In this issue ~~
Many of the sages have said that growth is not a matter of adding to who you are, but of stripping away the layers you've added over the years that cover and hide your truer self. In Jim Cathcart's The Acorn Principle, the author asserts that "success and happiness come not from changing oneself, but rather from discovering one's natural talents and abilities and aligning one's life accordingly."
As a newborn baby, we're in complete touch with who we are -- our needs and feelings. As children, we naturally gravitate toward things that are fun for us or arouse our curiosity. But as we get older, we're taught that certain aspects of our behavior are unacceptable and if we want to be loved, we're going to have to toe the line. We give up our hopes and dreams in order to fit in. This socialization may continue throughout our lives, unless we stand up for ourselves and actively seek to reignite the spark that was extinguished.
Those of us who have pursued our creativity and our passion have managed to stay in touch with our authenticity to some degree. But nobody escapes entirely; it's part of the human condition. An important component of personal growth is discovering ourselves anew, and the pursuit of reconnecting with our authentic selves can lead us to lives that are more pleasing to us, with less pain and struggle and new depths to our creativity.
So where do you find this authentic self? It's not something that's foreign to us, but something that was always there and got submerged under layers of protection and conditioning. We want to gradually strip away those layers and find the treasure that has always awaited us underneath.
Some of the ways you can touch upon your truer self:
Reconnecting with your authentic self will be a long process that will happen in steps, so be patient with yourself. Enjoy the hunt and revel in each new insight. And keep in mind that this is not just about work. While the things you discover about yourself may lead to a career, they don't have to. It's also about making time for the things that feed your soul, whether it be music, art, a sport, reading a good mystery, building furniture, knitting, taking a class, gardening, spending time mentoring a child or volunteering for a favorite charity.
Finding your authentic self may be a lifelong quest, and you'll
never achieve it 100%. But the insights you'll have along the
way and the greater happiness you'll enjoy are well worth the
pursuit. We're each unique beings, and the more we can uncover
our authenticity, the more we can bring our special contribution
to the world and feel really good about our lives.
"Follow your dreams" is a common mantra these days. For those of us particularly in the western world who have our basic needs met pretty easily, we have the luxury to pursue self-actualization, to "find our bliss." Up to a point. We still have to pay rent and put food on the table, sometimes for others as well as ourselves, and the standard of living these days can get pretty expensive.
Dreams are great. It's fun to fantasize about what we can be, and dreams are the seeds that lead to the realities we create. But how many of you had a dream as a child or teenager only to have the roof blow off the house when you announced to your parents that that would be your career?
When it comes to dreaming and "getting real," we tend to think of the extremes. You know the typical image of the dreamer, whose dreams are all fantasies that stay in his or her head. They talk about all the great things they're going to do, but they never seem to get around to them. The flip side is the realist who is constantly worrying about finances and impending disasters and doesn't have time to pursue anything just for pleasure. But keeping your fantasies in your head can leave you with some good feelings and long hours of daydreaming and nothing to show for it, while being too much of a realist can be a very dry existence indeed.
There are some dreams that are meant to remain fantasies. As a child, you may have wanted to be an astronaut, veterinarian, fireman, inventor, baseball star or President of the United States; that's part of testing the boundaries of who you are. As a teenager, you have your typical "they'll be sorry when I'm famous" type of dreams. These serve their purpose in comforting you during a very challenging time of life, but most of them are not meant to be lived out. True, some people really do become rich, famous movie stars, but most of us don't.
But what about the real dreams, the ones that still make your heart sing? Those are the ones that you want to give life to in some form. But often we're stopped by the practical considerations of our daily existence. How can I give up my law practice and open a crafts shop when I have 3 kids to put through college? Or how can I become an astronaut when I can't even get myself to the gym twice a week and I'm afraid of heights?
Following your dreams is a balancing act. While some people do give up their lucrative jobs to live a simplified existence in the country, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Perhaps you'll begin living pieces of your dreams as a hobby or a side job. As your skills and income grow over the years, you may choose to make your hobby a full-time job. Or it may happen when you retire. If you happen to be on the verge of graduating from school as you read this and are in the throes of choosing a career, giving reign to your dreams may mean taking a job at McDonald's while you practice shooting video on the weekends, or temping or waiting tables while you audition or write your book.
Despite the myth of the overnight success, most dreams are achieved slowly and steadily, through small, consistent steps. It doesn't all have to happen tomorrow. Make a long-term plan that includes interim steps and short-term goals. Look at where you want to go and work backwards to map out the steps that will get you from here to there. Then start pursuing step 1. And while you're doing that, make sure your financial needs are met; it's hard to put energy into creating your dream when you're terrified of getting evicted because you haven't paid the rent in 3 months. Part of your long-term plan may be to start putting away money on a regular basis so that when the kids graduate from college, you can quit your high-paying corporate job and open up that crafts shop or become an astrologer or massage therapist.
And if your dream just isn't physically possible, like becoming a ballet dancer at the age of 40, you can still take a class at the local dance studio or go to performances. And your dream of being an astronaut could evolve into a study of astronomy, aeronautics or cosmology, or perhaps directing or acting in movies like Apollo 13.
A word of caution. If you share your dream with someone and they want to give you a "dose of reality," take it with a grain of salt. They may be afraid that you'll be hurt and disappointed, or they may be jealous that you had the guts to pursue your dream. Either way, they feel the need to tell you the hard facts. But nobody can predict another person's future, and dreams are achieved all the time. So I strongly suggest only sharing your dreams with people who will understand and encourage them. As long as the odds may be, who's to say that you're not the one who will beat those odds.
You need to keep your eye on the dream and the reality at the same time. Like a hot air balloon, if there's too much air, it will float away, but if the ballast is too heavy, it'll never get off the ground. You want enough of each to fly at just the right level.
Remember, your dreams are a signpost to your authentic self.
You're meant to pursue them. While you don't want it to be
at the expense of your responsibilities to yourself and others,
by finding the balance and the appropriate pace, you can make
your dreams a reality!
A fun way to learn more about yourself is to treat yourself to a reading with a good astrologer or psychic or read a book on numerology or a personality system like the Enneagram. You'll gain interesting new insights and validate things you "kind of" knew about yourself already.
"I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things which he has thought about as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up."
"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly."
(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
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