If life is a journey to find myself, then how do I cope with being lost until I find myself?
Yes, I asked such a question once. I was annoyed.
For many years and well into my 20s, I had the misconception that life was all about ‘finding myself’. I would hear an encouraging word from a teacher “not to worry, as you grow up you find out who you really are”, or from a hippy friend “life is all about the journey and finding yourself”. I read books and watched movies that encouraged people to find themselves. I met high school seniors who wanted a year off from school to take time to find themselves before going to college. I felt sad because it seemed that we were all lost in a journey of trying to find ourselves. Then I felt anxious, because no one told me when I would know that I had found myself. Now that I know the truth I’m really annoyed. The well-meaning people in my life had stolen my power from me.
If you believe that life is about creating yourself then you have just tapped into the power to become whomever you want or aspire to be.
It is now in your hands.
It is now up to you.
It is now your time to shine, to grow, to learn, to create.
Life is in the doing and once you know this you can decide where you should be to learn the most, with whom you should share time with to gain the most knowledge, and how you should use the learning and knowledge to become a better you.
Yes, that is a powerful thing to know, and a bit scary to think about.
Accepting this power removes all excuses – “if only she hadn’t said that, I would be happier now” or “if that teacher had paid more attention, I wouldn’t have acted up so much in class” or “if my boss would only see the extra work I’ve done, then I would get that raise” and countless others.
Because I now accept the responsibility for creating myself, I can approach uncomfortable situations with a perspective of a willingness to learn. And this is how I began my personal development journey – on purpose, with purpose.
I began with a conscious decision – to improve my social skills. Sounds easy, right? Not for me. I was socially inept, awkward, unable to connect with people. But I knew that others had overcome adversity and emotional issues and saw that I could do it, too. I just didn’t know how.
This is when I realized the next important lesson about personal development –
to be successful, you must do it with with the help of other people.
I knew an older woman who had what I wanted; self-assurance, courage, wisdom and a lot of friends who cared about her well-being. I had spent some time with her over the years, had shared a cup of coffee or two and talked about life in general. This time, though, when I called to ask her out for a cup of coffee, I had an agenda. I told her the traits I admired in her and asked if she would be willing to help me change myself, to develop those traits in myself. She asked me one question “Are you willing to do things differently?” Thank goodness I said yes.
This is where real personal development began for me. Sharing a cup of coffee at her kitchen table, I would talk about a situation I had encountered and she would tell me how I could have done it differently. For instance, a poorly executed performance review with my boss resulted in my freezing up and not responding to examples that were clearly misrepresented and untrue. Because I was self-conscious and had limited confidence in my ability to articulate my thoughts, I simply said nothing.
Her solution to this problem was this: when an event is expected, like the performance review, I am to prepare myself to participate in the review by examining my past performance. It was important that I be honest with myself about unmet expectations, incomplete work, and negative outcomes … as well as successful projects, expectations that were exceeded and positive outcomes. She agreed to help me by meeting with me one month before the next scheduled review. We did. And the next review was quite different because I was armed with solid information about my performance. I could agree on some points made, I could disagree with other points made because I was prepared and had facts in front of me.
By the time I reached my late 30s I was confident in my ability to socialize in any age group, in any business setting and in any situation I found myself in. A willingness to do things differently combined with practicing the tasks my friend suggested to me made it possible.
Another example is when I wanted to add public speaking to my marketing plan for my business. I joined Toastmasters. Sure, I could have taken a course online or even at a community college about public speaking, but I know the value of having people tell me to my face how to improve myself. I also know the value of being accountable for taking responsibility to change. I was a member for three years and Toastmasters helped me develop my presentation skills to the point where I could say “yes” to being asked to present at a national conference, to speaking from the stage to almost 800 people, to being a guest speaker at local Universities, to conducting in person workshops, to leading a group of business women, to doing live streaming programs online, and more.
I began this journey of conscious personal development while in my 20s, and now I know that the struggle of changing myself is worth the effort, because it is through the struggle that I get closer to becoming the woman I really want to be. Along the way I've met interesting, generous people who are willing to walk beside me and allow me to be a part of their personal development by sharing our experiences along the way. I've partnered with others in businesses outside of Search by Burke, I've collaborated on fun projects, I've co-created excellent programs, I've created my own programs, and people are attracted to what I have – so they approach me to learn more about living on purpose, with purpose in a world of constant noise. And really, it boils down to living the life I want to live – how I want to live it – and with whom I want to live it with.