Taking charge of yourself, rather than do things because of the “voices of your past” (aka, well-intended friends and loved ones), means you first have to know who you are and who you are not. It means you have to be aware of what you like, what you are good at, what makes you joyous, what you want in life.
Do you know what your gifts (interests you are born with) are? Do the things you do well bring you joy or do you just do them to make a living? Do you know what you want in life? Do you proactively direct your life or do you simply react to events that come your way?
Do voices of the past dictate your every move? What do you enjoy doing that seems to be as easy as breathing to you? Do you take it for granted?
A few years ago I started to ask these questions of myself as a result of a defining moment in my life. They were hard to answer at first because I wasn’t fully aware of who I really was. I recognized the “me” who was taught and trained to do other stuff.
So I spent some time reflecting on my life. A lot of time. I wanted to figure out how I got to that point in my life. To try to see where I took the wrong turns. I wanted to know who or what affected the choices I had made to get the results I got.
What I discovered wasn’t so terrible but there were several ways I knew I needed to change. I needed to observe closely what my unique gifts are and then declare to myself that those are my gifts and that I should fully embrace them. I needed to take charge of every aspect of my life and not let those voices of the past continue to run my life. I needed to respect and value the gifts I was born with that are unique to me. I needed to stop undervaluing my interests and the things I was good at.
The whole purpose of all this self-analysis was, of course, to discover my one true mission in life if, in fact, I had just one.
I remember when I was in high school, my Dad asked me what I wanted to study in college? I said, “Music!” He replied, “I don’t think you can make much money in music so why don’t you just study business? That’s what everyone is doing.” That was the end of the conversation. I loved my Dad. I thought maybe he was right. What did I know then?
Well, looking back on that moment now, one thing I knew was that I didn’t want to study business, and I wanted to study music.
So what did I do? I started out with finance, then accounting, and I finally settle on marketing. But years later, I changed my major from marketing to a B.A in Asian Studies, with an A.A.S in simultaneous interpretation/translation in the Korean language, and an A.A. in Business Management.
Dad meant well and he was a good father. But look at all the ways there are to make money in music. Was that good advice? No. It lead me down the wrong path. It is a good example of how to “not listen to yourself”! I didn’t listen to the voice calling me to music.
However if I had had a stronger desire or unrelenting determination to study music at that point, I would have done it and my life could have been totally different. So I’m not blaming anyone but myself and also I’m not complaining or regretting. I’m just saying to follow your intuition.
So fast forward to this present moment. I know I still like music. I can play guitar a little. I can sing. I can write songs. I can make harmonies. I know these things about myself and I now value them as facets of myself. I no longer need approval to move forward and develop these musical gifts that were given to me at birth.
So what do I do now? Which direction do I go? What’s holding me back now? Those are questions I have to answer,
And anyone who wants to really do something but seems to be stuck, has to answer those questions too.
If fear of the unknown is holding us back, we need to “feel the fear and do it anyways” as Benny Hsu wrote in his “Get Busy Living Manifesto” on his site, “Get Busy Living”. If it is not fear, then what is it?
I believe we all have this mandate to figure out what really drives us and to pay attention to it and pursue it.
Is there something you need to turn your attention to today?