“Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid.” ~ Robert Collier, American author.
This post is part of the Self-Discovery Series. For a better of understanding of why self-awareness and and finding yourself is so important, start here.
Have you been doing something, such as a hobby or a skill, for so long that it’s almost difficult to picture yourself before you began doing it?
That’s pretty much how self-discovery is for me. It’s been nearly seven years since I started out on this journey, but I’ve learned so much and come so far since then — it’s hard to remember exactly who I once was.
I know I was very ambitious, eager to make something of myself, and to get a start on life. Yet I was also very uncertain — afraid of commitment, struggling with my beliefs, and with no real sense of what really matters in life.
It was in the state of confusion that I stumbled upon what I consider to be the most critical first step towards self-discovery.
Maybe it’s because it was my own first step, but I have reason to believe it’s a great place for anyone to begin.
A Life-Changing Experience
Some people may be naturally interested in learning more about themselves and growing as person; however, they may find it difficult to make the time or truly commit to it.
Most people don’t get serious about self-development until they experience a life-changing event — something that moves them, shakes them up, and changes their perspective.
Sometimes it may be the death of a friend or family member or a life-threatening illness, but that’s not the type of life-changing event I’m talking about.
I’m talking about a decision you can make. A life-changing enterprise that you knowingly undertake.
You may not know in advance if a particular experience will be life-changing, but you trust that it will be something, which is why you ultimately decide to do it.
Which brings me back to my story.
I can trace my journey of self-discovery back to a single decision, one that led me to a life-changing event.
I had been going through a religious struggle for most of my life, wondering whether or not a higher power exists, how that fits in with science and evolution, and what it means for me personally. (That’s quite the lengthy story in itself, so we’ll save it for another day.)
Suffice it to say, at this point in my struggle, I was taking a few religion classes in college and was regularly attending Catholic mass on campus. One day, in a state of frustration, I approached the priest, Father Patrick, with my concerns.
“I would like you to come with us to RE Congress next week.” he urged. (RE Congress is an enormous Catholic convention held in Los Angeles once a year.)
After much debate, I finally conceded and agreed to go — a decision that would initiate a small shift that would ultimately change the course of my life.
The First Time
It was the first day of RE Congress, and out of many possible sessions, I randomly found myself in this particular one. Surrounded by nearly 300 people, I shifted nervously in my metal folding chair as I waited for the speaker to take the stage.
It was Matthew Kelly — what was soon to become a household name and someone I would meet on many more occasions.
The things he discussed that day seem somewhat “old hat” now — things I’ve heard several times since then in various forms, but this was the first time I heard them, and the first time can be extremely powerful.
He discussed the general sense of discontentment that many people feel, the wave of depression that is sweeping the nation, and Henry David Thoreau’s words,
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
He spoke of the questions we all begin to ask ourselves at some point — the questions men and women have been asking consciously and subconsciously for thousands of years. Questions like:
Who am I?
Where did I come from?
What am I here for?
How do I do it?
Where am I going?
Questions that get at the purpose and meaning of life — things we as humans need some sense of in our lives.
In modern society, this typically boils down to “what you do” and “what you have.”
But Matthew’s message was different. He stood behind the belief that “Who you become is infinitely more important than what you do or what you have.”
So there I was, in the middle of my desperate search for purpose and meaning, and there was this man to hand-deliver it for me with his message:
“The meaning and purpose of life is for you to become the best-version-of-yourself.”
These words may not seem profound or earth-shattering to you, but they were for me at the time. They were the beginning of my conscious journey to become my best self.
Not only that, but it was the beginning of a journey of questioning, digging deeper, and seeking wisdom.
Following that morning’s session, I went out and bought a copy of Matthew’s book, The Rhythm of Life.
Let me pause for a moment and point out that there are now several parts of this book that I disagree with, but I still find a tremendous amount of value in it.
I don’t believe in books, articles, videos, or any other means of communication as a means of finding truth; rather, I see them as a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, a means of challenging perspectives and offering insights.
That said, this book played a powerful role in my life. A year and half later, it helped strengthen my long-distance relationship with my boyfriend (who is now my husband).
It became something for us to read and discuss together, a way to share our thoughts and ideas, and the beginning our our journey of growth together.
A couple of years later, it was the reason I picked up Matthew Kelly’s first business book, The Dream Manager – a book which ended up changing the entire course of my career.
What’s the whole point of this story?
We need these powerful life-changing experiences.
So much of my growth, so many of my experiences, and so much of my journey can be traced back to that initial experience — and the decision that led to it.
These experiences challenge us, push us out of our comfort zones, test our limits, and help us form deeper connections with other people.
You simply can’t get the same thing from reading a book or article. It’s something you must experience.
Again and again…
These aren’t experiences that only happen once. The first might be the most powerful, but it might not.
I’ve been to several different workshops, conferences, trainings, and retreats since that time, each with their own unique experience, insight, and perspectives to offer.
Upon returning from them, I have a renewed sense of dedication to my passions and purpose in life. (We’ll talk more about these later in the series.)
Because I know the value of these experiences, I purposely plan and create them.
It’s the reason I participated in Kripalu’s Inner Quest Intensive program last year at this time, and it’s why I’m heading to the Himalayas for a 35-day backpacking expedition in two weeks.
Yet, life-changing experiences don’t have to be big expensive undertakings.
Some of my most profound experiences have come while in the middle of a yoga class, running a half-marathon, or even a solo walk through the woods.
However, shared experiences can also be extremely powerful, and some of my best memories and greatest insights come from these.
Whether big and expensive, simple and free, solo or surrounded by others, it’s about making the experience a priority.
Sure, you may stumble upon a life-changing experience someday, but there are no guarantees.
Why wait to find out? You have the ability to take charge of your own life and your own self-discovery.
Choose an experience. Make it a priority. Go.
Then come back to the books, blogs, and videos to deepen and strengthen the foundation you’ve built.
Now over to you.
Have you already experienced one or more life-changing experiences? If so, I would love to hear your story!
If not, is there an experience you are considering? What might be holding you back?
Image credit: New Brunswick Tourism