What do you want to be? Ever thought about that question?
When I was 16, a Careers Advisor asked me that same question. I didn’t know. I was 16. So she took me through a series of questions. I answered them as best I could at the time. The result was that the career I was most suited to was ‘a tractor driver’. I told my Form Tutor who replied ‘your legs are too short for that’. I was screwed.
But let’s just reflect on that question. Nowhere within it does it say ‘Profession’, so why do we automatically jump to that presumption?
This morning I asked my 13-year-old daughter the same question over breakfast. ‘What do you want to be?’ Her response was immediate and simple. ‘Nice’.
She wants to be nice. How wonderful that she heard the question for what it is – the literal meaning. What do you want to be? I want to be nice.
It’s not surprising that we immediately jump to these conclusions. From the moment we are old enough to speak we are asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. But what if we started asking ‘What kind of person do you want to become’? I think we would hear very different answers. I think Careers Advisors would be screwed.
‘What kind of person do you want to be?’
It is a question I have asked myself many times over the past five months. At first, I racked my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to be. I got caught up in the Profession aspect too.
But with time, comes the gift of reflection and clarity. At home in the UK, we were so busy being 100 different personalities for 100 different people, that we really never knew our true selves. It took 5 months in a small motorhome with just 3 other people to discover who we really are. Now I can answer the question with utter certainty;
I want to be kind. I want to be kinder. I want to do kind things. I want to make other people feel good. I want to lead a kind life.
‘I want to be kind’
Anybody who knows me knows that this is a tall order.
Because being kind doesn’t come easy. Especially to someone like me. I am often tormented by the awful things I have said and done over the years. It keeps me awake at night.
In my twenties, I took another test as part of my employment (not as a tractor driver I might add). It said that I was habitually truthful. I could not deal with untruths, even if it was to the detriment of someone else’s feelings.
What keeps me awake at night – is that I was proud of that. I thought it was a good thing to be truthful. Maybe it is. But like intelligence – it’s not about how intelligent you are – it’s about how you use it. If you use your intelligence to make others feel stupid or undermined, what use is that intelligence?
If I use honesty to hurt others, what is the benefit of being open?
I’m not able to change my core values. I still value honesty and integrity. But I can change how I deliver or apply those values. I can stop to think, before I open my mouth, whether the recipient of my frankness deserves to be hurt. What will it gain?
If it is not true, if it is not kind, if it is not necessary – don’t say it.
As Prem Rawat rightly says “Kindness, gentleness and generosity are traits that are fundamentally within every human being – the question is ‘are you in touch with that power within you, or not?’
The power of human kindness is something that I have become fascinated with, almost obsessed about during this adventure. I look for it everywhere. In every act, word, action or gesture. My interest was born from being the beneficiary of some wonderful acts of generosity, compassion, and kindness when my husband and I were experiencing some difficult times last year. The people who touched our life did so selflessly. I suppose, they are the fortunate few who have discovered the power within them and chose to use it wisely. Thank goodness for them.
But then there are those that cause hurt, anxiety, and pain. The select few that also have the power, but chose cruelty over kindness.
I’ve thought a lot about these people too. I have given them perhaps more thought than they actually deserve. And I only feel pity. For there must be something inherently wrong with people who take strength from causing suffering. What has happened to make them so unfeeling? What motivates them? I fear it is something far deeper than I care to prompt.
Then there are those that seem to seek critique and pretend to be comfortable with hurting others (I can think of a few celebrities who sit within this cohort). How sad to be in a position of influence and still use that power to illicit darkness. I often wonder if they do it to validate their own self-loathing. Or prove to themselves that they are indeed, unlikeable – a bad person. Or perhaps they over-compensate for a past experience. I don’t know – but it’s sad.
I witnessed just this week a well-known scientist (mis)use his intellect to cause offence to another group of people. He did it in such a way as to cause insult. Then he sat back and appeared to enjoy the outrage that ensued. What was his motivation? I’d love to ask him. But the fact that he then spent all day responding to trolls and angry insults, tells me that there is something missing in his life. Feeding on negativity is not honourable. Praying on weakness does not make you feel good – not in the long run anyway.
I know, I’ve been there.
As the years are passing, and I am growing older, I reflect on my own behaviour – and that of those I have, or do surround myself with. There have been both negative and positive influences over the years. Some people have stayed in my life, others have drifted away. Some you may call friends; others acquaintances, some just fleeting relationships. Paulo Coelho – the author of the Alchemist – believes that people come into your life at certain times to teach you the skills you need to move forward and achieve your dreams.
As I move forward, I reflect on the good people who have taught be to be a better person. I also reflect on the lessons I have learnt from negative interactions. I certainly feel more comfortable with the fact that people fall by the wayside for a reason. I’m sure that those that are meant to stay in your life, remain in your life.
In the end, though, you will only be remembered for how you make others feel.
I want my epitaph to read ‘She was a good egg’
What will yours say?