This morning I rode my bike to work while listening to my latest self-help podcast, “Your Soul Purpose.” During today’s episode, the host—Dr. John Filo—was interviewing best-selling author and happiness expert, Marci Shimoff.
In a habit that is becoming somewhat routine, I was moved by something I heard through my tiny blue earbuds that I slammed on the brakes, jumped off my bike, and pulled out a notebook to scribble down my epiphany before it blew away into the ether of my busy mind.
This whole biking while self-helping routine has become quite dangerous.
It’s as though a fresh new philosophy on improving my mental well-being has taken priority over my physical well-being. The second something hits me as particularly profound, I start swerving through traffic, racing to the shoulder of the road while fumbling through my backpack for a pen.
Someone might need to get their priorities straight.
But that’s a challenge for another day. My priority this morning was decoding Marci’s words of wisdom and applying them to my life and daily pursuit of inner peace.
She started by sharing a pedal-pausing quote by Mark Twain:
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
Damn, that’s deep.
I had no problem answering this question without a moment’s thought even though I was peddling against the wind on a busy bridge.
The first most important day of my life was January 26, 1977, when I was born. The second most important day of my life was March 16, 2010, when I gave my very first speech to a room of 250 working mothers. I shared all my doubts and fears and insecurities and instead of everybody rejecting me as I feared they might, they all thanked me.
I’ll never forget what happened after that magical ladies’ luncheon. I got in my car and drove back to my day job in advertising, crying the whole way there.
On March 16, 2010, I realized why I had been born.
Without ever having heard that Mark Twain quote, in that moment I told myself, “This is what I was meant to do with my life.”
Hell, maybe I should start celebrating March 16 as my second birthday.
Have you ever had a moment like that? If you haven’t, if you don’t know what you were put on this earth to do, then perhaps you’re not doing the right thing.
Here’s how the game of finding your purpose works: you have to get a taste of your purpose in order to name it. You have to experience it in order to make it your mantra. The bad news is that you must confront your doubts and fears have to find your purpose. But the good news is that even the tiniest taste can point you in the right direction.
After that first speech, I could never look at my advertising career the same way.
I’d seen something better. I’d seen something more meaningful. I’d seen something bright and beautiful and I couldn’t un-see it.
That small but meaningful realization was a game-changer.
I vowed to find a way to make that feeling my life, and four years later I became the proud owner of a company called The Mom Complex.
In other words, shit got real.
OK. Check. But that’s not the reason I almost wrecked my bike this morning.
After quoting Mark Twain, Marci went on to explain that as human beings our highest calling is to be teachers, to help others grow. And, according to Marci, nine times out of ten, “We end up teaching others the very thing we most need to learn.”
Suddenly it all made sense.
Right before that first speech about motherhood, I had analyzed a research study of 5,000 mothers from 16 countries. The findings of the study indicated that the number-one emotion all mothers have in common—regardless of age, income or geography—is doubt. More specifically, it’s self-doubt.
This insight struck me as profoundly true and profoundly sad. I wanted to scream it from the rooftops and tell us all to stop doubting themselves!
And on March 16, 2010, I did just that.
While this in and of itself was a massive revelation, what Marci’s podcast taught me was that six years ago I felt the need to help mothers decrease their self-doubt and increase their self-compassion because I so desperately needed to hear that very message myself.
By admitting my struggles in front of a room of 250 mothers, I had to admit to those struggles. I couldn’t avoid them any longer. By helping myself, I’ve now been able to help thousands of other mothers. And vice versa.
We teach what we most need to learn.
Then Marci dealt a blow that almost knocked me off my bike. She said that as a teacher you have to be OK with an especially disturbing fact:
Your mess is often your message.
Hold the phone and pull over the bike.
My mess has always been my message. My own self-doubt, second-guessing and people-pleasing insecurities created the mess of my life, but I taught myself out of them, teaching other moms valuable life lessons along the way.
We were all put on this earth to grow beyond our mess and to help others grow beyond theirs as well.
Maybe as mothers we should stop looking at our mess like it’s a liability.
Maybe our mess is what will eventually make us stronger. Maybe we should be grateful for our mess and not ashamed of it. Maybe our mess is part of our mission.
On my 22-minute bike ride this morning, I realized that I was put on this earth to help reduce the suffering of mothers and that my own mess hasn’t been a burden, but a blessing.
And a damn good teacher.
Whew. I think I’ll listen to Taylor Swift on the ride home tonight. There’s only so much a girl can handle in one day.