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The Joys of Being in a Book Club

For many years I wanted to be in a book club but I was always too busy and didn't have the time.  What I had were visions of leisurely reading book after book and the pleasures of discussing each books’ characters and plots with a group of like-minded women who would never cease to shed light on the books’ deeper meanings.   If I‘d had a “bucket list” back then, being in a book club would have been on it!

I am so happy to tell you that my visions came true a year ago when I joined the “We Read for Wine Book Club.”  Just the name tells you a lot, doesn’t it?  Each month for the past year I have had the joy of getting to know a great group of women who graciously host book club meetings in their homes during the year; there are currently eight of us and that covers most of our meetings except the one in December when we dine out and enjoy exchanging gifts of books over a good meal with wine.

The book club has been such a great experience that I thought I would write about it in case you have been considering joining one yourself.  What have been the benefits to me of being in a book club? Let me count the ways…

  1. If you love reading as much as I do then that is the number one reason to join a club; we have read some books I might never have noticed, and some others I have always wanted to read but had never made time to. We have read current best sellers along with old classics and the pleasure of reading for enrichment is now a constant in my life. 
  2. Reading the same book and discussing it as a group provides intellectual stimulation, and gives me insights I might miss if I were reading it alone.  Group discussion provides the opportunity to dig in and discover fascinating similarities and differences in the interpretations of characters’ motivations and actions.
  3. Breaking bread with friends and talking about ideas has to be one of the oldest rituals known to human beings; it’s lasted over the centuries because it is so pleasurable.  In the book club, we don’t always agree that a book is well written or that the story is intriguing; and that makes it fun.  We sometimes agree that a book is irritating in some ways and that’s fun, too.  Our lively and engaged conversations create a feeling of companionship and comfort that is nourishing to my soul.
  4. The women in my book club are good cooks; we are all foodies and enjoy many types of food; we talk as much about the food some nights as we do the book we've read that month!  I have had some amazing meals, and added many wonderful new recipes to my cooking delights.  Talk about a secondary gain!
  5. When it’s time to choose books for the coming year, we each propose three and give a short presentation about why we have chosen each one; it’s fun to nominate personal favorites, or new books that I have loved, so that others can enjoy them with me. And even after we’ve chosen the 11 books we’re going to read for the year, I have a much fuller list of ones we didn’t select.  Some of them still interest me enough to read them on my own based on the endorsements of fellow club members.

So, if you have been thinking of joining a book club, do it.  It will be one of the best gifts you will ever give yourself.  As a bonus of this blog, here’s a list of some of my favorite books that we’ve read this year:

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

Happy reading!

Being By the Sea

This blog post is late; I usually write and publish my blog once a month on or before the first day of the month.  But for the past two weeks I have been in Florida on a relaxing and enjoyable vacation break away from the snow, the sleet, the freezing rain and the bitter temperatures that have prevailed in the Midwest for way too many weeks.  So, while I am truly sorry I couldn’t get this written “on time”, I want to share a few highlights that I hope will make the wait worthwhile.

The beach was just a block away from where we were staying and so each morning, about 7:30 am, I headed out for a relaxing walk along the shore.  The first thing I noticed was how many other souls were out there walking, doing yoga, tai chi, looking for shells, running, and sipping beverages in those familiar Starbucks containers.  It appears that we have become committed to maintaining good health judging by the groups I saw.  I know being healthy was one of my reasons for getting up early and enjoying a 30-45 minute walk each morning; it felt great to breathe in the sea air, to feel the sun on my face, and the sand against the soles of my feet.  Having read the book, Earthing, a few years ago, I know that putting our bare feet on the earth, including on its sandy beaches, is really beneficial for increasing our energy and sense of well being. 

A beach holds many stories, I also discovered, and the writer in me was intrigued as I was presented with some interesting story fragments.  On my first day, I saw a giant heart drawn in the sand with the letter “W” in the middle of it.  Who, or what, did the “W” represent? It certainly looked like it was given a place of honor, so perhaps it was for a loved one who is deceased, or one who is alive and a favorite of the artist?

