Follow Your Heart, Not Your Life Plan
I recently visited our nation’s capital. I have been studying Thomas Jefferson in greater depth recently, and he continues to blow me away with his forward thinking and his incredible belief in human beings. He clearly believed that if humans were educated and given accurate information, we could make good choices on behalf of ourselves as individuals and on behalf of the country.
Thomas Jefferson was, if nothing else, an individual who believed in the concept of enlightenment and that the human mind is continuously learning and evolving. He felt that with more wisdom came the responsibility of appropriate change based on this new-found knowledge. Below is a quote from the Jefferson Memorial that struck me as very sage.
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
I find this quote captures who Thomas Jefferson was as a human being and his ideals for humanity. This quote could be just as useful for an individual as it is for a country. After all, we don’t wear the same clothes from when we were children. No, we purchase or make new clothes as we grow taller. We hopefully do the same thing as we grow internally as well. We change our opinions about certain subjects as we evolve and learn.
I have a young client who has always dreamt of living in a big city. She comes from a very rural town and actually was brought up on a farm. However, she thought that her future was tied to a huge, fast-paced metropolis that was never sleeping and was always alive with energy. She recently moved to her dream city, and she is discovering that there may be things she misses about small towns. Clearly, some of this could simply be part of the adjustment process. However, some of this could also be that she is discovering more about herself and her true desires now that she has the opportunity to explore the other world, which has always been distant and mysterious to her. Only time will tell. You know what they say: "The grass is always greener on the other side."
Now she must figure out what she should do with this new information about herself. This is the same conundrum we all experience as we go through life’s transitions. Maybe you thought you wanted to be the best athlete you could be, only to find yourself missing out on time with friends and family. Maybe you thought you wanted to be an attorney and follow in your father’s or mother’s footsteps, only to discover that the study of law, while somewhat interesting, does not make your heart sing like those psychology classes you took in college. Maybe you thought you’d get married to the right person, raise a family, and be happy forever, only to discover that your spouse is a workaholic who never comes home to spend time with you and the children. Maybe you’ve decided you want more from an intimate relationship than you originally thought.
Our ideas about who we are and what we want are forever changing and growing. What made you profoundly happy in high school may not even come close to what makes you profoundly happy as a mature adult. The worst thing you can do is suppress your inner passions and desires because you made up your mind a long time ago what your life was going to be. That is like drawing a picture of your perfect life as a child and never veering away from the picture. And let’s be honest, we all played with the concept of what our perfect life would be when we were younger. I have found that it is healthier to not create a picture of your perfect life but rather to have a delightful frame that surrounds your ever-evolving picture.
We are human. We change. Life changes. So, I encourage all of us to try not to fit into a life that we outgrew years ago and, instead, continually create a new life that is better suited to who we essentially are.
Here are two areas that have inspired me to look further into Thomas Jefferson, who I now believe was the true father of what it means to be an American and part of a democracy.
The first is the HBO miniseries on John Adams. It’s brilliantly done and definitely enlightening, not only about John Adams but also other leaders who emerged during that time, including Thomas Jefferson. I highly recommend viewing this for a wonderful education about the beginning of our country.
Second, I have been reading a superb book titled Thomas Jefferson on Leadership: Executive Lessons from His Life and Letters. I have found it truly educational and inspiring.
Here are a few quotes on this topic to help inspire you. I hope you find support in them.
Until next time,
Safe Space Life Coaching