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Living On Purpose

Archive for the ‘authenticity’ Category

Finding Purpose in Everyday Chaos

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”‘ ( 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.

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What Have I Done With My Life?

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

“I’m getting old,” Shelley said as we started our coaching session.


“Aren’t we all?” I said smiling. “What’s prompting these feelings?”


“I don’t usually dwell on my age, but the other day when I got an invitation to my 20th high school reunion, I felt old. ‘How could this happen?’ I asked myself. And then I realize that my kids are almost in high school. Even though I don’t feel like I’m twenty years past high school, I know that I am. Where did the time go?” Shelley’s voice was full of concern.


“It sounds like a case of Reunion Blues,” I said and the corners of Shelley’s lips turned up slightly.


“So what do I do about this, doctor?” she joked, as though what she was describing were some kind of an ailment.


“In my professional opinion,” I began in my best impersonation of a doctor’s voice, “it’s important to identify the symptoms and determine the cause.” We had slipped into an easy space with the joking, but I knew that this was important to Shelley.


“What is it like to be old?” I asked.


“Old means time has slipped away, life is speeding by, and time may have been wasted,” Shelley said.


“Tell me about ‘time slipping away,'” I said.


“I’m 38 years old and don’t know what I have done with my life. I can talk about the big things – college graduation, my first job, getting married, having kids – but isn’t that what everyone does? What have I done that is special? What will I write for my ‘Reunion Update’ and what will I talk about?”


“What has your life been about over the past twenty years – deeper than the milestones you just mentioned?” I asked.


“I feel like I haven’t lived up to my potential. I hear about classmates who have these great careers and I wonder what happened to mine. I have an accounting degree, but am I doing accounting or am I a CPA? No. I am a part-time reading assistant in an elementary school. The only accounting I do is when I am figuring out which portrait packages to choose for school photos.”


Shelley hadn’t lost her sense of humor. Her sarcasm came out most when we were getting close to her real feelings.


“At our 15th reunion, I discovered one of my classmates was the manager for Jimmy Buffet. Of course, he won the award for the most unique career,” she said. “I can’t imagine what I will talk about that will be of any interest. I’ve had thoughts of not going to the reunion at all.”


“You could do that, but I am not sure that’s what you really want,” I said.

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“I want to go. I enjoy catching up with my friends. I love walking into the room and seeing how another five years looks on the people I grew up with.”


“Besides Jimmy Buffet’s Manager, what were some of the other stories at your 15th reunion?” I asked.


She replied, “Most were pretty normal. Their lives had been messy at times, exciting, sad, and thrilling. It kind of depended where they were in their own personal cycle when the reunion had happened.”

I paused for a second, allowing the wisdom of what she had just said to sink in.

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“That’s it, isn’t it?” she said. “It’s not that I am a failure. This is just a part of where I am in my life. Plus, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks – including my high school classmates. What matters is what I think about my life. And I like my life. Why would I feel embarrassed for putting my family priorities first?”


Shelley left that day with a little more hop in her step with feeling “old” the least of her worries.


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Coaching Challenge:

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When you find yourself comparing where you are in life to others and possibly feel inadequate, see if you recognize any cycles in your life. Where are you in the cycle? What are the benefits of where you are and what are the costs? Expanding beyond where you are today can help you gain perspective. This is also a great time to envision where you want to go.

Losing Me to Love You

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Have you ever been in a relationship where you compromised yourself to keep the relationship in balance? Whether it’s a romantic, professional or personal relationship, this realization usually comes too late – at least for the sake of saving the relationship. It typically happens as you are going through a break-up or after the relationship falls apart, sometimes many years later.


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Jon originally came to coaching because he was unsatisfied in his job. As we navigated through these changes, he seemed more alive and enthusiastic. He had started a new romantic relationship and described moving from the infatuation stage into, what he called, the “real relationship.”


As they grew closer, he noticed patterns from his previous relationships creeping in, ones he thought he had outgrown. In one coaching session, he said his ex-girlfriend, Liz, had called. They had broken up at least a year before he had met his new girlfriend. He had left the previous relationship out of anger and had harbored resentment ever since. Now that Liz had made contact, he was faced with the opportunity to clear some past blocks and possibly open more freedom in his current relationship.


