The Guilt of the Passion-Seeker

Guilt

Guilt

Quite a titillating title, isn’t it? Now that I have your attention, let’s get to the REAL issue – the guilt that we can feel when we follow (or just anticipate following) our passions and dreams.

Recently, I discovered a beautiful quote from the Reverend Dr. Howard Thurman that I knew I had to share, so I posted it on Facebook. In case you missed it, here it is:

 “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive.

And then go and do that.

Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

This is why I knew I had to share this:                                                                                                                                         I often hear the following sentiment from people who struggle with the idea of living a life that is a reflection of their unique dreams and passions:

“But if I follow my dreams, I’m being selfish.”

And to be honest, the first time someone suggested that I embark on a personal journey to discover my passion and live it, I felt guilty about even considering it. Not only was I up against a cultural bias which had ingrained in me the value that other’s needs come before my own, but as soon as I started contemplating addressing my own desires, shrinking dollar signs immediately appeared in front of me, worries about neglecting my family nagged at me, and I quickly talked myself out of even considering the idea of discovering what my passion was, let alone live it.

However, another vague phrase from somewhere in my past kept niggling away at my consciousness, and it goes something like this: “If you’re no good to yourself, then you’re no good to anyone else”. There are many variations of this phrase, but the idea is basically the same. It’s about putting yourself first in the most elemental way so that you are “on purpose”, and able to do your best work. I’ve also heard it described this way: we are each an essential cog in the universal wheel of life, and if the cog is not doing what it was meant to do (its purpose), then the wheel doesn’t work properly.

Come AliveCome Alive!

Something important that I have discovered is that living a life that makes you come alive doesn’t have to mean that you must quit your job to pursue your passion, or move to an island to write the novel that lives inside of you, or become Mother Teresa. Think outside that restrictive box. You might come alive by volunteering at a shelter, or by finding different, creative ways to recycle others’ castoffs, or by singing in a choir. If what makes you come alive is helping people learn how to communicate better, you don’t need to quit your job to go to school to learn effective communication techniques (at least not right away) – you can begin by just modeling that behavior at work and at home.

Something important that I have discovered is that living a life that makes you come alive doesn’t have to mean that you must quit your job to pursue your passion, or move to an island to write the novel that lives inside of you, or become Mother Teresa. Think outside that restrictive box. You might come alive by volunteering at a shelter, or by finding different, creative ways to recycle others’ castoffs, or by singing in a choir. If what makes you come alive is helping people learn how to communicate better, you don’t need to quit your job to go to school to learn effective communication techniques (at least not right away) – you can begin by just modeling that behavior at work and at home.

The point I’m trying to make is that finding and then doing what makes you come alive doesn’t have to entail a major overhaul of your life, unless you want it to – unless THAT makes you come alive. As long as we are doing what makes us come alive in ways that work for us, then I believe that we are living our purpose and nurturing the world with our unique gifts.. There are so many obstacles that we can unconsciously throw in each of our unique paths of self-discovery. Let’s not let guilt be one of them.

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