On another day, I saw (and photographed for my 8 year old granddaughter) a sand “throne” with its back to the ocean and in it was placed a Barbie mermaid!  Did someone create this work of Queenly art and leave it out there all night? Was it made for a beloved grandchild and then – ooops- left behind when the family departed the beach?  Why was it created with its back to the sea rather than facing it? So many fascinating questions to ponder as I walked past.

I noticed how comfortable and unflappable the many sea birds that occupy the beach have become around human beings.  The birds gather in large groups, preening and squawking, and take it in stride when human beings walk right into the midst of them.  A few gave looks of mild irritation and ruffled their feathers with a haughty air, but most of them barely noticed the people.  Birds living on beaches can accommodate to their human companions quite well it seems, and humans, in return, enjoy seeing the birds’ activities up-close.

The vista of a straight line drawn where the horizon meets the sea appeared perfect, as if created by a Divine Architect using a Divine Ruler.  Especially on those early mornings when the sea and the sky were colored in sharp contrast to one another, your eye just naturally goes there and hangs on that visual line, mesmerized.

I drew words in the sand – I call them ‘sand prayers’ -  for some of my clients to affirm their requests for new jobs that will be perfect for them and serve the Greatest Good.  I drew some sand prayers for myself, too, and it was not only comforting, but it felt sacred to speak to the Universe through the sea and know that it was listening.  The power and the might of the sea are unmistakably moving and inspiring; on an energetic level I could feel it in my own core and it felt like ancient energy rising in the undulating tide.

How about you? Any unforgettable memories in your life story that relate to being by the sea?  If you feel moved to do so, drop me an email on my blog site, or send it via my web mail (elainevoci@elainevoci.com)

So, I am back in Indy now, and I encourage you to enjoy the month of March – spring will soon be here with its warm air, blue skies and sunny days.  We can trust the process of the familiar patterns of the seasons changing and be present fully to each day that we have before us for each is a gift.

Blogging: Your Own Online Career Billboard

Blogs are the most democratic and widely used forms of self-publishing; creating one is not hard or all that expensive.  All it takes is access to a computer and the Internet and the time to write and share your ideas.  As a career enhancement tool, blogs are great; they are like having a personal online billboard upon which to tout your career qualifications.  You might create a blog to do the following things …

  •   Get your name out to recruiters who are searching for job candidates in your industry
  • Place your resume online as a blog post and link it to emails sent to potential employers
  • Contribute value to a professional community while adding luster to your reputation and building your online network of colleagues and blog followers
  • Foster ongoing conversations with fellow professionals in an online setting that has your “brand” look and feel

  When you have a blog, you can encourage an employer to visit and browse through it to  understand why you should be hired for that job you would love to win.  A blog lends an  immediate boost to your credibility, your expertise, your passion and your talents.

  The easiest way to set up a blog is to use a blog hosting service such as WordPress  (wordpress.com), or Blogger (blogger.com).  These offer blogging software and hosting but also  are online communities where fellow bloggers talk about the latest upgrades and provide answers  to questions asked by followers and other bloggers.  The platforms are a bit different but they  follow a similar process to get a blog up and running: 

1.        Register at the site’s homepage

2.        Create a blog title (your name is an excellent choice

3.        Select a theme

4.        Write a profile and create a header (your title and tag line) and then write and enter your first post.  (Make sure your header includes a friendly photo of yourself and a short tag line stating your professional career goal.)

  An alternative is to create a blog that goes with your own website address.  You will need to create a domain name; sign up with a web hosting company; and install blogging software. If this sounds too complicated, consider hiring a webmaster to help you.

  Put your resume into your blog as a post and name it clearly (“Resume of John Brown”) so that it is easily identified. 

  Announce your blog launch on Linked In and Twitter, and other social networks; and then continue to announce your blog posts as you regularly publish them to your site.  Make sure you assign keywords (called tags) to your posts because these are used by search engines to identify the content of your posts.

How can you get people to read your blog? 

·         Add your blog address to the heading of your resume

·         When you respond to recruiters include the web address of your blog resume

·         Link to your blog from your social network profiles

·         If you write articles, or are interviewed for print media, include your blog’s address

·         Tell friends and followers on Facebook about your new posts. 

