No, not your nationality or your ethnicity. Your people.
The people who bring out the best in you. The people you want to be around. The people that inspire and support you. The people who make you better at life. The people that love you for who you are, not what you are.
I spent the better part of this past week at a yoga retreat in the mountains of Oregon with some of my people (and without cell coverage or wifi!). It was splendid.
Do the math on my childhood, education, socio-economic status, profession, etc. and you might think my people are:
- Upper-middle class
- White Collar
Here’s who my people often are:
- The health conscious
- Dones (who have left the church but not faith)
- Tough Mudders
Why? They bring out the best in me. They inspire me. They make me feel part of a community. Yeah, my people in sum are a weird mix. I’m a weird guy. I’ve long since embraced that…with a smile!
Obviously, no one fits neatly into the those categories. I have friends and others I enjoy spending time who fit descriptors on both lists, but the trend toward the latter is crystal clear in my life.
Why should you care who your people are?
Are you languishing in life? Feeling unmotivated? Feeling like you’re a modern-day Sysiphus, repeatedly pushing a boulder up a hill for no positive gain?
You might not be with your people. And you probably aren’t, as a yogi might say, following your dharma: living your true purpose in life.
Sometimes that’s a chicken or the egg question. Which comes first, following your dharma or surrounding yourself with the right people? The answer depends on each individual’s experience. I found both almost simultaneously after way too many stagnant, miserable years of knowing neither. My experience is you won’t be able to authentically pursue your purpose in life with the wrong people around you.
That gets to a truly difficult issue. Sometimes finding your people means letting others go and moving outside the comfortable. You have to — and may eventually find yourself wanting to — let them go. That can include family, friends, current and former professional colleagues, etc.
Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it happens over time…and sometimes it’s really fucking painful.
The family you always spend time with by tradition? Some of them may be toxic. The people at the house of worship you’ve grown accustomed to attending? They may not give you the space or support to grow outside their comfort zone. The profession or circle of friends you pursued for years because that’s just what you did? Maybe you’ll wake up one day and realize there’s something more you want to be. Maybe you have already had that experience and don’t know what to do next.
On the other hand, maybe you naturally found your people in life. Maybe they’re who you’re with today. That’s truly wonderful and you should consider yourself blessed.
But, if you haven’t, or if you having lingering doubts about whether those you surround yourself with are truly helping make you better in life, let me encourage you: find them. Find your people.
Finding them will force you try new things. To grow. To find not just what you’re good at, but what makes you excited to live the life you’re leading.
And that is so very worth it.
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