Daring Greatly Review + Giveaway

What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What will people think of me? We’ve all probed these and similar questions. Each of us, at one time or another, has doubted our abilities. No one is perfect and bulletproof is a myth, yet everyone occasionally trips over these instances of fear and insecurity.

In her many years of researching connection, psychologist and storyteller, Brené Brown has spent much time exploring the topics of vulnerability and shame, as well as examining how these emotions affect our relationships. In her latest book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brown shares her research findings, fearlessly exposes her personal story, offers a guided journey towards understanding the driving forces behind out behaviors and–most importantly–encourages each of us to reclaim our lives and fearlessly reopen our hearts.

“Connection is why we’re here. We’re hardwired to connect with others and it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Though we’re inherently driven towards connection, over time society has driven a wedge between our natural inclinations and societal exceptions. The structure of our cultures, families, and organizations choke that desire for openness and vulnerability in well-intentioned, yet devastating attempts to preserve order. We construct complex means of navigating through life while keeping everyone at a safe distance and forever fixating our eyes on the exit sign. We want to experience others’ vulnerability while keeping our own secrets and insecurities close to the chest. I can completely relate to Brown when she states, “along with my fear of vulnerability, I also inherited a huge heart and ready empathy.” That dichotomous combination makes day-to-day life excruciatingly difficult, at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Vulnerability is at the core of our most difficult emotions–fear, disappointment, and grief–but it is also the wellspring of love, belonging, joy, empathy, and creativity. It involves both an openness to positive experiences and an acceptance of the potentially heart-breaking risks. Likened to a tightrope, vulnerability is that trembling midpoint where moving forward and turning back are equally terrifying, and standing still is an entirely unstable option. With that knowledge, why would we ever do anything other than move forward?

As the title suggest, Daring Greatly is broken down into multiple sections. The implications of Brown’s research and observations are applied to all areas of life, from self-growth and relationships to parenting and leadership. The insights offered in the book are thought-provoking and invaluable.

What drives our fear of being vulnerable? Are we building walls around ourselves as a defense against vulnerability? What is the price we pay by shutting down and disengaging? How can we learn to embrace our vulnerability and begin to transform the ways in which we live, love, parent, and lead?

We live in a culture of scarcity. Nothing ever seems to be “enough” and we’re continually striving for more money, more power, and more material possessions  Maybe, beneath all those superficial “wants,” what we truly long for is love and acceptance. Remove that maybe, because research has shown that it is connection, not possessions that bring us true and lasting joy.

We live in a culture of shame. We compare our lives, our relationships, our children, and our teams to those around us and then question our own technique, our own worthiness. We’ve forgotten how to trust our intuition and we’ve lost sight of our unique strengths and perspectives. To complicate things further, men and women experience shame differently–women struggle with physical beauty and motherhood, whereas men worry about being perceived as weak. We all cause ourselves unnecessary pain when we shut down or lash out due to fear, pain, and that all-too-familiar insidious sense of inadequacy. An important lesson highlighted in the book is to pay attention to how we act while in this state of shame and fear. The worst crime we can against a loved one is to shame them–even after an apology, the damage is irreparable because we’ve shown them our willingness to use confidential information as a weapon.

The concept of perfection is seductive. Yet, perfection does not exist in the world, as we know it. Instead, vulnerability lies at the core of human experience. It’s through vulnerability that we learn about and experience courage, compassion, and human connection. Vulnerability is also a prime catalyst for innovation and change.

In interviewing numerous individuals over the years, Brown realized that vulnerability is never an effortless pursuit, but rather it is often a daily struggle to become comfortable with one’s power and gifts. Each day is a new opportunity to remind ourselves that we are worthy, that we are enough. We don’t have to be “perfect,” but we should strive towards engagement in all that we do, and we should commit ourselves to finding some alignment between our personal values and our actions. 

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to  wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to be at night thinking, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

Having majored in psychology, I’ve developed a post-collegiate fondness for psychology and personal-development books. Under that broad umbrella of admiration sit many prominent researchers. Brené Brown is the one standing tall, smiling, and shamelessly singing along to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. After viewing her TEDx talk on vulnerability, reading The Gifts of Imperfection, and singing along with her at World Domination Summit 2012, I  did not hesitate to pre-order Daring Greatly as soon as it was announced. The book far exceeded all expectations.

