When You Find Your Voice, You Change the World

You know that feeling you get that you were made for something bigger than what you’re doing? It isn’t that what you’re doing—in your professional life, your family, your relationships—is totally unimportant.

It’s just that you sense a powerful potential inside of you that hasn’t quite been unlocked.

It might feel like something is getting in your way, or maybe that you’re getting in your own way. You may even wonder if you might be mistaken altogether.

“Maybe I’m wrong about having great potential,” you think to yourself. “Maybe that’s just selfish.”

If this is you, I want to say this: I get it. I’ve been there.

Heck—I’m still there at times in my life.

And I want to say, resolutely, you are not wrong about the powerful potential inside of you. You were made to do something great. The world needs to you to unlock and uncover that powerful potential you have.

This is the very power you have to change the world.

I call it finding your voice.

One of the biggest misconceptions about “finding your voice,” if you ask me is that is this frivolous or extraneous activity—that it is a nice thing to do, in your free time, if you’ve got some extra money on your hands.

But I don’t see it this way at all.

Finding your voice is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for the world.

Let me give you an example.

I just got home from a week-long trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Some of you may be familiar with the conflict and devastation that is happening in that part of the world but if you aren’t familiar, just know this: it’s truly heartbreaking and painful and there are many convincing sides to this one, long, painful story.

I wish I could flesh it out more for you here, but that will have to wait for a later time.

For now, just trust me on this one: on both side of the conflict, you’ll meet people who, for all intents and purposes, don’t have a voice.

I met two women while I was there who each fall on different sides of the conflict. One was an Israeli. The other was a Palestinian. And although they disagree about many things in life, they agreed on this one thing: it was time to start speaking up.

It was time to find their voice.

So they started a blog.

They began sharing stories from their own lives and the lives of their friends who were a part of the conflict, so that those who hadn’t experienced it firsthand could see what it would be like to live on either side.

Their goal wasn’t to broker some kind of political deal. It wasn’t to take sides. It was to show their humanity by simply sharing their voices.

We talked about the changes they were seeing, the confidence they had, the passion, the drive, the friendship, the community, the healing that was coming from this simple but powerful commitment to put words on paper.

And as we sat around a table—a group of bloggers and writers from the United States and these diverse women from across the world—something occurred to me:

One of the most powerful things in the world is voice.

Your voice. Their voice. Our voice.

I can attest to this. I’ve also seen dramatic changes in my life since I set out to discover my unique voice.

I’ve watched my anxiety dissipate, my income grow, my passion unfold, my friendships deepen, my marriage become more fun and fulfilling, the number of days I spend depressed in bed lessen and my career path become more clear.

I have more energy to give generously to those who need it.

I have more clarity, more compassion, more integrity, more power over my own circumstances.

When we learn to speak up about what matters most to us, things change.

People change. We change. The world changes.

You may not feel like you have anything to write about. You may wonder if your words really matter. You may assume someone else is doing it better than you. But let me urge you against this destructive way of thinking.

If you don’t find your voice—no one will.

No one can do it “better” than you. There is only one you.

Your voice will not be easy to find. It will not happen overnight. But it does matter. It matters more than just about anything else.

Your voice can change the world.

And I want to help you find it.

Stop Procrastinating and Make More Progress

Well hello there fellow procrastinator. It’s nice to see you here. I’m not sure what it is your procrastinating from—dishes piling up in your sink, reports you were supposed to have filed by the end of the day, bills you’ve been putting off all week—but whatever it is, welcome.

As for me, I’m supposed to be editing, and instead I’m writing this blog post.

I’m so glad we could meet under these conditions. We understand each other, you and me.

Someone told me once: procrastination is about fear.

At first, that didn’t really ring true to me. In fact, I thought, “nah, for me, it’s really just about being lazy.” When I’m supposed to be doing something hard—like writing a book or cleaning my bathroom (okay, that’s not hard, just disgusting) or finishing an editing assignment—I want to do something easier.

Suddenly I realize I’m ravenously hungry, or I need some “inspiration” from Twitter, or shoot, my headphones are in the car and, oh yeah, I was going to order that one book…

But then, more recently, I started wondering:

What is it we don’t like about hard tasks?

We like the completion of them. We like the finishing point. We love the feeling of finishing a long run or losing 10 pounds or writing a book. We just don’t like the process, necessarily—the feeling of being hungry, or logging the miles, or getting the words down on paper.