“There is a part of me that wants to resolve this with Liz (the ex),” Jon explained, “but another part that just wants to forget about it. I don’t want to mess up anything in my new relationship.”

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It was heavy on his mind. I asked, “What is the gift of facing what happened and what is the cost?”


Jon realized that a part of him – a large part – had been consumed in the previous relationship. Normally quite independent, he had managed to bend so much during the relationship that he ended up resenting her, which is why he left. As he expressed his anger towards her, he realized that he was really mad at himself! He had allowed it to happen. By placing the relationship over being truthful with himself he had compromised his values and lost himself for the sake of being loved. In the end, he lost the relationship as well.


These realizations opened up several possibilities for growth. “What should I do now?” he asked. He had the answers; my job was to help him figure out which was most in line with his truth.


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To help him clarify his wishes, I asked him two questions. How did he want to handle it with his ex? And, how could he integrate what he was learning into his current relationship? Denying that it had happened would be easiest – at least temporarily – but that was not what he chose to do. Instead he decided to write a letter to Liz describing his feelings about how the relationship ended and his recent realizations for his part in the break-up.


In his current relationship, Jon decided to use this as an opportunity to explore any areas where he might be repeating the same pattern. Had he been bending too far? If so, he would identify these areas, and write about what beliefs lie behind these behaviors. Was he afraid of being truthful? Would there be problems or confrontations?


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Jon would then talk to his girlfriend about the situation with the ex, how he was feeling (being open and vulnerable) and any realizations he had had about their current relationship. He would use this as an opportunity to communicate with her and deepen the relationship. In effect, he was actively choosing NOT to repeat the pattern!


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Coaching Challenge: Think of an important person in your life… in a friendship, a romantic or a professional relationship. Where do you experience frustration in the relationship and how do you handle it? Are you honest or do you let things slide for fear of confrontation? If you are more on the “sliding” side, write down at least three reasons why you allow yourself to put the relationship above your truth. For each reason, answer the questions: Is this a valid fear? What is the gift of believing this and what is the cost? Then ask yourself, “Is it worth the cost?” Are you willing to do anything – possibly even give up your truth – to stay in the relationship? Or are you willing to break the pattern?

I’m Bored. Now What?

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

In the middle of a recent coaching appointment, both the client and I had a huge realization. She was completely bored with her life! As we were talking about a decision she was facing, it wasn’t the opportunity that was appealing; it was the thought of welcoming change – any change – into her life that had caught her attention.


“What’s challenging to you right now? What is exciting in your life? Where do you find passion?” I asked. To each question, she gave me a puzzled, almost painful look. She did not have an answer.

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Finally, she explained, “I work hard and am successful in my career. I got married, had kids, survived divorce and am now working hard to keep some balance in my life. Life feels functional; I have a lot of responsibilities and I find that the only real challenge is juggling the activities in my life.” But where was the passion?


It’s easy to see how this can happen. When we were in school, our goal was to graduate. Then we wanted to get a good job. Next it was to meet someone and get married, have kids, be a good parent, etc. Now that we’ve done all that, what are we moving towards? The first part of life seemed so structured. We knew what we were “supposed” to do and what was “normal” and what came next. But who makes the rules and sets the goals now? What is “supposed” to happen next?


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“Imagine that you are the writer and director of a movie – your movie,” I said, introducing an analogy for us to play with. “The stage is set, several plot lines have been introduced, and there is a cast of characters with you as the lead. Tell me how the story unfolds. What happens next?” Sounds pretty open-ended, right? The irony is that this much flexibility can be stifling!


She looked at me, completely stuck. I pressed, “Where is the passion?” She had become so busy just managing her day-to-day life that she had forgotten.


We then reconstructed and described each of the eras of her life. We began in childhood and moved on to the School Era, the Single Years, the Relationship to Marriage Era, the Family and then the Divorce Years, which brings us to now.


We brainstormed her future Eras. The next one was called Back to Me. Travel Time came next, which naturally flowed into the Relaxation, Retirement and Grandparent Eras. We talked about each one and built a loose framework for her future. As we watched the chapters unfold, she saw where she was now with more perspective as to how it fit into the rest of the story.


