The first three questions may be too esoteric and your initial response to them may be “No.” The last question may seem more palatable. Yet, all four questions speak to the same desire. The desire is to live a life that is joyous and abundant in every area, especially in your career path. Is the age-old question posed to all children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
In Paulo Coelho’s extraordinary classic novel, The Alchemist, he refers to this desire as your Personal Legend. Coelho describes your Personal Legend,
“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”
For me, the “mysterious force” was not very mysterious but man it was powerful. My grandmother was that force. When I came to her bright-eyed and full of hope announcing, “I am going to be a poet when I grow up!” Her response was “You better grow up and get a job.”
As I worked my way through school, that force grew in it’s intensity and power as well-meaning teachers echoed my grandmother’s sentiments. Soon, I shifted my focus from creative writing to journalism: a more acceptable and respectable aspiration in the eyes of the grown-ups in my life.
All through college, I tried to convince myself that I wanted to be a journalist. While all along inside of me, a battle was raging as I longed to be more creative with my gift of writing.
After college, I landed a couple of respectful corporate positions largely due to my writing but far outside the world of journalism. The insurance industry is where I settled. The battle raging within me finally convinced me that journalism was not for me. But instead of returning to what I loved, I allowed myself to be shuttled into a career the way a farmer shuttles cattle into the stable. I simply followed the pack instead of following my heart. My focus became making a living rather than making a life.
A series of significant events transpired that finally got me back on track to pursuing my dream a being a creative writer. Those events were the death of my father, birth of my daughter and the disintegration of my marriage. The last two events happening within the same year was the proverbial straw that reignited my desire to live a meaningful life. A single mother and new homeowner, I quit my corporate job and became a full time professional storyteller and poet.
It’s funny that as children we simply follow our hearts and gravitate towards the activities that make us happy. When children think about the future there is little fear or worry. We believe we can have what ever we dream about. Until . . . some well-meaning grown-up who knows better steers us in a different direction or stop us all together.
• You already know your life purpose/personal legend. If you are not sure what it is any more, spend time journaling about what you dreamt about as a child. You can spend time in quiet reflection answering the question, “What would I do if there was not chance I could fail?”
• The goal is to make a life not simply make a living. Ask yourself, “What do I enjoy doing even if I don’t get paid for it?”
• Don’t be dissuaded by the naysayer. When someone offers you advice on how you should live your life and that advice does not leave you feeling encouraged. Remember: Free advice is worth the price you pay.
To your success!