Is it possible there’s a little fear of that process?

I was thinking about this the other day when I went for a jog for the first time in months. Well, actually, “went for a jog” is a tiny bit generous. What I basically mean is I put the stretchy clothes on, as if I was going to go for a jog, but then I piddled around my house for 30 minutes, finding a dozen other things to do.

I asked myself, on several occasions, “Why am I not walking out the door right now?” and I could think of a dozen perfectly logical excuses.

“Well, these dishes aren’t going to do themselves!” or “I’ll go after the laundry is done,” or “I really shouldn’t run on an empty stomach,” or “I’ll just wait until it warms up a little.” But the longer I procrastinated, the more I realized, I wasn’t avoiding the task itself so much as I was avoiding the pain or sacrifice it was going to take to complete it.

And I wonder if this is really what we’re doing when we’re procrastinating

Perhaps, for example, there is a task you’re supposed to be doing right now (no pressure).

Maybe it’s going on a run, or making a phone call, or writing a college paper. Chances are, the task feels difficult for you. My guess is you’re putting it off not because you’re lazy, but because you’re a little afraid of the pain associated with it.

But it wasn’t until I avoided my run all day the other day that I realized: You can’t avoid the pain by putting it off.

In fact, we actually prolong the pain when we don’t stop procrastinating. We take a task that should have taken 30 minutes (like a quick run), and spread it out over the course of an entire day. A task that should have taken 10 minutes (having a hard conversation with a friend) suddenly takes weeks to address.

Procrastinating a task doesn’t protect us from any pain. It doesn’t save us at all. It’s completely illogical and nonsensical.

Maybe—just maybe—if we think of it this way, we can stop doing it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go order something on Amazon I’ll never use, pin some recipes on Pinterest I’ll never make, spend 10 minutes considering a Tweet I’ll never send, and then get back to my editing project.

I’m pretty sure you have some procrastinating to do as well.

The Most Valuable Advice You Will Ever Receive

Have you ever noticed how, at an engagement party, or baby shower or graduation party, people tend to give all kinds of advice?

“Start investing now—you won’t regret it.”

“A water birth really is the way to go.”

“Whatever you do, don’t go to bed angry!”

This is all well-meaning advice, of course, and some of it actually pretty wise. But here’s the real problem with much of the advice we give: giving advice is not the same as living that advice.

Telling someone your advice is much easier than living it out.

When I think back to the advice I’ve been given in my own life—about college, about career, about relationships—I’m grateful for some of it. But some of it I also think took me off track. When I was choosing a major in college, for example, I had several people tell me, “it’s nice that you want to be a writer, but choose a major that is going to get you a job.”

I took the advice. After all, it was practical and smart. But because of that advice I paid a lot of money for a degree I’m not using.

So was this good advice for me? Maybe not.

All is not lost. My skills and expertise have gotten me to where I am and I’m finding innovative ways to put my degree to work. But sometimes I wish someone would have just looked me in the eye when I was in college and said: forget what everyone else tells you should “should” do.

Do what you want to do.

Do what you think is right. Trust your instinct.

Do what works.

I used to read a lot of self-help books. I liked them. It felt comforting and nice to have someone tell me exactly how things were supposed to be done, to give me a list of all the steps. And, hey, when my life didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I could blame the books. After all, I followed the formula. I worked the plan.

I didn’t have to blame myself.

But while there is a lot to be learned from those resources, the most important advice I can ever get doesn’t come from a book or a blog.

The most important advice I can ever receive comes from inside myself.

The most valuable relationships I can have, the most valuable resources I can get my hands on, are those people and sources which help me uncover that pure, unadulterated inner guidance.

There really are not shortcuts. No amount of good advice can save me from the inevitable pain and obstacles of life.

There are multiple “right” answers to most problems and the best answer is usually this:

Do what works.

Be willing to try and fail and try again. Be humble and learn quickly from your mistakes. Pay attention and be agile and adjust quickly. Don’t let insecurity get in the way. Figure out what works for you and then do it.

Trust your instinct. Trust your gut.

So if you’re feeling lost in your relationship or your career or as a parent or just in life—or if you’ve just graduated or are about to have a baby or are newly married and you’re getting a bunch of advice—remember this: advice is much easier to give than it is to execute.

Don’t dismiss the advice. Give it a try. But if the advice isn’t working, try something else.

Don’t worry about finding the “right” answer or the best answer or the most impressive answer.

Just do what works.