As you know, in the late 60’s and early 70’s I was a hippie. A real one. My hair hung past my shoulders and I wore an unkempt John Lennon beard. I rode a chopped 1949 Harley Knucklehead with a suicide clutch and rigid frame (for you bikers out there). Even more, I left a full scholarship at UCLA so I could hitchhike across the US—for 3 months on $200!
The Art of “Finding Yourself”
Yep. Tis true. One thing I vividly recall: we were all trying to “find ourselves.” Lost in the transition of one of the most major culture shifts in the history of our country, we searched for a new meaning in life. It was a time that freedom and independence once again became significant objectives in the lives of young Americans who were raised in a culture with set standards—many good and many deplorable.
And now, over 40 years later, the question arises… after so much effort did I ever “find myself?” The answer is a most resounding, “Yes, I did!”
But not without a lifetime devoted to multi-varied attempts to try and “understand” the world and how I fit in. This “trying” included multiple jobs, education (formal and informal personal study), interacting with different types of people, very deep self-analysis with therapists and friends, movies, books, travel, encouraging successes and insightful failures.
Life is indeed a journey. The question is, do you learn from it or do you complain and/or just take it as it comes along? Both strategies work. For me, however, I don’t do either. Curiosity is my driver. I want to know and learn more about nearly everything. I am easily fascinated, so I regularly seek opportunities to be fascinated.
My guess is that you are a learner as well, or else you would be bored with my blog posts.
The Excitement of “Creating Yourself”
You, too, most likely yearn to understand yourself even better. But… is “finding yourself” enough? I think not. It is too passive and depends only on experience. I believe that, at the same time you are becoming more self-aware, you are also creating yourself, using your learnings as a motivator. You learn not only philosophies and deep personal character traits, you also begin to ACT on those things you have learned. And in the process you find that you are creating a new self, which leads to the desire to learn even more.
It’s a marvelous cycle of learning and application and learning and applying again. For example take my newer discipline of painting. I did not start painting until I was 60 years old. I always have strongly appreciated art, both fine and creative. But I thought I had NO ability to be a painter. Hell, I couldn’t even draw stick figures!!!
Still, I decided to give it a shot. I am completely self-taught, (alhough I asked a friend to show me how to apply acrylic paint to canvas and how to tape off straight lines). And gradually I found myself totally engrossed in the act of painting. I’d spend 4-6 hours at a time at the easel. One time I was so immersed that I stayed up long enough to watch the sun rise after beginning at 10 PM.
I did my version of abstract paintings and eventually produced some works praised and purchased by gallery reps. Crazy!!! The process: I discovered a passion (or love or bliss) and THEN put it to the creative test to see if I could actually do it. And in doing so I “created myself.” People now consider me an artist—even real artists call me one. Funny. (NOTE: I still have a hard time calling myself an artist, being such a snob about great art. And mine is NOT “great art.”)
So, once again, do you find yourself or create yourself? The answer is obvious: you do both.
However neither will occur without some predetermined INTENTION of learning and personal discovery. Whatever you do you have to do it “on purpose.” Sometimes your purpose or intention is specific; other times it’s random—just some new thing you’ve discovered along your journey. The next thing you know it’s become one of your goals in life.
The Role of Intention and Purpose
This is what happened to me when I visited Italy 3 years ago. I hardly even wanted to go except it was important to Pam, my wife. And then… holy cow. After a couple of weeks in Italy I became a foreign travel fanatic. Truly. Now I have dreams of living overseas for a month or two at a time. Although I did go with an intention of staying open-minded to enjoy whatever came my way. And to have fun with my wife.
When I was in college my next-door neighbor, Dennis, was a Professor of Biology at UCLA.He loved his job—a job for which he studied at least 10 years and then worked his way to full professorship at a major university. A major accomplishment!
Dennis and his wife also loved sailing and raced their 27-footer at least every month. He taught my roommate and me to “crew” for him during races. What a blast! We learned to sail in races, work our butts off with little rest with the goal of winning. We never did win, but it was still an awesome time.
It was almost a decade after I left school that I heard news about Dennis and Joanie. He had quit his job at UCLA and moved to Galveston, TX to pursue a career as a boat builder. Yep. Dennis discovered he wasn’t built to be a professor. He “found himself” as a boat builder. He learned the art and re-created himself in a totally new career.
That’s the great life, full of meaning, adventure and awe.
Okay, So How Do I…
Have you discovered yours yet? Maybe yes, and maybe no.
What’s even cooler is that whatever you are doing right now it’s quite possible you could be doing something else in another year. How do you think I’ve had at least 7 different careers? And it’s not just me. I’ve read stats that the average American will now have at least 5 different jobs in a lifetime.
Please don’t think I’m writing about changing your entire life. Like Dennis, that could indeed be your journey. Or, you could be like me with painting and traveling—simply adding another dimension to your life.
In either case you only need to do 3 things:
- Be Intentional
You may have a specific objective in mind that excites you just thinking about it. Or you may be in “discovery mode,” open to any new thing that happens along the way. I’ve had a great time doing both.
- Search for Deep Self-Awareness
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The philosopher Seneca writes frequently about actively searching your soul to improve what you think and do. Lao Tsu says, “the intellectual person understands others, but the person of great wisdom understands the self first.” Enough. You get the point.
- Start Creating or Re-Creating Yourself
Guy Kawasaki, one-time Marketing Guru for Apple, regarding Socrates, said, “The unlived life is not worth examining.” Haha. I love this one. This is all about “creating yourself.” I’ve found that we tend to invent reasons NOT to pursue our dreams: the fear of job security, of failure and humiliation, not having enough money or a disagreeable person that holds you back and on and on. My answer, Just Do It!
What you do in life is all up to you. Of course, you have certain responsibilities that require your attention, but they don’t have to be obstacles to discovery and creation. Be aware, be open, be creative and then live, truly live.
Be Aware, Be Open, Be Creative
Live, Truly Live
Photo courtesy of AscentXmedia at istockphoto