You Are Invited to Find Your Purpose

Your soul came in with a plan.

Your life has a purpose.

But what if you're not sure what the plan or purpose is?

Or what if you do know and you're stuck under your desk feeling terrified to take that leap (You are not alone!)?

This post is to let you know that Martha Beck is teaming up with physician author/blogger Lissa Rankin and author/ life coach Amy Ahlers to help you uncover your life's purpose.  The trio is offering a free class they are calling a "no holds barred tele-jam" on October 10th as an intro to a new telecourse.

Find Your Calling Tele-Jam   with Martha Beck, Lissa Rankin & Amy Ahlers LIVE worldwide event on 10/10 at Noon PT/3pm ET Listen via webcast or phone.

I just signed up.

You can register for the free call here.

If you can't make the call, no worries. Register & they will send you the recording.

The details were sent early to Martha Beck coaches. Here is what they will cover in the free tele-jam:

  • The magic hot tracks formula for tapping into your life's purpose (go on a safari with them!)
  • How a Down syndrome baby, a suicide, and a brain tumor changed everything (and led to hope, magic, miracles and life purpose)
  • The road map for finding your calling and how to identify where you are right now (so you can feel peace about your process)
  • Why the question "What do you want?" may be the WRONG question to ask yourself (and the juicy, hot, kick-ass question to ask instead)
  • The single most important, and almost always overlooked, tool for figuring out why you're on the planet (sometimes the most powerful things are the simplest!)

We are told that Martha, Lissa, and Amy are going to spill the beans about how they found their own callings.

"See" you on the call!




Steps to Designing Your Ideal Life

If you were to set about designing your ideal life, you may consider where you want to live, who you want to love, what you want to do for work...But instead of starting with your ideal circumstances, start with who you want to be.

Instead of asking, "What do I want my life to look like," ask, "Who is the person I want to be in my life?" What sort of action do I take everyday in order to be that person? Take a look at  How To Live the Perfectly Unbalanced Life for tips on clarifying your values & describing the person you want to be.

You can honor your values and be your best self in almost any set of circumstances. I've had a few clients come to coaching with the question of whether or not to leave their marriages. This is no small problem and only my clients can decide for themselves. But what I suggest is this: First, let go of trying the change the other person and focus on being the person you want to be - perhaps that is someone who is loving, eats healthfully, and is engaged with her kids. When/if your marriage interferes with you being that person, then perhaps it's time to consider leaving. If a friend or partner was physically hurting you, then you would leave (this is an extreme example that does not apply to my clients). Your relationship would be keeping you from being someone who takes care of her health and safety - things you value.

So maybe you don't like your job. If you can't quit or you're not sure if you want to, how can you be your best self at work? How can you be the uplifting boss, the lifelong learner, the supportive co-worker? Be that person now, regardless of the details of your actual work.

Then, when you get to considering the circumstances or goals of your life, ask "What circumstances best support me being the person I want to be?" What supports my growth and what matters to me?

What career supports your value of being a present parent? What city or neighborhood supports your appreciation of beauty and nature? What friendships nurture your authentic self?

The things that are part of your right life support what you value and who you want to be.

Have you signed up for the free Blueprint Life Design newsletter? Don't miss the updates, tips, photography, products, book recommendations, and coaching specials.

Photography by Geoff Captain.

You Can't Change Your Life Without Changing Your House

And you can't change your house without changing your life. I've heard Martha Beck speak these words on multiple occasions and you can read her words in print in Steering By Starlight. I've always found this concept interesting because I love both life design and home design. I am fascinated by where the two intersect. Martha also says that the way we do one thing is the way we do everything. So who would have guessed that your career or life's purpose had anything to do with what bathroom soap you choose or where you hang that velvet painting of Elvis.

In my home office, I happen to have lots of paper, which can represent thoughts. The paper and the thoughts can, at times, create physical & mental clutter (I have more books & paper than I have storage space and I have more ideas than time to execute them). If you have too much stuff in your space, you may be too busy in your schedule. Perhaps the kids' toys in your bedroom means that it's time to set some boundaries. If you're hoarding objects, you may be clinging to excess weight on your body.