Blogging can be an effective boost to your job search efforts; readers may include those who are not able to hire you but know someone else who is.  Readers may also send a link to your blog from their own blog which then may get read by a recruiter.  In our increasingly small world, authoring a blog can be a savvy asset that distinguishes you from the competition.

 

2014: Your Teachable Moments Are Waiting For You

“We are meant to walk to walk in bigger worlds.  We are meant to express our love and our gifts so that we become even fuller with love and capacity…we are more magical than we know.”                                                            Tama Kieves, author , This Time I Dance

So here we are facing 2014.  How are you feeling about it?  Are you excited and happy, full of positive expectations?  Did you buy your 2014 planner months ago and are you eager to get new things underway?  Or are you uneasy, a bit worn out and frazzled by the thought of a new year?  

Either way, it can be useful to consider how our perspective on the new year (and on life in general) is a function of four elements:  our sense of proportion, our ability to be objective, how well we are able to hold a broad world view, and our internal skill of trusting what we know. 

These four elements can be the doorway to a new perspective and can herald a year in which you are continuously experiencing your “teachable moments” that keep you engaged and growing toward your best self.  Here’s some questions in each element that can help you change your perspective and go from feeling disconcerted to being optimistic about 2014:

YOUR SENSE OF PROPORTION

1.       When you look at the New Year through a Big Picture lens things naturally tend to fall into balance because you are better able to see the relative importance of parts of your life, such as your family and love relationships, your health, and your spiritual well being, for example.   Questions that serve the sense of proportion include:  

  •       "What have previous years taught me about starting the New Year in a positive way and then continuing to hold myself accountable during the year?” 
  •       “What is the biggest opportunity I face in 2014 and how can my actions move me toward my destiny?”
  •       “If I believe I am the master of my fate, what can I do each day to move myself continuously toward my life goals?”

YOUR ABILITY TO BE OBJECTIVE

2.      When you allow your rational, logical and linear thinking mind to look at the coming New Year, that can help bring in an objective perspective.  Questions include :  

  •       “How important is the New Year in the overall scheme of things, and when I look back at it   in ten years what will I remember were its most important parts?” 
  •       “What may be going on in other areas of my life right now that makes me feel pressured    about the coming year?” 
  •       “What am I grateful for that’s going well in my life now – and how is this a gift for the   coming year?”

YOUR ABILITY TO HOLD A BROAD WORLD VIEW

By taking a comprehensive look at the New Year, you can consider it from a variety of different perspectives through such questions as:

  • “What does the New Year look like to my boss? My spouse?  My parents?  My kids? My    favorite authors and political figures?” 
  • “What, if anything, can I control in this coming year and what is beyond my sphere of influence?” 
  • “If I had unlimited resources and couldn’t make a mistake, how would that alter my actions and decisions in 2014?”

KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW

4.       Self-awareness is an important key to facing a new year with a fresh and positive perspective.  Knowing yourself allows you to be flexible, make choices that feed your soul, and avoid previous pitfalls.  Questions that draw upon your self-awareness include:

  •        “What mindset would give me a healthy relationship to the challenges I may face in this    coming year – that would not be boring, yet also would not be overwhelming, so that I could grow and thrive?” 
  •        “When I trust in myself, and in a collaborative Universe, what becomes possible for me in    the next 12 months?” 
  •       “If I were going to live in 2014 dedicated to making my life better, what would that look  like? What would I choose to start doing, keep doing, and stop doing?”

Each year, millions of Americans make New Years’ Resolutions with the intention to lose weight, make more money, be a nicer person and so on; by the end of January many have already reduced, or completely abandoned, their efforts.  Not only does it take time to change an old habit into a new one (more than 3-4 weeks) but if our goals are not based on knowing who we are, how our minds work, and what’s at stake for us, motivationally speaking, we are destined to fail.   

If you will look at the coming year as a series of “teachable moments” tailored for your learning, and you will engage each of the four elements of perspective, you can bring about the positive changes you want in your life.   A change in perspective brings a change in your reality – that’s the wisdom of the ages.   

Musings For the End of The Year

Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.” 

-   Albert Einstein

This we know: all things are connected like the blood which unites one family.

Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it.

Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. “   -    Chief Seattle

 

As the author of this monthly blog, I write in the hope of helping to improve the world.  I know that I probably can’t, but I also know that the world changes based on how people see it, and if what I write can help alter that view, then I can change it.

When I was a child, I wondered about all the miracles I heard about in my Sunday School classes, and why they were so common in ancient times -   while so few miracles were talked about in modern life.   By the time I was 11 years old, I had decided to leave my unanswered questions behind and begin formulating a world view that was more spiritual in orientation than religious.

I am happy to report that today I not only read about miracles all the time, but I am telling my share of miracle stories in my coaching work, among friends and in my family.  My spirituality matured and the Web arrived, with wonderful resources and books that help explain how the universe works, and our role in creating reality.  Miracles, I have come to understand, are not rare; the subtle energy field that Chief Seattle named ‘ the web’ is “…more profound than physical laws and every bit as dependable as gravity.” (from the new book, E2 by Pam Grout).

In the bereavement groups I co-facilitate twice a month, when widows relate miracle stories we know that we have entered the spiritual realm of “The Mystery.”  A woman recently related a story about going shopping on the anniversary of her mother’s death, and upon arriving home, unpacked groceries and found a small paper bag with a “Happy birthday to my dear daughter” card in it that she had neither selected nor purchased!  Where had it come from?  How had it gotten into her cart?  Was it a loving communication from her deceased mother or just a bag boy's mistake?

Another woman described going out on the family boat with her grandkids after her husband had died a few months earlier, and one of the grandchildren spied a golf ball floating on the surface of the water next to the boat. None of them had ever seen a golf ball floating before – and after they retrieved it, they agreed that it had been placed there for them to find to remember their beloved grandfather who was an avid golfer.  Rather than feeling weird, the experience was reassuring and appealing to them.

In my coaching practice, the first assignment I give to clients who want to make changes in their lives is to begin paying attention to “coincidences” and “synchronicities.” I explain that these are signals of encouragement that emanate from the field of possibilities that surround us all.  The signals are not happening by accident and are so perfectly suited for the person’s goals that it can seem uncanny.  One woman who longed to leave her current job opened the afternoon mail one day to find an ad that had this expression written on the front page, “This is not all there is; you are intended for greater success, so keep going.” 

When I write my blog, articles, and books, I enter that state of “flow” described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi where I lose all sense of time and place, and become intensely focused on the moment.  I feel the joy that comes from being fully alive and I relish putting my brain to work in the ordered universe of language.  Writing brings me to a paradoxical state of calm excitement and a feeling of spaciousness where anything is possible.

Writers who are not connected to the world generally cannot connect with readers.  Good storytellers help heal the world, and the stories that save us are those that bring us new understanding and growth that expands our circle of caring.  I hope I am one of those kind of writers.  It is my intention to work in the service of humankind and I espouse the philosophy of Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese mystical poet, who wrote that “work is love made manifest.” 

We exist in the great energy field of life and we create the world together with our thoughts.  My hope is that one day we will create a world that has a place for every human gift and a  culture that is commensurate with our capacity for wonder.  Neuroscientists inform us that 95% of our conscious thoughts are controlled by our programmed subconscious mind.  Instead of actually thinking, we are just running old tapes in our minds that are like outdated software.  But change is coming; we are on the brink of claiming what science has known for quite some time: our thoughts have power and we are all connected to the field of infinite possibility.

Here’s  more food for thought that I will leave with you, as an early holiday gift, written by Charles Steinmetz, inventor of the alternating current motor:

“The greatest discovery and development of the coming years will be along spiritual lines. Here is a force which history clearly teaches has been the greatest power in the development of man and history, and yet we have been merely playing with it and have never seriously studied it as we have physical forces.  Some day people will learn that material things do not bring happiness and are of little use in making men and women creative and powerful.  Then the scientists of the world will turn their laboratories over to the study of spiritual forces. When this day comes, the world will see more advancement in one generation than it has in the past four.”

