by Dave Davis

“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”

This is a passage gleaned from the worldwide bestseller “The Alchemist,” written by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, who takes readers on an amazing adventure, viewed through the eyes of a young shepherd named Santiago. Much of the story (which Coelho so deftly applies using various forms of allegory), consists of “obstacles” that the young protagonist must overcome in order to fulfill his life’s dream.

What makes it such a popular read is the universality of its message — we all possess a need to realize our personal calling and need a guide to how best to implement it. Of course, that sounds a bit simplistic, but when we make the effort to dig deep into what motivates us beyond some of the more obvious societal needs, we are then able to define our true purpose.

There’s a level of consciousness that we need to bring to the table whenever we are attempting to define who we are and to discover what’s necessary to unlock factors that might distort our perception. 

What we might think is of particular value or importance, especially when participating in a relationship, may in fact not be so at all, for it lacks the substance required to maintain a desired connection.

Needless to say, where many of us tend to get lost along this road of discovery is when we allow others to dictate which path to follow, rather than blazing our own trail. How and by whom we were raised certainly plays a significant role in the early stages of developing our purpose, and sometimes, for whatever reasons, we become so entrenched in a path that isn’t congruent with our true self that we lose our way.

While researching a similar topic for another piece, I came across an article in Psychology Today, written by motivational speaker John Kim, which resonated with me and further drives home the notion of living in accordance with our values: “Finding yourself is important because it is the key to living a fulfilling and authentic life. When you truly know yourself, you can make decisions that align with your values, passions, and purpose. It’s about understanding who you truly are, embracing your unique story, and living authentically.”

I’m probably not alone in noticing that those times in my life when I strayed from living my authentic self tended to be when I’ve slipped into a pattern of “living for others.” 

Not surprisingly, I’ve found that this most often occurred during a long-term committed relationship. Researcher and author Brené Brown reminds us just how difficult it is to maintain our authentic qualities: “It’s challenging to be real in a world that wants us to fit in and please everybody. Authenticity is not a default behavior. It can seem easier just to be what others want us to be.”

Indeed, defining ourselves through the relationships we have with others, or maybe by the way in which we’ve always done things in order to maintain expectations, will most likely leave us in a vulnerable position. By identifying the values and principles that are most meaningful to us and sharing them with those who we consider to be of significance, we can expect to bring additional clarity to our path of self-discovery.

Dave Davis
Dave Davis teaches preschool for the Head Start program based at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, NY. He is also a frequent contributor to “Who Smarted?,” a popular educational podcast for elementary school children.

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