Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about...

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. 

"Finding yourself" seems to imply that there's only one possible version of you that can exist, and you're on a quest to find it.

But this couldn't be farther from the truth.

For instance, just because you're innately shy doesn't mean you can't take public speaking courses that will help bring you out of your shell.

And just because you were dreadful at math as a kid doesn't mean you can't work at bettering your math skills, paving the way for a successful career as math teacher or financial analyst.

With drive and hard work, we can will ourselves to become any way we like. We have more of a hand in shaping our future and achieving goals we set for ourselves than most of us readily acknowledge or realize.

Unfortunately, many people choose to down a path different from what their heart desires because they want to fit in with or please others. In that case, you're not forging your own path, but one that someone else has in mind for you. Think about the multitude of people who choose to pursue a given vocation or relationship on someone's else's advice, even though they know deep down it isn't what they truly want.

You can't reach your fullest potential unless you do things on your terms. You can't "create" yourself if you're shunning the attributes that make you unique rather than embracing and cultivating them.

And one can argue that a more fitting word than "creating" would be "recreating." As people evolve over the course of their lives, their experiences often cause their attitudes, beliefs, and interests to shift, sometimes in a completely different direction. What you valued as a 22-year-old college student isn't the same as what you espouse as a 70-year-old retiree -- that's for sure.

While the way we think about and perceive the world, the people around us, and especially ourselves may change, you should always chart your own course. Never be led to think that embracing your individuality is a bad thing.

There's only one of you in the world. You came into it as an original; don't leave it as a copy. Create the you that you want to be remembered by, even if it doesn't line up with what others envision.

Guess which famous actor's birthday is today...

On this day in 1943, Robert de Niro, one of the greatest actors of all time, was born in New York City.

I've called De Niro my favorite actor ever since I saw him in the 1995 crime thriller Heat, which I consider my all-time favorite movie.

After seeing him play mobster Paul Vitti opposite Billy Crystal in 1999's Analyze This and the uptight ex-CIA operative Jack Byrnes in the 2000 comedy Meet the Parents, I realized just how versatile and talented De Niro really is. Not every actor can deftly switch from gun-shooting assassin to funnyman like he can.

You know an actor is great when he's likable even as a villain.

Other memorable roles include the boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, for which De Niro won the Oscar for Best Actor; the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II, for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; and creepy loner Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, where his signature line was "You talking to me?"

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. We can't neglect to mention notable roles in The Deer Hunter, Mean Streets, The Untouchables, A Bronx Tale (which he directed), Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Awakenings, Casino, and the list goes on.  

I feel he displayed his best comedic chops in Midnight Run, a highly underrated film from the late 80s in which he plays a bounty hunter hired to bring to Los Angeles an accountant who embezelled millions from a mobster.

Although his movies in recent years haven't been nearly as good -- frankly, some have been downright awful --  there's no denying Robert de Niro, like Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, deserves a place in the pantheon of cinematic legends. Hopefully the 74-year-old has many many more birthdays to come and a few more blockbusters on the docket.

Which De Niro movies have you seen? Which have been your favorite?

The 4 L's of happiness are...

In my view, there are four essential ingredients to a happy life, all of which begin with the letter "L."

The 4 L's of happiness are: (1) Laughing (2) Loving (3) Living  (4) Learning

Nothing puts us in a better mood -- and helps turn a frown upside down -- quite like a good laugh. Whether we're watching a comedy movie or being amused by a pet's zany antics, life just isn't as fun without a healthy dose of laughter.

But most of us would agree that funny moments aren't as memorable unless we have others around to share them with -- the people we love. While friends and family don't complete us -- we do that ourselves -- they certainly give us a good reason to wake up every morning. They're there for us (many of them, at least) in good times and bad. As human beings, we all yearn to love and be loved. 

The next one is fairly straightforward: we can't be happy unless we're living -- literally and figuratively. But some would say that just because you're alive doesn't mean you're "living," as in, enjoying your life to the fullest. While it's certainly important to live responsibly and judiciously, enjoying life sometimes entails taking risks. For example, you may not be able to go on a dream vacation unless you get a better job to pay for it. And you can't get a better job without coming out of your comfort zone and leaving your current one. Life is short; in order to truly treasure life, we must extricate ourselves from the corrosive effects of negativity, chase our dreams, and expand our horizons. 

