Have You Found Your Path?
I remember when I was in college, I used to always wish I had a crystal ball. I wanted to know what my future would bring. I wanted to know what mistakes to avoid. I wanted to find the right path.
For years, I took a backseat in the design of my own life. I was good at certain things and teachers and adults I respected were quick to say, “You’re so good at this, you should…..” So I did. I did what others said I should do. I didn’t really think about it at all. For years I just let life happen – allowing myself to be guided by the winds of happenstance, rather than choice.
I don’t think my story is unusual that way. From what I’ve seen, many lives unfold within the dotted lines of someone’s helpful advice, or an opportunity that presents itself, or following logical next steps, or by doing what was simply expected – allowing others to set the path on our behalf. The question is, at what point do we start actively participating in the design of our own lives, rather than as bystanders with a hope and a prayer that it’s all going to work out for the best?
Several decades ago, I ended up in theatre totally by accident (at that time in my life there wasn’t a whole lot of strategy going on). I had been successful on the speech team in high school and followed in the footsteps of another girl who had been successful on the speech team the year before me, taking an internship at our local television station. Not really giving it much thought, I went to college and majored in Radio and Television. Because. I had always sung in high school, so when I got to college I auditioned for the choir and…low and behold (!) they offered me a full scholarship if I would switch my major to music! So I did. But it turned out that being a music major meant singing opera, which wasn’t my bag. So I auditioned for a musical review through the theatre department and…low and behold (!) they offered me a full scholarship if I would switch my major to theatre. So I did. That’s how much thought I gave my career path.
When I was doing theatre, there were times it was magical for me. If I was working on a script that allowed me to challenge what people were thinking or transformed the way they looked at themselves and the world, it was awesome. I felt like what I was doing was meaningful and important. But I could never get excited about going out for a Tide commercial or auditioning for Oklahoma! – it felt trivial to me. That was a problem. Because you see, in the theatre-world, you don’t get to pick and choose your projects, if you plan on eating and keeping a roof over your head, you have to go out for everything you can and give it all you’ve got. You’ve got to love it enough to make the constant rejection, instability and uncertainty worth it. For me, it just wasn’t.
As I started to get to know myself better, I realized why. I’m driven by connecting people to their best selves. That’s what lights me up. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. That’s what keeps me blogging and has me writing a book. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why, for the first time in my life, I know I’m on the right path. Now I’m excited to give it all I’ve got. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still rejection, instability, and a boatload of uncertainty – but now it’s worth it.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have found themselves on a path that doesn’t fit them. And it doesn’t seem fair. They’ve done all the right things. Taken all the logical “next steps” in their career. But they’re not excited about what they’re doing. It’s hard to bring their best – they want to, but it feels…like somebody else’s path. They’re dissatisfied and can’t figure out why.
Or maybe they’re on the right path, but they’ve forgotten why they’re there. What’s the point? Beyond hitting numbers, and boss-pleasing, and client-wooing, why do they care intrinsically about their work?
Why do you?
I’m not suggesting that you give up your responsible job and head off to some ashram to contemplate your navel, but I am suggesting that you give yourself permission to get to know your own heart – that there’s value in asking in some important questions. What drives you, for real? What gets you excited? Why? What is the impact you want to have?
The truth is, I’m glad I never found that crystal ball. If I had been able to see back then how my path would unfold, I probably never would have taken it. I wouldn’t have had the courage. You see, it’s been full of twists and turns and bumps in the road. And I suspect there’s more to come. That’s life.
What’s coming to mind as I type this, is something Jana Stanfield says on one of her live recordings as she introduces her song, If I Were Brave (which, for years, I’ve sung to my kiddo at bedtime, even though he tells me it’s time for me to get some new material): “It’s not about the journey or the destination, it’s about who you become along the way”.
Who do you want to become?
©OnStage Leadership, 2015
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Upcoming sessions of OnStage Leadership: Dallas, April 16th (only 2 spaces left!); NYC – TBD