I’ve been through a lot in my short life. Ive seen and done many things that most only see on the internet or hear about in rumors. On my journey of ups and downs, I’ve encountered people and witnessed events that held something special. A quality that made them stand out; a significance that was undeniable. These events were always coupled with extraordinary people; some of which were in the spotlight, many of which will forever remain nameless. These people and their accomplishments ranged in scope and impact, but there was always something that held my attention. It didn’t matter whether the individual was wildly successful or just getting by. Society’s standards and judgments have never been very important to me. I understand that they play a role and hold significance, but for what really matters, they are held to an esteem far beyond where they should be, in my opinion. What truly matters, what truly has the power to tear us down or lift us up, is our self image. Can you look in the mirror and be proud of what you see? Can you look yourself in the eyes and think about all the things you did and choices you make and honestly respect the person gazing back at you?
Through out life, we learn and develop a perception of what we think is right and just. We form opinions of what a hearty and fulfilling life should be and we strive to personify our perception of a “good life.” Our actual life and our opinion of what we think life should be are in constant competition. It is our endless struggle to pull the two realities together and make them one and the same. This is where true happiness and confidence comes from. This is also where depression, anxiety, regret, sadness, frustration, anger and hatred comes from. This isn’t absolute. Emotions derive from many things, but think for a moment about the true root of the many struggles in your life. Are they truly external, or are they simply small bumps in the road amplified by internal shortcomings? This disconnect, this Rift, between who we are and who we think we should be, conscious or subconscious, is the difference between smiling through hardship and crumbling over a speed bump. When we are truly happy with who we are and have accepted our path, even the roughest of days can be handled with positivity. This doesn’t mean you become impervious to pain or that you have to be your perfect person, you just have to have confidence that you are on the right path to getting there. Those people I mentioned earlier were the ones that had closed this “rift,” or had at least found a path that allowed for the possibility to do so in the future. The glow, the aura, that stood out was contentment and happiness. Not fake or temporary happiness, but truly a formidable temperament towards positivity in their lives. The magnitude of their satisfaction left impressions on everyone that had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with them in life.
It is so rare to meet these people, let alone have them in your life, but I have had that pleasure. I’ve seen them sad, I’ve seen them down, but its fleeting. They handle rough patches in life with complete and utter confidence that the sun will shine tomorrow. No matter how hard life gets, or how many obstacles tangle around their ankles, they always find a way to continue on. Through broken bodies, shattered relationships and crumbling health, they find a reason to smile and move forward. They are able to do this for a simple reason…Their hunger for happiness was strong enough to drive them to their purpose!
Finding our true calling is the most liberating achievement we can experience. It may change and grow as we do, but that hardly matter because by then, you know to keep chasing it. Those people I mentioned were individuals I witnessed living their true ideal. Experiencing the power of doing what your heart yearns for is absolutely life changing. You do not have to force yourself to get up early. You don’t have to dread going to work. You wont scoff at the thought of putting effort forth to improve, because it will be all you want to do. It will be consuming, fulfilling, fun, and exciting. Set backs and hardships will be softened because they will represent opportunities to improve instead of representing the end of the world. They may still hurt, but you will know who you are and where you are going, or at least the direction, which is just as comforting.
I truly believe this state is one of great enlightenment and profound perspective. You wont be jealous of someone doing better because your only true competition becomes who you were yesterday. You won’t shatter when a relationship ends because you will know that paths diverge and finding a person on a path that matches your own is worth the wait. It will hurt still, but wont bring your life to a debilitating halt. This is what we are all searching for, yearning for, whether we know it or not. This is true happiness. It will evolve and grow over time, but happiness is not a destination, but the journey through life.
How do we reach this place? How do we find what truly makes us happy? Simply put, start looking! It is a long and arduous process, but it can be fun and I promise, it is worth the effort. Think about what makes you smile, what brings joy into your life.; not your escapes from the things you don’t like. Those things will hold no splendor when you no longer feel the need to escape. What are you really passionate about? What do you long for when you’ve had a bad day? Now think about how you can make it into a profession. How can you turn your passion into a service for others? Don’t think about the money, it is insignificant. If you truly love what you do, you will become a master of it and your service will be worth more and more. It is pointless to think of money. If you are excited and happy to do whatever it is that you do, money will simply be a side note. You can always scale up a good system, but all the money in the world can’t bring you happiness or give you fulfillment. So pick a passion, make a plan and start running.
