Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Have you ever asked yourself what makes you come alive? Have you ever seriously considered it – What brings you joy? What energizes you? What gives you a true sense of purpose?
Think back to your childhood and the dreams you dreamed. What did you hope to be when you grew up – an astronaut, an architect, a photographer for National Geographic, a major league baseball player? Where did you hope you would travel – the Arctic Circle, Alaska, Figi, Rome, the Sahara? What kind of person did you think you might be – generous, famous, celebrated, powerful, full of integrity? Have you realized any of those dreams? Are you still dreaming them or have you given up on ever seeing them come true? Have everyday life and responsibilities and expectations gotten in the way? Too often too many of us find ourselves blinking our eyes and discovering that too much of life is behind us and we fear that few of our dreams will ever come true. And we end up asking ourselves: Where has life gone? Is this all there is?
We cannot tell you the countless number of people who have confided in us their broken dreams. The numbers are huge of those who have shared their regret and disappointment at having so much of life carry them away from their dreams. We have heard so many stories of people who, because of their marriages or jobs or life’s trajectories have found themselves carried away from their dreams and from who they really are. They are robbed of their enthusiasm and wonder and joy, and they live with so much discontent and restlessness.
Both of us have realized that we are not outwardly emotionally expressive men, especially when it comes to shedding tears. It takes to lot to make each of us cry. As adults both of us could count on one hand the number of times that we have each shown our emotions through tears. And virtually every one of those times the catalyst was related to our sense of identity – when we’ve realized that we felt forced into being someone or doing something or following trajectories that really were not true to who we are. When we have felt the weight of expectations placed upon us – either by others or by ourselves – to be someone who we are not or to follow a dream that really wasn’t our own or to undertake a professional path that does not line up with our passions – we know that have not truly come alive. It is when we were unable to be our best selves, that for us, the regrets and the frustrations have been the strongest.
Henry David Thoreau has written: We are constantly invited to be who we are.
That invitation is extended to us no matter where we are on the path of life, no matter what age or what our circumstances. It is up to us to accept that invitation. For when we do, then, we too, will become our truest and best selves.