Flying High, Discover Your Gift, The Music of Your Heart ... it seems as though every book that crosses my desk these days is some kind of wake-up call for finding your purpose and living your dreams. This is also the subject of Oprah's Lifeclass attended by millions of people, and is the essence of Steve Jobs's legacy, summarized in the final words of his famous Stanford graduation speech: "Follow your heart, dream big ... stay hungry, stay foolish."
You may have noticed, as I did, that this now common imperative is a rather recent idea that was mostly foreign to previous generations.
I remember one day as a teenager asking my grandparents, "Would you be willing to do your life over?" They both answered with a smile but without hesitation, "No, we had to work too hard."
My grandparents were Belgian farmers who raised eleven children, including a disabled son, through World Wars I and II. When answering my question, they displayed no bitterness or regret. They were quietly looking forward to crossing to the other side, peaceful in the knowledge that they had fulfilled their assignment.
Their lives were about honoring their Creator by insuring their own survival and the continuation of the species. I can't imagine they thought much about living their dreams, although they did achieve their life goal of giving each of their children a chance to attend college and choose their profession, two luxuries neither of them had been able to afford.
What a privilege to be able to ask ourselves, "What do I want to do with my life?" Yet, even today, if you were to stop the average person in the street and suggest they go "live their dreams," you might hear some resistance. "Live my dreams? I'll be lucky if I can keep putting food on the table for my family. I lost my job eight months ago and just ran out of unemployment benefits!"
The difference with my grandparents' perspective is that today, even though we have our own challenges, we know we have a choice in how we respond. Reading Napoleon Hill, watching The Secret, and going through other personal development materials has taught us that we can create a better life right now instead of looking to future generations for hope and change.
Even my grandmother had an inkling of this. On Sundays, no matter how much work was left undone, she would stop and spend the day reading to educate herself and uplift her spirit. She knew that to build a better life, you have to build a better you.
How wonderful to be in a business that every day encourages us to dream and grow, that frees us to discover and live our purpose. May we proudly carry this noble legacy of our profession into 2012 and beyond. I can't think of a more compelling reason to grow our business than to share this wealth.
JOSEPHINE GROSS, Ph.D. is cofounder and editor of Networking Times.