I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.
Jane Wagner (writer, director, producer)
Mercy recently turned twenty-five and she told me that she’s experiencing a ¼-life crisis. I didn’t know such a thing existed!
She’s not happy at work and knows she’s meant for something “great.”
She just doesn’t know what it is.
And that’s the enduring question – what makes life “great?” What would YOU have to do to achieve greatness?
Greatness is a “funny” thing. . .
Mary Lou Retton had her moment of greatness in the 1984 Olympics here in Los Angeles when she won five medals. She became an overnight sensation and was offered an array of attractive commercial opportunities.
There were aspects to her greatness that were not “great.” She readily admitted years later that, “Finding my own voice was difficult and I still struggle with it. But I’m getting better. When that physicality is gone and the title is gone, you have to find who you are. I’m really still trying to find that out. It’s a journey, it’s a lifetime process.”
Soccer star Landon Donovan took a three-month break from his professional career in 2013 to prioritize his mental health. He did so because he realized, “Our problem is we wrap our identity around what we do and it becomes who we are, so you see a lot of former athletes struggle with this, a lot of athletes that are no longer being recognized for what they did on the soccer field. They’re like ‘Well, what am I now? I don’t have this sport anymore.’”
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, was a war-hero fighter pilot and an MIT rocket scientist. He was a lot of impressive things, and then he went to the moon, and that’s all people knew him for.
He’s 91-years-old and he went to the moon when he was 39.
A few years back, in a GQ interview, Buzz recalled how his father wanted him to be brave and brilliant. So, he became what his father wanted him to be – West Point grad, fighter pilot, decorated war hero. He later went on to get a doctorate in rocket science from MIT.
NASA took notice and in 1966 in Gemini XII, he beat the record for longest space-walk ever attempted – two hours and twenty-nine minutes.
Then came Apollo 11, and he walked on the moon.
His father’s reaction? “The second man to walk on the moon? Number two?”
What is a life of greatness??
In an interview with Tahl Raz, Jonathan Fields, author of, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, talked about finding one’s life purpose. Here’s what he said –
“Purpose” becomes this huge, crippling thing because many people in the personal development world say, “Step one is you’ve got to identify your life purpose, and then you can take action on it and know you’re doing the right things for the right reasons.”
To me, a much more intelligent way is to say, “Ok, what are the qualities of working life that allow me to come alive? Who are the people I love to be around to serve, to serve under, to serve with? What is the mission of the type of organization that really vibes with me? What are the specific types of tasks, activities and processes that allow me to become absorbed and enter that ‘state of flow?’”
When you break it down into these categories, it becomes much easier to look at the world of opportunities before you. It’s a much more mobilizing tool – a much more practical and effective tool.
It starts to get you doing work that’s most aligned with the things in your life that allow you to come alive. Through doing that work, over a period of years and maybe decades, maybe a much bigger purpose will become revealed.
The week after I turned twenty-five, I set off for the remote Pacific island of Weno in the Chuuk Lagoon of Micronesia. I had volunteered to teach high school.
It was before Google Maps and so I had absolutely no idea where I was going. On a Rand McNally map it was a pin dot.
I thought my life would be a series of grand adventures – but life got in the way and while I had adventures, they weren’t always grand in the ways I’d imagined.
“I know I’m meant for great things.” I’m moved by Mercy’s declaration. And here’s what I told her – if you think you’re meant for great things, then answer these questions:
- What makes great things “great” for you?
- Why do you want these great things?
- How will your life be better after doing these great things?
- How will your slice of the world be better?
- What are you prepared to do to bring to life these great things?
- What are you prepared to sacrifice for these great things?
But for all out failure to discover what we want,
we do in the end discover one thing:
we discover that the only thing in life that is worth doing is to search.
now THAT’S the business of confidence!