” Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.”
– Erich Fromm
Years ago I gifted a framed copy of Erich Fromm’s inspirational quote to my father in honor of his retirement. Little did I know at the time but those memorable words were intended more for me than my dad. In one simple sentence Fromm captured the truth of man’s life mission – to become what he potentially is.
So clear, so straightforward, so pure.
Those words were powerful, inspiring hope and joy when I thought of who I could be, what I could achieve while simultaneously creating an undercurrent of fear and self-doubt when I ventured to guess at what it might take to live into my potential.
Early on the fear won out; I became masterful at dodging man’s purpose. I’d start something then stop. I’d create distractions to justify my inaction. I’d stall. Call it playing small, flying under the radar, hiding out – they were simply tactics to avoid my greatest fear: FAILURE. Could I really live this bigger version of me? The one I imagined but was so afraid to be?
And if I could, how does one give birth to oneself? What does it really take?
Having hit my sixth decade, I can safely say that it takes a lifetime. It also takes a strong commitment to make conscious choices, stay in action (whether you feel like it or not) and be open to learning from fellow travelers along the way. Some of my favorite key distinctions that have kept me from veering off the path are:
Conscious vs Sleep-Walking: Remain aware of your choices because they will determine whether you are living consciously or merely sleep-walking through life. Are you choosing to be busy or are you taking the necessary actions to keep growing? Are you moving toward your wants or trying to please others? Are you making excuses or are you getting results?
Focused vs Foggy: A clear, focused intention of where you are headed keeps you on the path. If you’re foggy about what you really want, you’ll take all kinds of detours. Remember if you don’t make plans for your life, others will.
Self-loving vs Self-loathing: The quickest way to lose your forward momentum is to be hard on yourself. Self-judgment keeps you stuck; Self-acceptance allows you to cut yourself all the slack you need so you can make mistakes, learn and move on.
Want to vs Willing to: There’s a huge difference between wanting something with all your heart and being willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Desire is the fuel in the tank but nothing ever happens without ACTION.
Wherever you are on your self-discovery journey, slow down and notice that the biggest reward isn’t some all powerful version of YOU; there’s a greater payoff: living your life fully ALIVE!