Sunday, March 10, 2013

Journey of One: Live, Love, Fight [part two]

Focus. I tell my students that's what you need to be successful, and not just at martial arts. Focusing on a goal, keeping your eyes on it, making it the one thing you think about, becoming what less-driven people might refer to as "obsessed" about it, that's how success happens. Of course, chance and knowing the right people/being in the right place at the right time can play a part, but success generally doesn't happen without drive. Or a truckload of luck, but I wouldn't count on that (my apologies to all of you rockers practicing in your garage with hopes of "making it big").

I've been thrown a few curveballs in my life. I don't say this to complain. A lot of people have had it a lot worse than me. I'm just stating the facts. When I've hit a rough patch in life, regardless of whether I should be pitied or blamed, my focus takes an equally hard hit. I have learned through experience that it can be hard to get that focus back, especially when life gets difficult.

My focus has shifted from one goal or plan to another over the course of my adult life because of hardships that persistently derailed my train of thought. I had a problem finding and maintaining one goal or area of focus. Desperately, I kept asking myself, "what should I be?" Who should I be? That was my question. I didn't like who I was. I felt like a failure at life because I kept losing and/or shifting my focus and could never seem to get my life in order, and that feeling of failure as a person affected my focus even more. I kept looking for that perfect something to... become.

Then, quite unintentionally, I encountered the words of Popeye, who so famously declared: "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!" And that's when it hit me: I've been trying for years to be something - be someone - I didn't realize that I already am someone.

I spent so many years of my adult life wearing a mask, pretending to be someone I'm not. When I finally removed the mask, I thought I was then free to just be me. I was wrong. I tried to "find myself," as though the "real me" were hiding somewhere. In what I see now as a contradiction, I tried to take the oft-repeated advice to "act natural."

If I'm behaving naturally - just being me - then it's not an act.

I began to question: how does one "be oneself"? Now I see that I already am myself. "Who I am" is how I feel, think, and behave when I don't care what other people think or feel about who I am. "Being myself" is simply being honest about myself without trying to change my reputation.

"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f@&king khakis." [Fight Club]

You are not your job, or the money in your bank account, or the clothes you wear. I think that's true, but I also think who I am would be strikingly different if I always wore a miniskirt. That's because all these things influence who I am (as do thousands and thousands of other factors and stimuli), but they do not define who I am.

That little epiphany gave me a completely fresh outlook on the age-old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I no longer ask, "what do I want to be?" I ask, "what do I want to do?" Now I can consider those things which I enjoy, that give me a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and pleasure, without the unnecessary stress of finding that one occupation or vocation that will define me perfectly.

That's like thinking that there's only one person in the world who was made specially for you, and you better not choose the wrong person to marry. You better be sure you've found "the one."

I've made that mistake in the past too. :-)


Because the universe needs a #SaganGoogleDoodle.

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