 

 

Learning to Let Go

We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go.  For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.”                       Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet and mystical writer

 

I am reading a book, Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life by Megory Anderson as part of my celebrant certification studies.  The book is a collection of compelling stories told by the author, a former nun in a monastic order, whose own life story includes an illness that brought her to the brink of death and changed her irrevocably after having come back to life.   Wise and compassionate, she attends to dying people and their families.

In the context of this beautiful book, “letting go” refers to a dying person letting go of earthly experience and moving toward the light of the world beyond, and to family members who must emotionally and physically release their loved one.  The experience is one of the hardest we human beings face.   

But some form of letting go is part of any life transition, whether it’s turning 60, retiring from a career, getting married, or divorced.  Why is it so hard for us to learn to let go?  Here are some things that make it challenging:

  • ·         Not realizing that what we are going through is a life transition, not simply a change.  Life is full of changes; they often happen suddenly and when they do, it’s our circumstances that are altered. Transition, however, refers to the psychological process we undergo when we leave an old life behind and orient ourselves to a new one. For example, giving birth to a child takes 9 months, but becoming a mother can take years.

  • ·         Transitions start with what an ending.  Transitions have three stages: an ending, a neutral zone or middle land, and a new beginning. The ending comes first, not last.  That is the opposite of our usual way of looking at things and that’s why it can be difficult to remember that an old life has to end before a new one can begin.  Thus, letting go is essential to being able to move ahead.   We all know people who cling to the past, refusing to move on because they cannot let go of a previous self-image and way of relating to others that keeps hiding their real nature from themselves. 

  • ·         Unfinished or unresolved issues with ourselves or others, including anger, remorse or sadness, need to be put in order before we can focus on release.  In many faith practices, confession and reconciliation serve such needs.  We derive great benefit from talking things out, making amends, forgiving ourselves and others, and realizing that it’s never too late to make a new choice in our life story.  For instance, one of the most powerful techniques in forgiveness coaching is to help clients learn to let go of a past injury/injustice/unfairness by teaching them how to tell “the story for the last time.” 

What are some ways we can learn to let go?

There are many things we can do alone and, if we choose to, can share with others.  We can let go by talking it out, writing it out, dancing it out; we can engage in scrapbooking, writing poems, journaling, and singing.  The creative arts all help us give expression to letting go and acknowledging the myriad of feelings that accompany the process. 

We can learn to let go through finding a good coach who has undergone his/her share of personal transitions.  Powerful tools can be found in enacting rites of passage, blessing rituals, and sacred ceremonies with a trained celebrant that will clarify the issues involved and support successful transitions by:

1.      Honoring the past; before we can look ahead, we must be able to look back with joy and appreciation, as well as our sorrow or anger.

2.      Acknowledging that letting go is a necessary symbolic “death” of some part of our selves or our former life; facing this enables us to approach the future with new courage and hope.

3.      Recognizing that the journey of transition is the archetypal “hero’s journey” in which we live through an exciting and adventurous passage that transforms and empowers us.

4.      Appreciating that letting go is more than a survival skill; it helps us grow stronger and wiser as we incorporate it into our overall life skills.

5.      Understanding that one phase of our lives seldom prepares us properly for the next.  We have to unlearn/let go of old things and learn new ones, or to unlearn/let go of old ways of being in order to adopt new ways of being.  It’s an unending cycle of growth and expansion that repeats over and over, as we go through life.

Learning to let go is a vital gift we give ourselves; it affords us the peace that comes from using our personal power and taking responsibility for our transitions, our goals and our happiness.


Here for a Purpose: The Soul of Your Personal Brand

When people hear your name what do they think of?  Someone witty?  Thoughtful?  Caring and compassionate?  Smart?  Weak willed?  These words denote more than your personality or values; they describe your influence based on how you are perceived.   Try this quick mental quiz:  what do you think of when you read each of these names…Lady Gaga;  Michelle Obama;  and Angelina Jolie.  How did you describe them?  What adjectives came to mind immediately?  They each have a brand that you can identify…  and  you also have a brand that others can identify easily.

Your brand is a treasure worth protecting your entire life because it’s your reputation.  Your brand is the vehicle for your authentic self; after all, you are unique, different, an original.  You are also superior in some things, the best at what you do.  Hopefully, your brand is built on a solid foundation of truth, not spin!  

