God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. – William Shakespeare
For most of us, the plan is to have an extraordinary life. Our time in this world is so precious, and brief, it just makes sense to get everything we can out of each day. And then, by building one day upon the next, we can create a life full of meaning.
However, something can happen along the way when attempting to find this meaning – we begin trying too hard. We run the risk of trying to convince ourselves that compromise serves us better than our true passion and life’s purpose. We ignore our inner voice, our inner wisdom, which is attempting to tell us to come back to the center and just be who we are and who we are meant to be.
I have seen this many times in my professional career. In fact, I have succumbed to it. The allure of moving up the food chain at work or the promise of a promotion can make some of us almost intoxicated with the possibilities of what could be instead of staying grounded with what is.
Long hours spent away from the people who matter the most, agreeing to decisions and directions that are not aligned with our personal values, and saying things we really don’t mean, but feel compelled to say anyway, are all examples of trying too hard and not living within our hearts.
We can try too hard in our personal relationships as well. We can try not to be the same parents our parents were to us; we can try not to be a selfish spouse or partner; and we can try not to be the lonely old man at the end of the street who spends his time counting down the days by carving hash marks into the planks of his porch.
Instead of trying so hard to avoid what you do not want to become in your life, focus on who you are and who you are becoming. Consider how the previous statements might feel with this new filter applied to them:
- I am learning to be a loving and caring parent.
- I am becoming a capable and worthy husband.
- I am growing each day with the intent to have a wonderful life.
This exercise isn’t as much about self-affirmation as it an invitation to take a step back and look at your real self – your authentic self. The fact you are still reading this article should be a strong indication you want to find ways to be exactly who you are. Perhaps you are a little tired from trying so hard in the process. To be honest, I’m a little tired, too.
Every day I struggle with these same challenges. But I’m learning to be a person of choice. We get to choose to be real or not. It’s our responsibility to look after ourselves and nurture our inner spirit and our souls. No one else will do this for us.
Alex must take care of Alex and allow him to be whoever and whatever he wants – without having to try so hard. You have the same responsibility. The result of honoring and following through with this task is the kindest gift you can give yourself.
In the process of learning who I am and what I want to be, I have discovered the following five strategies give me specific tools (and a healthy measure of hope) during the times when I’m trying too hard:
- Willingness to be yourself. I believe in Free Will. We have been blessed with the ability to choose the type of life we want to live. We can choose our attitudes, reactions and the depth of our hearts. We can will ourselves into staying the course or we can give up. The choice is always ours to make. Our Free Will is a hard-charging, determined force that keeps us moving forward.
Willingness, on the other hand, is a softer force that moves our spirit into believing we can indeed live the life we choose and we can let the world see who we really are underneath the bravado or shyness.
To change or grow we must be willing to acknowledge what’s not working. Our desire to breakthrough is inspired by our willingness to want more. It’s simply about risk versus reward. Each day I must reach down and tap into the courage to be me. The risk, I fear, is people may not like that Alex as much. The reward, however, is a calmness and confidence that makes me feel powerful and alive.
The source of energy for our souls is the self love we feed it. The more we love the more power we create. We can use this power to be exactly who we are.
- Care less. No typo here. The intent is not to use the word careless, but rather to suggest to care less about how others may view or judge you.
Typically, others look at us in the same way they look at themselves. Their old, self-limiting tapes; their head trash; or even their jealously is used as a lens through which they see the world. We just get caught in their crosshairs. When we do, when I do, begin learning to care less about what they say or think.
Never discount your value. At the end of the day, when you are alone in the quiet of your bed before drifting to sleep, know this: Their harsh criticism may still be reverberating in your mind, but that place somewhere deep inside that only you know how to reach will whisper to you if you choose to listen. It will say, “You are more than enough.”
- What do you see? Sometimes we can’t see through the smoke or fog to realize what is waiting for us. Our sight becomes limited when we don’t have a clear picture of who we are.
We see what we think we see, but that doesn’t always reflect our reality. The solution is to learn to look at ourselves, and our life, from a different point of view. This begins by becoming more aware of the world around us.
On your next commute to work, pay attention to the buildings and landmarks en route. You will probably see things you never saw before simply because you never made an attempt to look for them. Next, extend this exercise inward. Take a look at what you believe; your depth of faith; the goodness you create and the gifts you have to share. What do you see now?
The busyness of our lives and the urgency of trying to be all things to all people can overshadow our view. We can grow weary from trying so hard. Ironically, when we relax and surrender, our eyes become wide open and we can better see the person we really are.
- Relax and rejoice. Celebrate You! Celebrate what you have accomplished and what you plan to achieve. Give yourself time to slow down and appreciate the good choices you have made and the value you bring to others and to the world.
- Set a new rhythm. Once you begin learning how to think differently about yourself and how to see yourself differently, the last step is to set your heart to a new beat – to a new rhythm.
Calibrate your heart to your spirit and allow both to take you to where you are meant to go. When you feel the nudge telling you that you are not being true to who you are, pay attention to the prompt. What you may hear is that it is easier to just be who you are.
Create a rhythm suited to your style and pace. Set a beat that is comfortable for you to maintain. When the other noise in your life begins to drown it out, or takes you off your cadence, close your eyes and begin to feel, once again, what it feels like to be you. You know this feeling – it feels authentic and peaceful. It feels like home. It feels like something only you can feel.
My plan is to an extraordinary life. I want to love, feel and just be me for the rest of the way. Looking back to my first 46 years, it’s clear there have been times when I pushed so hard it pushed the real me out of the way.
Now a little bit older, more experienced, and perhaps even a touch smarter, I understand the effort and anxiety I have spent trying to be someone other than who I am has cost me. It has caused me to second guess my worth and question my purpose. It has caused my self-confidence to take a beating because I wasn’t truly living in my own skin. But today is a new day and today I get to choose to stop trying so hard. Today I get to choose to meet myself in the middle of who I was and who I am becoming.
My extraordinary life will not be counted in the currency of money or status. I have a different plan in mind. My plan is just to be extraordinarily Alex – and that is more than enough.