“The problem,” my friend said, “Is not that you made the choice to do one thing and not the other, it’s that you didn’t OWN it.”
I am a people pleaser by nature. I want people to approve of me, to like me and think I’m nice or fun or smart or whatever it is they value. Did you catch that? What they value. Often I’m so busy worrying about what people think of a particular choice that I don’t really put everything I have into what I chose. I spend too much time apologizing rather than just saying “This is me. This is my calling.” I don’t own it.
On her excellent blog The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin identifies what she calls “secrets of adulthood” and says “you can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do” and that you will be happier if at some point you own up to the things you like and don’t like and decide to be yourself.
Obviously you could take that totally out of context and say “Gee, I feel like robbing a bank so I’m going to be myself and go for it” but the point is more that, all things being equal, just because something makes someone else happy or relaxed or fulfilled doesn’t mean it will make you feel the same way. You’ll be more effective if you figure out your own unique calling than if you spend your life chasing after other people’s gifts.
Over the past several months I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am in life and where I’d like to be in the future: as a Christian, as a woman, as a wife, as a mom, as a writer, and so forth. Some things in my life have been out of balance because I’ve been trying very hard to make myself find joy in the same ways that other people find joy. I was wishing I had gifts other than the gifts God gave me, which is pretty foolish if you think about it.
I was listening to a CD about Mary Kay to help out my neighbor who is starting a business. I don’t use Mary Kay products or have any interest in the business other than helping my neighbor, but as I listened to the women on the CD talk about how becoming a Mary Kay consultant changed their lives, and how now they wake up in the morning excited about the day and happy about the work in store for them a thought struck me.
That is exactly how I feel when my alarm goes off at 4:45am so I can get up and write. I absolutely love the freelance writing work and business development I’ve been doing lately. It doesn’t even feel like work. I go to bed at night looking forward to waking up before the crack of dawn to work. And I find that because I’m feeling more creative and professional fulfillment, I’m also in better balance with ministry and family work too. I’m better at homeschooling because I know what hours I need to budget for that and I’m better at being a good wife and mom because I’m less stressed and frustrated. It feels great to really own what works for me, rather than pushing it aside to try to be what other people are.
The key is not being a Mary Kay consultant, or being a freelance writer, or teaching your kids Latin, or baking homemade bread from scratch. The key is pinpointing what it is that makes YOU excited to wake up in the morning. What sort of balance do you need to be in that spot where work doesn’t feel like a slog, but is joyful even when it’s hard? Find it and own it!