Your brand is based in part on your public image – the way you dress, walk, talk, your education and professionalism that shines through everything you do.   And your brand is only as good as your “products and services” so be very good at what you do.   Strive for excellence.  I remember one of my first bosses took me aside one day early in my career and told me “Cream rises, Elaine, so always aim for your personal best in everything you do.”

Your brand is also spiritual; it’s who you are and what you love and care about.  Your brand is an expression of your life purpose and mission on this earth.   A brand cannot be rushed; it’s organic and comes from holding a strong sense of purpose.  It’s about living up to your promises, again and again.

Benefits of having a great brand:

·         More clients/customers/followers – of the right kind

·         Top of the mind status at work and in your social life

·         Leadership role – you are often chosen to be in charge of things

·         Greater recognition – you get credit for accomplishments and opportunities to succeed

A brand is not rational – it’s emotional.  When other people recognize your brand they have an emotional response to it.  Think about your best “go to” friends, the ones you go to when you need emotional comfort, or financial advice, or advice about parenting.  You found yourself feeling good inside just thinking about them, maybe even smiling a little as you brought them to mind.

With brands, two things are required: consistency and clarity  – you can’t be all things to all people and you can’t keep switching your focus.  Branding always generates a result; it either attracts new business/followers/fans or it drives business and people away.  And, one final word: if you don’t brand yourself, someone else will!

Some books on brand that you might enjoy:

  Be Your Own Brand: Achieve More of What You Want by Being More of Who You Are,  by David McNally and Karl Speak

  You Are a Brand: How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success, by  Catherine Kaputa

  Career Destination:  Stand Out By Building Your Brand, by William Orveda and Kirsten Dixson

  Make a Name for Yourself, by Robin Fisher Roffer

 

 

10 Questions Worth Answering No Matter How Old You Are

One of my clients woke up a few months ago on her 40th birthday and decided to call me for coaching, as she put it, “so I can get some things sorted out.” She explained that she had been feeling adrift and unsure about what direction to go with her life.  She had decided that it was time to discover her life purpose and to explore what was most meaningful to her.

Maybe you can relate; a milestone birthday can be a great motivator for facing the Big Picture questions of life– such as “What do I stand for?”, and “What do I want to be remembered for?” and “How do I want to live?”

Over the course of the next few months we covered a lot of ground, and what came out of it are 10 questions whose answers helped her see her life purpose clearly, and affirm what is meaningful to her.  If you would like to try them on for size, here they are:

1.      How well have you loved?  Count everyone you’ve loved – did you love even when it hurt?  When you were a fool for love? When you let yourself be deeply generous of spirit and compassionate even when it wasn’t returned?  At the end of your days, you will look back on your relationships and be richer for them and for what they taught you. 

2.      What do you love doing that you aren’t doing now? The willingness to live out our dreams and express our heart’s longing takes courage and a deep commitment to Spirit.  It’s your birthright to feel and be fully alive every moment of every day; you are not meant to be chained to a job, for example, that provides only a paycheck and leaves your soul starving.  Bring what you love into your life and enjoy being happy.

3.      Where do you want to call home?  Yes, you can be at home anywhere but could you be happier, more in tune with your life purpose in a particular part of the country or the world?   A place from which you can source your life in its fullest beauty and creativity.  A place that makes you happy to wake up there and where you fall asleep contented.

4.      What kind of people inspire you?  Look around your networks, your companions, your community’s leaders; are they people who think big, do good in the world and earn your admiration? Do they encourage your heart, inspire your imagination and urge your own greatness to emerge?  Reach out to them, hang out with them, learn from them, grow with them and reap the benefits of their example.

5.      What kind of people make you feel criticized, dumb and bad about yourself?  End those negative relationships as soon as possible because they deplete you; get away from them and stay away. They are not your fans, your friends or worth your time and love.  Take responsibility for the investments you make with your heart and choose wisely.  Don’t let unworthy people sit in the front row of your life.

