Patrick Ward words, code, and music

Become a Better You By Knowing Who You Aren't

There comes a time when it’s not so much about who you are as it is about who you aren’t. When you realize who you aren’t, you’re getting closer to understanding who you are. But, that’s a wonderful thing. Because, it means you’re narrowing it down, shaping the idea, and getting closer to the truth of what you’re all about.

It’s a lot like producing a work of art.

A painting isn’t imagined as a fully formed work. It takes time and layers to produce, sometimes painting over what you just painted to create the effect you’re after. Layers are added, overwriting (or extracting) the ideas of before in order to reveal the broader vision.

Similarly, sculpting is a matter of elimination, carefully removing stone to find the beauty of the object inside. A sculptor has to be aware of the subtle changes in a rock’s formation, skillfully chipping away just the right amount of stone at just the right position. The result is a perfectly formed sculpture, created through the process of extraction.

I find this is true of our search for meaning in life as well. Sometimes, you have to chip away at what you thought was the real you. It can be painful, but realizing what you don’t want is also a part of growth. You have to remove those elements of your life that are holding you back.

It can be a challenging, but rewarding, adventure depending on how you approach it. For most of my life I’ve fought against that process, choosing instead to hang on to ideas that were more about approval from those around me than they were about who I really needed to be. It’s proven to be a dangerous and futile attempt on my part.

There are plenty of examples of artists choosing to go their own route in direct opposition to those approving peers.

Do you think someone like Picasso sat around thinking, “Maybe I should be more like a traditional artist?” No. Thankfully, he realized that’s not what his vision of himself was. Picasso’s early years were marked by a brilliant ability to paint in a realistic manner. Yet, in the early 20th century, he forged a new direction in modern art and changed the way people looked at a painting. He could have easily established a fine career as a traditional painter, but chose instead a path that uniquely defined his role in the arts. He found fame and fortune in a path that suited him well.

The point is, personal growth isn’t always about finding paths. It’s also about eliminating those paths that aren’t yours to take. When you’re honest about realizing what you don’t want, you’ll more easily find what you do.