Here is an exercise that asks you to make a tiny change in your living space that may result in a big change in your life. Think about it: A tiny step in a different direction on the path called life could completely change where you end up years from now. Back in 1999, I purchased a book called Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. The book had nothing to do with life coaching (Martha was not a coach at the time, nor did the term exist) and I admit that I bought the book because I liked the cover. Little did I know that the purchase would lead me to a completely unexpected place in my career nine years later.

These steps are adapted from exercises in Steering by Starlight and information from classes I have taken with Martha.

  • Walk through your home and notice your body's reaction to different rooms, objects, shelves, corners, spaces. Notice what part of your home gets the most negative reaction from your body.
  • Write down three adjectives to describe that part of your home you like the least. Ask yourself, "What else in my life can be described by those three adjectives?" You can address this later.
  • Now, go into your memory or imagination and think of a space that you love. It could be a place you have been or seen in a movie (Diane Keaton's home in Something's Gotta Give), catalog, or magazine...You can even cut out pictures and make a collage or vision board of your ideal space. Lately, I've been perusing Dwell Magazine and the SimpleLovely blog. I also love the  Manhattan Beach, CA home shown above & below (photos by my husband). Write down three adjectives to describe that ideal space. Notice the difference between your current space (three negative adjectives) and your ideal space (three positive adjectives). Knowing what you like and don't like helps you create your ideal life.
  • Go acquire an object that is described by at least one of your positive adjectives and bring it into that least favorite part of your home. It could be small or big - bedsheets, a plant, a piece of fabric, a tech gadget, a paint chip, a mug, a laborador retriever...Make sure it helps you create the life you want. This weekend, I am switching out photos on my desk.
  • For each object you bring in, remove one thing from that space.
  • Rinse and repeat until you love that space.

You can follow the same steps above with other areas of low satisfaction in your life, like your career or relationships. Instead of bringing in beautiful objects, think of helpful communication skills or patterns of action or thought you can use to replace unhelpful ways of doing things.

All photos by Geoff Captain of geoffcaptainstudios. Would you like to see more photos of this particular house? They are right here.

Now available for instant download: The Best Version of You

New tele-class coming in early 2011: Extreme Career Makeover. Details announced in my newsletter.

The Best Version of You

Each week during the past month, I met with an amazing group of people over the phone for a telecourse I called "Get To Know You." I designed the class to help people get clear on their "essential selves," their values, and their strengths in order to find direction, make life decisions and add meaning to their lives. A nice side effect of getting to know yourself is self love and acceptance. Most of the participants came to the class for clarity on career decisions, so questions and examples were geared toward work. The tools and exercises in the 17-page workbook I put together can help you figure out next steps to take in your career, relationships, parenting, or personal growth, whether you want to make a change or enrich your current life with more happiness & meaning. The material will help you align your actions with what you're naturally drawn to, where you're strongest and what matters most to you. When you do that, you get to be the best version of you, and you no longer need to be a version of anyone else.

So that more people can access this information, I've packaged the mp3s recordings of the classes (5+ hours), a long list of resources, and a 17-page workbook. You can purchase now: Add to Cart

Don't miss this invitation to become you.

What You Can Do When Everything Falls Apart

So I've been feeling particularly "heavy" this weekend - not in terms of body weight, but mental weight. On Friday, our neighbor died in a car crash. Yesterday, my husband read more in the news about how uncertain his job is (architects are an endangered species in this economy). And last night, we watched "The Hurt Locker." Like I said, heavy.

So if the stresses of the world are getting to you as well, I thought I'd share something we can all do even in the midst of death, job loss, divorce, illness, war, chaos, and uncertainty.

We can keep moving in the direction of our values.

Our values are always available to us. It takes time to achieve a goal, but we can live our values moment to moment.

To clarify your values, ask yourself what is most important? Who is the person you want to be? What do you want to stand for? What do you want your life to be about?

Then ask yourself how you can honor your values in the small actions you take everyday. This morning, I actually wrote a list of the ways I can align with what's most important: be present with my husband & kids, nurture my relationships, eat well & exercise, and help people live their best lives. The amazing thing is that we are not dependent on circumstances to address what's most important to us.