6.      What worries you and makes you afraid to take on the full adventure of life? This question is big and your age has nothing to do with it; your age is only how long you have lasted, and lasting is not enough.  Fear is based on what you imagine, and what you are willing to risk, and it’s wise to understand how you approach fear.  Do you bully or shame yourself, cajole or argue with your logic, or numb your fear in overwork, alcohol, or continual drama?  Fear is part of being human; it can be life-saving if you are in actual danger; it can be life affirming if you recognize that risk is part of the cycle of change and growth.  Each time you follow your deepest desires, fear will be there waiting, cautioning you with ‘what-ifs’ and it doesn’t help to pretend to be unafraid.  You must move ahead, a step at a time, doing things that will keep fear at a level that lets you feel it, yet continue to keep moving toward your goals.  

7.      What are you most proud of in your life?  We are all afraid that we won’t be “enough” especially when we compare ourselves with others.  We sometimes cling to a belief in our own powerlessness, a way of letting ourselves off the hook of listening to our heart’s desires.  Stop and look at your life’s work to date.  Take pride in your achievements and give yourself a hug for what you have already done.  Celebrate your accomplishments and know that each one opens up the capacity to fall more deeply in love with your life every day.  Never apologize for what you do well - when you remember that, then no risk seems too great, and no goal seems too challenging. 

8.      What kind of life makes you envious?  And why do you feel that way?  Consider this: if you could start again, what would your life look like today?  What kind of adventures would you build in and who would you take with you? Would you laugh until your sides hurt?  Would you let yourself lose control and let joy carry you?  Would you experience the elation that comes with knowing that you belong – to yourself, to the world, and to the great Mystery of life?  Why not choose to reinvent yourself and start living that life today? 

9.      What does your body need to be healthy? With all that you know about health and your particular body, what do you think you should be eating that you are not?  What does your body want that brings it pleasure and at the same time, makes it feel respected and nourished?  What foods ignite your brain and fuel your creativity and your energy to accomplish your dreams?  Are there people around you who set examples of good health habits that you can emulate? If you are not eating in a way that honors your body and your health, why not?  Feeding your body well is a reward for all it does to serve you.

10.    What will your obituary say about you?  An obituary is a special version of your life story and it highlights the choices you made for what you valued, what you gave to make the world a better place, and how you chose to live.   So begin with the end in mind and make today the first day of the rest of the life you want to live. There’s an Indian mother’s lullaby I have always loved that speaks to this:  When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” 

 You live in a world that is continuously changing just as you are continuously evolving.  You belong in this world and it’s up to you to live the life you were born to live – this is your unique purpose and your sacred obligation.  You belong to the stars in the evening sky, and to the seedlings that grow in the ground warmed by the sun, and to the mirrored surface of the lake at dusk, and to the love that shines in the eyes of those you hold dear, now and forever.  You belong to the talents you have been given, and to the passions and causes that receive your devotion.  When you discover your life purpose you will come home to yourself and the world will be glad.


Elaine is a Life Coach, specializing in career coaching, in private practice, providing individual and group transformational coaching and teaching in Carmel, Indiana.

She is also a certified forgiveness coach and founder of An Evening With, a program that features women writers, social innovators and entrepreneurs. When not facilitating programs, coaching, or writing books, she blogs at http://blog.elainevoci.com/

 Note: This article previously appeared in the Harmony Farm quarterly newsletter.

What's Your Life Purpose?

The best career guidance I can give you if you feel your work lacks zest and meaning is to take the time to really get to know yourself and uncover your life purpose.  Feeling restless at work - what I call “divine discontent” - is an internal  signal telling you to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life before you go out looking for a new job.


Your life purpose is who you are and how you intuitively and uniquely respond to life, and it is rooted in self-knowledge and self-awareness.  Without a sense of purpose, you may find yourself drifting and confused, often settling for less than satisfying conditions in your personal and professional life.   We all know the wisdom of this oft-quoted passage from the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that speaks to knowing your purpose:

“Will you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where – “said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.


When you know your life purpose, you are able to weigh and make healthy decisions with conscious clarity and take actions that infuse your mind, body and spirit with a deep sense of passion, power and joy.  A life purpose gives you a vision in your mind, a picture that beckons you upward and onward toward a desired future.  With it you are able to recognize which opportunities are right for you and which ones will lead you in the wrong direction. 


