An excerpt from Dr. Linda Seger’s Book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success: Gaining the Goal Without Losing Your Soul.
The poet, William Wordsworth, writes that we come into this world, “trailing clouds of glory.” In his poem, Intimations of Childhood, he says that somehow we are very close to God when we are born. We immediately know what’s important in life – love, relationship, trust, care, sensitivity. For many children, they retain that understanding for several years. Their favorite childhood books tell them the truth about life. The Velveteen Rabbit tells them that they have to be real, and that sometimes becoming and being real will mean some tatters and hard knocks along the way. Charlotte’s Web tells them that they are Quite Something, and deserving of a good life. The Little Prince tells them that the meaning of life is not about the expensive big house and that they mustn’t get lost and confused along the way.
But most of us eventually lose our way. Grownups discourage our dreams. We get caught up by the things of the world. We learn to live by getting and spending. By the time we start our careers, we often have forgotten what’s important and leave the dream and the beauty behind.
Yet, our childhood tells us something about who we are and who we’re meant to be. Our defining of ourselves takes place from an early age – when we learn whether we love science or the arts, whether we’re a people-person or like to go it alone, whether we fit neatly into our family’s and school’s expectations, or rebel against what we’re told we’re supposed to think and do.
We often can discover our true identity by looking back to what we naturally loved as children. My husband has a theory (which I also believe) that we can best find out what we’re meant to do when we grow up by looking at what we loved to do when we were young. Our childhood joys give us a good clue about who we truly are.
As a boy, my husband loved to massage his grandmother’s feet and hands, and he became a massage therapist.
My career consultant said her mother used to ask her for advice, even when she was five. And she happily gave it. She’s been a career consultant for more than twenty-five years.
When I learned to talk, I didn’t want to stop. I loved to talk and talk. My sister often said to my mother, “Linda has been talking for the last three hours.” My mother would answer, “She has something to say!” When I was ten, I learned a new way to talk – through writing stories. When I grew up, I became a public speaker and seminar leader and author. Now I can give seminars and talk for up to eight hours at a time and write hundreds of pages about the things I love to talk about.
We sometimes think our identity is determined solely by our talents. Of course, we have to have some talent for what we do, or we won’t enjoy doing it. But talent often develops. The idea that we’re somehow born with all sorts of abilities that determine our careers is only partially true. Yes, most of the great singers had good voices when young. But other successful people, such as Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill were slow starters and late bloomers and didn’t quite fit into the mold.
We live in an in-between world. It’s as if we come from God, trailing those clouds of glory, and then spend our lives trying to re-discover how God’s presence and influence and love works within our lives. Something may be pulling at us, but we aren’t always sure quite what it is. Finding what we’re meant to do and be isn’t always so easy and clear.
The Quaker theologian and activist Elise Boulding says, “That which we are born remembering … is not a ‘how to’. It is God as presence. All of prayer, all of meditation, seeks that from which we came, that toward which we move.”2
We are constantly in the process of becoming more fully ourselves and bringing God’s Spirit and Guiding Presence more completely into our lives. It’s as if we have to remember who we are, because, somewhere along the way, we forgot it. Most of us, as we grow up, want to bring our understanding into the work we do. We try to match our identity with our skills and with our careers, hoping to contribute something that is truly our own, and that is truly God’s desire.
Yet, there are always pressures and influences that try to make us someone else. Our parents want us to follow in their footsteps. Our teachers want us to do what they do – and often in the same way they do it. Our spouses, co-workers, bosses, and even our society have an opinion about what’s an appropriate career for us. The media and our culture try to tell us what are the best choices for a successful life. Meanwhile, we keep wondering, “What am I supposed to be doing? What am I best suited for?” And if we’re spiritual people, we ask another question: “What does God want of me? What would success mean, from a spiritual viewpoint?”