If how I choose to spend my time shows what I love most, then I must be most in love with making plans.
Next to me right now sit stacks of notebooks, the pages crammed with blue, black, and red scratched tables and schedules replete with action items and due dates.
But if you were to watch me frantically fill those pages, you’d see anything but love on my face.
Biting nails and running anxious fingers hard through hair, I war against math to slash down time so I can force whatever next big extra pursuit into an added row or column.
And you should see how much more worked up and tense I get once it’s Day 1, and that new activity is supposed to start.
Some of those additions have been:
- Start 4 YouTube channels (5 if I start a band)
- Start a freeform live-stream on religion.
- Start a fitness/meditation Meetup.
- Start a band and commit to writing songs every night.
I think by now, all the pieces of my painful identity crisis pattern should be obvious.
It always begins at the place I’d give anything to leave . . . those values, goals, actions, and priorities I find boring, take for granted, and would never have to add to any list (because they’ve always been just . . . there).
For me, it’s things like doing this right now . . . rolling around and writing out pieces of ideas that have existed quietly beneath every surface of my consciousness, slowly collecting the dust of fresh intuition through the years.
You might take completely different pursuits for granted . . . maybe more like the ones I always push to add: top-of-the head discussions, detailed event planning, loud and gregarious expressions…
My pattern gets fully sprung into motion when I think thoughts like: But who’s going to take the time to read or hear my ideas, anyway? I need to put myself out there more directly by ___________ (the way so-and-so does it), or nothing I’m doing will ever mean anything. I need to make myself more like ___________.
Driven to force shut what feels like a gaping hole, I leap to a plan for becoming what I’m not.
Then time goes by, and I drown myself in pressures to stay diligent.
I bury my feelings, forsake my joys, go through motions in relationships, and do any and everything I can just to make myself into everything I’ve never normally been.
But before long, I unravel, let go, and fall back down to that limited self I can’t stand being.
It happens over and over.
It happened last week.
What hope do I have it won’t happen tomorrow?
Home and/or Calling
We’ve referred to those values and traits you most naturally, easily identify with as your “home.”
And we’ve called opposite, shadow traits your “calling.”
What’s never obvious is how to embody both home and calling, or choose between them, or find a good balance.
Psychology professor, Dr. John D Mayer, writes,
Our personality is the sum of our mental processes; its job is to integrate our mental energy with our capacity, and to help us express ourselves in our surroundings. Seeing ourselves clearly isn’t always easy. Information about who we are is “hot” and emotionally charged—that heat can warm or scald us. We may focus on a personal flaw so much that we lose perspective on the broader contours of life. It’s easy to turn away at times, and indeed, we all do.
Again, it’s attempting to lock down the exact details of what you are that keeps you from integrating your mental processes in your environment, as Mayer puts it.
That’s a deep, deep irony due much pondering and repeating…
Holding dogmatically to your current assessment of yourself imprisons you to plans and ideals instead of freeing you to live by your underlying, evolving sequence of values in each moment.
When Mayer speaks of information about who you are being “hot and emotionally charged” to where flaws and shortcomings get blown out of proportion, causing you to “lose perspective on the broader contours of life,” you could summarize that as being convinced you need to work very hard to imbibe and embody your calling values.
That’s because your calling values represent a place where you believe your latent inequities and inabilities will be made up for or redeemed.
Fueled by dissatisfaction and unrest, you launch yourself into attempts at becoming what comes least natural to you, desperate for fulfillment and resolution.
Then you crash and burn, and get forced in one way or another to relinquish your death grip on your own perspective.
You limp and stumble back . . . crushed, humbled, defeated, broken . . . to those boring home traits and values you’re so familiar with because they’re been there from the beginning, working through your life in subtle, steady, unexciting ways.
Before long, something else shiny and appealing presents itself…
Now, every personality system, scientific or otherwise, should work to help you frame and understand both your home and calling traits.
But those systems become traps when you use them as prescriptions for predicting exactly how pursuing your home and calling values must play out.
So, am I saying there is no answer . . . that you just can’t know how to incorporate conflicting, competing aspects of yourself?
Completing his quote from last time on inner conflicts between values, life coach Tony Robbins concludes:
So what do you do? You identify the conflicts. You get clear what they are. You get clear about what’s most important to you today, not what you think you should do based on an old blueprint. Once you identify the conflicts, and align your life with what you really value—with what is most important to you—then you’ll take action, and you won’t even have to work at it. When everything is in alignment, you’ll go for it.
Building Without A Blueprint
When Robbins says, “identify the conflicts . . . get clear what they are,” your ego jumps to double-down on whatever you already think is “most important to you today.”
And bolstering your current perspective that way feels like being honest with yourself.
But it’s really just running the same lines over and over in your head, or in the mirror.
The “old blueprint” of “what you think you should do” is actually any fixed blueprint for an “I” self you could be trying to live from . . . any set prioritization of home and/or calling at all.
So, how can you “align your life with what you really value” without building off a blueprint?
How can you live by both your home and calling without a prescription based on predetermined priorities?
Teacher and entrepreneur, Lorenz Sell, says,
Losing identity is really about finding one’s true self. By accepting that I am not limited by any notion of identity, I liberate myself to just be me. Right here, right now, I am choosing my identity by how I am choosing to spend my time. In this very moment I am creating myself and this is my identity.
I call the vehicle for living freely by your values in the moment your art form.
And your art form begins at your boring core home . . . the place completely unique to you where the things you consistently notice and think about intersect with pursuits you find you can make progress in without really having to try.
Yes, your art form begins at home . . . but it doesn’t end there.
As writes health professor, Dr. Shahram Heshmat,
Identity formation is a matter of “finding oneself” by matching one’s talents and potential with available social roles. The first task is discovering and developing one’s personal potentials. These personal potentials refer to those things that the person can do better than other things.