Starting October 19th, I am teaching a class to help clarify and apply your values, and in the process, create a blueprint for a meaningful life. Taking valued action may mean feeling scared and uncomfortable at times, but it always means that you're living a rich, full, meaningful life. What about the fear and discomfort that come along with that? I can teach you tools to handle it.

Photo by Geoff Captain.

Be the Best Version of You in 2010

What if you didn’t need anymore time this year? What if balancing family, work, and yourself was less a matter of finding the time or scheduling and more a matter of figuring out what you value most?

Let’s play with this idea.

Are you bummed that you aren’t participating in a cheese-rolling competition in the UK this year? Probably not. Why? It’s not important to you. On top of that, it’s probably not important to your friends either, so you don’t feel like you “should” be doing it.

In a different scenario, imagine that you have a child or close family member who is seriously ill and hospitalized for an extended period of time. Might it be very clear to you what is most important in your life? You probably wouldn’t feel guilty for neglecting the soap scum in you showers, pausing your search for a new work project, or putting homemade meals on the backburner (so to speak). Why not? Because your priorities are crystal clear, there is no self doubt, no apologies, and no guilt. Your actions are aligned with your values.

When our values are not so clear, however, the waters are muddy. When there is no crisis (job loss, illness, injury) or big event (wedding, childbirth, move) dramatically structuring our priorities, all of the pieces of our lives swirl around in our heads. We question how we manage our time and energy (which drains time & energy) and feel like we never have enough of either.

For now (of course, I’ll have more on this later), I propose two pieces, or action steps, to address this problem.

The first: Identify your values. Here are a few ways to ask the same question:

  • What do you value?
  • What gives you meaning?
  • What matters most to you in your life right now?
  • What do you want your life to be about?

Need help figuring this out?

I heard this helpful suggestion from Coach Jeannette Maw:

Get someone to listen to you or record yourself telling two stories. One story is about something that happened recently that was wonderful. Pick out what (hint: what you value) made it so great. Then tell an opposite story and figure out what was missing (hint: values).

Also, check out my blog posts on Your Real Career and The Game of Life. I describe Martha Beck’s tools to identify your values and align your action with your values.

The second: Be aware of the thoughts about what you “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing. You may tell yourself you “should” be exercising more. But if exercising is say, fourth on you list of priorities, then it needs to be addressed accordingly.

Your values and ways of aligning with them are uniquely your own and not necessarily the same as your mother or neighbor. You get to the best version of YOU. Just because your mother makes homemade spaghetti sauce doesn’t mean it “should” be important to you. You and your friends may all value family. Perhaps one of you serves this value by helping with homework, another by providing income, and another by coaching soccer. It doesn’t mean that all of you “should” be doing what everyone else is doing.

I have a feeling that a secret to happiness is using your strengths to put your values in action. More on this in this New Year.

What’s Coming in 2010

Look for these topics to be covered in this year’s newsletters, blogs, and classes:

  • Getting clear on your priorities and what you want your life to look like
  • Cleaning up time, space, & thoughts to make room for what’s important
  • Plans for life balance
  • Improving your relationships
  • Energy (deciding how to use it, sustaining it)
  • Identifying & using your strengths
  • Designing living spaces

Feeling Disconnected From Yourself?

Ever feel anxious? Frustrated? A lack of contentment? Angry? Even numb?

It could be that your two selves are conflicted. I am not suggesting that you are two people or have multiple personalities, but viewing yourself as having two sides is incredibly helpful in figuring out the life that is right for you.

Martha Beck names these two sides the essential self and the social self.

The essential self is the personality you were born with. According to Martha, it includes your natural desires, preferences, emotional reactions and involuntary physiological responses. It is what it is no matter where you grew up, how much money you had, or what your family was like. The social self, on the other hand, develops as you grow and incorporates the values, norms and expectations of people around you, particularly your parents, teachers, nuns, friends...It learns the skills (talking, reading, deodorant wearing, sharing, sock matching) required to fit in to society and gain social approval.

The two selves can work very nicely together. The essential self has tools to direct you toward your right life and your social self helps you get there. Your essential self wants to be a loving parent, so your social self reads parenting books and magazines (which may leave your two selves more confused, but that's another post). Your essential self falls in love and your social self tells you when it's ok to call.Your essential self longs to connect with others, so your social self learns to text and e-mail. Your essential self desires to wear sweats to work, so your social self figures out how to become a life coach.

