Confucius said, “We all have two lives and the second one starts when we realise we have only one”.
It has been over 2500 years since he said this, still most of us seem to struggle with this question – to live our dreams or not? Even though we all have a desire to live a meaningful life by pursuing our passions and fulfilling our potential, there is something that holds us back.
When I speak to many of my friends and colleagues, I see a common thread in most narratives. While most of them have done well for themselves in their lives – they are earning well, are doing well professionally or have a well settled family life, there is something that still seems amiss. There seems to be a yearning for something more, something meaningful that would fulfil them, satisfy them and make them live their full potential.
The role identities men internalize in life
In my experience, while there are many practical reasons they site, for not being able to live the life they desire, I see all these reasons have a common thread – of internalized role identities and living them unconsciously.
These role identities manifest differently for both men and women. For most men, the common internalized role identity is that of a provider; that they need to make sure they earn enough; so as to afford all that is expected from them, by their families and as defined by society around them. During a conversation with a friend, he shared, “I cannot afford, not to maintain the life style we are used to”, even though he had a deep yearning to do something else, something different. My instant response to him was “So you are willing to sacrifice your life for the life style!”.
For some others, it is also a prestige/self-esteem issue. They have a social standing in the pecking order which, their jobs and titles provide; and, to let go of that is very, very hard.
As a consequence, most men are gripped with a fear of losing what they have. This fear then manifests as fear of failure, risk aversion and allergy to ambiguity. However the path of living one’s potential is filled with taking risks, going into unknown, unchartered territories, which then looks threatening.
And the one women assume
For many women, the common internalized role identity is that of a care giver. That they need to make sure that everyone around them, especially their children, parents, parents-in-law and spouses are taken care of; and, in a manner as expected from them by their families and as defined by society around them. The most common thought is – “if I take care of myself, my passion, my desires, who will take care of the kids and family?”. And this thought then introduces a guilt, which they try to avoid.
As a consequence, most women then fabricate reasons and more reasons, to tell themselves and people others around them, why they can’t go out and do what they would have loved to. Spending long years with these thoughts then develops a lack of self-belief and self-confidence; to the extent that, they start believing that even if they go out, they won’t succeed.
Thus, both men and women commit themselves to a life, which gives them the comfort of safety and predictability and some amount of joy; but leave out a whole lot more that could have given a lot more satisfaction.
The Inner calling in life that keeps us awake
While they continue to go about their lives, the desire however persists and shows up in niggling ways. There are flashes of what seems like a larger self-beckoning; A self, that despite apparent satisfaction, comforts and fulfilment, surprisingly asks for more. There are sleepless nights and dreamy days, when there is a deep knowing that something different is meant for “ME”. It’s turbulent and scary at times; and exhilarating at other times.
The path ahead is full of unprecedented choices; to be made with no map, no compass, few believers, even fewer co-travellers and shoestring resources! The journey ahead, seems hazy. It seems fraught with dilemmas that comes with personal sacrifices – of family, finances, stability, status and many others – and it takes courage to get onto such a path, alone. Since not many people we know have been seen willing to get onto this path.
The starting point is to
Coax our passion and dormant potential; understand the mind-set needed to be enterprising
Arouse our deeper achievement motives and integrate them with our other needs and motives
Discover ways of work-life integration
Learn to channel angst and guilt to pride, creativity and joy
Understand our relationship with Risk, Failures, Ambiguity & Self-doubt
Mine the hidden treasures of your environment to be even more resourceful
Commit solidly to a tangible design for the future to fullfil the potential.
My own journey through this turbulent path had been a roller-coaster and lonely one too. However, believing deeply in the dream and keeping faith in the universe, that it would aid this journey as long as I am authentic and truthful to it, has helped.
My colleague Sanjay Dutt and I have put together a program called TAKE 2, which helps individuals to uncover the second life, within the one life they have; and, work through their limiting beliefs, discover their deeper motives, arouse their passion and help in crafting a life which brings in meaning and actualizes their potential.
You can read more about Take 2 here: http://www.thinkchange.co.in/take2
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