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Crafting A ‘New Image’

My uncle needs a new image, or so he claims. Good publicity, he says. We tease that when he does something of import, his image will take care of itself. It’s good-natured ribbing, and he laughs along. Maybe one day, maybe one day.

But I wonder, what is it about this magical “one day” that’s going to be worth hearing about? It’s just a stock answer for when people ask us questions we don’t care to answer. The typical questions I am forever being asked — when are you going to move away, write a book, get married, have babies — always have this same answer slapped onto them: “Maybe one day.”

Why is that? Is it because I don’t think I’m capable of accomplishing those things at this point in my life, or is it because I don’t want to? The answer is, really, a mix of both, but people aren’t concerned with others’ internal motivations. There is a set idea of how life is supposed to progress and we measure each other by visible markers of “success” along the preconceived path. Our “image” is all about other people and what they can see.

Those moments of achievement are just that: moments. For a day we feel triumphant, we can be proud. Our public image is great. The next morning it’s back to the grind, but the triumph is what makes it all worth it, right? Those shared mountaintop moments of dopamine rushing through our brains and veins like Niagara Falls are the reason why we slag through the other 364 days of the year, right?

Eh.

I’m inclined to disagree.

I like the road, the travelling, the getting there.

Maybe I just really hate endings, and that’s all that “one day” is; it’s just an ending we all chase after.

During one of our lighthearted public relations chats, my uncle said in all seriousness, “You need to channel your energy into something that matters. Channel your energy into something that makes a difference. Trust your instincts.”

Chalk up another pro point for his new image.

It’s a lesson he learned by making mistakes, the same as all of us. Maybe he didn’t trust his own gut, maybe he channeled his energy into something that didn’t really matter to him, maybe he chased the wrong “one day,” I’m not sure. I do know that, whatever the case, it was important enough for him to stress to me the value of making a difference and trusting my gut to lead me to the best position for me to do that.

My uncle thinks he needs a new image, how many of us could raise our hands and say the same? I’m betting plenty.

Thing is, I think the two of us quietly understand now that it’s not about a new image. Life’s about cultivating a love of the image you already see. It’s about being spiritually fearless. It’s good to have goals, it’s good to think about the future, but it’s even more important to make sure that those goals and that future belong to you, and you alone. It’s about learning to measure success differently and tailoring it uniquely to you. It’s about defining your own success and making your journey the Niagara moment. It’s about trusting what your heart knows is best and acknowledging that, then and only then, your image will take care of itself.