For most people, however, internal conflict is the norm. And I have a suspicion that you are more identified with your social self than your essential self. How do I know this? Well, if you are reading this, you are likely a smart, responsible person who has picked up lots of social skills and likes to do the "right thing." You seek information on how to improve your life and you probably like to please other people. Or you are related to me and just reading this to be nice, which means your social self is running the show.

Since your essential self contains the clues to your best life (and your most financially successful life, especially in this changing economic climate), it is important to re-connect with it.

Coaching is a process of helping people reconnect their essential and social selves. How to do it?

Since our bodies tend to be truth detectors that reflect our psychological processes, The Body Compass exercise is a handy dandy tool to access your essential self.

Martha Beck says that the most basic way to connect the two sides is to teach your social self to notice when your essential self is saying "no" to a person, activity, or situation in your life.

Here are some signs that your essential self is saying "no:"

  • Energy crisis: You feel drained, heavy, exhausted.
  • You keep getting sick.
  • You are forgetful.
  • You make stupid mistakes.
  • You are socially awkward.
  • You feel angry or have an impulse run and hide.
  • You develop an addiction (to eating, shopping, drinking...) to numb a feeling of emptiness.
  • Your emotions don't seem to match situations. For example, you start screaming at your family for no reason or laugh hysterically in the  middle of a PTA meeting or cry during your lunch break.

On the flip side, there are signs that your essential self is saying "yes!" Again, turn to your Body Compass for clues. Here are signs that you are on the right track:

  • Your energy increases.
  • You enjoy good health.
  • Your memory is sharp for the particular person, situation, or topic.
  • Time flies.
  • You feel relaxation and empathy when with a particular person.
  • You feel an intense, perhaps unexplained attraction to a person, place or thing.
  • You find yourself smiling and in a wonderful mood, even at seemingly strange times.

Just noticing when your essential self is saying yes or no is a powerful step in getting to know yourself better. Once you know yourself better and let go of some of your social self rules, life decisions are clearer and easier and become steps on the path of your ideal life.

When I first read about the essential and social selves in Finding Your Own North Star years ago, I wrote down in one of the exercises that my essential self loved to read books while sitting in bed, sipping my morning coffee. Well, guess what? People now pay me to share information I learn in part from reading books (in bed with coffee, of course). Martha Beck jokes that people pay her to do nothing (which is how it seems when your essential self gets to come out and play).

"Have you always listened when your essential self said "Yes!" or were you taught to muffle it with cynicism, doubt, fear, and righteous wrath or despair? Even if it's nothing but an alluring tickle, push the objections aside and move into this feeling of "Yes!" Believe it or not, this sensation - not pain, not self-sacrifice, not stoic numbness - is the surest indicator that you're on the path that will lead you to fulfilling relationships, a productive career, and the best possible effect you can have on the world."             -Martha Beck in Finding Your Own North Star

Blueprint Life Design December Newsletter

The Game of Life

Now that you've described your real career (from last post), how do you choose activities to live and support your real career?

First, Martha Beck recommends that we think of almost every human activity (including most jobs) as a game we play. I have a friend who is currently taking a series of exams for certification as part of her new career. When she explained with certainty that she failed her most recent exam, I said, "That's o.k. It's all just a game." Now I was not trying to be-little my friend's chosen profession. I happen to believe that if she thinks of the whole process as a game, she will feel less attached to the outcome, and whaddaya know, probably pass her exams. It's when we think that our entire lives are at stake in a situation that we lose consciousness, awareness, and power.

For the games you play or consider playing, ask yourself these four Joy Diet questions:

  1. Does playing this game contribute to my real career or detract from it? Do not play a game that takes you away from your life's purpose no matter what the winnings. According to Martha Beck, "If you spend your whole life playing a game that is not your real career, you'll lose even if you win."
  2. Am I having fun? This doesn't mean there's no effort or hard work involved, but it's worth playing.
  3. Am I good at this game (or could I be good at if I practiced)? It's really hard to leave something you're good at. But if this is the only question that gets a yes, you may want to consider another game. There are plenty of games you can win and love.
  4. Do I like the other players? My teammates? My competitors? My coaches? This is such a great indicator of a game worth playing. Do you get to hang with your peeps? Your tribe?

