‘Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy… or they become legend.’ Jim Harrison
Creating legacy and hearing voices
Creating legacy makes you hear voices. It’s a well-kept secret (for obvious reasons), but it’s absolutely true. Even before starting a legacy project, you will begin hearing them. The trick is to realise that there are two kinds of voices – and to be able to tell them apart.
At the beginning, it will feel like lots of voices, and listening to them will pull you in all sorts of direction. But gradually, you will come to realise that there are really only two voices.
The destructive voice
The first voice belongs to the destructive forces within you. The voice may sound like a person who used to be part of your life or still is, and was particularly critical of you; or it may sound like your own voice; or it may sound like a generic voice. Sometimes, it will change its sound, or it may sound like different people, just to confuse you.
But whatever its sound, this voice will generally say things that prevent you from creating legacy. Things like ‘who do you think you are, trying to create legacy?’; ‘you’ve always been a failure, and you’ll fail at this legacy project too’; ‘you’re not as talented as XYZ, you’ll never make it’; ‘this is too hard for you’; ‘you’re tired, no need to work on your legacy project today’; ‘your legacy project sucks!’ and so on and so on.
Every single legacy creator has had to listen to this voice, over and over again. I hear it every day. I hear it every time I write a blog post, or work on my creative writing, or do anything related to creating legacy.
And if you like reading biographies of successful legacy creators, you already know that they heard this even while they were creating their most lasting masterpieces. For example, right now I’m reading John Steinbeck’s Working Days, the diary he kept while writing Grapes of Wrath – one of the greatest works of American Literature. You can tell with every single diary entry that he was hearing this voice all the time.
The voice of the one who knows
But then there’s the second voice. It’s usually a lot fainter than the first voice, and initially it will be so faint you will have to listen really hard to hear it.
I’m not sure where this voice comes from, but we all have it deep within us. It usually sounds calm and soothing, although I’ve also heard it become extremely authoritative on a few occasions when I was straying from my path.
This voice is magical; it seems to know not only about your past and present, but also about your future. It seems to know when a place is not the right environment for you, or when a person is not as trustworthy as they seem at first glance. It even knows about strenghts within yourself you never knew you had, and it is particularly good at telling you what makes your heart sing and guides you towards those things.
Children are really good at hearing this voice, but then they are sent off to school and asked to do things they don’t feel like doing, and made to obey teachers who have long lost touch with their own voice of the one who knows. And gradually, the voice that can tell what makes their heart sing gets fainter and fainter, as they learn to become obedient sheep doing what they are told.
Because you see, the voice of the one who knows thrives on being listened to and followed. And the more you ignore it, the fainter it gets. It never completely disappears, you understand – it’s always there to be reignited, always waiting for you to listen to it. But the more you have allowed others to rule over your life, the more you have doubted your own abilities and let others lead the way, the harder you have to listen for the voice of the one who knows to make itself audible to you again.
The two voices
The destructive voice and the voice of the one who knows will always be in competition with each other. Unfortunately, the voice of the one who knows will never manage to drown out the other voice, especially if you’ve ‘benefited’ from the traditional schooling system that through demanding obedience, makes us doubt our own potential to achieve great things.
But there are many things you can do to make the voice of the one who knows fully audible to you, so at least you are not fully at the mercy of the destructive voice.
How to bring the voice of the one who knows back into your life
Here are some of the things you can do:
1. Continuously ask yourself the big questions. Every day, ask yourself things such as: what is my life’s purpose? why am I here? what do I want my life to be like? am I really doing what I want, or am I only doing this so as not to disappoint others, or so as to scrape a living? what would I do if I had just three more months to live? what happens after I die? how would I like to be remembered?
2. Watch children play, and learn from them. Have you ever watched children play? They’re not too bothered about what will happen tomorrow, how will they get food, they’re usually fully absorbed in their playtime, and they seem to know exactly what they like and don’t like. Of course, full regression back to childhood is not the answer – but observing children play, seeing their sense of wonder at things we normally take for granted, can really help in making that voice of the one who knows stronger. Children know what makes their heart sing – and we can relearn this skill through observing them.
3. Write a blog. Writing is a high-level activity that is tremendously helpful in clarifying ideas. For example, many of the things I’ve blogged about have only become clearer to me while writing about them. Very often, I will start a blog post with only a very vague idea of what it is about – and then it changes as I’m writing.
4. Keep a diary or put together a scrapbook. Keeping a diary or putting together a scrapbook are particularly good if you’ve come to a crossroads in your life and are trying to get the voice of the one who knows to tell you in which direction you should go next. Elizabeth Gilbert for example kept a diary for a few months before deciding on what later became the year she documented in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. The diary helped her see patterns in what excited her – for example, looking over previous entries made her realise she really wanted to learn Italian, so it became clear to hear that at least part of her year away would have to be spent in Italy. Scrapbooks are also fantastic at showing you patterns in what catches your eye, if you are more visually enclined. Putting together a scrapbook is a really therapeutic activity and helps you literally piece together what excites you.
5. Meditate. Getting your mind to keep quiet can be extremely helpful in strengthening the voice of the one who knows, because it keeps the destructive voice at bay and allows you to find balance. Try to get into a meditation routine, so you do it in the same place and at the same time every day – very quickly, it will become a daily habit, so you will strenghten the voice of the one who knows bit by bit every day.
6. Get off the beaten track. By that I mean do something you would normally never do. This can be very different for different people, e.g. take a painting class; go for a walk in the woods; spend some time in an elderly people’s home etc. Getting out of the daily routine is really good for strenghtening the voice of the one who knows, because suddenly you have to rely on your spontaneity in order to deal with situations you are not used to.
What about you?
What are the voices you are hearing as you are creating legacy? How are you strenghtening the voice of the one who knows? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments section.
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