The title of this post is a George Bernard Shaw quote I employ with my daughters in the hopes I will impress upon them, in a small way with a few words, what I will say here with many more words than their attention spans will allow. How many times have you heard that some person or other is on a quest to “find themselves?” Many times we hear it in relation to a young person starting out in life to find their purpose, or when an older person jokes about what they want to be when they “grow up.”
However, the older I get and the more experiences I have and relationships I develop, the more convinced I am that each individual’s purpose in life is to draw their own map. Throw out the recipe book, the paint-by-numbers kit, and anything anyone ever told you about who or what you should be—and chart your own course.
It’s not easy—and it’s not comfortable. We are trained from birth to make safe, reliable choices. In school we are encouraged to conform and not to color outside the lines; in business we are comforted by “blueprints” and case studies; the media shows us how we should dress, where to vacation, and who we should emulate.
Think about it. The last time you went to the store to look for something in particular, what was your motivation? Did you see an ad for it somewhere? Have you chosen a vacation spot because so-and-so went there and raved about the good time they had? When you think about those experiences, did you feel a little “let down?” Was the build-up of what you expected not quite what you thought it would be in the end?
On the other hand, when you remember a time you went off the map and did something completely new, how did that feel by comparison? I’ll be willing to bet that it was a much more satisfying experience—maybe even exhilarating! It wasn’t easy, you had to put more in, but you got more out. Maybe it’s time for you to be the one charting a course that others will follow.
When we were kids we intuitively leaned in the direction of creation. Making mud pies, finger painting and exploring was a lot more satisfying than playing with a toy, wasn’t it? We were charting our own courses, creating something new, and finding out more about ourselves. In fact, kids can teach us a lot about the creative process (see the 12 Most Important Lessons We Can Learn from Children).
It’s the uncharted experiences, not the guided tours, which truly help us “create” ourselves. When we listen to the inner nudge to do something different and go in a way that intuition leads us—follow our dreams and desires rather than in someone else’s footsteps—those are the moments that define who we are and give us insight into how we can participate in the world around us. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.
So as you look ahead to the coming year, instead of trying to “find yourself” by following what others have done, dust off one of the dreams you’ve kept locked away—one that makes your heart sing with anticipation—and just for fun, plot out a plan to make it happen.
Dreaming is an act of creation, and it’s the wellspring of innovation. So don’t stifle your inner creator; feed it, and open yourself to new possibilities.
“Cherish your visions and your dreams, as they are the children of your soul; the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” ~ Napoleon Hill