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What Do You Live For?

Reviewing selections of “Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self” by Don Hahn

An obvious theme runs through a variety of sections of Don Hahn’s book — find your passion and live it. Whether that’s running a business, being a parent, curing cancer, designing beautiful things, teaching tomorrow’s leaders, or flying to the moon — it’s time to be you. Unfortunately, many people are too riddled with fear or bogged down with life’s obligations to take the leap necessary to live the life — or be the person — they really want. What’s worse, however, is when you can’t seem to figure out what that life would look like or include, should you decide to begin this journey. Finding your passion, yourself, and living a life that makes you happy can be within reach. Let’s start with the basics of achieving it:

What Are You Interested In?

This seems pretty obvious, but as we get busier and older, we tend to lose track of a real answer to this. Hahn makes this point when he brings readers back to his time in Cub Scouts, realizing that “…we wore badges as signs of who we were. The number of badges you wore showed the diversity of your interests and your commitment to learning.” Fast-forward to Hahn as an adult, a man who states he must “sometimes stop and think about the merit badges I earned so many years ago. What others have I earned — really earned — since then? Or have I been so sidetracked with life that I’ve forgotten to carve out time for my interests? Even worse, will I wake up one day and find that I have no interests at all?”

Do you know what your interests and passions are, or have you simply forgotten them? If you aren’t sure, think about a younger version of yourself. What would he or she be interested in? Is there still a spark of interest in this long-lost dream? Still can’t figure it out? Try thinking out what you would do for the rest of your life, if you quit your day job today. Not sure if your interests really are your passions? Take a class to learn more about the topic or skill. Finally, even if you don’t plan to make these interests a career, do them for the betterment or fulfillment of yourself. You deserve it!

Who Would You Be Without Labels?

“We love to affix labels to everything, but most of all we love to label ourselves. Starting very early in school, we put ourselves into neat little boxes for classification…” Labels like: teacher, saleswoman, architect, lawyer, doctor, office assistant, barista, dancer, liberal, conservative, and so on. Hahn states that these are all “generic labels for complex human beings,” and he reinforces this fact by showing readers that labels are deceiving because people are and do so much more than their labels convey.

Therefore, you’re charged with wondering “what would happen if those labels didn’t exist [and the] words didn’t define?” What if “you would just be…you — the individual.” As the individual — a being who does a variety of complex things in their own unique way — you’re not restricted by a label that says you do everything just like everyone else also defined by that particular label. The reality is, no one else is exactly like you. Embrace that and run with it. Figure out who (not what) you — the individual, the spirit, the essential character — would be without labels.

What Do You Live For?

Everything above leads to this root question: what do you live for? After you figure out what you’re interested in or passionate about, and once you discard society’s labels for yourself, it’s time to really ask yourself the following:

Who, exactly, am I?

What am I good at?

What do I love to do?

What keeps me going?

What is my creative gift to the world?

What do I live for or live to do?

The answers to what you want out of life, not your career, lie within you and your desires — not your parents’ or partner’s wishes. It’s not necessarily the career the world sees you operate within, and it may not be the thing you do 100% of your day. However, once you remove the labels, you are free to pick your passion and, therefore, devote time to building a life that makes you happy.

Much like the journey involved in finding your passion, Hahn thinks it can be helpful to think of yourself at the end of your life. From this futuristic self, he says to look back on your life: What does it look like and feel like?; What will be your greatest achievements and accomplishments?; What will be your biggest regret? Now, return to your present-day self — the one who is full of life, no matter how old you are or feel. Make this the day you commit to taking control of accomplishing this imagined life-list. Make this the day you start to really pursue your happiness.

Live For the Journey

William Ross Wallace said, “Every man dies; not every man really lives.” Make sure you find a way to really live and make your life what you’ve always dreamed it could be. Meet your own standards — not those imposed by society — for your passion or gift in life is what you choose. Avoid the notion that it is insignificant or of little value. Understand that your success in this chosen path doesn’t really require fame, public success, social validation, or a cultural impact, but it does require that you feel satisfied with your work and efforts. Find a way to believe that your work is important — if not just to you — and maybe, just maybe, it’ll one day “affect the world in unknowable ways.” If nothing else, Hahn says to “live for the journey. Every act in your life has relevance to that journey, and both the greatest moments of joy and the deepest personal failures will define who we are and where we’ve traveled.”

Next in the #YourCreativeSelf series: Express Yourself.

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