I recently gave a talk to a class at FIU, Florida International University, in Miami, Florida. The class was “Discovering Your Major”, and was a very interesting topic to me. I had no idea such a class even existed, but I loved the concept because of the intent to teach “meta” information about learning and life.
“Meta Teaching”…Meta-anything is something about something else… just above or outside of it. For example, “meta learning” could be used to describe learning about learning.. or how to learn, how to study.
There is a LOT to growing up that is no longer taught to us by default. Just the basics of what it means to be happy, how to live a happy life, what’s truly important – those lessons are often lacking. We have to try and figure that out for ourselves, but often only once we realize that something is missing.
This is the WISDOM we need in this world. This is the KNOWLEDGE that leads to Happiness.
These life lessons have to do, in many ways, with growing up… coming of age… becoming a meaningful person in life with one’s own identity, a meaningful, positive identity in the world.
BEING COMFORTABLE in your own skin.
These thoughts came to mind as I was reflecting on things after the talk.
Before the talk, I purposefully did not plan out what I was going to say. I wanted to see their faces, read their expressions to see what they were feeling, connect with them where they are in life and let that PULL the message from me.
And what came out were these 3 thought points, and they are just as applicable to all of us at any age as they are to the college students looking for direction…
- The image of whom you are striving to be – is it your own?
- You can change your life at any time.
- When in doubt, find a way to be of service to others.
The Image Of Whom You Are Striving To Be – Is It Your Own?
We all have a vision of whom we’re supposed to be, the person we believe we should be, but who’s vision is it? From birth, we strive to make our parents happy and proud. We learn throughs social interactions and observation of the world around us – whom does everyone else admire and respect, whom do we admire and respect. We might compare ourselves to friends, to siblings, classmates, people we see in the news, movies, marketing, everything… literally everything around is is constantly pumping information into our heads about what we need to do with our lives, whom we need to be, what we should study, what it means to be successful.
I used to wonder what it meant when someone said “I need to find myself,” a common theme during the transitional period of life where some young people travel to “find themselves”. It’s only natural to yearn for independence and respect, to be seen as an individual, an adult, and no longer as a child. I can see the challenge in finding your own path in life when being bombarded by input from outside sources. But…
REMEMBER: You are the one that has to live your life
The advice of the others in our lives is almost always well meaning. It comes from their own experiences in their lives, where they may foresee see pitfalls we can’t because they’ve been there and we haven’t yet. Some of the advice is valid – it may save us from making a catastrophic mistake in life. But also, some of the advice is fear-based, a result of their own personal life experiences melding with their character traits, desire for adventure or stability, following their dreams to the fullest or playing it safe to survive.
The “college” age is that very time where we start to build a NEW self-image, a self-image as an adult, not as a child… a self-image that would ideally be our own, but often is not.
When we build a life based on someone else’s (parents, society’s, etc.) image of whom we should be, our inner desire for our own identity does not go away. That’s why there are so many stories, books, and speakers that all describe something similar – a kind of metamorphosis as they find ‘their purpose’, something that resonates with them on a deeper level, even late in life.
You Can Change Your Life At Any Time
This is a huge concept for ALL aspects of life, not just related to what we choose to study, but also with respect to our friends, relationships, where we live, anything.
This does not mean that we throw in the towel at the first hint of resistance.
But it does mean that when we are able to see clearly that something is not right for us, that we have the power to change. If, as a student, you pick a major and you come to find that it absolutely is NOT what you want to do, it’s OK! Change!
If it takes another semester, or even another year to graduate, that can seem like an eternity at a young age. But what of a life where the entire path is in the wrong direction?
The majority of people stay in unhappy situations, feeling as though there are no options, for years to decades. Most of the ‘barriers’ seen are not barriers, just concepts in our own minds. We stay in bad relationships, we continue working at that unfulfilling job, we are afraid of ‘risk’, or when things are kind of ‘complex’, or when things might impact others, when they might incur the judgement of others. These barriers can be very real.
One of my favorite things to do with people is DESTROY THOSE BARRIERS, literally like a wrecking ball (please no photoshopped images of me like Miley Cyrus). But that’s what I love – questioning everything… Is it REALLY true that you “can’t”?
So this lesson that you can change your life at any time is one of the most important lessons a young person can learn.
Once you see things clearly, and you realize what IS and what IS NOT a barrier to change, that is when you gain control of your life. That is when it is a conscious choice to stay and try to improve your current situation, or when you choose to do something different.
THEN: Knowing that you can change things at any time, fearlessly explore your life
When In Doubt, Find A Way To Be Of Service To Others
- When we’re searching for a purpose and coming up with nothing, we can feel disconnected, empty, floating. We may not be able to ‘find’ a purpose, but we can always find a way of helping someone. Helping someone inherently means we’re useful, valuable, and shows that there IS a way that we can contribute to the world in some way – big or small. We literally do get back more than we give. Here’s a great post from Berkeley on how giving is good for you.
- When we are ‘helping’, there is a different feel to the arrangement. Somehow, we are not as afraid of failure; there’s nothing to lose. Even if what we do isn’t perfect, it’s almost always well received, rewarded with appreciation. Even the tiniest bit of positive reinforcement is all the spark that some of us need to ignite something deeper inside of us.
- When we search for ways to help and choose to show up in a positive way in this world, opportunities seem to arise in unexpected ways. We may be asked to ‘help’ with something that we NEVER would have considered doing. This gives us a change to fearlessly experiment, almost unknowingly wandering out of our comfort zone and into a space of self discovery.
- What do you think happens when you combine a fearless exploration, positive reinforcement, appreciation, and repeatedly create space for creative sparks to ignite something inside of us? We may just stumble, almost literally, across our calling… is it serendipity?
- You will have made the world that much better for at least one person, maybe many. You may never know how that small act may have changed their day, or even their lives, for the better.