coming alive.

“Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive…then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

― Howard Thurman

In the past week, I’ve heard & read that quote three times, in three completely separate instances [from an audio book, on a friend’s facebook post, and in an article by tiny Buddha]. I’m not one to believe in coincidences, so I’m thinking that the Universe is urging me to think & write about what that quote means to me [woo woo enough for you?].

“Ask what makes you come alive” is such a powerful phrase to me. My parents sent me to my first ever personal development seminar when I was 13 years old, which was the first time I learned about being my Authentic Self and following my dreams. When I was within the seminar walls, I felt at home within myself, and the world felt like my oyster. I was going to do big things. I was ready.

Then I returned home.

It didn’t take me very long to snap back into the ways of being that I’d developed over the previous 13 years, and my desire to be different and pave my own way quickly faded. I went to two more personal growth seminars as a teenager, at ages 14 and 16, but basically went to those with the intention of drinking up the experience while I was there, and had no real commitment to applying what I’d learned to my “real” life [life outside the walls of the seminar room].

teen questhere I am on my last day of Teen Quest!

Some things stuck with me, though. There were little bits and pieces of what I’d learned there that I’d think back on. They weren’t big enough for me to make a change in my life, but they took up some of the space in my memory banks, and I remembered them fondly. The feeling of being in a completely safe space to be my Authentic Self was something that I’d always miss. Sometimes I’d page through the notes that I took while I was at the seminars, just to remind myself of what I’d learned and how I’d felt.

I’d dream of a world where I could safely rediscover my true Authentic Self. Where I could be Myself, every hour of every day, with the unconditional support of loved ones around me. I’d enter this world and magically – BOOM – I’d be the ME that was always within me. Easily. Gracefully [and I’m not going to lie, this vision also involved a lot of clouds and wispy dresses…think: Greek Gods].

Well, folks, in the 15 years since my first transformational growth seminar, I have yet to discover that mystical world that I’d dreamed of…but I am learning how to become my Authentic Self in THIS world…however difficult and un-graceful it has been.

_MG_7000When I think about what makes me come alive, it’s transformational growth. It’s in the essence of my being — I was MADE to do it. From the time that I sat down in my first personal development seminar, through the eight other seminars I’ve attended as a participant, and the two seminars that I’ve participated in as support staff, books I’ve read [both with my eyes and my ears], people I’ve talked to, and the like…growth & learning have been absolute cores of my being. I live to learn & grow. I’m fascinated by human behavior, and I love to think about thinking!

It hasn’t been easy — the road to where I am now has definitely been bumpy and winding [more on that in a future post]…but I’m here now. And I couldn’t be happier with where I am [not to be confused with me being complacent or stagnant]. Examples: my first assumption when Eric tells me that he talked to a new girl today isn’t, “HE’S GOING TO CHEAT ON ME,” and my first thought when I make a mistake isn’t “I’M SUCH AN IDIOT.” For me, that’s growth!

The other part of what makes me come alive is connecting with people. For a long time, I knew stuff like, “things I can do to be more authentic” and “if I want a different result, I need to take a different action.” But I didn’t DO anything with what I knew and I certainly wasn’t living from those places. People always say that knowledge is power…but really, knowledge is useless if we’re not doing anything with it.

It has been through connecting with people that I’ve learned how to get what I know from my head to my heart. For me, connecting is about creating a heart to heart bond with whomever I’m talking to…listening with & sharing from my heart.

I used to be really insecure about showing up fully in conversations with people, because of the same old Crazy fears [“what if they discover that I’m not perfect?” “what if they don’t take me seriously because I’ve made the same mistakes as them in the past?”]. Basically, I was afraid of being seen.

And as someone who a lot of people came to for advice, I didn’t want to appear “weak” [which I’d previously defined as ‘someone who makes mistakes’], so I’d have conversations where I’d keep my own wall up [and in fact, I’d think of myself as superior to the other person/people], and then I’d help them take down their wall, and I’d share whatever advice & feedback I had.

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t give people helpful feedback in these times [although sometimes I’m sure I didn’t!] — I’ve had people return to me with gratitude for the thoughts I’d shared with them. However for me, sitting on my high horse with all of my guards up only made my ego bigger — it didn’t help me to grow into MYSELF, and it sure as hell didn’t help me to connect with people in a way that was Authentic and wholeheartedly rewarding.

Some of the most powerful feedback that I received was from someone whom I’d met in the seminar I was attending, less than 8 hours earlier. She told me that I showed up as arrogant, superior, judgmental, and cold. *insert shocked face here*

Interestingly, I’d known that about myself for years. I knew that I showed up as a BITCH and I didn’t care. Or at least that’s what I told myself. And to a certain degree, I was ok with it — ok enough with it to not change, at least.

Until somebody ELSE pointed it out!

Hearing the feedback and KNOWING that it was not only 100% true, but also was coming from somebody who’d JUST met me was jarring [to say the least]. And that was the bitch-slap [see what I did there??] that broke the camel’s back…[stay with me here]…after receiving that feedback, I finally decided to make a real change in the way that I showed up in the world [again, more on that process in a future post].

Ever since that fateful feedback in July of 2009, I’ve worked really hard to show up fully in old friendships [flaws and all!], and have created new friendships that are built on a foundation of Authenticity, Accountability, Honesty, Love, Support, etc. I do my best to see everyone as an equal and accept everyone wherever they are on their path of growth. I say “do my best” because for SURE I’ve slipped up on those fronts [and others]…by, for example, withholding my truth because I’m feeling ashamed, and holding myself as small because I’m giving my power away and not being accountable for my own stuff. For the most part, though, I am authentic in my relationships. And when I’m not, my loving friends will always call me out on it 🙂 There’s no escape! Haha. But I don’t want one, so it works.

It’s friendships like these that have helped me to realize just how much I value connecting. Whenever I authentically connect with someone that I love, I always leave our conversations better than I entered them. I’ll be any combination of: inspired, challenged, energized, thought-provoked [yea, that’s a thing], mind-blown-ed, perspectivized [you know, when I see other perspectives that I’d never previously thought of], enlightened, break-through-ed, and so much more. And I LOVE it. I’ve told some of my friends that if I could make a living off of connecting with people and spreading the word about personal development, I’d be in heaven.

Enter my blog. I have no idea where this blog is going to take me, but I DO know that every time I write my truth and share it with the public, I know doing what I was always meant to do…it just feels right.

So here I am. Nervous as hell every time I click the “Publish” button, and doing it anyways because it’s what makes me come alive.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

x Nicole

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