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In Search Of Self

The worst thing in life is waking up old and realizing you became so good at the wrong thing.” Joel Salatin

One of my coaching sessions last week got me very emotional. I had this 61 year coachee of mine who has a Doctorate (Ph.D.) degree in his field and has been working for the organization for 35 years and is being retired in September. When I asked him of his plans after retirement, he mumbled and eventually said that was the reason he had come to see me. He was scared of facing the uncertain future outside of the organization he has dedicated his entire adult life serving. Uncertainty was written all over his face.

We are all busy doing something, we invest our precious time and energy in it. How often do you pause and honestly ask yourself why you’re doing it? Are you doing it because you are in a habit of doing it? Are you doing it because you’ve been told to do it? Are you doing it just because most people are doing it? This is like wearing something that you don’t necessarily like but because it’s in fashion or it’s the ‘in-thing’ and most people are wearing it or having it. You see, getting to this level of thinking is critical because it shows that you’re aware of your actions, you are watching yourself in action which is critical. One of the saddest things in life is having a goal and achieving it but later realize that you didn’t really need to pursue it at all. Don’t just get lost in a life of existence, of the here and now, search for the life of purpose.

The Temptations (American vocal group) has a song called – I’ve Never Been to Me. In this song, there’s where it says:

“Ooh I’ve been to Georgia and California, oh, anywhere I could run…. Oh I’ve been to Nice and the Isle of Greece. I’ve sipped champagne on a yacht. I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed them what I’ve got. I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me. Hey, you know what paradise is? It’s a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be.” The “paradise” that is meant in the song is the supposed glamorous and dissipated lifestyle many ordinary people aspire to, i.e. hanging out with important people, travelling to exotic places, showing off what you’ve got, etc. This song in the main is about regret of the lost time chasing unnecessary things and wishing someone had spoken sense to you about it. This is an example of waking up old one day and realising that you mastered the art of doing the wrong things, you became so good at wasting your life. You and I have to learn from this and avoid it.

Most people who are employed are so focused on the here and now, they see retirement as something very far away and some even think that retirement is “paradise”. Yes, they are under the false illusion that real life will start after retirement. In my life coaching experience, very few people have plans for beyond retirement, they are hoping that things will just happen.  Well, let me tell you this, things don’t just happen, they happen just. The purpose of life is not just to have a job and pay the bills but it’s to express our gifts because that’s what connects us with our true selves.

If you were to be retired today, I’m saying ‘retired’ because most people don’t retire by choice or because they want to but are retired by the organizations they work for. So, again, if you were to be retired today, what would you do with your life for the next, say 20-30 years? What would you do that would fulfil you and make you look forward to it every day? How would you contribute to the world?

You see, this is why you need to know yourself. What are your strengths? What are your natural inclinations? What turns you on? What injects you with energy? No one will teach you these, they need you to engage with them yourself. You don’t want to wait until you retire to work on these, the sooner you start the better.

Think of these three responsibilities:

  1. Responsibility to self. You were not born just to make a living but to live your making and it’s your making that should help you make a living. Be the best of whatever you are.
  2. Responsibility to employer/client. This is to do the best you can to improve the quality of life for your organization or client that pays you for your services. Don’t just do what’s enough to get by, give it your all and add value.
  3. Responsibility to humanity. A life well lived is the one of knowing that someone else’s life is much better today because you lived. Greed is going to the grave with your unused gift, having never shared your gift with humanity because you only focused on the job just to pay the bills and missed out on true living.

The world has long been waiting for your gifts, take them out and share them!

Veli Ndaba is a Professional and Motivational Speaker, Life-Coach and Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on , or +27 83 304 9773