Does the book sound like you something you may be interested in? As luck would have it, I was offered by the publisher an additional copy to give away. You read that correctly–you could win a free copy of this wonderful book!

Daring Greatly Giveaway

What can I win? Enter to win a free copy of Brené Brown new release, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I have one book to offer, so there will thus be one winner.

When does the contest run? The contest will run now through Saturday, October 13th at midnight (MST). 

How can I enter? In the comments below, answer the following question: What’s worth doing even if I fail? (You’re welcome to share other thoughts, as well.)

Can I earn additional entries? Yes, you can! Like analyfe’s Facebook page, post a tweet  about the giveaway @analyfe and then leave a comment saying you’ve done so.

Are there any restrictions? The contest is limited to residents of the continental US.

How will the winner be chosen? The winner will be chosen at random, and each entry will be counted separately.

What if I don’t win? Daring Greatly is a wonderful book, so consider investing in your and buying or borrowing a copy.

*I’m still in the process of transferring the blog from analyfe.wordpress.com to analyfe.com, so to avoid confusion I’ll be accepting entries on both sites, though I’d prefer the former (turquoise header)*

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Taking a Break From Blogging

The only thing harder than giving up is trying to explain to those who support you why you feel the need to let go of that which makes you so seemingly happy.

I began blogging twenty months ago today. That marked the first time I had ever written anything outside of school. Blogging has been one of the greatest challenges and greatest rewards of my life. It has taught me persistence and patience; it’s significantly bolstered my writing skills and it has helped me to continually expand my mind and perspective; it’s allowed me to connect with others and exchange ideas and ideologies with all kinds of people. It has been an absolutely incredible experience.

But I can’t do it anymore.

I readily opened up the doors and windows of my life and invited everyone who passed by to come in for a tour, or stay for awhile longer. I love learning about people and applying their personal perspectives to my own way of thinking. My hope was that as I opened up more and more (which I certainly have over time), others would see a reflection of themselves in me, and perhaps realize something they had been missing, or offer their own insight or guidance on a particular topic. I have seen that, and find it to be both beautiful and mind-blowing.

However, I’ve reached a point where I don’t feel comfortable sharing my story anymore. My readership has doubled over the course of the past month. That should excite me, but instead I’m cowering behind a bush, cautiously tossing out bread crumbs and hand grenades. I’m not sure how I feel about so many people freely exploring my thoughts, or about my willingness to lay everything out on display.

I tend to figure out situations logically and set aside emotional involvement until I feel comfortable with my critical understanding. Jumping from idea to idea without tending to some of the strong associated feelings leads to backlog, and eventually overwhelm. When you have a huge stack of fear, doubt, failure, and rejection piling up the corner of the room, eventually you’re going to notice and have to take care of it, if it doesn’t cascade down and bury your alive first. That’s where I am right now. Buried alive. My adequately stocked bunker of optimism and hope has been temporarily blocked off.

I feel like when Skype doesn’t work… eager anticipation, followed by crushing disappointment.

You didn’t come here for the subjective perspective of a cynical twenty-something who can’t get her shit together. And I fear that’s exactly what this is becoming – a series of bitter rants, heavy diluted with poetic prose and silver linings. I can’t be anything but honest. Reality is weighing heavily on me, and it’s painful to continually detail all the areas of my life in which I’m falling short. Yes, I read a lot, take interesting classes, write prolifically, travel a bit, learn all that I can, and introspect like it’s nobody’s business. But it’s hard to relish life’s little pleasures when you’re barely making enough to pay the bills, let alone save up for graduate school, foreign travel, and other special dreams. Life drags on a bit when everyone seems disappointed in you, especially when you are your own biggest critic. It’s difficult when you put a full effort into everything that you do for an extended period of time and work to maintain a positive attitude, only to end up in a worse place than you began. 

When I refer to the little community we’ve built here, I call you my imaginary friends. I never had an imaginary friend as a child, but I adore the concept of an invisible companion standing at one’s side to support them and cheer them on, regardless of current circumstances. That’s exactly what I’ve felt here over the past two years, and I could not be more grateful for the kindness each of you has shown, both to me and to one another.

