The ability to have and make choices in life can be super scary and sometimes overwhelming. For the most part, there is no step by step, chapter by chapter guidebook on how to live a life of fulfillment and joy. Things happen, some good some not so much. Through these choices and experiences, everyone is given the right to determine their destiny and essentially write their own story. Everyone has a life story and the power to create the chapters. Life is about choices. The principle of Kujichagulia, in the Swahili language, means self-determination, is a crucial factor in how I feel people come to create their path. As a principle of Kwanza, Kujichagulia means “define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.” The way in which we enact self-determination varies based on the person providing the definition, the perspective, and connection to their experiences. Self-determination requires that we address three questions: 1. Who am I? 2. Am I really who I say I am? 3. Am I all that I ought to be? To answer these questions, it requires a deep connection to self, your past, and the world as you understand it. So, what does all of this even mean? Why is self-determination even worth writing, talking or reading about in an article? I say it’s the catalyst for building a sincere story.
Who am I?
Scary, yet thought-provoking question, right? I am a firm believer in the power of self-awareness and the facets that compile its ever-complex definition. Who you are is so heavily created by your past, present and future choices and experiences. Who you are is molded by the thoughts that fill your mind daily. Who you are is beautifully crafted by your higher power. How many times have you stopped to think about why you just said something or why you have specific behaviors? Have you owned how your upbringing shaped your current actions? Who are you? Give me five words to describe your essence in this world. This is what it means to define and name yourself. Stake your claim in this world. Scream it loud and proud. Be you. Understanding and embracing who you are and how your choices define you is the beginning of learning how to write your story. Think about how confusing it would be to read a book where the main character was not clearly defined. Maybe they changed their name, or the backstory changes midway through the second chapter. It would be hard for the reader to connect and find any commonalities. Defining yourself sets the tone for an awesome story.
Am I really who I say I am?
So, this is probably my favorite question; it’s some real shit. Fake, I am not. Fake, I have not been. People know my personality. I’m reasonably firm, no mincing of words yet kind. Drama is not my thing. It’s just too much for my head and heart. My father would often tell my sister and me to not fake the funk because eventually, the funk would start to smell. I’m pretty sure he crafted those nuggets from any of the 70s and 80s funk bands, much appreciated. You are the one who creates your character. Be the one to stand by it and uphold your words with actions. People who struggle with consistency in their lives lack a balanced, productive and developing story. When you waver on who you are, your story often restarts, slows, or ends. Take time to yourself to figure out if the person you want to be is genuinely being displayed in your actions. Reflect on the last week. Did something happen that you regret or a time that you felt you acted out of your character? If so, pick it apart. Figure out what happened, why it happened and how often does it happen? Maybe this is you, and you need to own it or put in the effort to change it. We live in a world where people be anybody they desire. Pick a baseline of your story and roll with it. Not living up to the characteristics you say you value and perhaps portray makes for a confusing ass story.
Am I all that I ought to be?
Now, so you’ve taken a moment to not only think about who you are but make sure that you’re walking the walk. But is that enough? Are you pushing yourself or are you just doing the bare minimum? Stop selling yourself short. Are you everything or at least trying to be everything that your power, will, and choices will allow you to be? There goes that word again, choice. I work with 18-24-year-olds every day. So many of them could answer “no” to that previous question. Their self-determination manifests as the right to determine your path, the right to do as you please. Despite some people having a world of opportunity served on a platter, they still snub their noses and turn away. Why? I say because they can. It’s self-determination, it’s that last part about speaking for yourself. Now what you say, can be judged, disagreed with and chastised but it’s your right. Unfortunately, people are not all that they ought to be. A story can be divided into three necessary parts. The exposition or backstory, your past, setting of specific experiences, aka the beginning of a story. Next, you have the climax; this is the middle of a story. This is the turning point where the main character encounters events that have a significant impact on the outcome. The resolution is an end of the story where the problem is solved and provides clarity to the previous events. A lot of people get stuck in the exposition or climax and keep repeating the same behaviors, so they never reach a conclusion or resolution. They never reach their full potential and often find themselves struggles with making substantial progress.
Self-determination, answering those three what seem to be simple questions will lead to a beautiful, enriching, and full story, free of regret. All these things lead to an understanding of how to manage and write your life story. Are you getting stuck at the beginning or middle, never able to find a resolution to some of the problems you’ve faced? Is your story riddled with cycles of misbehaviors, or trials of triumph and success? How have you managed to navigate the chapters? What’s your final chapter going to say? Use these three questions as your guide to define yourself, name yourself, create and speak for yourself.
You have the power to determine what happens in your life. What kind story are you trying to write?
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Kendria Johnson, Wife & Mom
Lover of getting things done
Photo Credit: Original Circle