“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman, civil rights leader
Well, I came across that quote the day before I left for vacation. First off, if you like water, sand, and the sound of waves, the beach will go a long way toward healing your burned-out self. It’s been a rough year for me. I won’t go into all the details; suffice it to say that I hope I don’t ever have to go through a year like that again. So by the time I got to the beach, emotionally and spiritually I felt a bit battered and bruised. I spent the week thinking about that quote. Being a journalist, I started asking myself questions, a kind of self-interview. You can do the same. Here’s what I came up with:
Who are you living and doing and making choices for? Is it for you? Sadly, for me at least, the answer is often for other people (kids, spouse, relatives, friends, strangers even), which doesn’t leave me fired up about my life. Look, I know you need to think about others. Everybody drills that into you from the time you’re a little kid. But if helping everyone else at the expense of yourself makes you feel dead inside: 1. how are you gonna be able to help anybody else? and 2. what kind of life is that?
What matters most to you (not what someone else would like for your life)? What do you most want to be doing with your life? What is your heart telling you? If you get quiet, I guarantee you, it’s saying something. And then the question becomes: Are you going to listen? What’s keeping you from that (hint: what’s your biggest fear)?
When are you going to look at your life as yours & give yourself permission to be who you want to be, to do what you want to do? When will you realize that your life is passing you by as you wait for the “right time”? Hint: The “right time” is right now. When will you choose faith over fear?
Where do you need to be to pursue your passion? Where do you feel alive? Do you love coming home? Do you love your work space? If not, why not? What do you need to do to change how you feel? I ask these questions because I made a choice once to live in a place where I ended up being miserable. It’s hard to feel alive and creative when you’re unhappy just being where you are.
Why does this even matter? Because I believe that Thurman was right: the world needs people who have come alive. Feeling alive and excited about your life makes you generous and happy and motivated. It inspires the people around you to do/be the same. It also matters because I don’t think you’ll want to get to the end of your life and say, “Whew, I’m glad I risked so little.” I dunno, maybe you will; I hope not to.
Your heart knows quite clearly what it is that makes you feel alive. But it’s also very hard to hear when you’re in a battered and burned-out state. So slow down. Slow way down. Take as much off your plate as you can. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list. Then get quiet. Very quiet. Be open and listen. The answers are there.
I also came across this these lines (which I love) by the 13th-century poet Rumi, who wrote:
Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.
Are you living a life that makes you feel fully alive? If not, why not? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.