About a week ago, I spent a nice chunk of change on self-hosting, hoping it would give me a new project and something to be excited about. The plan backfired. My desire to completely dissociate from blogging, all of my aimless projects, and everything else in my life multiplied by ten-fold. So, I won’t be blogging anymore.

I do have 184 drafts in varying degrees of completion that I would still like to share (as well as a dozen new ideas a day), and I did invest in self-hosting, so I’m hoping that I’ll choose to come back in due time. That may be a week, a month, or a year. I honestly don’t know.

The hardest part of walking away is that I feel obligated to show up here; I feel as if giving up is equivalent to abandoning a child. I can’t help but wonder if I’m providing something here that may actually be benefiting someone, and if this cessation could be somehow detrimental. According to chaos theory, the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas. That idea has fascinated and terrified me for fifteen years. There is no way of knowing the consequence of any action until you’ve taken it.

Recently, I had someone form an analysis of me based on my astrological sign. Though I don’t buy into horoscopes, one particular statement stuck with me. As a Sagittarius, you are 49% genius and 51% insecure. I don’t consider myself a genius by any means, but I do feel that fear and insecurity outweigh my potential for success by the smallest of margins.

One of the highlights of Uncertainty was that being overwhelmed by fear is a signal that you are on the verge of something big, but you must keep moving forward. So, I suppose the next step for me is taking some small risks, in hopes of tipping that scale in my favor. But I’m not ready for that step yet. Instead, I want to sulk until I can’t stand myself anymore, and then burn and rise up from the ashes.

People I’ve already talked to keep asking what the plan is now. I don’t have an answer. I’ve always been a huge over-achiever, and at any given time I’m pursuing several novel ideas and projects. I’ve never given myself permission to quit. Until now. 

Quit blogging. Quit applying to graduate school. Quit applying for jobs. Quit editing my novel. Quit outlining my second, third, and fourth. Quit trying to devise business plans. Quit writing a manifesto. Quit talking to people who aren’t enhancing my life. Quit reading books that leave my head in the clouds. Quit caring so much – too much – about other people. The options are limitless.

I’m giving myself permission to trash everything that I’m currently working on, everything that I care about, and start over. No pressure. No expectations. Just a clean slate or, in my case, an oversized poster board, colorful Sharpies, and a box full of childish stickers.

I wish I had a courageous and righteous reason for quitting, some magnificent plan for something better, but I don’t. This is just my submission to something bigger and stronger than me.

I want to thank you all so much for being here and joining me on this brief, yet wonderful, journey. I appreciate it more than you could ever know. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, and I look forward to one day reading of all of your successes.

Aimless driving, dead ends, construction, and impending storms.

In the case that you do, in fact, want to read the subjective perspective of a cynical twenty-something who can’t get her shit together, I may be open to discussion.

Uncertainty

Glance through any textbook and you will quickly notice a pattern.

Sir Edmund Hillary was the first Western man to summit on Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth. Mary Kingsley was an unmarried English woman who used part of her inheritance to travel and study in “uncivilized” parts of Africa during the 19th century. Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Martin Luther King Jr., Amelia Earhart, George Washington, Jane Goodall, and many others tuned out their voice of reason and resistance from the outer world and leaped fearlessly into the unknown. Those who face uncertainty head-on are the leaders and heroes who go down in history and who, in their own unique way, change the world. 

I’m the type of person who hears a lecture, is deeply moved, and is then inspired to go buy the book. Uncertainty was no exception. Jonathan Fields is a lawyer turned entrepreneur, innovator, writer, speaker, creative, and embracer of uncertainty.

In business, science, art, and life, all progress stems from risk-taking; and facing said risks involves looking beyond the fears that permeate that unexplored territory. Though so many of us have unanswered questions and big dreams, fear of failure often holds us back from completing, or even starting our big projects and adventures. Life becomes more fulfilling when one chooses to pursue the unanswered questions, explore bold new ideas, and create rather than replicate.

“…uncertainty is a signpost of novelty and innovation, telling you that what you’re creating is really worth creating.”

