Where there is fear, there is power. (Native Shaman Saying)
When I was a young man going through college my head was full of things I was supposed to become. Chief among these, as far as school was concerned, was the constant drum beat from family members that I should become a lawyer.
Law is a noble profession, and there’s nothing wrong about attending law school. But as I wandered through college, enjoying most of my classes but having no real idea what I wanted to do the rest of my life, I somehow knew that law school was not for me.
What no one taught me when I was growing up was the value of living an authentic life. Since my parents lived through the Great Depression as the children of immigrants, their guidance always steered me toward becoming successful — in other words, do something that makes a lot of money! (Alas, I did not follow that last bit of advice. I lived in a cabin in the woods for several years and took a break from work altogether to backpack around Asia.)
Some of you reading this know exactly what you want out of life. Congratulations. That’s wonderful. Feel free to stop reading at this point.
But if, like me as a young man, you question, you doubt, you feel lost at times — sometimes lost in your dreams — by all means please keep reading.
For those of you who were never encouraged to dance to your own music — or perhaps were too afraid to do so when younger — if you seize the opportunity, college can be a time a remarkable growth and self discovery.
Sometimes it’s a matter of listening to the small voice that says, “Wouldn’t that be fun to try?” In other words, look for the little sparks of interest and passion, add some dry twigs and blow on it. This may mean taking a class outside your major just because you’re fascinated the subject. Or it could be visiting one of the many extracurricular groups on campus. Or taking a road trip to a place you’ve always wanted to see and experience for yourself.
Here’s another idea: This Halloween why don’t you dress up as a person who represents a quality you would like to bring forward in your life? A trait, profession or way of being that you feel strongly drawn to.
If fear is what holds you back, then force yourself to get out of your comfort zone — and try new things. Give yourself permission to be uncomfortable and awkward — even fall flat on your face, if you need to. (Don’t we often learn more from what goes wrong than from what goes right?) I’m not saying that you should be reckless or force yourself to do things that go against your values. What I’m advising is that you push yourself to try things that interest you, even if it takes you a bit out of your comfort zone.
After all, the only thing you have to lose — or to gain — is your self.
Mark Evans, Ph.D.