn in order to watch the sun get up and bake off the foggy mists of the summer mornings. Or dance its long lazy rays across the snows in winter.

    I grab a mug of very hot dark-roasted European coffee, snuggle into my morning chair with my legs drawn up under me, and I read. And then I write, in my journal and usually about something my reading has sparked in my thinking. I write to sort information and thoughts, and to understand them better. Every morning. It’s how I greet the day.

    It’s like breathing to me.

    I’ve thought about your post for a week now, and I’ve made lists of what I’m natural at doing, what I’m good at doing, what I don’t love, and what I’m not good at. (Don’t figure you want to know all that… just wanted to thank you for making me think so deeply about things this week.)

  14. says

    I practice Yoga at 6am so I know how you feel. Getting into the flow of something I love to do is a special feeling. I also write about work happiness and this article is about finding that flow that makes whatever we do feel like so much fun.

    We all need to understand the actions that comes so easy so we can keep doing more of it.

  15. says

    It depends on the person. For some people blogging is natural , like breating. For me personally its not. I got poor writing skills and blogging is a bit hard.


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