I like how Dr. Heshmat refers to “discovering and developing” what you “can do better than other things” as “the first task.”
You must first accept what comes naturally and easily before you can begin to understand and navigate its shadow.
What returning home does . . . whether it’s by choice, or when forced to after another failed attempt at making yourself into what you’re not . . . is it brings your perspective back from every lofty future plan and ideal to right now, in this present moment.
Finding or re-finding (or re-re-finding) the foundation of your art form by admitting to yourself which core values have been there all along behind the scenes doesn’t erase your ceaseless urgency to tie yourself to the stories you tell yourself about everything you think you should be.
But returning home automatically helps you expand those stories.
For you see how far you’ve come.
You see the progress your taken-for-granted home values have made already in using your life to exist.
And you see what must come next.
Renowned psychologist, Abraham Maslow, writes,
I think of the self-actualizing man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away. The average man is a human being with dampened and inhibited powers.
Again, the source of your powers is your home.
Living with “nothing taken away” is letting your core home values continue to develop until they eventually come to occupy the space of their calling shadows when complete.
Simply acknowledging and returning to that place where what you’ve always cared about meets what you’re naturally best at shifts your perspective back and down from what’s [still] missing to focus instead on what’s been there working all along.
It’s a shift from harsh pressure to grace and ease.
Seeing Your Next Steps
Of course letting go of any plan or blueprint for a best “I” self is never easy.
In fact, letting go feels like death; for it’s watching a potential life crumble to nothing before ever becoming real.
But the time, energy, or money you put into planning for that “I” self isn’t wasted.
For the calling values behind any plan for making yourself into what you’re not can show you exactly where you want to go from where you are.
No, you never see the whole journey, and that’s the point.
But there again at the foundation of your art form, where you see and appreciate the progress your most important and innate traits and abilities have made in your life thus far, your calling reveals the next steps those values are guiding you to take . . . steps in the direction of your shadow and everything you’ve never seen yourself be before.
Your ego never stops driving you to attach to detailed instructions for everything to come, where, when, with whom…
But such is anathema to your art form.
You can never reach your calling by trying to approach (or become) your shadow values directly, even as Dr. Heshmat continues,
To choose a purpose not compatible with our capabilities is a recipe for frustration and failure.
Your home values’ purpose is to complete themselves as they close the loop and resolve into their shadow opposites.
And that journey can only play out one instance and decision at a time.
Ever returning to exactly where you are and what comes next, unknown specifics do gradually get filled in.
You never have to fight against your ego or how you see things.
With each next step you watch yourself take, your perspective on yourself and everything else widens and deepens on its own . . . in needed yet unpredictable ways . . . without you ever having to try.
Human Development professor, Ellen Santora, says,
Identity formation is a continual process of negotiating and resolving conflicts between previously integrated and new experiences. By re-experiencing the past in light of the present and with a perspective on the future, one is able to see one-self anew and come to a fresher, more-integrated understanding of how events and experience continually interact to redefine who one is.
No, ego never stops compelling you to give your whole life over to your current “I” self story.
But your art form sets you ever freer to recalibrate and accept the current priorities of your underlying “why” values as they move, compete, and develop however they must throughout your lifetime.
As Neuroscience and Psychology professor, Jason Castro, writes,
Even after the genetic die are cast at conception, and after the bulk of the neural scaffolding is laid down in early life, the brain maintains a trickle of raw potential through its ability to grow a limited number of new neurons. Our lives are a work in progress. If we’re indeed living out a kind of tape, then it seems to be one in which the tracks can be tweaked as they’re read, even if they’re rather deep. As your brain is shaped by the choices you make, there is room for chance and noise – room for you to be unique.
Your Story Changes On Its Own
I cling tight to how I see my life going because I want to be the best version of myself.
I know there must be more to me than just the parts I’ve seen work well before.
But I never know how what I am should resolve into what I’m not.
No amount of hype or scrounging of will seems capable of effectively rewriting my essence and turning me into someone who can do what’s always been most difficult for me.
But my art form brings me home to where I see how far I’ve come.
Then I’m able to step out and onward in faith.
Over time, taking only each next unveiled step, I learn to stay open to seeing how my best-laid plans might be rewritten ever better day-by-day.
I watch myself go from tight and confined to resourceful, experimenting with different options that seem in line with where my home values want me to go next . . . then tracking how each works in order to always get a better sense of how my deepest, life-long values might want to continue to be excavated and made whole.
There’s no exact map, blueprint, or plan that will hold true for me forever.
Instead, there’s just that host of compelling, unpredictable “why” forces, each wanting to exist.
As I seek to make sense of my values via whichever “I” self story I cling to, my art form brings me back to what’s most important, prevalent, comfortable…
And then as I step onward and upward into the unknown, my story changes.
Castro, J. “Where Does Identity Come From?” Scientific American. 28 May. 2013.
Heshmat, S. “Science of Choice.” Psychology Today. 8 December, 2014.
Hoffman, E. “Reach Your Peak.” Positive Thinking. 2008, p52-57.
Mayer, J. D. “Know Thyself.” Psychology Today, February. 2014.
Santora, Ellen Durrigan. “Social Studies, Solidarity, and a Sense of Self.” (2003).
Sell, Lorenz. “Losing My Identity.” The Huffington Post, 20 Aug. 2013.
Success Resources Australia. “Tony Robbins Live at the National Achievers Congress, Sydney 2015 .” 16 April, 2015, https://youtu.be/0RuzE6Zmn8o
Zacks CleverNetworker. “Tony Robbins Solve Your Inner Conflict .” 14 February, 2013, https://youtu.be/4JIzngH9UBQ