And last but not least, there's learning, which is probably the least appreciated of the four L's. Many people assume that learning goes out the door the second you walk out of college with a diploma in hand. To me, however, life becomes pretty mundane unless I'm learning new things every day. Reading books, watching documentaries, exploring museums -- there's so much we can do to nourish our intellect. Our ancestors would have given anything to have the internet at their disposal; unfortunately, far too many of us take such tools for granted. 

Can you add any Ls -- or any other word for that matter -- to the list? 

Why silence is soothing for the soul

Silence gets such a bad rap these days, and I don't know why.

I've heard people say they loathe being in typically quiet settings -- say, libraries, churches, or local parks -- where it's so hushed in there that it totally unnerves them.

I recently visited my alma mater's enormous library, which spans eight spacious floors. The sixth and seventh floors have been designated "quiet areas" where talking is all but forbidden. If someone on campus wishes to hear nothing but a pin drop while studying or working, they know to go to the library.

It's my go-to place to get some reading done when I find myself too distracted at home. I only wish I had availed of it more when I was a student there.

As an introvert, it's hardly a surprise that I relish silence. It helps me recharge my batteries after long days at work spent in meetings and alongside people around the office who just don't know when to zip it.

Extroverts find silence off-putting because they're energized by loads of chatter. I, on the other hand, become enervated by heavy social interaction, unless I'm with my closest friends and relatives.

Different strokes for different folks depending on their personality, and that's fine.

I just don't take kindly to those who use labels like "weird" and "awkward" for people who value peace and quiet. No, it doesn't mean they're lonely and would rather be doing something else. Many people would be happy to spend an entire day in a quiet library reading books, finishing a project for work, or just browsing the internet.

I'm especially partial to restaurants that offer a calm, relaxing ambiance. As silly as it may sound, many people report enjoying a meal less if the restaurant they're in is so loud that they can't even hear themselves talk. To me, that's grounds for never returning again.

For most of us, silence is hard to come by at home and at work. Even if you're not really a fan of it, you should at least try to get a few quiet moments each day -- perhaps in the car, garden, or home office -- to take a breather and clear your mind. You'll see that it can do you a world of good, especially when you're tired, sad, or stressed.

CAN'T MISS: 4 interesting facts about cheating

As I've stated in several posts, I think cheating on one's partner is one of the most abhorrent, egregious things a person can do -- a deplorable betrayal of their significant other's trust. I'd never be able to trust a perfidious lover again, let alone try to get back with them. Whether the affair is of a physical or emotional nature, it can wreak havoc on the victim's life. The moment a person feels compelled to cheat, they should end the relationship immediately so that their partner can move on with their life and find someone who will better appreciate them.

Below are four interesting research-backed facts on cheating that I recently dug up.

1. If you're economically dependent on your spouse, you're more likely to cheat on them.

Recent research found that a person who is economically reliant on their spouse is more likely to be unfaithful — and that's particularly the case for a man who depends financially on a woman.
Interestingly, when women are the breadwinners, they're less likely to cheat. When men are the breadwinners -- specifically, when they account for over 70% of the total household income — they're more likely to cheat. What a way to say "thanks for bringing home the bacon."

2. We think everyone is cheating -- except our partner, of course.

In a recent study, university students reported that the average person of the opposite sex has roughly a 42% chance of cheating on their partner. But when it came to their own partners, participants estimated that there was approximately a 5% chance that their partner had already strayed and about an 8% chance that they would cheat on them in the future. As it turns out, 9% of participants said they'd really been unfaithful. In other words, people are cognizant of the fact that bad things happen to good people -- they just assume they'll never be a statistic themselves.

3. Straight men are more put off by sexual infidelity; straight women are more distressed by emotional infidelity.

Research suggests that most heterosexual men say they'd be more upset if their partner was having a sexual relationship with someone else but hadn't fallen in love with that person. Most women, however,, say they'd be angrier if their partner had fallen in love with someone else but hadn't had sex with that person. This adds further fuel to the "men are physical creates, women are emotional ones" argument.

4. Women are now just as likely to cheat as men are.
Cheating is no longer exclusively men's domain. In fact, New York Magazine recently reported that cheating is about equally likely among men and women. For instance, a 2011 study found that about 23% of men and nearly 20% of women in heterosexual relationships reported having cheated on their partner.

I commend those who have the heart to give a cheater a second chance, but I couldn't do it myself. I don't mean to be cynical, but I strongly believe that if a person does it once, they're likely to do it again. And if you've been loyal to your partner, why can't they do the same?