Related to question number one is one of my favorite tools from The Joy Diet: Alternating between mouse vision and eagle vision. In the midst of a task or activity, call to mind the major life goals you listed in the last post (Your Real Career). Then, look at what you are doing in that moment. Go back and forth a few times between your real career (eagle vision) and your current task (mouse vision). Is your current activity taking you toward your real career? If so, how well is it doing this?

I find this fascinating because I have so many things I need and want to do, I often question my choices. Some activities are obvious in their merit. Running will help you maintain a healthy body. Studying will get you that degree. Writing on Facebook walls will keep you connected (in case you thought Facebook was a complete waste of time!). But what about all of the other things we find ourselves doing - cleaning the house, e-mailing, preparing meals, filing, shopping, showering? Martha calls this maintenance work and says it's fine as long as it supports our more goal-directed behaviors. However, doing maintenance work that keeps you from moving toward your goals may be a way to avoid "the scary, exhilarating work of your real career." So if driving, going online, cooking every night and cleaning out your sock drawer is taking time and energy away from your real life's work, it's time to bag it or barter it.

Keep in mind that it doesn't take a huge adjustment to change course. I tiny tweak in your mousy behavior (making a list, getting out your passport, writing down a phone number) done over and over will lead you to your eagle goals. Slight adjustments at the wheel of a boat or plane determine your destination.

Now go play!

Your Real Career

In The Joy Diet, Martha Beck poses an important question (and one you may not expect from a book with the word "joy" in the title) to help identify your "real career:"

How do you want to live, given that you'll be dead pretty soon?

Your guidance counselor may not have approached your career path in quite the same way. But the one thing we all have in common is that we one day we will die. And better to think about this now if it spurs you to consider what matters most to you.

Martha says that your real career boils down to two basic questions. Go ahead and write down your answers. It may help to recall your thoughts and actions following the events of 9/11. Your responses will clarify your values and purpose, helping you design a meaningful life.

  1. When your life is over, how do you want the world to be different - in large ways or small - because you have lived?
  2. What experiences must you have to feel you've lived a completely satisfying life?

There you have it - your real career - comprised only of the activities and experiences that allow you to accomplish and experience what you listed above. According to Martha Beck, if you can make these things happen, you will have a wildly successful career, even if you never earn money in the process. On the flip side, there's no amount of wealth, power, or fame that can make up for never realizing the goals of your true career.

So how do we apply this to our lives? First, understand that Martha's use of the word "career" extends beyond a job and refers to "the course of action your true self would take if you were to live to the limit of your potential." So if you're currently unemployed or retired or at home with kids, you still have a real career. Your real career may change course during your life, but as long as you're focused on activities that are part of your real career, you're infusing your life with purpose and meaning.

Second, it helps to think of most jobs and activities as games we play to support our real careers. More on this and how to choose your games in tomorrow's post...

The Secret to Happiness

Fellow life coach Michele Woodward recently spoke at a corporate luncheon. When asked (on Facebook) to summarize her speech in three sentences, the following is what she wrote. I found her words so helpful, I wanted to pass them along. As you make decisions about your life, this is great advice. As you consider your next tattoo, these are the perfect words to emblazon across your chest:

1. The secret to happiness is to do more of what you like and are good at and less of what you don't like, even if you are good at it.

2. You are the best expert on your own life so listen to your inner voice.

3. Always act in alignment with your strengths and values -- ain't no stopping you when you do.

Photo by Geoff Captain

Good Enough

This post is longer than usual. So sit back and relax or read a little at a time or print this out and take it to bed. I am going to get a little "coachy" and inspirational on you, but there is good, practical reason for it. Here it goes: My 2-year-old thinks she can do anything. When I asked her what she wanted to do this summer, she replied that she would like to go "paragliding" (We had seen paragliders the previous weekend). When I tell her that she is a big girl, she says, "No I'm not, I'm HUGE!" I know she would attempt to drive my car if I let her.

So when did we go from believing that we were huge with the power do anything to playing small in our lives? When did we forget who we are?