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By creating descriptions for each time period (including the tone, color, theme song, motto, etc.), we provided clarity and dimension to the various segments of her story. Excitement grew as her entire life began to feel more alive and connected. Ideas sprang forth that took completely by surprise and the boredom disappeared. We had, in effect, re-energized her life by adjusting her perspective.


Stepping outside of the day-to-day responsibilities can help to gain a broader perspective. This macro-view provides the big picture along with the details…and how it all fits together to make up your life. By knowing where you’ve been and where you plan to go you gain a better understanding of where you are right now. Isn’t life really all about right now?


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Coaching Challenge: Review your life and write down the major eras. Describe each segment by answering the following questions:

•    What is the overall theme of this time period?

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•    If you had to describe this era with an article of clothing, what would it be?

•    What is the lead song on the soundtrack of this era?

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•    What kind of car do you drive?

•    What would a bumper sticker on your car say?

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Now list the upcoming time periods in your life. Create the macro view. Then focus in on each one and answer the questions above. Have fun with it. See where you are going. Imagine the possibilities, and feel the passion!

Resolutions Made … in 4 Simple Steps

Monday, December 15th, 2008

As January 1st draws near, it is the perfect time to ask yourself: What do I want more of in my life? And what do I want less of? Isn’t that the core of New Year’s Resolutions?

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One of my clients recently asked for help in defining and keeping her resolutions. She had one of the most popular resolutions: to get in shape. It seemed very important to her, fueling her desire to make changes and move forward.

By asking a few questions, it was easy to determine where she was and help clarify her goals. The more specific she got, the more excited she became. It was as though imagining it and talking about it took her one step closer to achieving it. Putting forth intention and the energy behind words can be very powerful and a great first step. To make it even more concrete and do-able, we got even more exact. I asked her to clarify the following:

  • Goals – What do you want to happen? What is the outcome? Make sure your goals are measureable, specific and attainable.
  • Resources – What supports you in this area?
  • Red Flags – How do you know when you are not in line with this goal?
  • Affirmations – What statements help you move towards this goal?
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Here’s how it looked for her intention of “getting in shape:”

  • Goal — Workout at least three times per week for 40 minutes, combining weight training, flexibility and cardio-vascular conditioning. Lose 10 pounds of fat in 8 months. Decrease my body fat percentage by 3 points.
  • Resources – My health club, a personal trainer, a nutritionist and my favorite fitness magazine.
  • Red Flags – When my clothes begin to feel snug; I feel lethargic, and I start to gain weight.
  • Affirmation –When I take care of my body, it takes care of me.

After we had a framework, an action plan and some accountability for “getting in shape,” we then moved on to her second priority, Romantic Relationships.

When we finished looking at all eight areas of her life (Fun & Recreation, Physical Environment, Career, Money, Health, Friends & Family, Significant Other/Romance, and Personal Growth), we had done some incredible work and she had specific milestones to guide and track her progress.

I then took the worksheets and folded them in half. I told her that she could have them back, but I wanted to know the one word that would help her to keep her resolutions. “You already know the word,” I assured her. “The word you are looking for is the basis for truly changing your life. It doesn’t have to do with any particular area of your life. It has to do with you. What is this word?”

She thought for a minute, hesitated and said, “Authenticity.” I knew from the way she said it that this was the word. It didn’t matter what area of her life we looked at, if she approached it with authenticity, she could reach her goals.

And so, after an hour of completing worksheets, diving into all areas of her life, it really came down to one word: authenticity

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. She could use all of her creative ideas and hard work to move forward in each of these areas, but it became very simple. Her ONLY resolution, then, became, “To keep my word: authenticity.” That makes it easy to remember and to measure her progress…every day.



Coach’s Challenge:

Create your New Year’s Resolution by identifying one word that impacts all areas of your life. Here are some examples: honesty, integrity, education, creativity, courage, kindness, efficiency, faith, focus, etc. Select one and move forward keeping this word in mind. If you can post it in several places, it serves as a constant reminder to integrate it into all areas of your life. This then becomes your one-word New Year’s Resolution. Happy New Year!

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