THE BLOG
04/11/2014 03:12 pm ET Updated Jun 11, 2014

How to Answer When Someone Asks You the Million-Dollar Question, 'What Are You Doing With Your Life?'

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A student of mine told me recently that while she's driving around town she often asks herself, "What am I doing with my life?"

We can all relate.

But when we ask ourselves that question, we often do it out of panic and undermine how much we've actually accomplished. We beat ourselves up for where we are, comparing our lives to some idealized fantasy. We denigrate our real journey of being an artist just because we don't have everything lined up exactly like we thought it would be. Our questioning almost suggests that the pursuit of acting/painting/writing/designing -- or any kind of art -- is futile and therefore a waste.

Who you are as an artist is not the sum total of the jobs you book, paintings you sell, books you publish, etc. The means do not support an end. The means support the means. The act of doing, the act of expressing, the act of celebrating who you are through your work -- which is really your art, and your life is your art -- are the reasons for doing it.

Don't denigrate yourself for going for things that make your heart feel alive, even if there is struggle, rejection and the media's portrayal of what success or achievement looks like bestowed upon you.

Many people think artists are "crazy."

Well, duh.

We're considered crazy because we allow ourselves to feel. To emote. To dream. To pursue something we love that makes us feel deeply alive in spite of the odds against us. That takes bravery and a certain amount of foolhardiness; passion and guts, patience and play. It's called being human.

I think it's how other people who call us "crazy" wish to live. They want to risk. They want to be more freely-expressive. They want to feel. They want to be liberated from the burdens of living life like a "business." But the paradigms of seeking security and living a stable, "normal" life are hard to break if you've been told you have to have those things to be safe.

The irony is, if you're seeking security you're not going to find that even when you find a "secure" job or a "safe" life. No one is secure on this planet. The things we amass that make us feel safe -- the titles, the cars, the money, the "stuff" -- are all illusory.

Security implies being shielded from the things that affect humanity. But even if you have financial security -- and everything else -- you still won't be immune to the inherent insecurity of simply being alive: loneliness, despair, rejection, termination, getting old, loss, heartache, desire, falling in love, conflict, death.

The poet David Whyte says, "Anything or anyone that does not bring you fully alive is too small for you."

So remember that the next time you ask yourself, "What am I doing with my life?"

What you're doing with your life is... living it!