Take some time to think back on your life both recently and in the last few years and ask yourself:
“What makes me come alive?”
In other words, what were the moments when time just flew by? When you felt more like you than you ever have before? What events or activities have your participated in that made you feel so competent in your work that it didn’t matter what people thought of you? What activities give you joy?
You can also take another approach to this question by completing one of these statements:
When I am _________ time seems to fly by.
When I was young, I loved to ___________.
I often day dream of ___________.
If I could do anything today, I would _____________.
What Makes Young People Come Alive
I asked this question to a group of eighth graders not long ago (I’m a catechist). Their responses were simple, yet profound. In many ways this exercise is meant to help us get in touch with our core–the things that were planted on our hearts as children.
Here is what they shared when I asked them to write down what makes them come alive (in no particular order):
- fixing things. “When I fix things time just flies by and it doesn’t seem that it was that long.”
- friends, hanging out with them.
- reading books
- music–listening and playing
- watching movies
- my sisters and my family
- taking walks with my friends
- climbing trees, “If climbing trees was a career I would be there in an instant.”
- building things (out of card board)
- dancing (step dancing, square dancing, swing dancing)
- cheerleading, “I live cheerleading becasue I can express myself and cheer my team on all the time!”
- spending time with friends
- biology, microbiology, bacteriology
- marching band
- classic novels like Animal Farm
What strikes me about these responses is the similarities between them. Many of them shared that they come alive when they participated in some act of creation (fixing things, painting, dancing, drawing, cheer leading, playing music, marching band), while others connected with family and friends. It is amazing how art and learning made so many of the students come alive: playing music, dancing, reading, and drawing.
In each case, I gather, they were doing these things for the sake of the act itself. They had no financial obligations to attend to. They had no need to pay bills by reading books or “fixing things.” They loved the acts for the sake of themselves.
When you search for your calling, you’ll probably find the same experience. You are called to do the work that you like to do for the sake of itself. Without a doubt this appeals to the artistic side of us. Even if we like scientific, analytical stuff (microbiology), it is the joy of doing the work that makes us come alive.
I can’t help but point out the clear importance of community as well. Almost all of the activities they listed had to do with a community: cheer leading, dancing, marching band, fixing things, watching movies. All of these things focused on the community as well as the act itself.
So, what makes you come alive?
What was it that made you come alive before you had a job, responsibilities, work, bills, and packed calendars?
Do what makes you come alive. You’ll be happier for it.
What makes you come alive? Share your responses in the comments below. We can all learn from your own experiences.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman)
(photo credit: Toni Blay, Creative Commons)