I came upon this quote today.
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw
I sometimes get a bit annoyed by the New Age concept of finding ourselves. Many people have wasted years of their lives and caused themselves great worry and guilt because they have not ‘found themselves’ or their ‘life’s purpose’ yet. I believe it is based on a false concept.
Unless you believe in a supreme creative being, no one gets to say what your life’s purpose is and therefore I decided the best purpose I can find or create for my life is to feel good for the right reasons (or even no good reason at all) as much as I can. Even any self respecting creator (in my humble opinion) would want us to do the same: to celebrate the life we have as much as possible.
Then again, I think there is something to find, and that is whatever it is that gives you most joy. What is it that captures your energy, imagination and enthusiasm?
“But isn’t that selfish?” you might say. Well personally, I have found that some of the most enjoyable and satisfying things in life involve being creative and making life better and more enjoyable for my fellow beings. In fact, paradoxically, being generous can be seen as one of the most selfish things that we do, because most of us are addicted to doing it because it makes us feel good! But then again, that is how nature made us- selfishly generous. That is how we survive- by cooperation.
Isn’t it odd though, that many a musician or sports person will say that when they play their best, they actually ‘lose’ themselves in what they are doing. This is how they find themselves, by losing themselves. But they do so by dedication, practice and perfecting their art. You can only give this level of dedication if you truly love something and when you do, you create something special. You create yourself.
One piece of advice I sometimes give to people is to find something that you love doing and then find someone who has made a satisfying living form doing it and then find out how to work at what you love. Or as one rather better New Age adage has it “Follow your Bliss!”
For more wisdom from George Bernard Shaw, also see Assertiveness? Be willing to be Unreasonable.
Photograph of Shaw from US Library of Congress.