Uncertainty is not a bad thing. Success is not a matter of eliminating uncertainty, but instead developing a tolerance for that unknowing, and amplifying it in ways that will help you to grow. It’s natural to feel pain and anxiety in response to the unknown; however, this reaction has outlived its evolutionary purpose and now hinders us from the ideas and endeavors that could bring more meaning into our lives. We prefer the safety net provided by a financially secure job, widely accepted ideas, and regularity. The potential to lose money, be judged harshly, or fail miserably are simply the terrifying flip-side of innovation, success, and fulfillment. Yet, we as humans have a propensity to stare into the vast unknown and see the blinding darkness, rather than the millions of far-off stars.

Since overcoming fear and uncertainty does prove to be such a challenge, the author provides practical guidance, broken into relatable and helpful chapters.

  • Find your creativity anchors: Rituals and routines serve as a source of psychological bedrock and help you to maintain confidence in at least some areas of your life; this allows you to fearlessly delve further into lesser known areas, but also know when you need to come back to reality. Example include exercise, meditation, meals, religious services, classes, and time spent with family and friends.
  • Build your creative hive: Maintain relationships with mentors, people who support you, and those you look up to. Create an environment in which you can receive constructive criticism and positive feedback, as well as offer the same to others.
  • Socialize creation: Incorporate feedback-driven technologies into your creation process; release your product or service early on and continually tweak it based on what your audience thinks could be improved. This method drastically cuts down the time it takes to reach an optimal product.
  • Train your brain: Attention training (such as meditation) and exercise help keep your body and mind in shape; in conjunction with one another, they are the strongest known creation-force multipliers.
  • See the forest: Is what you’re doing a project, a calling, or the thing that you can’t not do? This question will help you know when to exert more effort, change your path, or call off the project. Be familiar with your biggest dreams and drives, maintain balance between your heart and your head, and don’t lose yourself on the deeply meaningful quest.
  • Own the story line: Rather than jumping to negative conclusions about your situation, resort to a place of equanimity and ask yourself what other interpretations might exist. Find the silver lining, accept the dark clouds, and keep on working towards your dream.

As you begin to accept uncertainty, work around it, and face the associated fears, its power over you will slowly fade, further expanding your creative potential. Understanding how uncertainty functions, as well as how to befriend the unknown can benefit entrepreneurs, artists, and everyone else

This book came into my life at the perfect time, as I am currently drowning in uncertainty and fear of what’s to come. I tend to soar high on hopes and dreams and then crash hard when I drop my rose-colored glasses and notice the backlog of ignored failures catching up to me. The book is aimed at entrepreneurs, artists, and other creative types, but offers guidance and resources that we can all benefit from. We are all creative geniuses with the potential to do great things, but that requires that we step out of our comfort zone, discern our life’s purpose, and jump in without hesitation.

Remember the list of famous leaders and creators above? Transform your fear and doubt into fuel for brilliance, and perhaps one day your name will be added to that ever-growing list of world-changers.

Fear, Secret Identities, and Superpowers

If you could have any superpower, what would you choose? Invisibility, invincibility, flying, or perhaps mind-reading? Consider this: you already have superpowers.

As attendees entered the theater for Chris Brogan‘s presentation, we were each handed a Marvel superhero trading card. As often happens in these situations, everyone asked their neighbor why we’d acquired pieces some poor boy’s treasured collection, though not one of us had the slightest clue.

Photo by Armosa Studios

Chris took the stage and launched into some thoughts on fear. One of the most common and overlooked fears is the fear of letting people down, of not being good enough. As  Brené Brown shared in her talk on vulnerability and belonging, molding yourself to meet others’ standards can lead to feelings of shame and inadequacy; failing to meet those expectations can have devastating consequences.

Contrary to popular belief, the opposite of fear is not courage or bravery. The opposite of fear is surrender. Letting go of the need to control and manipulate will free you from the fear of failure. Courage and fear are simply different sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other.

Chris shared that if he were able to go back twenty years, he would tell his younger self to learn to untangle, both from criticism and praise. Live your own life, and learn to separate your story from others’. When someone say that they’re disappointed with you, that simply means that you’re not living out their script for you. The statement says nothing about you, so don’t take it personally. Continue living out your own script and chasing down your personal dreams.

