01/10/2014 01:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Finding Yourself Is Overrated

I love finding simple inspiration in daily life -- morning Yogi tea, Instagram, a mantra on my bedroom wall, or kind gesture in the streets. Inspiration can be direct or indirect, get you hyped up and fill you with confidence or even reveal something or, rather, reframe something you didn't know you'd been thinking. For Christmas a few weeks back, one of the gifts my husband gave me was a sweet coffee mug that directly spelled out something I probably already knew -- that life isn't about finding yourself. It's truly about creating yourself.


Books, movies, well-intentioned friends, a "gap year" all push us to eat, pray and love ourselves into figuring out who it is we really are, what we really want to be or do with our lives. As if our true self is hiding out there somewhere and we're going to happen upon it! We're going to be in a restaurant in Berlin, a temple in Thailand or in a sweaty Bikram yoga class when we have an "aha" moment. Discovery vignettes are always beautiful or dramatic, no? All of that may actually happen, but what this one, little phrase made me realize is that this concept of "finding yourself" gives permission for the process to exist outside of us, externalizes it so that we think we have to visit the right place or be in the right set of circumstances (usually not working) to understand who it is we really are. It shifts the control away from us as if we don't have it in our power to realize what we want right here in our own home, office or even car.

Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. -- William Jennings Bryan

I, in fact, did have an "aha" moment, but my own life shifted not when I realized what it was I wanted to do as a career, how I could turn what I love (cooking) into what I live on a daily basis (chef and cookbook author). It actually happened when I came up with a game plan of how to do it. We all have the power to not just discover who we are but to decide who we want to be. To take actionable steps towards that life starting right now. To pick our point B and write out just how we think we are going to get there.

Not everyone is going to have a sudden bolt of self-actualized inspiration. It may be a slow build to an understanding, and that's fine too. Either way, both are merely the beginning. The beginning of the beginning. From there, it's about the plan, the journey, the work, the day-to-day grind in many instances to make your dreams and visualizations a reality. Here's a transformative piece from James Altucher that spells out the A - WW reinvention game plan. No one said it would be simple!

I, myself, am personally chipping away at my mental life schematic on a daily basis across work, family, health and personal. I always start by envisioning the ideal and figuring out what I have to do in the short-term and then what consistent long-term measures have to be taken. I try to create my life as I want it and take joy in each step. I urge you to do the same -- take your future on as your charge, predetermine your own life, and create yourself exactly the way you want.