Friday, June 03, 2011

Flavors of Life

When we are children, people say to us, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" At that age, we usually have dreams. We know that we want to reach the Moon, or learn to fly the fastest aircraft in the world, or save endangered animal species, or make some brilliant scientific discovery that will transform human lives. We are not yet old enough to worry about job markets and balancing budgets and supporting ourselves and our families. We are true to our intentions and so we find many admirers. We have only our dreams and the secret certainty that we are unique and have a very special thing to do in life. Even if our parents have different dreams for us, we know the difference between their dreams and our own. When we are children, we are still capable of hearing the voice of the soul.

As we grow older, the questions change. People say to us, "You had better start thinking about what you want to do with your life. How will you make a living?" There is no longer time for dreaming; we must now "face reality" and think about how to survive in the big, bad old world. The inner sense of specialness fades before the numbing evidence of high unemployment figures, stiff competition for every job application, and economic swings and downturns which make us feel we are fortunate to get any kind of work at all. And if we find ourselves discontented in that work, or we lose our jobs, we feel demeaned, devalued, and unable to trust our deepest dreams and aspirations, because there might not be any other work. And even if there were, we have probably long since lost that inner connection which could tell us what makes our heart sing and restores the sense of having a very special thing to do in life.

Each of us sees the world differently, and feels strong and competent in some areas and uncertain or ill-equipped in others. No person is perfectly adapted to every sphere of life. Finding the right direction may depend partly on your knowing how you evaluate and adapt to life, and finding an outer situation which matches your fundamental outlook. Of course it is not as simple as just looking for a place where you can exercise what you believe to be your strengths and avoid what you perceive as your weaknesses. Sometimes, working to develop sides of your personality where you feel unsure can generate the greatest feeling of accomplishment. But it does help if your perspective on life is in harmony with what you do, and you can therefore feel confident and able to meet the challenges which your work offers. It can also make a difference if you are able to remain loyal to your values, people in your life and needs, rather than accepting a situation where you believe neither in what you are doing nor in the people you care for.