Here it is Thanksgiving week and I had planned on being in a quiet neighborhood in a suburb of Chicago visiting my in-laws. Instead I’m at home looking out the windows at the grey air that has been a constant reminder of the worst wildfires in California history.
My husband and I had plans to fly out yesterday, Sunday. Yet when we returned home from another family event late Saturday afternoon, a virus that had been raising its head earlier in the week suddenly returned with force. Luckily I don’t get ill often, so when a bug hits me I know it. I had been dodging this one all week, yet I thought I could continue to keep it on the low and usher it out without fanfare. I went to bed early on Saturday night hoping that I’d wake up in the clear in the morning.
I woke up early on Sunday morning feeling feverish, with the mild sore throat I’d been fighting seemingly moving into my ears. I didn’t feel the motivation to leave my bed, let alone hoof it through the airport and endure a 5-hour flight. My worst fear was what the aftermath might bring. I couldn’t imagine that such a journey in my condition was the recipe for feeling better. So we made the decision to cancel.
It felt very weird to realize that our plans for the week had been completely turned upside down. We weren’t going to hang out and cook at Dean’s parents’. We weren’t going to take the train to visit museums in Chicago. We weren’t going to be gone. We were going to be at home without a single plan or commitment for the week. I don’t know why, but the sudden change in plans felt overwhelming to me. And I longed to feel right again.
Finding Purpose in the Change of Plans
Dean and I talked in bed for a good couple of hours before making the phone call to his parents. I always look to see the purpose behind everything that happens. What came up for me was that now with a wide-open schedule during a holiday week that lifted most of our business responsibilities, we’d been given the opportunity to focus on what we want to create with our lives. This, at a time when it is unhealthy to do what we would normally do in mild weather, simply go for walks and enjoy the outdoors.
I’m looking at our blank slate as an opportunity to set a new vision, not only for the week, but for the weeks and months to come. The beauty in this is that I know that this is exactly what we need right now, a time and environment from which to recalibrate. As much as we both know we need to, we would never have taken the time to clear the slate on our own. My mother’s comment: “It wasn’t meant for you to go.”
“It wasn’t meant for you to go.”
Today I graduated from an upright position in bed to my desk in my home office, clothed in warm layers and my favorite leopard slippers. Unless I have a setback, I imagine myself leaving the house tomorrow. I plan to be moving on.
This afternoon I had a luscious time sitting on my deck in the delightfully warm sunshine. My husband was out car shopping and I had the afternoon to myself. I was feeling mellow after an intense morning workout that zapped my body of energy. I thought that maybe I would pick up the drawing pencils I hadn’t touched in a couple of years. Or maybe take out my beading container that has been buried in the closet for the last three. The beading won out. Yet as I opened the container to get reacquainted with my beads I realized that my heart wasn’t into it. As I pondered the idea of drawing instead, it occurred to me that the beading and the drawing suddenly seemed like distractions that I’d created to keep myself from focusing on what I really love to do. Write about life.
Switching gears, I brought the journal that holds notes I’ve made while attending inspirational retreats and conferences out to my deck. Flipping through the pages reading my notes energized me. In particular were words from Caroline Myss that I jotted down from a day-long conference I attended in San Francisco a dozen years ago.
“Asking questions about life’s purpose stimulates movement.”
How often do you wake up to the day and ask yourself questions about the purpose of your life? I am someone who thinks about purpose quite a bit. I believe that I have a purpose, that you have a purpose, and that every event that unfolds is meant to guide us closer towards expressing our purpose. But in order to be guided, we have to be paying attention. I don’t know about you, but that’s where I often fall down. I am often asleep at the wheel of life.
“Approach each day with the expectation that it will be full of messages for you personally. Look at life symbolically. Look for larger and deeper meaning in any event.”
I love this philosophy and believe it to be the key for living a deeply meaningful life. But it intimidates me. Where do I begin? How exactly do I do this? How do I stay the course?
I remind myself that I have been intimidated by many things over the course of my life that I have later come to manage quite well. These things range from losing weight and developing a running regimen to learning Google Adwords and building websites. I remember that these things seemed overwhelming the first few times I tried, but I succeeded as I persevered. What it takes is intention and commitment.
“We must discover our unique gifts and then choose the way we will use them to be of service.”
I personally don’t think most of us have a problem in discovering our unique gifts. Is it fair to say that most of us know what we’re good at and what brings us joy? The hard part is figuring out how to make a living sharing these gifts.
Yet how many of us have asked for guidance to get to the answer? I know that I do once in a while, yet I’m not consistent. For all I know, the answer has been presented to me six ways from Sunday, but I’ve not been paying attention.
I had been thinking about re-launching—or more appropriately, resurrecting—my personal blog for weeks. I’d been on hiatus for four years while consumed with getting my marketing business sturdily off the ground all the while becoming increasingly aware that my life was out of balance. I knew that I needed to add a focus that feeds my soul and keeps me in touch with the experiences of life. I don’t want to end up feeling that my life has passed me by.
The sadness of last week’s tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman lingered with me for several days—far longer, frankly, than I would have expected for a man whose work I honored yet didn’t follow closely. The thought that has stayed with me is just how delicate the human experience is on so many levels. How easy it is for us to observe someone else’s life on the outside and think they have it made yet have no clue about how much they may be suffering on the inside.
