I pondered the lack of long-range planning in my life in a recent entry, and posed the question: Would I have accomplished more if I had planned for my future career better in high school and college, or would I be in exactly in the same place and struggling with a massive mid-life crisis over unmet life goals? It was an interesting question that I never came up with an answer to, and running across this quote brought it back to mind because I believe this is my answer. Simply stated, I’ve never set my goals in life based on what I want to be – I set them by what I want to do. And that, I believe, is the difference. How can you set yourself on one static goal when there’s an entire life and world to live in front of you?
Yet the world presses us to define ourselves as nouns, even though we are clearly verbs. From youth, it pushes us to define ourselves by titles and accomplishments instead of achievements and goals. Sure, they talk about achievement and goals, but only insofar as decorating that almighty “wall of me” with degrees, certifications, awards, and credentials. But isn’t life more than that? Aren’t we more than our definitions? Don’t we have an authentic purpose to contribute to the world, perhaps in numerous ways and roles, that can’t be defined by titles or positions, but rather by their impact on others, on life, and on reality?
Perhaps I delve too deeply, but consider this: of the eleven books that I’ve published, only one has won an award. When I posed the question on social media on whether winning awards matters, the response I received back was unanimous: it doesn’t, because readers pick what they want to read based on their personal interest instead of what award it’s won. What’s more, most readers didn’t even know what any of those awards mean. They just buy, download, or check out whatever strikes their fancy. They pick it based on their authentic personal interest; not on what some pundits somewhere told them was good.
It’s amazing that we can achieve that level of authenticity when it comes to hobbies and personal interests. Those are the verbs of our lives. Why do we draw a line between one area and another? Why can we be comfortable with being a verb in our personal life, but a noun in professional life? The answer is simple: that line is drawn between what others can and cannot see. They see our jobs, our titles, and our roles. They don’t see what we download on our Kindle, watch on TV, look up online, write on our laptops, or create through our activity and work in the privacy of our own homes. What’s more is that we work hard to shroud it in the nouns we are supposed to be if these places do become exposed.
It’s all about image. And therein is why I seem stalled to others when in fact, I feel extremely blessed with a full and happy life. My profiles might be filled with published ebooks instead of public notices of titles and works. My walls might be adorned with cross stitches instead of awards. But by golly that art means more to me than some temporary “atta girl” that will pass in time and either be forgotten, or pressed to be replaced with more nouns to support what I think I am. My purpose is to help and bless others through my writing and my work. You can’t quantify that. What matters to people on a personal level is impossible to define in words – and that is and always has been my purpose.
I never developed a long range life plan because I always defined myself by what I want to do, not by what I want to be. I want to be whatever allows me to fulfill my purpose in this world, and that’s not a static noun. It’s an ever-changing verb that moves and flows through life and the world in a presence that is without form or definition. So there, I’d say I won. Lord, don’t ever let me be confined by nouns. I’ll be in a box when I’m dead. Until then, I gave stuff to do.
That’s the secret to it all, folks. That’s the secret to life, success, and authenticity. It’s really that simple: be a verb, not a noun.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great rest of the week.