By Sam Horn
"When I saw Ellen DeGeneres at the cover shoot for O, I didn't even have to ask how she was; it showed on her face. It radiated the type of happiness and peace that only happens when we're living at our highest potential." - Oprah
Would you like to know how to get that type of happiness?
Living to your highest potential starts with having the clarity and courage to do what's right for you when making decisions about what to do with your life. When you make congruent decisions at Crucial Crossroads, you set a chain of harmonious events in motion and life gets better and better.
I'm speaking from experience. It started when I graduated from high school and needed to pick my college major. A class advisor said, "You should become a lawyer so you can use your smarts." A teacher said, "With your brain, you should go to med school and become a doctor."
Problem was, I didn't want to become a doctor or lawyer. What I loved most and did best was sports. I had played on the boys' tennis team in high school and worked as a swim coach and lifeguard in the summer. Truth was, I wanted to study (wait for it) . . . Recreation Administration.
Laugh if you must (and plenty of people did), but I planned to help pay my way through college by working for my local Parks district in Auburn, CA. I passionately believed playing as a family and being physically active was good for us as individuals and as a community.
Problem was, a lot of people didn't perceive Recreation as a "respectable" degree. Some looked at me askance when I told them my proposed major as if to say, "Really?" One person even said jokingly, "Will you be studying underwater basket-weaving?"
I talked to my dad and he shared W. H Murray's life-changing quote and followed it up with, "When you can't decide what to do, go with your gut. If options appear equal; go for the bolder option - the one that calls to you."
Are You Holding Back or Initiating on Your Own Behalf?
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all matters of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."
- W. H. Murray (The Scottish Himalayan Expedition)
Thanks Dad for sharing that advice; it has shaped my life ever since.
In retrospect, that pivotal decision to major in what was meaningful to me - instead of giving in to what other people were telling me - set up my SerenDestiny.
Days after graduating, I got a phone call from a former boss asking if I wanted to come work for him on Hilton Head Island in SC. That led to me working for Rod Laver which led to me being recruited by World Championship Tennis to help open the Regency Racquet Club in McLean,VA- the first country club for racquet sports.
After a great couple years there, I listened to my heart once again and decided that, as much as I enjoyed working there, I didn't want my life's work to be selling tennis warm-ups and organizing tournaments.
So, I took off, traveled across Canada and worked at the Calgary Stampede and the California State Fair. Then I came back to Wash DC and was fortunate to land a job with Open University (thanks, Sandy Bremer.) We had 300 different classes in everything from tap dancing to how to build your own house.
My role was to think up new programs which led to me noticing, one day while reading The Washington Post, that the word "concentration" was used six times on the front page of the sports section.
Chrissy Evert said her ability to concentrate helped her win the U.S. Open. A golfer he missed a gimme putt on a sudden-death playoff hole because he was distracted by the clicking cameras of photographers.
I was intrigued. I thought, "We all want to concentrate better, yet I've never seen any books on that topic. I've never even heard anyone speak about it."
I decided to research it and interviewed athletes, executives, entrepreneurs and artists and asked, "Did anyone ever teach you to concentrate? What do you do to help yourself focus?" What advice would you give someone who wanted to s-t-r-e-t-c-h their attention span?"
I presented my findings and tips in a public workshop entitled "You Can Concentrate." Several people came up afterwards to ask if I'd speak to their corporation or convention. That led to me becoming a professional speaker presenting concentration programs for clients ranging from NASA to American Bankers Assocation . . . and so on.
The work I do today is the "long tail" of that initial decision to study what I loved most and did best. Going with my gut at that College Crucial Crossroads has led to an ideal career I didn't even know existed but that thrills me on a daily basis.
What Are You Setting in Motion?
"To do what you love and feel that it matters; how could anything be more fun?" - Katherine Graham
We all have daily opportunities to take our destiny in our own hands . . . if we get clear about what we love most, do best, and feel matters . . . and if we honor our heart instead of our head and go with our instincts vs. our intellect.
Chances are, you're facing a decision right now. Somewhere in your life, you're at your own Crucial Crossroads.
Perhaps you're thinking about starting your own business, writing a book or asking a certain someone out for a date. Maybe it's trying to decide whether to buy a house, quit your job , get divorced or move to a new city.
The paths in front of you diverge.
One is what society or tradition recommends. It could be a practical, obvious, conservative, passionless-but-safe option.
The other requires a leap of faith. It may be a bit risky and untraditional. It may fly in the face of what others think you "should" do. It requires you to initiate on your own behalf - to bet on yourself and go all in on your talent, hopes and dreams. It means reaching for and honoring what you want.
It may even require you to go against the norm and not give in to what the conservatives in your life think. Conservatives who may be pressuring you to conform and do what they did. It requires you believing it is not selfish to do what you love most and do best; it's smart.
Pursuing your SerenDestiny is based on the premise that you have a right and a responsibility to wrap your life around what you're good at - and that when you do, good things happen for you and everyone around you.
It's understanding that, as Rita Mae Brown says, "The reward for comformity is everyone likes you but yourself."
What you decide here will send you down one path or the other.
One path will keep you in alignment with what matters to you and move you closer to leading a life that feels right - the life you're meant to live, a life that leads to rewarding results.
The other path will compromise who you are and lead to a life that feels wrong - a life that's not your own, a life that will lead to remorse and regrets.
Which are you going to choose?
Are you going to draw back and leave your bandwagon parked in the garage?
Or are you going to make a commitment today to set your best future in motion so opportunities and individuals who thrill you can see that bandwagon, jump on it and help you create the parade of your life?
Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert and author of POP!, helps entrepreneurs, executives and organizations create more compelling communications. Her work has been featured on NPR, MSNBC, BusinessWeek.com and in the NY Times and her clients include Cisco, Intel, NASA and Capital One. Her next book SerenDestiny features inspiring stories and insights from people who have the light on in their eyes because they're doing what they love most and do best. To arrange for Sam to speak to your group, to work with her one-on-one, or to discover how you can lead the life you're meant to live - visit www.SamHorn.com www.SamHornPOP.wordpress.com or www.SerenDestiny.wordpress.com
This article originally appeared in her newsletter and blog under the title, "People Can't Jump On Your Bandwagon If It's Parked in the Garage" and is used with permission.