If you can figure out confidence, your life will be awesomer sooner. If you have done something and failed, you’re way ahead of those who haven’t even tried. Often, trying something different – regardless of the outcome – can provide a boost of confidence, as well as new insight and knowledge.

You will succeed the weirder you get. When you embrace your strange self, more interesting things are bound to happen. Owning yourself and honestly sharing both your strengths and faults with the world will allow you to connect with people and become more confident in yourself.

If you don’t earn it, you don’t win. Go out there and earn it! It took Chris eight years to reach 100 blog followers. Work at what you love, have patience, and things will eventually pan out. Don’t settle for less. Stop reading bad books and eating bad food. If you hate your job, leave and find another.

It’s not who you say you are, but what you do that matters. Superheros often have representative symbols. What is the symbol that defines you? What is the function of your superpower? Are you skilled at synthesis, extrapolation, articulation, or empathy? Figure out what you’re good at and build up those abilities. Become better at what you’re already good at.

When you do become successful, don’t get big on yourself. It’s important to stay vulnerable and humble. Tenacity is key, and more helpful than either skill or knowledge. Pay attention to your audience; awareness of what others are interested in will help you stay relevant. Work hard and get things done. Find a super-team because doing everything on your own will lead to burnout and failure.

Take on both amazing challenges and small everyday adventures. And, most importantly, always use your powers for good. 

On Personal Dreams and Roadblocks

My biggest dream is to be accepted to a prestigious graduate program in social, personality, positive, or educational psychology, to be successful as a doctoral student and to perform research that I’m passionate about, to discover my calling and do everything in my power to share and implement my insights and, in doing so, improve the lives of others. I want to find happiness and fulfillment through my work.

However, a huge obstacle lies right in the middle of my path. I’m continually overwhelmed by this paralyzing fear, a deep-seated insecurity about my ability to function successfully in the world. I hold the belief that from the safety of my own mind, I’ll be able to come to understand the functioning of everything that surrounds me, and eventually rejoin the real world with confidence in my understanding. Instead of propelling me forward, this skewed mindset causes me to shrink further and further from the people and opportunities that will actually help me get to where I’m headed. Rather than asking for help from the people who I know care, I tend to delve deeper into the dark corners of my own mind, searching for nonexistent answers.

Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun.

-Clifford Geertz

I spend inordinate amounts of time collecting and developing ideas and skills that I believe might make me feel more confident and self-assured. I proudly carry around knowledge in my head, but become so engrossed in my own thoughts that I regularly neglect social relationships, and all the things that I should care about. I don’t tend to my real needs, and when problems arise, I run away and hide from them, hoping that maybe they’ll disappear or be forgotten. In my mind, I’ve created a false reality in which it feel simpler and safer to sacrifice the way things were for a scenario in which I start from scratch in an area in which I could potentially feel more competent, than face and work through my own flaws and shortcomings. In writing, it sounds foolish and ridiculous, but our mental schemas can be so powerfully convincing, despite their blatant inaccuracy.

Although, I personally pride myself in being a kind and moral person, those traits aren’t appreciated by society at large, and are often seen as supplemental fluff. Thus, I’ve built my identity around being intelligent, having ideas, and sharing my synthesis of knowledge, preferably through writing. However, the irony of the situation is that no matter what level of mastery I achieve in any given field or how successful I perceive myself to be, my fear of inadequacy never seems to go away. I can keep reading, thinking, and sharing ideas, but it will never be enough.

I may be cerebral, perceptive, innovative, insightful, curious, alert, and countless other positive things; however, at the other end of the spectrum, I’m often intense, detached, secretive, isolated, high-strung, preoccupied, reclusive, and unstable. Perhaps one day I’ll overturn conventional ways of thinking and put forth some innovative idea, but I feel that at this rate and on my current path, I’m more likely to become eccentric and socially isolated.

