Deb is on a journey to discover her life purpose. She originally came to coaching because she longed for “more.”
From the outside, Deb’s life seems to be in order. She is married to a supportive, loving man; her kids are doing well in school; she enjoys her career as a school teacher; and yet there is an ever-elusive longing in her soul, a sense that she is meant to do and be something more.
In one of our early sessions, we explored what “more” looked like. It was difficult for Deb to describe. It’s hard to put into words a concept that hasn’t fully formed in your mind. I tried a different approach.
“If you could describe ‘more’ as a feeling, what would it be?”
“Exhilarating, but peaceful,” she answered.
“When have you experienced this feeling before?”
“The first time I looked at my son, it was a miracle. I felt larger than myself,” she paused. “It felt like ‘more.'” We sat with that a moment and let the feeling fill the room.
She broke the silence by saying, “I don’t feel that way very often. I feel like my life has been reduced to the tasks of everyday life. I cook, shop, do laundry, help with homework, and try to find moments of peace. The last thing I want at the end of the day is “more.” I’m overloaded with my day-to-day responsibilities …but they don’t feel like part of my larger purpose.”
“If you were working on your larger purpose, how would you be spending your time?” I asked.
“I would enjoy quiet time, write in my journal, do yoga and read books,” she replied. “But in my world, those times are rare. With the demands of my job, my family, and my volunteer responsibilities, I don’t have the time or the energy. I’m frustrated with the mundane and it’s all around me.”
“How do you feel when you are doing things that are in line with your larger purpose?”
“I feel like I’m making a contribution, like I am in service to something larger than myself.” She continued, “I have something to share and am willing to do what it takes – even if it means having to sacrifice– to walk this path.”
“Give me two routine tasks and let’s describe them from the perspective of ‘mundane,’ and then from the perspective of ‘purpose.'” I suggested.
“Our laundry is a never-ending cycle of gathering, sorting, washing, drying, ironing, putting away, wearing, gathering, etc.” she said and then struggled to find the purpose behind the task. “When I do the laundry, I am in service to my family and sacrificing my needs because it’s important for them to have clean clothes. Looking at it this way, doing laundry might be more purposeful than I realized. “
Deb continued by describing the routine aspects of teaching. “Mundane tasks include creating lesson plans, grading papers, and classroom management.” She paused in thought; a reflective smile appeared on her face. “Teaching can also be quite purposeful. For example, when I have witnessed someone learning to read…it’s phenomenal. That is when mundane turns into purposeful.”
“I’ve never really thought of laundry or grading papers as being purposeful. I guess it’s how you look at it,” she shared.
“It reminds me of the story of a man who came across three bricklayers,” I said. “When asking the first one what he was doing, he said, ‘laying bricks.’ The second one replied, ‘Making a brick wall,’ and the third one said, ‘Building a cathedral.”‘ (www.jpb.com) All three were performing the same task, but had completely different perspectives.”
Deb’s homework was to write down five routine tasks and describe the mundane and the purpose in each. I wonder if she will look at this assignment as mundane or purposeful.
Coaching Challenge: List five routine tasks. Describe how each task feels mundane and how it feels purposeful. How can you continue to see and feel the purpose of each of your daily tasks, even if they feel mundane? Find one word to remind you to view each task from a purposeful perspective. Post it in the place where you perform the task. For example, write the word “PURPOSE” on a piece of paper and hang it in your laundry room.