More and more we are waking up and seeing how disconnected we are from Purpose. It is painful to realize. Yet the conventional coaching wisdom on this is reductionist to the point that it’s almost flippant: follow your passions, listen to your heart, embrace curiosity...
These encouragements make nice quote memes, but they give little insight into a path to Purpose grounded in practical reality. If anything they contribute to widespread malaise and shame among those that haven’t quite figured out the Purpose thing yet, because they suggest it’s so easy and straightforward. If you just do this one thing, duh, you’ll find your Purpose in the pocket of that leprechaun waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.
The inconvenient truth is that the way out of this uncomfortable place is rarely ever a simple, straight line. The way out is meandering; the monsters are many-headed; and the process almost always takes longer than we would like.
After nearly a decade of coaching, I have noticed a few patterns around what people wrestle with most. Recently, I started sorting my observations into three buckets. These are the three things that I see as the main obstacles we face as we try to step into a more Purpose-FULL life.
Block #1: Identity Anchors
We each carry around some kind of self-concept – an idea of who we think we are. It is anchored by thoughts about ourselves that we have either inherited or developed throughout our lives. We believe that we are a charitable person, a dutiful daughter, a financially responsible saver, a loyal employee, and so on. Usually these ideas are manifested as roles and expectations, which are reinforced by our relationships. That is great for creating a stable social fabric, but it is not so great for freeing us to change. In other words, the comfort we feel in knowing who we are can keep us from opening to who we could become. Learning to question our identity – and all the obligations and unwritten rules of behavior that keep that identity glued together – can give us immense freedom as we expand the set of options that we see as possibilities.
Block #2: Creative Stagnation
Most of our Western education system is founded on linear and logical (read: masculine) principles. We are taught from a tender age that effort leads to performance leads to rewards. We fixate on the goal, the result or the strategic objective. What is lost amidst this outcome obsession is the art of creation. We have forgotten how to play, how to explore, how to experiment. Creativity is the birthright of every human; it’s what separates us from robots. But allowing our creative expression to emerge through our psychologically programmed tunnel vision for the finish line isn't easy. It requires a lot of practice in presence. It demands patience, receptivity and humility. When we are able to put ourselves in that space, the act of calling in our authentic creation can bring incredible fulfillment.
Block #3: Security Fears
Many of my coaching clients tell me that they want to feel more aligned with Purpose; that they want to live with less effort, and more ease. But the number one reason why they won’t even get started making changes is because they are terrified that they won’t have enough resources to support themselves or their family. Having a solid physical foundation is important. But in most cases, we have a lot more leeway than we recognize or exercise. Why is that? It’s because our society – heck, our economy – is wired to keep our brains in a state of lack: holding this belief that we never have enough or that we always need more. If we can redefine our relationship to resource and rebalance the dynamic of giving and receiving, then we are able to get more into a state of flow.
Each one of these things is massive. They are not easy to address and there are no quick fixes. What I have seen in my own life experience, and in the journeys of others that I have coached, is that if you work on breaking down these three blocks, then Purpose will come. Being aligned with Purpose is our natural state of being and once we clear away the things that are in the way of that, everything falls into place without much fanfare or force. That means that our work then is not to find Purpose but rather to move aside all the things that are preventing Purpose from finding us.
This article is adapted from the Huffington Post article published here.