Are there any tangible “clues” that help you discern your purpose in life?  Yes!  The following three life experiences serve as bright neon signs pointing you to your purpose:

 What you are good at and what you enjoy doing.  (What do other people consistently complement you on?  When you have the experience of time “flying” what is it that you are doing?)


Your vision of life and your values. ( What values do you want your life to stand for?  What legacy do you want to leave when your time here is ended? What vision of the future do you hold in your heart?)


Your passions and your dreams.  (What “causes “do you feel passionately about? What would you do if you won the lottery?)


If you build your life on the solid ground of your genuine interests and passion, meanings, and values, you will work in the service of something greater than yourself, you will feel the power of your authentic self, you will take pride in your contributions, and you will find your vocational bliss.  


A book I highly recommend that can help you search for your calling or passion in life is What Color’s Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles.  With more than ten million copies sold around the world this classic book is considered the “bible” of career coaching books.  It will help you figure out how to job hunt in the same way you live your life by using one of three styles: intuition, step by step, or luck.  Focused questions and self-directed exercises help you uncover useful insights and practical strategies to search for the work you are meant to do.  The book is updated each year with numerous websites and other web-based tools and resources to make your job search easier.


A final encouragement: don’t give up on your dreams.  You are in this place of questioning right now, facing a future job hunt with all its anxieties, not by accident.  This is the most perfect time to seek the union of your mind and heart to find the work you were born to do, that only you can do, and that the world needs you to do.  What are you waiting for? 

 

 

 

Change Your Career and Go From Stress to Bliss

We work for more than money; work lets us cultivate our talents and interests, enables us to prosper, and contributes to our success in life.   Work provides us with relationships that encourage our achievements which, in turn, stimulate good mental health.   But what should you do when your job become less and less satisfying and you feel increased stress and a restless discontent that demands to be resolved?  A career coach can be a supportive resource to help you turn all of that wasted energy into an active and adventurous career search for a new life, a new job and a new outlook. 

People come to career coaches for three reasons: (1) They are unhappy in their current job and long for more creative freedom, more energy and more congruence but lack a specific road map to find and win a new job; (2) They feel stale and sense that they have outgrown their career but are afraid to give up the security it offers for the excitement of discovering what’s next; and (3) They have long nurtured a dream job that uses their one-of-a-kind talents, values and desires,  but don’t know how to translate it into practical realities.   

Changing careers is no longer something that happens three or four times in a lifetime of work; it has become common among people of all ages.  This shift reflects changing attitudes toward retirement; we no longer equate it to a finish line followed by decades of leisure and sleeping in. It’s becoming more of a marker for a life stage based on self-renewal and engagement in the world, lifelong learning and leisure that often takes the form of passionate volunteerism.  As Bill Gates described it when he departed Microsoft, he was “reordering priorities” to focus on what he regarded as his most important concerns -  ending poverty, curing disease and creating a level playing field for the world’s people through education.

If you have been pondering a career change, or dreaming about finding a job that makes your heart sing each day, a career coach can help by providing three key things: encouragement, guidance and practical tools.  Coaches listen to your feelings as well as your words; they are objective, experienced and will hold you accountable; and they recommend great books, assessment inventories and helpful websites.  The benefits to you include: seeing your options more clearly, setting and achieving goals, making focused choices that are congruent with your values, and no longer tolerating what is no longer acceptable to you from yourself and others.

Here are two wonderful books to feed your motivation:  What Color’s Your Parachute? A practical manual for job-hunters and career-changers by Richard Bolles, and What’s Next? Follow your passion and find your dream job, by Kerry Hannon.  And two websites that will ignite your creativity:  http://Encore.org offers help in searching for a meaningful “second act” and http://careerpath.com offers a variety of tests to help clarify career paths.

Shameless promotion:  I can also offer you an e-book written by yours truly that just might spark your motivation; it’s titled "Creating the Work You Love: A Guide to Finding Your Right Livelihood"

To order: https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000002329/Creating-the-Work-You-Love-A-Guide-to-Finding-Your-Right-Livelihood.html

 

 

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