You’ve Found Yourself, Now What?
“Thank you. That makes me feel better.”
That was my wife’s reply after I had told her what she has to offer the world.
It was after dinner. We had just grabbed a bite to eat at a fast food restaurant. Our son, at one and a half years old, had made a mess comparable to the others he had created earlier in the day. My wife, having spent the whole day caring for him while I was at work, had reached her breaking point. To top it all off, she had not heard back from a recruiter who she had left a message for concerning a job opening.
In her temporary despair, she began to wonder what would set her apart from other candidates. Then her contemplations took a deeper turn, which led her to ask me, “What do I have to offer the world?”
I replied by telling her she was a great mother and supportive wife. When pressed for more, I added that she was also one of the more focused people I had known, able to step aside of the daily traps and obstacles we all face (i.e. office politics, Facebook posts, etc.) I went on to list her other finer points, which alleviated her self-doubt and provided her with a morale boost.
All this occurred over the span of a few days when I too was contemplating a similar existential dilemma. Some of my friends had attended a motivational seminar, which had inspired them to pursue their dreams. I had attended the same seminar a year earlier. In doing so, I had found myself. I was grounded in the purpose of what I wanted to do with my life.
That was the question my friends started to ask themselves. It was the same one my wife asked herself from time to time after self-examination. It is like others I ask myself after feeling inspired to pursue my passion, succeed at living out my dreams and make a difference in the world, but not knowing how.
When pressed for answers, the self-help gurus of our time attempt to convince us that the how will come after the moment of self-discovery. The stars will align, the universe will answer and all will be made right for your purpose.
OK, now that I have that out of my system, this is what will really happen after you find yourself.
You will get lost
Yes, you read correctly. After attending a motivational seminar a year ago, I came away from the experience determined to make it as a professional writer (you may suspect where this is going). I had self-published a book the year before and was set on making more out of my passion.
I invested in online marketing to bolster my book sales and increase my exposure. I blasted social media with posts about my work. I contacted every local venue to promote myself and asked to do readings of my book. I scoured search engines for paid writing gigs and professional positions, be it for a website, news agency or marketing firm.
You will get frustrated
The ads I ran came and went. As did a few book readings. However, no money surfaced. Nor jobs for writing. I had tried. I failed. Not due to lack of effort. But because I had gone out into the world with my ambition — and little else — determined to succeed.
I made missteps. I wasted time and energy on ad campaigns that provided disappointing results. I attended networking events that led to no meaningful contacts. In other words, my journey led to a circular odyssey due to a lack of direction.
You learn the hard way there is no roadmap to success
Sure, I read all the books, watched the podcasts and listened to hundreds of hours of talks from so-called experts on how to succeed and live your passion. Somehow, an entire industry has sprouted to reinforce the idea that we can succeed but we must find the path ourselves. That is akin to telling a miner there is gold out there but he or she must know where to dig.
You become despondent
The motivational seminars, videos and books lose their luster. You want to believe in yourself again. But somehow, trying to recreate that spark you felt at your first seminar or motivational course just doesn’t happen. Your passion fades, leading to one of two courses of action.
You give up OR you press on
The first is easy. You stop trying. Sure, you may convince yourself that you are taking a break, recharging, allowing yourself to become centered again. But deep down, you know you’re only lying. Your pause becomes permanent.
The second option is harder, and filled with uncertainty. You press on pursuing your dreams, your passion, that path which you decided to carve out upon finding yourself. Yes, the magic has faded for you. But you continue — perhaps aimlessly — because giving up doesn’t sound appealing. You keep going, even if you can’t see the road ahead.
Your skin thickens
If you choose the second of the two options listed above — with some hard work and tenacity — you develop a stronger sense of your purpose, of yourself. You become resilient to the difficulties you encounter. Fewer hiccups bother you. Those that do have a lessened impact.
Your definition of success changes
For most, it becomes grounded. Maybe you resolve not to be the best public speaker, writer, self-help guru, doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. From an attainable standpoint, you decide to be your best, regardless of whether you become better than others in the process. Your goals start to turn from short-term to long-term. You realize that you need to pace yourself. You stop pressuring yourself into becoming an overnight success. After all, you are in it for the long haul.
You relax. Because you have found yourself. Again.
Perhaps you won’t hit all these points or stages. Maybe you’ll touch upon a few. Or none. Or more. If you have ever questioned your purpose though — like I have more than once in my life — expect to go through something akin to the metamorphosis I described above.
It may all sound daunting. Because it is.
Emerging from your own chrysalis is hard, for it involves branching out into the unknown future while also leaving your self-doubt and apprehension behind. Backsliding to the existential questions of purpose and passion, of calling and fate, is bound to happen. Don’t fight them. Embrace that new round of examination. Go through your own set of stages. Reflect. Meditate. Attend those self-help seminars. And reach out to your network of support, be it a group of friends or a loved one. Especially if your toddler spends the whole day making a mess [of your life].