Many people arrive in my office and describe themselves as lost. Women whose kids have grown, men who decide to leave a criminal lifestyle behind, partners who allowed someone else to define the primary relationship, those who have always taken the easy way out or those with huge college debt who are stuck living at home with their dream jobs on hold. Lost is about the emptiness inside.
I would begin personal growth by by reading biographies. Any great biography is three-dimensional and will capture the dark side of any hero. Begin with understanding that we all are a mixture of good & bad. Personal development is not for the faint of heart.
Be honest with yourself about your own dark side & examine how you lost track of yourself:
If you were afraid of disagreement, experiment with being more authentic.
If you hibernate in your room, find the courage to leave.
If you were too selfless, do something to take care of yourself.
If you were lazy, start the hard work of exercise.
If you were boring, make yourself more interesting by reading the New York Times.
Think about how you got stuck & consider what the opposite energy would be that you must experiment with.
Defining yourself and finding purpose is through actions. It’s easy to use words but it’s evidence of being different that your soul requires. Abstract ideas are not enough.
Ask yourself if you were going to be dead in 5 years, what would you want to do with that scrap of time?
Many of my clients want to be more connected to others when asked this question. So plan one on one time with friends. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has influenced you to be a better person. Reach out to people you haven’t seen in years. Go on Meetup.org & join some groups and see how they evolve over time into connections.
Many people want a greater sense of purpose in their lives. Volunteer & keep trying out volunteering until you find the right place for you. Do something that means something to you, even if it’s something small, like taking walks & picking up litter in your neighborhood.
One of my clients wrote me “I don’t want to just be a waiter in a small city just getting by.” I was a waitress for a year & a half with my brand new B.A. and I was proud of doing that hard work well. I would return to it because I miss the tangibility of what I did back then. What I do now, can be so ephemeral.
The point is that its honest work & worth doing; that’s what matters. Being a waiter may be the start & simply how you get a paycheck. You are the sum total of all of your parts.
Finding your way means experimenting with new behaviors & new possibilities. Most importantly it means being uncomfortable & awkward which is the only way anyone can grow & change. Begin with small steps and try things out. I am proud that I have a very long list of things that are not me: sailing, horseback riding, making pottery on the wheel etc, etc. Take risks to find out what is not you.
Over time new behaviors, new risks and new experiments begin to layer & build into what you care about, character, values & identity.