My parents got me hooked on a daily reflection for Lent- a two minute video posted by Matthew Kelly, motivational speaker, author, business consultant and founder of Floyd Consulting and Dynamic Catholic.
I found the message I received on Tuesday to be subtle, yet extremely powerful. Kelly artfully explained the difference in “becoming” the best-version-of-yourself versus “discovering” the best-version-of-yourself.
The difference is only one word: become vs. discover; but it makes all the difference in the approach.
When you think about striving to “become” the best-version-of-yourself, you may begin to think about who you want to emulate, or how you can attain the qualities you admire in others. It’s almost like you are looking outside yourself for direction.
On the other hand, to “discover” the best-version-of-yourself is to dig deep within oneself to uncover your true potential, your unique strengths, gifts and talents. A synonym of discover is “to bring to light.”
Matthew Kelly explains, “As Christians, we see it as a discovery. We see it as, OK, God has already placed all this stuff within us. He’s created us, now he wants us to discover who we truly are. He wants us to discover that best-version-of-ourselves.”
Many people believe that when they lose 15 pounds or when they finally get that raise they will be living life as their “best self” and will finally be happy. Writer Emily Esfahani Smith ironically found that chasing happiness led people to feel unhappy. “Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there’s a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, but having meaning in life — serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you — gives you something to hold onto.”
Smith spent five years interviewing hundreds of people and reading through thousands of pages of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy. In the end, she discovered four pillars of a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, transcendence and the fourth pillar is storytelling: the story you tell yourself about yourself. “Creating a narrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It helps you understand how you became you,” explains Smith, “But we don’t always realize that we’re the authors of our stories and can change the way we’re telling them. Your life isn’t just a list of events. You can edit, interpret and retell your story, even as you’re constrained by the facts.”
Smith gives an example in her TedTalk: “I met a young man named Emeka, who’d been paralyzed playing football. After his injury, Emeka told himself, “My life was great playing football, but now look at me.” People who tell stories like this —”My life was good. Now it’s bad.” — tend to be more anxious and depressed. And that was Emeka for a while. But with time, he started to weave a different story. His new story was, “Before my injury, my life was purposeless. I partied a lot and was a pretty selfish guy. But my injury made me realize I could be a better man.” That edit to his story changed Emeka’s life. After telling the new story to himself, Emeka started mentoring kids, and he discovered what his purpose was: serving others. The psychologist Dan McAdams calls this a “redemptive story,” where the bad is redeemed by the good. People leading meaningful lives, he’s found, tend to tell stories about their lives defined by redemption, growth and love.”
It’s a delicate line between accepting yourself as you are while doing the work to discover the person you know you are capable of being. The science behind positive psychology says it’s essential to focus on what’s positive and possible instead of our perceived weaknesses and shortcomings.
What story about yourself can you begin to retell; or what qualities/strengths do you already possess that you can work on bringing to the light?