The weight of carrying the expectations of others can be overwhelming. Whether it’s your parents, spouse, friend, boss, or pastor, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of layering what other people want for and from you on top of what you want for and from yourself. In fact, it’s easy to get lost in all the noise and forget what your voice even sounds like.
I see this more often than I’d like as I meet with incoming freshman. While I can’t meet with every freshman one on one, I can meet with them in small groups throughout the year. This gives me a chance to stay in touch with their interests, needs, and passion, and they get to hear from me what I believe will be important for them during their time at Southeastern University.
What never ceases to amaze me is how many students carry with them the expectations of others—especially their parents. I'm not here to judge or cast blame on anyone. I believe most parents have the best of intentions in setting their son or daughter up for success. But sometimes their zealous efforts can become so deafening that it never allows their child to learn to hear and trust his or her voice.
If you lose your sense of self, you'll never fully appreciate the uniqueness that is in you. Each freshman I meet possesses a certain level of genius. I'm not talking about genius in relation to some academic or scientific score. I mean the capacity to do something important and significant that will impact the world in a tangible and measurable way. But if you don't know how to distinguish your voice from the voice of others, you'll end up chasing the dreams of someone else.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE YOUR VOICE
· Commit to consistent periods of self-reflection. You don't have to hike to the top of a mountain and meditate in silence for days on end to develop the discipline of self-reflection. You can do this in the car while you're driving, on your morning run, or simply in the quietness of the evening before you go to sleep.
· Ask and answer–Why? Motivation, intentions, and expectations will reveal more than just information alone. Many people like to fancy themselves to be purely pragmatic when it comes to decision making, but no decision is void of emotion. The answer to this question will tell you a lot about yourself and your relationship to a situation, circumstance, or person.
· Trust your instincts. If you squash your voice long enough, you’ll teach yourself how to suppress it. If you find you have lots of filters that leave you paralyzed with fear or lost in self-doubt, it’s a good sign you haven’t learned to trust your instincts. Nothing is wasted, even bad decisions.
· Give up the need to always please others. This is a tough one for the people-pleasing crowd. It’s especially complex when someone tries to earn the approval of someone else. You must learn to believe in yourself. You are already good enough.
SO, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO CHOOSE YOURSELF?
· It means you recognize there is a plan and purpose for your life. You were not created by accident. You have talents, skills, and abilities that, when combined, will transform you into a powerful agent of change.
· It means you desire the self-discovery that can only come from the adventure. You will learn the most about yourself and life when you step out of your comfort zone and into the world of possibility. This is a conscious choice you must make every day. It’s easy to stay on the sidelines.
· It means you discipline yourself to recognize the difference between someone else’s unfulfilled dreams and your divine design. Stay true to yourself. Don’t live through the disappointments or dreams of anyone but yourself. I don’t believe most people do this intentionally. I honestly think most people don’t even recognize it when they do it.
· It means you say yes. Life rarely forces you into a situation. You must say yes to release the power to move forward and live a life of significance, meaning, and purpose.
THIS LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT.
I’ll never forget what a friend told me once. He said, “I want to live a life that someone else wants to write a book about.” I know that can be taken to mean many things. But if you knew this person, you would understand it was said with pure intentions.
What I think he meant was he wanted to be true to himself and his calling. He believed that by living that way it would inspire others to do this same in their own life. And that's the multiplying effect making the right choices can have in your life.
It’s impossible to go through life and not have an impact on the people around you. The unknown places and spaces of life is where you’ll find some of your biggest opportunities for impact. That’s where the function of choice comes into play. You must decide the life you want to live and the legacy you want to leave behind.
No one else can live your life. In fact, I need you to say yes to your adventure—not mine or anyone else’s. You are your own person. Live into the fullness of the person you were created to be, and reach for the things that light your soul on fire. It’s the only way to avoid a zombie-like experience where you are left wandering through the expectations of others hoping to find yourself somewhere amid all the noise.
The choices you make will determine the life you live. Say yes to yourself and the adventure that awaits you. And in the meantime, soak up all you can. There is much joy, abundance, and blessing awaiting you. All you have to say is—yes.
REFLECT: What do you need to say yes to? Whose voice has been governing your decisions? What would have to be true to live the life of your dreams? How are your choices setting you up for that?