What is my purpose? Was a question I asked myself when I was younger with dread, because there was no answer, not even an echo. I had spent so much of my life trying to find my place in this world based on how I thought others wanted to see me. After all, I didn’t have a purpose, I didn’t feel like a fully formed person, and so what did it matter if I allowed myself to be molded by others? Even if it didn’t feel right, I thought they were right and I was wrong, especially if their logic seemed ‘good’. So I shoved those feelings down and away. I lost myself when I let others define my purpose and tried to find myself through them. I still lose myself sometimes.
The first lesson is: “We don’t find ourselves, we create ourselves.”
We are both artist and work of art. There are genetic and cultural influences on who we are as individuals, just like the medium an artist uses influences what the artist creates. If you are like me, you weren’t born with a natural talent for painting. You know what I think is great? If I wanted to learn to paint, I can learn! I may not be the next Rembrandt, but I can most certainly improve my skill at painting and enjoy the process.
This is how I would learn: I may be bumbling along through life not even knowing I might like to paint or that I don’t know how, until perhaps one day, I saw a painting, or a friend talked about it, or I somehow realized what I hadn’t realized before, that I wanted to paint. It would require recognizing that what I want to do and what I can do don’t match. I may even try painting while observing my lack of skill, just to make sure. Then I may look at art that I like, artists, breaking down their actions and listening to their philosophies, most likely taking a class and then consciously repeating their actions. Then I practice until I become competent at painting without thinking about it, much like many people are unconsciously competent at tying their shoes.
The process I just described I first heard in class from one of my professors. It is known as the four stages of competence. They are:
- unconscious incompetence
- conscious incompetence
- conscious competence
- unconscious competence
You know what I like even more? I am not limited to enhancing my skills at art. I can cultivate personality traits too. Happiness or well-being, like depression, is influenced by our genes. However, researchers think that between 20-50% of our sense of well being can be influenced by us, rather than solely determined by our genes! What I find more fascinating is the idea that our thoughts, feelings and actions influence our happiness levels too. That means we can learn how to be happier, and unlearn the habits we may have learned when we were depressed. I know I have habits that if I let myself stay in them, interfere with my ability to enjoy life. I also have habits that by cultivating them, enhance my enjoyment of life.
My primary self-defined purpose is simple: to enjoy life. I have found that as I develop a better relationship with myself, that enjoying life becomes easier. That when I stop accepting harmful behavior from myself and others, my life becomes freer, and I become more free to choose how I want to create myself. As I become more comfortable in my own skin, it becomes easier for me to be my authentic, non-reactive self with others and to experience the more natural creation of deeper bonds based on authentic connections.
The purpose of this blog for me is to document my process, to serve as a model of one way a person might enjoy life more and be themselves more fully while alone, or with others. This blog starts in the middle of my story. I’m not only going to talk about the present; I’m going to talk about where I’ve come from and where I hope to go. I will undoubtedly make and have made mistakes, I’m human, and I will do my best to recover from those mistakes. I will be including stories from others who have touched my life and influenced my growth, inviting them to create guest posts and share their wisdom. I will be including my understanding of research on the subjects that help me develop into the person I want to become. I look forward to the participation from those who choose to follow my story. I enjoy the idea of sharing this journey. This is a process.