I feel more at home in my mind than in social situations; I feel safer viewing the world from a detached vantage point than taking part in the action. I believe it extends beyond mere introversion because I knowingly shut out opportunities for growth and learning. My thoughts are so overwhelming that the world within my head becomes intensely and conspicuously engrossing, to the point that little of outside world seems significant or satisfying. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m profoundly out of touch with reality, that my thinking is grossly convoluted,  and that my reactions and coping mechanisms are unhealthy.

When I become anxious and fearful, I’m reduced to an overwhelmed and severely immobilized being with little power to do anything. The comfortable environment I’ve created for myself suddenly transforms into an unpredictable and threatening beast; I cut back on social interactions in order to allay my fears, but that ultimately only feeds them. I’m sensitive to the world around me, acutely aware of my fragility and defenseless. In order to compensate for my environmental sensitivity, I put up a facade of apathy and intellectual arrogance, consciously, though unintentionally, creating distance between myself and others. I’m painfully uncomfortable with my social skills; though I feel as if when I do manage to make it past the initial hurdles, I more than capable of being a loyal and loving friend, the fear of failure often prevents me from putting forth even the smallest amount of effort.

I’ve recognized these traits in myself for years and have watched myself cycle in and out of the habit, growing more and more frustrated with my inability to overcome the tendency. As of late, a few brave souls have had the courage to call me out on my behavior. In paying attention to my reactions, I’ve noticed how I behave when I become overwhelmed. I shut off my social networks and my phone, and I pour all my time and energy into a singular, seemingly important and worthwhile project (which is currently graduate program research and applications). It’s a completely unhealthy and counterproductive way of coping, especially when there’s not even an obvious reason as to why I’m so anxious.

Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive.. the risk to be alive and express what we really are.

-Don Miguel Ruiz

Having developed my identity around knowledge and discovery, graduate school seems like the logical answer to overcoming my insecurities, sense of failure over having not secured a decent job a year after graduation, and my general lack of self-esteem lately; however, although I intend to continue the application process, that is not the solution. I think the key is to find a balance between acquiring knowledge and taking action, to let go of my pride and be willing to ask for help when I need it, to accept things as they are rather than worrying about and over-analyzing all those things which I can’t control. I need to start reminding myself that the best experiences come to those who aren’t afraid to get their feet wet, because I will never achieve a single one of my dreams if I’m too fearful to take the first step towards arriving there.

Bored

My brother was destructive.

My sister repeatedly ran off to talk to strangers.

However, when I ask my parents what the most challenging aspect of raising me was, they’ll hesitate for a moment, and then reply “You were a really easy kid, and a lot of fun, but…you were continually proclaiming ‘I’m bored. What can I do?’ and it drove us up the wall.”

I was a good kid, but it took a lot to engage and entertain me. Amusement was always short-lived, and I wasn’t satisfied unless I was learning, creating, or communicating. I would work on jigsaw puzzles, read, watch nature documentaries, do homework, build furniture forts, climb trees with friends, and play on the computer for hours at a time, and then suddenly report my overwhelming and unquenchable boredom.

Nothing held my interest for long, and there was always something more to discover and achieve. I had an expansive imagination and unrealistic plans and dreams. Life was this huge adventure, just waiting to awaken…and it would, just as soon as I grew up. I feel like not much has changed.

On my tenth birthday, I wrote in a little journal, “Only six more years until I can drive!” As much as I enjoyed the freedom of being a kid, I could not wait to grow up because of all the endless possibilities I imagined. One day, I’ll be able to have as many dogs as I want, I’ll have an awesome job, and maybe even a loving husband. I’ll eat Pop-Tarts and hamburgers for breakfast, I’ll live next door to my best friends and build secret tunnels between our houses, I’ll go on vacation whenever I feel like it, I’ll write a best-selling book under a pen name, and change the world. I feel like I’m still waiting. And not just for sugary breakfast foods. I often feel like I’m waiting for my life to begin.

My hopes and goals in life have shifted significantly over the years, but I still have that restless, gnawing drive to do more with my life. I still long to learn, create, and communicate. I want to go to graduate school, I want to take fun classes, I want to work for myself, I want to read incessantly, I want to hear professionals speak on all different topics, I want to travel the world, I want to write, I want to hear people’s stories and share my own, I want to feel connected and a part of something bigger, I want to discover my purpose and feel as if I’m actively working to improve myself and make a difference in the lives of others.

