Over the last few months, I've been digging into what I really enjoy: music (over 30 songs are in the can now!), performing (check my upcoming gigs here), and learning about people. Specifically, I've been swimming through books like these about finding and living your true purpose. Ultimately, it all comes down to two things: connecting to your soul, and leading with your strengths.
Coming from someone that espouses the notion that you can follow your passion, build a Noble Empire and live an inspired life, that sounds kind of blasphemous, right? Well, let me explain...
See, you can't be whatever you want to be. You MUST be exactly who you are called to be. Sometimes, when our passion is aligned with our divine gifts, then we CAN be whatever we want to be, because what we want to be is exactly who we are called to be. But you can't just pick something because you see someone else doing it - or even because you might be proficient at it.
Is that confusing? Let me try again, with a little help from "Kung Fu Panda":
When "life happens" we buy into the illusion of control that Master Shifu so ardently defends and Master Oogway tenderly releases. I've maintained for a very long time that we are all born with what I call "undeniable gifts" - our personal arsenal of strengths that are meant to move us through this world with confidence toward success. When our gifts aren't suited to the demands that life throws in our face at any given moment, we dig in, start learning and "adapting" ourselves away from our strengths (instead of reaching out to get help from someone else who IS skilled at the issue we face).
We see our limitations as a deficiency on our part - something we've got to fix - instead of celebrating our innate, interdependent design.
What happens for many of us, though, is that, instead of returning to what we've been blessed to be good at once the storm is over, our strengths get buried, neglected, or overlooked in favor of those more "useful" skills. Your True Voice gets silenced.
It's then that our masterpiece gets covered over, stored away for a future day.
Many times, we never return, never dust off that masterpiece, and never display it with pride - because we're spending way too much time trying to fix what's broken, improve what's not working, instead of celebrating the glorious way God made us to be in this world.
Tom Rath said it best: "You cannot be anything you want to be - but you can be a lot more of who you already are."
Home Depot was faced with a big decision: keep growing at the expense of current stores, or reign in growth and tighten up what they're already doing to create more loyal customers. They knew when to call it quits and focus on what they do best. In an era when everyone is focused on "bigger" and "grow", Home Depot said "Hey, let's refine what's already working!" and they've seen great success in that.
What about you?
Are you focusing on what you do well, or bemoaning the fact that you're doing all kinds of stuff just to survive? Are you even in the arena of your undeniable gifts anymore, or have you locked that masterpiece up somewhere in the dusty attic of your ancient past?
It took me almost a decade to return to music with any meaningful effort. It's something I'm damn good at, but as a mom and wife, well it's not such a useful skill. Changing diapers, cleaning house, and keeping peace took priority over piano practice, learning new music, and touring.
"Life happened" all over me - and with it, the "shoulds". I let my own gifts go unnoticed because I was trying to be a better mom, wife and housekeeper. There just wasn't time left in my day to sing the songs God had already planted in my heart.
But somewhere inside my head, I had drummed up the notion that I was a bad person if I didn't learn how to do all that other stuff. An while it's true, we all need to learn some skills outside our comfort zone, it's important to remember that we've been blessed with gifts that will nurture us when we share them with the world.
I'm changing that now. I'm returning to my regular rehearsal schedules, dusting off old tunes, and for the first time in a long time, I'm even writing new ones. And the world responds accordingly. New contacts arise and new opportunities are offered in alignment with my dharma. I'm speaking more, getting on stage more, and in general, loving more of what life is offering. In short, I'm being more of who I already am, and less of what I'm not.
It's not always easy, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.