I know, its scary. What if you fail? Well, you don’t have to be afraid of whether you will fail or not, because I can tell you now that you most definitely will. However, the lessons learned will help you make a better plan. What if I pick the wrong thing? There are no wrong paths. You may find out it isn’t the right one for you, but as you explore that path, you will grow. You will develop skills and the wisdom to not only better identify your true path, but to handle it when you finally do recognize it. This process is unavoidable. It is necessary in order to find a lifestyle that really brings you joy. There is no shortcut and there is no easy way. It is terrifying to look out into the abyss and consciously decide to step away from what you know. I didn’t say, “step away from comfort” or “security,” because it is neither. What many call comfort is really just familiarity, but it isn’t what their heart yearns for and so there will always be something missing, a hole. It is this void that drives us to the bar after work. It is the same void we try to fill with bad food, drugs, and other “quick fixes” with no permanent satisfaction. We begin these vices as escapes, but they soon turn into habits and we forget why we started in the first place. For example, when I lived on Pendleton, I only ever used tobacco when I was on base. The moment I left the gate, I didn’t even think about my terrible friend, whom I carried in my pocket, daily, for four years. These vices can never make the hole go away, in fact, they actually cover the opening. The only solution is to fill that original hole with the things that make you truly happy, your passions. Unfortunately, most of the habits we form to help us forget about this gap in our lives, stop us from doing so. My only salvation was to start replacing these bad habits with constructive ones. Running, exercise, art, anything that helped me resist my calling to tobacco and drugs just a little longer. Over time, the new habits took hold and replaced my corrosive addictions. Now, when I looked up, I could see the light pouring in from the mouth of the hole I called my existence.
The journey isn’t over, though, its just getting started. As I said before, the only way to fill this void is to heed your hearts desire. Chase your passions. This can only be done by taking risks and stepping away from your status quo. This is not easy. It takes time, it takes effort and it is scary. That is why so few of us ever take that first step and it is why so few of us are truly happy. The courage and confidence required to close the rift, that is the difference between where you are and where you truly wish to be, is daunting, like an ocean that you must swim across. But let me tell you a secret, this courage is learned. It is grown! The massive pillars of courage, confidence, bravery, and skill are grown just like a giant sequoia, towering above the forrest floor like a citadel of triumph. And just like a tree, these pillars that become your foundation are grown from seeds. Our seeds begin in the form of desire and are fueled by hope. Later it evolves into an undying faith in ourselves, powered by our ever growing passion. Once we get to this point, our progress is self sustaining. Break throughs top off our reserve perseverance and set backs only serve as teachers that make us work harder.
But how do we find the courage to plant our seeds of hope and desire? This is the difference between those who close their “rift” and those swallowed by it. You must be willing to plant many seeds. The first one is the hardest and every time we start a new path, a new seed is required. Each time it gets easier, but still, you must be willing to plant your seed if you ever wish to change your situation and find your purpose. The external issues and obstacles stopping this process are infinite. If you are fighting internal obstacles, how can you conceivably focus on the external forces standing in your way? If you are not comfortable in your own skin, how can you possibly set out on your own path? How can you step out of the current cycle that has you looking for something better? You can look any way you want and come in any shape or size as long as you accept and love yourself. Let me remind you that confidence isn’t whether or not people like or respect us, confidence is not caring either way. For most of us, this means being proud of our body, or at least not ashamed of it.
You must look at yourself objectively and be brutally honest with the person in the mirror. See all the things you like about yourself, make them stronger. Take note of all the things you don’t like about yourself and make it your mission to improve or change these things. Self Improvement starts with self exploration. This will be a difficult, sobering, and humbling task, but it is necessary and I promise you, it is worth it. Most of the things we see will not be physical. Many of the issues we find with ourselves manifest themselves through our physical appearance, but don’t be confused. Our body is the result of our choices everyday and our choices come from the character traits that make us who we are, not the other way around. Changing these things is terribly hard. Your mind is stubborn and we spend lifetimes becoming who we are so it is silly to think we can rapidly adjust ingrained behaviors formed over years. That being said, the body is relatively easy to change. If we focus on the body, it simplifies our many obstacles into one. Focus on getting healthy! Take action! To fight the many demons both internally and externally, we need energy. The more fit you are, the more energy you will have. The small physical victories, like losing ten pounds, will start to build that confidence you need to plant that first seed. Most importantly, those little victories will show you that you can do so much more than you once thought possible.
This is why, among other obvious reasons, that your health is so vitally important. If you are ashamed of your body and constantly putting yourself down, how can you possibly expect to have the energy and persistence to deal with external negativity, let alone change your life for the better. You can’t, not until you begin making the choices that will allow you to love yourself. Not until you can be proud of your whole being. Your physical self is so much easier to change than your mental self and so much faster as well. When you make the choice to start taking better care of yourself, you don’t need to be shredded or be a fitness model, to reap the benefits. Just making the choice and seeing some minor results will boost your confidence. You may not be where you want to be now, but you can smile and delight in the realization that you will be eventually. Your desire to change will produce the hope that its possible. The farther you push your body, the more you will realize that you have full control over what you look like and how you feel. The results, although slow, will give birth to the confidence and faith in yourself necessary to chase your dreams. The world, at times, will feel like it is against you. The least you can do is get on your own side. Love who you are! It won’t be easy. You will stumble and fall. Get up. Get up again, and again! Take comfort in knowing that “it is our failure to achieve our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us who we are!”
You must never stop trying, you are on the right path!
You must never forget that your fate and happiness is in your hands, handle it with care!
You must always believe that you can, because it’s true!
You deserve happiness…make it happen!