It may have happened sometime around second grade. In a story re-told by Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind (an excellent book, by the way), Gordon MacKenzie of Hallmark Cards used to visit classrooms and ask, "How many artists are there in the room?" In kindergarten and first grade classrooms, every hand enthusiastically raised. In second grade classrooms, about three-fourths of students raised their hands and in third grade, only a few. By sixth grade, no hands.

What happened? I am wondering if these kids developed the belief that they were no longer good enough to call themselves artists. Or perhaps they weren't good enough to raise their hands even if no one else did.

I see this belief come up in every client: I am not good enough.

Now, you may not think you have this belief. You may not walk around articulating to yourself, "I am not a good enough this" or "I am not good enough to do that." This belief tends to lurk beneath the surface of other thoughts and comes in different forms. Anytime you think you're not worthy, that other people will think less of you, or you compare yourself to others, you are expressing the belief that you are not good enough.

This belief is often tied to issues with money, careers, relationships, and weight. In other words, if you believed that you were good enough, you may not have these issues. One of my clients desired to find the love of his life and to eventually get married. This was a source of pain for him because he had the belief that, because of his past, he was not worthy of a quality woman (By the way, he met a great woman last month and I haven't heard from him since). For fifteen years, Bob Greene told Oprah, "Your weight is ultimately tied to your feelings of unworthiness." In a similar example, Oprah asked Marianne Williamson why she thought Oprah struggled with her weight. Marianne wrote this:

Until you accept the magnitude of your function, your unconscious mind will sabotage any attempt to show your full magnificence. In fact, if you diet and lose weight, your mind will either put the weight back on or trip up in some other area. In order to lose weight on a permanent basis, you want a shift in your belief about who and what you are. This is the miracle you seek.

Somewhere deep down, even Oprah doubted herself. She admits to overachieving in an attempt to prove her worthiness.

You may wonder why I am uncovering this ugly thought, especially if you are unaware of it. Why can't I just let you go on your merry, ignorance-is-bliss, way? So that you can let it go. Unless you're aware of this belief in yourself, you won't be able to get rid of it and you will keep unconsciously sabotaging progress toward your own goals (because you'll keep seeking evidence for the belief that you are not good enough). If you're already enjoying the most fabulous health, wealth, and relationships of your life, you can stop reading. Otherwise, stick with me.

Now the question becomes, "How do we change this belief?" With all of my clients, we start by taking this belief (and actually writing it down) and thinking of reasons it may not be true. With my early clients, I helped brainstorm reasons like, "You just earned your Master's degree," or "You are a loving uncle to your nieces & nephews." Then with a current client, I wondered if this may not be the most helpful type of evidence. If we think of things we have done as evidence that we are "good enough," are we further perpetuating the belief that who we are is what we do? As Marianne Williamson says, "What you do or don't do is not what determines your essential value - your growth perhaps, but not your value."

In order to dis-believe that you are not good enough, it may be helpful to identify your gifts and strengths and how you use them, but it also helps to be reminded of this:

You were born perfect and lovable and anything that suggests a change from this is just a belief you have placed upon yourself. You have not changed. You have just forgotten. In fact, who you really are is more amazing than can be described here.

Now the practical argument: When you believe that you are essentially good enough, you take action that supports this belief. What would you do if you really believed you were good enough? My clients have come up with amazing ways they would feel and act. I'll tell you what you would do:

All day long, you would do things differently. You would walk differently, use different words in different ways. You would take risks. You would choose differently. You may dress differently. You would question yourself less. You would view the world in a different way. You would take care of yourself. And let's not even talk about how you would feel. Then, people start acting differently toward you. And pretty soon, all of those tiny little actions have added up to create desired results in your life.

Here are different words for the same phenomenon: If you are essentially goodness and love, and you believe this, and you express who you are through what you do (whether it's taking care of children or yourself, taking photos, playing music, designing, displaying, singing, dancing, teaching, managing, writing, speaking, relating...), then the action taken from such a belief ultimately creates more beauty and happiness in yourself and the world.

How can that not be good enough?

Constantly comparing ourselves to others sours and shortens our lives, robbing us of the very things we think it will bring: prosperity, love, inner peace, the knowledge that we're good enough.—Martha Beck

Marianne Williamson has a quote that sums up this whole post. Click here to read it.

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