Is your life driven by love or by fear?
Your work? Your relationships?
Do you do the easiest thing or the thing you really, actually want to do?
Do you take the safe route, the expected route?
Or are you true to your heart?
Are you more driven by what people think of you or by what you think of yourself?
Who or what are you loyal to?
People have taught me over the years that one of the most dangerous things we can do in life is to try to play it too safe, especially when it means betraying OURSELVES.
Most of us were taught early in life to be good, to follow the rules, and to do what is expected of us.
Many times, this was a very good idea, since kids really do have a lot to learn.
But, other times, kids are under the control and authority of less-than-emotionally-competent adults who unwittingly make them go against their good, healthy instincts in order to comply with or not get into trouble with them.
This latter dynamic is what causes kids to begin to 'disconnect' from themselves, i.e. in order to not get into hot water with the adults, which can mean anything from being on the receiving end of inappropriate anger all the way to the withdrawal of esteem, support, and even love.
This trauma can happen at the hands of parents, teachers, coaches, and any other adults who have authority and power over kids.
Now fast forward to adulthood.
You won't necessarily consciously remember these traumas of childhood, but your willingness to abandon yourself and your true interests are the mark of them.
And your main motivator in life will be fear rather than love.
It won't matter that something turns you on and makes you feel engaged and energized–i.e., connected–you'll have to go with what others expect of you instead and not listen to your inner voice.
Countless numbers of Bill Gates' and Steve Jobs' would have completed their respective college degrees (or stayed in their current careers) instead of pursuing their passions.
Which is not to say that you HAVE to quit your original plan in order to pursue what you love, by the way. Not at all.
What it DOES mean is that we have to get better at 're-connecting' with ourselves so that we can more accurately determine what is coming from within the deepest, truest, strongest parts of ourselves, (e.g. we might quit college or change careers because there's a fire in the belly), versus what represents destructive acting out because of other problems or in order to not follow through with our perfectly fine original plans, (e.g. quitting college or changing careers because of stress, interpersonal issues, depression, etc.) As we get better at knowing the difference, we also get better at living.
All of this also applies to our relationships–including what we allow ourselves to say out of love and caring versus what we suppress out of fear of abandonment or other fears–as well as how and with whom we allow ourselves to have relationships in the first place.
Alas, as we get better at living, life becomes an everyday vacation and the main problem becomes its relative brevity more than anything else.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don't Get Married! (Unless You Understand a Few Things First)