Yet, just like ten and fifteen years ago, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect. I look at my current situation and recognize that I want to do more, to achieve more, to become more; I recognize where there’s room for improvement and compile lists of things I would love to do; and then I sit back, sigh, and say “I’m bored.” I don’t take action, I don’t follow though. There are, of course, exceptions, but in general I let a ridiculous, yet insidious little fear of change get in the way. It’s frustrating recognizing my own inability to take that initiative when I so desperately long to.

Lately, I’ve really missed being in school, and I think that stems from the fact that without structure and guidance, I tend to wander aimlessly and question my own aptitude. I no longer have a tangible ultimate goal. I’m inherently and passionately curious, with exceedingly high expectations and hopes for my future. But even with all the right tools and ammunition, I feel stagnant and under-stimulated. I’m not sure if it’s my timidness, or the curse of recent graduates who are all hoping to find that “perfect job” in an economy that has little to offer, but either way, I’m admittedly bored. I think it’s about time I just do something, anything.

Life’s plan

When we concede to life’s plan, things fall effortlessly into place and the urge to resist dissipates.

I spent the majority of my life worrying – I worried about grades, fitting it, if I was living up to my parents’ expectations, if I was the only person struggling with the concept of God, what I was going to do when I grew up, and what I had done wrong thus far. This overthinking often led to a state of paralysis, a shutting down of my mind and a hurried retreat from reality.

I spent much of my life living in indecision. What should I eat? Who should I hang out with today? Which homework assignment should I do first? Lion King or Beauty and the Beast? The most insignificant decisions brought on immense levels of stress. And it didn’t help that everyone and their mother seemed to make fun of me for my uncertainty.

When I would finally come to a decision, I would lack confidence in my choice. I would continually wonder “What if I made the wrong choice?” My psyche and my life were overwhelmed by these corrosive thoughts. Although they weren’t blatantly negative and self-sabotaging, they stole from me time and energy that could have been filtered into more positive and productive activities.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned to apply to my life is that of letting go. It took me a lot of time and practice, but I feel that I’ve reached a state where little can detract me from my sense of balance and well-being. Throughout my life, I’ve heard variations on the concept “it’s not what the other person does, but how you react that affects you.” This is all well and good, but where on earth do I begin? So-and-so hurt me so much; how am I supposed to not let that bother me?

It’s a matter of forgiving a person and forgetting that they have wronged you. It’s a matter of giving the other person the benefit of the doubt because we all make mistakes and chances are he didn’t mean to hurt you. Letting go involves finding the silver lining and feeling gratitude towards the wrong-doer for opening a new door, revealing a new perspective, or at least helping you clean out your tear ducts. Letting go involves living your day-to-day life, regardless of external circumstances. Is eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and cutting off contact to your closest friends really going to make you feel better? Why not instead focus on improving yourself and fostering your current relationships.

To say that I had a rough life would be a lie. My parents are still happily married, I went to private schools, I’m part of the racial majority, and I’ve never been bullied. What made things challenging for me was my high level of anxiety, perceived low levels of “fitting in,” low self-confidence, and tendency to doubt and blame myself. I made my life tougher than it had to be through my habitual ways of thinking.

 

I’ve learned that the little daily choices don’t really matter in the long run; however, they are reflective of my character, so I try to make the choice that best align with who I am and how I wish to portray myself.

I’ve gained confidence in who I am, what I believe, what I stand for, and in my ability to make the right choice. The choice may not be popular among the majority, family, friends, or mentors, but after taking their arguments into consideration, stand by your decision with a firm conviction. So what if you’re wrong? So what if you make the wrong choice? You may be embarrassed for an hour or a day, but after that everyone is likely forget the incident.

I believe that there’s something inside each of us that knows what’s best and knows what we personally need to do to arrive at that ideal place. Learn to listen to and trust that internal compass, for you don’t need to understand the mysteries of the wind to sail effortlessly around the world. Life has a plan for you, but first you need to stop resisiting its subtle nudges, and subsequently open yourself up to the endless possibilities that life has to offer.