We all have great potential, and we all have something great to add to life. However, we oftentimes do not know what our potential is, because we have never taken the time off to figure out what it is WE really want to do. Just looking at myself, much of my life was lived a little bit by default. You take other people’s guidance and good advice, thinking it sounds good and sensible, but never once stopping to check with your inner voice, your inner guidance, if this is right for us.
And of course there is the classic story of gifted student that wants to paint for a living, whilst sensible parents say that you can not make a living off that, keep it as a hobby. Rather, you have to go to school to get good grades, so you can get into a better college, so you can get decent papers, so you can get a good job and eventually go to the nursing home of your choice.
I am a medical doctor, because I wanted to help people, I wanted to make a difference in this chaotic and oftentimes cruel world. I wanted to ‘save the world’. Hands up those of you who grew up with the same desire. I have a feeling that our desire to save the world stems out of a desire to save ourselves. We feel lost, ever since we are born, at least ever since we go to kindergarten, and I am not sure this feeling ever really goes away. Mother Theresa, who by all accounts seemed to be a woman well established on her path in life, was plagued by depression and often questioned whether or not she was on the right way, and if God was even with her. She felt lonely and abandoned a lot of the time, but yet, she tirelessly kept on, despite her doubts and fears.
I am struggling with the same question today. What am I supposed to do with my life? Who am I? Where am I going? And what will i do when i get there? Is this the path for me? Is this the way to go? There are so many options, so many possibilities, how will you know, from all those possibilities, which one is the right one for you? I remember I often have wished that life was like a computer game. That you could save the game at various, crucial points, then explore your options, then reload a saved game when you figured out the best road of action. But alas, life is not a computer game, at least not in that respect. And so we have to live with our mistakes, we have to live with our regrets. They are irrevocably a part of us. Just like if you would take a tree and cut it down, you could tell from the thickness of the ‘year rings’ of the tree whether it was a good or a bad year. The good years make fatter year rings, and the bad years make for thinner rings. But if you would remove the thinner rings from the tree, would you then have the same tree? We are that tree, and good or bad years, they become part of us, part of what makes us uniquely us. And like Jung said, it is better to be whole, than to be good.
So here we are, scratching our heads, feeling like there is something great we are meant to do, and yet we do not feel like we are anywhere near that. We are still, for the most part, stuck in meaningless jobs. The tasks can be interesting enough, but in the bigger scheme of things, mean diddley squat. The bigger the company, the more bureaucracy you have to deal with, and the more meaningless your job will seem to you. How can we even know our path in such an environment? When the daily life takes over, you wake up at 7, get the kids off to wherever they are supposed to go (or if no kids, then you get yourself off to wherever), come home late afternoon, best part of your day you have given to a company that doesn’t really give a shit about you. The people who really do give a shit about you, your family, get the leftovers after the corporate world has chewed you up and spit you out. You come home with a varying degree on the ‘good mood – bad mood’ scale and oftentimes with no more energy than to pop a frozen dinner in the oven and collapse in front of the TV to relax.
Of course, you do not realise that TV does not really relax you at all, but what it is really good at is programming your mind so that you will have an uncanny desire for more stuff. Stuff to fill up the void inside which of course will never be filled. This void is not of a material origin. This void is your soul screaming for soul food. It is screaming that you listen to your inner voice. But we are stubborn, we do not listen, we crank the TV up higher and think about how to get money for the latest object of our desire, whatever that may be.
That little voice that doesn’t speak in words, is your right hemisphere telling you that you are meant for something else, something greater. You do not hear it, because the left hemisphere is so convincing with all it’s linguistic skills, it is so confident in it’s own truths, that it MUST be real! The little voice that protests, creating a knot in your stomach everytime you take another step down the wrong path, is easily overheard in the hustle and bustle of daily life, and then we wonder why we get cancer 10 years down the line.
We have so much entertainment to keep our minds off things. We have TV with a million channels, we have Twitter, Facebook, Youtube – all weapons of mass distraction. We live in an era where there are so many distractions going on, that despite all these technical inventions that are meant to help us become more efficient, we are less effective now than ever. In fact, these technical inventions which where meant to help us organise have now become a source of stress, it has created the very thing it was supposed to cure. Not unlike the war on terror.. War creates terror, and you wage a war to fight the very thing it creates. Go figure..
To keep focused in this day and age is a feat. To keep your eyes on the prize and move forward despite all those little things wanting your attention on the way, is a mammoth task. The best can get derailed, from all the seemingly important details, which when you take a step back, are really not important at all. Like Iain McGilchrist says in his book ‘The Master and his Emissary’ regarding our society which has become increasingly left hemisphere dominant; “We have created a hall of mirrors effect, where we reflect back on to ourselves more of what we know, more of what we know and more of what we know..”
We need to get offline for a bit, find silence from the incessant brain chatter of the left hemisphere, and tune into the subtle voice of the right hemisphere. This is found in your body, in your solar plexus. Thus the term ‘gut-feeling’. How many times haven’t we experienced not following our gut-feeling, only to regret it shortly after? Or the times when we actually did follow our gut-feeling and magnificent things happened? Yes, more of that please! Simple? Yes… Easy? No..
To give you an idea of what your path is, ask yourself what you enjoy doing. Not what you would like to be better at, or what you think would be smart to be good at. Just simply, what do you enjoy doing? Those are your strengths, and that is where you should put your efforts in order to make that part of you even better. All too often we have a tendency to say first what we don’t master so well, before adressing what we are good at. Share your strengths, not your weaknesses! It is like asking me to be an accountant. I would really be a half-assed accountant, even though I would like to be better at it, because it is important to some extent in everyone’s life. But my talents do not lie here, and it is like fitting a round peg in a square hole. You can do it, but the end-result isn’t pretty.
Rather, map out what your strengths are; what do you enjoy doing? I enjoy writing, reading, lecturing, teaching, I enjoy helping people sort out their health. The list is way longer, but here are a few of my core traits. So a career where these talents are honed and used daily, will make me better than average at my job, with aims of always becoming better. Not best, only better.
So what are your strengths? And what untruths that other people have told you that you can or can’t accomplish have you accepted as your truths? Revisit your childhood dreams and find back to the thing that gives you joy, that excites you. What do you love doing? Follow your excitement and watch the magic unfold. You are a magical creature, and playing small serves no-one, least of all yourself. Do not shy away from the light within, let your gut-feeling guide you. That is what it is there for.
I will leave you with the wise words of Mother Theresa, a true saint, a true human, confused and full of anxiety, like the rest of us.