What Makes You Come Alive?
As last year drew to a close, I had a very important decision to make. Every year brings with it new decisions, but this particular one was a biggie.
I had put my documentary filmmaking plans on hold at the start of last year, having accepted a short term teaching assignment at a prestigious school. A change of plans saw me accepting a permanent teaching position at this school. In so doing, I put a halt to my own creative projects.
I had a brilliant job, a great salary, a medical aid and even a pension fund. How responsible! I felt very grown-up wearing these big girl pants! I bought a car, a laptop and saved up enough to make a trip overseas. Utopia!? Most would say, “YES”.
But, something wasn’t right… on the surface everything was good, but deep inside I was unhappy. The creative essence within me felt stifled. I felt like an orchid in a desert. A mismatch between the flower and the environment! My heart was not coming alive but it took a while before I was willing to admit this to myself, let alone others. Plus, I rather liked having the steady ching ching in my bank account!
As much as I loved the interaction with my colleagues and the scholars, I started getting more and more unhappy, putting on weight and eventually even questioning if my life had a purpose. (This is never a good sign!) And, I had this inkling that there was something out there for me that I was not going to find in the current environment. It was not the elusive search for greener grass… but more about yearning to embrace and express my deepest desires.
I reached a place where I didn’t know what I should do. “Do I stay or do I go? If I stay what will I do with this great ball of unhappiness in my stomach?! If I go, how am I going to bring home the bacon?!” Not having a husband or children to consider did make my decision a lot easier. This made me really think – “this may be the only chance in my life to make a HUGE decision like this and think of myself”.
We will all face seasons in our lives a when we have to make BIG decisions. Now the choice isn’t easy for everyone. Some of you have three kids and a husband to consider, or elderly parents who rely on you to survive. I am not saying that everyone should quit their jobs and only do what they are passionate about. This is not an article to tell you to be irresponsible or walk out on your hubby and kids.
BUT… if you reach that place in the road where you are unhappy and you have the opportunity to do something about it… ask yourself, “What makes me come alive?”
Howard Thurman put it so well when he said
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
So, what makes me come alive?
- Connecting with people in an authentic way
- Culture and travel
- Curating and chronicling other people’s stories
(All the C-Words)
If I had stayed in my job it is likely that I would have become even more unhappy and unfullfilled and I would not have been able to give out very much to those around me. My cup was not able to overflow as the creativity contents were barely able to cover the bottom of the teacup, let alone overflow.
Did I make the right decision? Although it was not an easy one, I believe it was the right one.
Doing What Makes My Heart Come Alive
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I am taking it one day at a time… But, in writing this article, I am doing one of the very things that makes me come alive. I so enjoy sharing stories.
I hope that you take the time to think about what makes you come alive…and do it! I am so excited for you! If I had stayed in my previous job, its highly unlikely that I would have been able to do all the writing, studying, researching and travelling still on the cards for this year. I’m not saying that I will travel until I am seventy, but right now in this moment, I am doing what my heart needs to come alive…
Next year it might require something different.
I also believe that doing what makes you heart come alive has a lot to do with making the most of where you are. For example, my mom is passionate about music. As a child she played the piano, especially Beethoven. For 35 years she didn’t play the piano because of other priorities and the fact that we did not have a piano. However, that did not stop her from blasting Beethoven (and the occasional Gypsy Kings). This is what her heart needed to come alive before cooking supper for her family! Till one day a piano literally arrived at our door, and guess what, if you pass by you will hear ‘Fur Ellise’ being passionately performed by ‘Madame Gigi’.
We are all different, we are all in different spaces and places…. and all of our hearts require different things. What is it that makes your heart come alive? Only you will have the answers.
One of the most important things of living a life of purpose is knowing what makes you come alive. For some it might be climbing Kilimanjaro, buying a home for your grandparents, hiking in nature, raising healthy and happy children, starting a food truck, or supporting a NPO.
Here are six questions that may help you discover what makes you come alive?
1. What inspires you?
2. If you had more free time what would you do with it?
3. What were your childhood joys?
4. Who inspires you? (And, in particular what about them inspires you?)
5. What would you do if you won the lotto and never needed to work again?
6. What is your authentic self? (When you are home alone what do you find yourself doing?)
Having asked the questions, what do you do with the answers? (Please Please Please don’t rush back into busyness to avoid asking the questions, or what the answers say to you.)
Life is a journey, so reflect on them and incrementally apply them to your everyday life. Notice I said “in increments”. Simple steps are better than big bravado and unsustainable, unachievable steps.
If you think it’s being selfish, it’s not, it’s what Scott Peck calls “positively selfish”, which is the art of discovering and nurturing one’s true self, and being able to overflow from being filled up. Until you do what makes you come alive, you won’t have an overflow to be able to pour out into others.
You probably already know the answers, so when that something stirs in your heart, think of it as a soul stir. What makes you come alive is exactly what the world needs!
The world needs more people listening to their souls and not their fears.
Download this wallpaper for your phone to remind you that your heart matters.