Funny how certain conversations stick with you. When I was 16-years-old I was visiting with a college professor whose children I babysat. He asked me about my college plans and the classes I was currently taking. I told him I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
“Ah,” he said, “you are at that wonderful point in your life where everything is like a grocery store. You decide what dishes you want to prepare. Then you can go and select the ingredients you need to make whatever you choose. No reason to cook what you’ve always eaten. No reason to do anything the same. You get to choose the recipe of who you will be. Just start looking and cooking.”
That day the professor picked an appropriate metaphor for me, as I loved to experiment with international dishes that I had never had before. Cooking was my way of traveling; steak au poivre, mousakka, and baklava spiced my wanderlust. His words have simmered in my mind for many years, and I see the magic in them.
When we are young we have to grow where we are planted. At some point of becoming a young adult, we can decide where we want to grow, how we want to grow, when we want to grow, and with whom we want to grow. We can create a personal place to thrive.
The child’s work is to construct a human being.
The adult’s job is to prepare an environment for this on-going process of human development, not just for oneself, but for others as well.
The biggest sign that you are someplace you can thrive is if you look forward to what you are doing. If the day-to-day seems boring, routine and suffocating, it may be time to pick a recipe and shop for some fresh ingredients. Time to change your environment and change yourself.
In what kind of environments do you thrive? What do you find satisfying? Environments consist of people, tools, ideas and nature.
Let’s look at some of the items in our environment where we can choose differently.
To thrive we need people who encourage us. We need to ask ourselves, who are the friends and family who care for us and whom we care about. We need to surround ourselves with people of integrity, people who walk their talk. If we find ourselves lacking in this area, remember that to have a friend, be a friend.
In our own person, we need to consider our gifts we can use to be of service to others. Ask yourself what nurtures you in order for you to thrive?
What tools do we know how to use, and which ones would we like to learn?
From musical instruments, to power saws, to books, what tools will help you thrive and change into the person you wish to be?
Which leads to our next part of place: ideas. What ideas lift you up? What music makes you feel alive? What memories make you happy? What activities strengthen your spirit? What dreams seem worthy of following?
What interactions with the physical world—both natural and man-made—renew you? How do you recreate yourself through recreation?
Change your environment by choosing to find people, tools, ideas and nature to help you thrive. Change your environment and change yourself from survive to thrive, and your life, and those around you, will flourish.
Create a place to thrive for yourself and your children. It’s your choice. Start looking and cooking!