How do we work out who we think we are meant to be in the world? It’s a question that comes back into my mind all the time. I think it doesn’t matter. I think I know the answer, and then, again, the dissatisfaction that I actually don’t know anything at all, creeps back in.
Just as I was working through this notion of my place in the world, I received an email from a man I have followed for years – Colin Beavan, known as the No Impact Man. He told a story that really spoke to me, so I wanted to share it with you, and he said that was totally fine. Here goes..
How do we figure out who we are meant to be in the world?
I Imagine a farmer who has captured a strong wild horse. Other farmers have tried to corral this horse, but every day the horse just jumps their fences and every day they have to fetch him back from the surrounding countryside. Each of them has given up, but now our new farmer has a turn.
Each morning, he feeds and waters the horse in the stable and then opens the stable door so the horse can roam free. Each evening, his fellow farmers come to him laughing. “Your horse is in my field” or “Your horse is on the hill.” Our farmer goes and gets the horse, brings him home, beds him down for the night, and begins again in the morning.
Over time, the horse roams the valleys and hills and farms. But one night, a friend tells our farmer, “Your horse is under the tree by the stream.” And a few nights later, the farmer again finds the horse by the stream. Before long, no one needs to tell the farmer where the horse is. He is always under the tree by the stream.
The wild horse has explored the land far and wide and has found the place it likes to graze and rest. Now our farmer gathers together the fence and posts for his corral. Everyone says it is pointless. The horse will jump the fences, just as he always has. Except the farmer erects his corral under the tree by the stream. The horse never even attempts to escape. The other farmers are amazed.
One day, our farmer knows, his horse will have eaten the grass down or the wind will blow differently and the horse will jump the fence and begin to roam. But the farmer does not worry. The horse will let him know where next to build the corral.
Let yourself wander. Then build your limits and obligations where you find yourself staying. That is the place from which you will most comfortably and happily serve the world. That is one way to know how to know your place in the world.
If you’d like to know more about Colin, this story comes from his latest book (an excellent read) called How To Be Alive.