What Makes You Feel Alive
How many of us have felt pressure to know the direction we’re supposed to take in life?
I’d be willing to guess that all of us have been there at one point or another. We graduate high school or college and have to be prepared to answer all the questions about what the next chapter in our lives will bring.
But if we’re honest, most of us really have no idea.
With social media showing the most glamorous parts of people’s lives, we have an unrealistic expectation for our dreams. When we don’t have a clear path or face opposition to our goals it becomes really easy to think that it’s just not meant to work out.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Elaine Welteroth, an incredibly inspiring leader and the youngest Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue.
She talked to me about her own career experience and the direction she was led after graduating from college. Whether you’re fresh out of college and looking for that next pivotal step in your journey, or a veteran in your industry and looking for something more, I think her words ring true for so many people that struggle with finding their “purpose” in life.
The First Steps
First, I want to address the existential crisis that too many of us are familiar with when it comes to discovering our passion and purpose.
We live in a social media-dominated world that Elaine refers to as “the age of headlines and highlight reels”. While I am a huge proponent for all the good things social media has contributed to society, I do believe these personal “highlight reels” tend to give us a skewed representation of life, especially when it comes to our passions.
We rarely hear the universal struggles that people face when making their dreams a reality. Instead, we become an audience for success stories that make us feel like we are falling further and further behind.
While the struggle isn’t easy to embrace, it’s there that we find the real tools that we need and that we can share to help others as well.
On the path to pursuing your wildest goals, there is no better place to start than discovering what it is that makes you feel alive. Start with the thing that lights you up more than anything else. Maybe it’s helping other people succeed or standing up for oppressed people groups or leading a group to accomplish a goal. It doesn’t have to be incredibly specific, but it should be something you love to do.
From there, do a lot of soul searching and find the career path that best fits with your goals. For Elaine this consisted of an extended period of prayer, as she continued to search for the things that mattered to her.
The Hard Work
The idea of “never giving up on your dream” has become a watered down notion that’s easy to say or write on a motivational poster, but far more difficult to actually stick to when the going gets tough.
In all honesty, you probably won’t land your ultimate dream job right after college. What is far more likely to happen is that you will take the first, incredibly vital step toward your dream.
As you set out to pursue the thing that makes you feel most alive, don’t view a long road ahead as a failure. If anything, you should view your first steps toward your passion as steps in the right direction, and that is something worth celebrating. Remember that the steps to greatness are often subtle.
Our dream itself should always be in the forefront of our mind as the pinnacle of achievement. Elaine is a great example of this as she relentlessly pursued her dream until it became a reality. She didn’t just stumble into the role of Editor in Chief for one of the most popular magazine publications in the country, she kept pushing until her hard work paid off.
The Right Voices
Once you take that first step, find the right path, and set a clear goal, you should never discount the power of the voices you allow to speak into your life. You’ll find that some voices are helpful, while others are disparaging.
Oftentimes though, it’s far less black and white.
The narratives we usually hear and believe, we don’t necessarily know we’re hearing and believing. That’s why it’s so important that we carefully consider the things we begin to believe about ourselves as we step out in pursuit of our goals. If every voice is given equal credibility, the negatives will keep us from ever moving forward.
Embracing this reality can cause some people to pursue success in isolation.
While you may be able to figure out a path to success on your own, you’re often more effective and successful when you find a positive voice to speak into your career. A mentor in your particular industry is a great candidate for this voice of positivity. Elaine found inspiration for her entire career journey from Harriette Cole, an acclaimed editor, author, and speaker.
We can find the same benefits from someone in our field, as long as we have the persistence to reach out and the willingness to learn.
With all that being said, I’ll close with Elaine’s advice to anyone pursuing a lofty goal:
“When the world asks you to shrink, expand.”
It’s so easy to fall victim to the negativity that surrounds us, but we have to push forward to make an impact. It might take years of hard work, but a clear goal and trustworthy voices will push us further than we could ever imagine.
For more on this topic, including my entire interview with Elaine Welteroth, check out the Created for Experience podcast – What Makes You Feel Alive, featuring Elaine Welteroth.