As I tried to process my emotions in response to this event, I recognized that I wanted to learn more about what was touching me. Isn’t this really the experience of life—truly feeling what gets thrown at you day by day?
For decades I have heard my mother’s voice uttering, “Everything happens for a reason.” I do believe this is true. Yet how can it be true for just the big things? I believe that everything—big or small–that happens every day is an opportunity to be looked at to lead me or you to do something new or different.
So while I was in a state of wanting to explore my responses to life on a deeper level, I had a very mundane event occur that I looked at as guidance to return to my personal blog. Thank you, Sheila, from Dublin, Ireland for following my dormant blog the other day. You motivated me to get back out there. Hopefully my digging for meaning will make some kind of a contribution.
I had one of my most fulfilling experiences on Friday when I was invited to speak at a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help those who are most in need to succeed. Sixty women who are enrolled in various vocational job training programs attended my workshop, “The Secret to Success”. Why was it so fulfilling? Because for at least our 90 minutes together, my ideas made a difference.
The breakthrough lesson was how our beliefs are all that holds us back from taking the steps to succeed. We did an exercise that first asked them to write answers to the following:
What fears do you have about your job future?
What ideas are limiting what you think you can achieve or become in your life?
What is holding you back from believing you can stay dedicated to doing the necessary work?
In the second part of the exercise, I asked them to go back and write down what new ideas they could replace the ones above with that would support them in taking action. After a few minutes, several shared how writing their thoughts down enabled them to get clarity they’d never had before.
We can help ourselves break through all our obstacles if only we look closely enough to see what they are.
Try the exercise yourself and see what you might learn.
I have just returned from BookExpo America (BEA), the book industry’s annual event held this year at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where I went to promote the debut of my book, Inner Architect: How to Build the Life You Were Designed to Live. I expected the experience to be one of value, learning, and building relationships. What I didn’t expect was to discover what occurred to me while I mentally noted the highlights of the event during our final day. As I focused on these highlights, I saw a common thread that weaved throughout the launch of my book that would have totally bypassed my consciousness had I not stopped to casually review. I believe this common thread provides a direction for me that I would not have taken seriously had the energy of life not have shoved it in my face.
I’d like to share my clues and my perception of the guidance they provide, and then invite you to look at recent, or not so recent, events in your life where there might be direction sitting there for you.
Clue #1: My company, inner architect, published the book using a standard off-set printer who specializes in the book industry. Upon our request for production samples, the printer we ultimately chose sent us two books published by Hay House. I didn’t think anything more about this at the time than the printer wanted to promote that they had a well known, prestigious client.
Clue #2: Louise Hayauthor and founder of Hay House, happened to be autographing books in the Hay House booth at BEA while my partner, Dean and I walked by. Dean took my bashful arm and led me to stand next to him in the line to meet Louise. When it was our turn to greet her, Dean introduced me and thanked her for the inspiration she provided to us to launch our publishing company. Once again, I didn’t take this for anything more than shear luck of being in the right place at the right time to meet Louise Hay, a woman I respect and honor for her contribution to the human development movement.
Clue #3: Later that day at BEA we stopped to talk with a man promoting international distribution services. We proudly showed him our new book and he responded with a comment about it being along the lines of what Hay House publishes. He went on to tell us that a company that had recently lost the Hay House account would likely welcome something to replace it. I felt encouraged by his comment, yet didn’t see the meaning in this exchange until I put all three of these clues together.
My interpretation of these clues: I was led to look at a woman who I deeply admire as a model for my own work in a way that I had never considered on my own.
What to take away from my experience:
Look at the events that unfold in your life as having meaningful messages for you.
Take the messages that you interpret seriously, even if they seem grander than visions you’ve created for yourself.
Trust that these messages are meant to lead you in the direction where you will find the most fulfillment.
Believe that you are capable in carrying out these messages and commit to doing the steps that will see it through.
My current task of coming up with a logo for my new personal development firm, inner architect has brought me to probe a number of questions that I don’t often think about. I’m sure I’m not the only one who spends more time thinking about what I am going to wear than reflecting on these questions that address life at the very core. I wanted to toss them out to give you something to chew on:
How do you want to be remembered?
What ideals do you represent?
What image would you pick to represent who you are?
Do your choices and actions align with that image?
I delivered the pdf file for my upcoming book, Inner Architect: How to Build the Life You Were Designed to Live, to the printer this past Thursday. On Friday afternoon something incredible hit me. I am in the process of bringing life to my dream! Holy cow. Why did it take me so long to see clearly what is right in front of me? What was I thinking to expect that one single event would bring my dream to life? It really is all about baby steps.
Three years ago this month, I walked away from a successful 20-year career in the corporate world to follow a dream. It hasn’t been an easy journey, that’s for sure, and I’ve got a ways to go. But I can see now that I am on my way.
Your way to your dream can be found in these steps:
Recognize that you have the choice to create a different life.
Believe that it is possible to successfully build your dream.
Define the obstacles that are holding you back.
Replace your obstacles with ideas that support you.
Give credibility to the desires of your heart and learn to trust it.
Outline your training and development needs.
Crystallize your vision.
Identify your major goals.
Define the steps necessary to achieve your goals.
Stay committed to doing the necessary work.
Support your external work with thoughts that help to build it.
See yourself now in the beginning stages of your new life.