“Follow your heart. Life is too short to be sidetracked by the things everyone else want you to do.” – Unknown
As I reflect on my life and the various struggles that I have experienced, every once in a while I think about my past decisions and the motivations for them. Some were good and many were not so good, but thankfully I am finally at a place where I no longer harbor feelings of guilt or anger, therefore I can honestly experience authentic reflection. The type of reflection that affords me the opportunity to consider the big picture when it comes to my life. My life as child, brother, son, young adult, husband, father, divorced, newly remarried, victim and offender. Essentially the “whole enchilada”, as they say. But three things are different with me as I reflect on now versus the past, and those three things are, I truly know myself today and I am honest with who I am, along with a crystal clear focus of who I am striving to become. For me these three things have made all the difference for my focus, motivation and personal growth.
First there was my focus. In times past I cannot say that I had much. I often started things and failed to see them through. Initially I felt that I had all the necessary components to start a task or mission, like purpose, faith, and desire, but something was still missing. Unfortunately it would take me years to discover what that missing piece actually was. So I would move on with unfinished projects and broken relationships scattered all over. It became painful and disheartening, but still not enough for me to recognize something was wrong, with me. So I pressed on towards more emptiness.
Second there was my motivation. In times past I generally felt as if my reason for starting something new or embarking down a new path came from a sincere place. From the outside world it would look totally authentic, as if my whole heart was into it. Unfortunately, many times this was not my truth. I simply went along because it seemed like the right thing to do, and I did not want to let anyone down. So my true motivation during that time was a farce, therefore unsustainable for the long haul.
Lastly, there was my personal growth. In times past, after every failure I would reflect, take counsel, journal and share with others, therefore it was quite easy for me to believe I was growing because of this. After all, no wise person would disagree that I was making the right choices by handling my life in this manner. Sad thing is I was making the same choices, therefore my growth was not very evident, specifically to me. Looking back, my personal growth was equally a lie.
I became so focused on getting past the pain, that I failed to acknowledge the steps required to get through it.
So I did not get through. I became stuck, while moving at the same time. Just moving in the wrong direction, which created more duress and more pain. This is not what personal growth looks like!
So here I stand today. I look the same (for the most part), but inside I have changed tremendously. Some of it stems from the self-inflicted pain, becoming honest with myself, a genuine and better relationship with God and a heart that aligns with who I am now, versus what others wanted me to be or become.
So many of our family and closest friends want what is best for us, according to their own set of ideas, biases and influences. It seems organic, it certainly is genuine, but is it really what is best? Sometimes perhaps, but we must set aside time to meditate on these things that come rushing in at us. Should I go to this college, marry this person, decide on this or that career path? All of it can seem overwhelming, but at the end of the day all we can be is who we are, not who we will be. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about planning, preparing for the future and certainly not settling for mediocrity, but at the same time I am a realist, honest with myself and committed to acknowledging my own truth, however painful that truth may be.
In times past, I lived much of my life in the shadows of others and in the ideas of what people who I respected albeit, had for me. My core ideas were not necessarily my own. They fit quite nicely in the community that I lived in and seldomly made waves. I was the perfect reflection of political correctness, if such a thing exist and miserable at the same time. Now I cannot sit here and say that my life was terrible, after all I had possessions, a good job and a nice family, but something was still missing. And that was my own heart fully engaged in the most essential parts of that life. Moving forward it became essential that I ask myself a few questions to gain some insight.
The most important question for me to ask always begins with the word “how”. How did I get here or how did this happen is usually a good place to start for me. This forces me to examine all aspects of the circumstance, while my genuine growth and maturity allows me to own the truth versus pointing blame towards others or making endless excuses. At the end of the day, my choices were my own. No one ever forced me to do anything, I was simply not following my own heart at times. I can admit that through it all, I actually have no regrets. I love who I am today and I am grateful for the many lessons.
I have even passed this information down to my daughter as she prepares for college. Since she is a lot like me, kind-hearted, friendly and often times looking to please others, I shared a bit of my story withe her. I left her with this, “Make certain the career path that you are pursing is because you want to pursue it, not because of me, your mother or what others may expect of you. At the end of the day it is your life to live and you can make choices that align with who you desire to be and where you want to go in your life. If others disagree, let them. They will get over it. And if not that will be their problem, not yours.”
Now as I said these words, I realize that my daughter may come to me one day and say, “Dad, I no longer want to be a doctor.” Even if I am disappointed, what is most important is she is pursuing what she believes is right for her, and if it turns out that it falls short of her anticipated ideal, the road getting there will be the lesson she needs to learn.
Today I realize that who I am is perfect. I am ever-growing and am authentically intact with my own heart, my God and the direction for my life. I take more time to listen within. I refuse to make rash decisions and will often pray and sleep before making an important one. Today what I decide to do is what I choose. No longer do I allow outside forces to influence me or pressure me. I live my truth, give my all and love with my whole heart. Not because I am obligated to, but because I want to and now my heart is in it.