“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.”
“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:
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.
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
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/
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?
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"
We often think of teachers as the kind that come with bodies and are found standing at the front of college classrooms. But teachers can also take the form of written words printed on the pages of a book. Some of my most important teachers have been this kind.
Among the many books that have shaped the direction of my career, that informed and inspired me, I count the following nine books among my favorites. I also include the first book I published as among my best teachers because I learned so much from the women in it and from the process of writing and self-publishing.
Do What You Love and the Money will Follow by Marsha Sinetar. This classic career book is about finding your right livelihood; of attending to the spiritual dimension of work and to living the life you were meant to live. When I discovered this book, I was working in my first career as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor; the first reading of it was interesting to me, but it was not until a few years later that it provided the support and inspiration to make my first career change.
What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. Considered the “Bible of career books”, Bolles entered my life when I hired my first career coach to help me successfully transition from the helping professions into a corporate training role. Mike Kenny, my coach, assigned Bolles’ book as required reading and we used the “daisy petal” model in it to design the work I would do next.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. This bestseller affirmed for me the common sense notion that people who were good with other people stood the best chance for lasting and fulfilling success in work and in life. Having good people skills was touted during the 90’s as a key life skill and it remains true today.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The creative side of me loves this best-selling book because it speaks the language of my heart and shows me how to nurture my creative soul. Filled with practical disciplines (ex, do ‘morning pages’ each day) this book encouraged perseverance as a writer/artist and helped me value my creativity and put it to use in my everyday life.
We Are All Self Employed by Cliff Hakim. This book was ahead of its time, and helped me see that the old order of loyalty was gone, and that each person had to take full responsibility for their career. Rather than bemoan the change, this book compassionately supported it and celebrated it. I still refer to it today and assign pages in it for clients to read.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. A book for the ages, I have recommended this book to students and clients over the years for its wisdom. In it, Frankl asserts that “man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.” Even in the bleak setting of a concentration camp, and in the face of great suffering, Frankl and others managed to find meaning and purpose. (I devoted my entire blog last month to this book if you want to learn more.)
The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. This small book is a treasure; if you want to live more deeply, honestly and passionately then read this book. I have given copies of it to dear friends – it makes a wonderful gift to yourself or others.
What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Ph.D. A well written book, I love the writers’ style and the content is really engaging. Dr. Baker is director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch and has taught many people how to be happy. There are all kinds of “gold nuggets” inside such as the two issues that cause unhappiness; and how to spot happiness traps. A blend of science and spirituality, this book will teach you important things about bringing more optimism, courage, good humor and fulfillment into your life.
Aging Well by George Vaillant, M.D. From the landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, this book helped me better understand why some people age well physically and emotionally and others don’t. An inspirational look at the science of aging, this book is a reminder that “to know how to grow old is to master the work of wisdom…the great art of living.”
I also count a book that I wrote as one of the books that shaped my career: Bridge Builders: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things. This was my first book and I entered the magical world of writers when I felt that urge to create during a one year sabbatical between jobs. The list of 12 women in the book grew from women I knew who had inspired me to women recommended to me by friends. I learned life lessons from each of them as I told their stories, and the writing took over my life for 9 months – each day disciplined me to wake at 4 am and write for 3-4 hours. Week after week, the women appeared and I interviewed them, writing and writing. I lost 15 pounds because of my single-minded focus on “birthing” this book as its mid-wife. I learned from this experience that I was a writer – and that writing was one of my passions that would forever play an integral part in future careers I chose.
What books have been your best teachers? Which ones inspired you to step out and do something you have always wanted to do? Which books have been on your bookshelf for 5, 10 or more years as trusted companions? We are all so fortunate to live in a country where freedom of speech is our shared heritage; where we can voice our beliefs and tell our stories to comfort, inform, inspire and encourage ourselves and others. Happy reading!
It was1942 and Austrian authorities were rounding up and arresting Jews as part of their annihilation grand scheme. A young Jewish psychiatrist named Viktor Frankl and his wife,Tilly were among those who believed they would soon be among the missing. Viktor had been working on a book describing a new theory of psychological well being, and the couple wanted to try and preserve his lengthy manuscript. Tilly sewed it into the lining of Viktor’s coat. He was wearing the coat when they were both sent to Auschwitz and he was still hugging it to his body when the SS guards stripped him down and confiscated all of his clothing. He never saw the manuscript again.
Over the next three years - first at Auschwitz and then later at Dachau -Viktor’s wife, brother, mother and father died in the infamous gas ovens, and he resolved to recreate his text by writing notes on stolen scraps of paper that he hid. In 1946, one year after the Allies liberated all of the concentration camps, Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, was released and became one of the most powerful and enduring works of the century.
The book describes Viktor’s perseverance in the face of crushing labor, sadistic guards and too little food, so on one level it is a survival narrative told from his personal perspective. But it's much more than that to millions of readers worldwide; it is a powerful guide to living a meaningful life. In it, Frankl asserts that “man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.” Even in the bleakness and deprivation of a concentration camp Frankl and others managed to find meaning and purpose. The determination to survive, in order to be able to tell what happened in those camps, was a powerful motivator for Viktor and other survivors of the war.
I have recommended this book to each of the classes I have taught because Frankl's wisdom is relevant today, in spite of the era of abundance in which we are living. In fact, according to a recent survey, 58% of Americans report that they often think about the meaning and purpose of life. Indeed, in most of the advanced world, there is a slow shift in values away from materialism toward the quality of life. As a life coach, I can attest to the fact that meaning has become a central aspect of our work and our lives.
Since you can’t buy a cookbook with a recipe for meaning, where can you turn to begin the search for it? There are two primary ways – embracing spirituality more fully and pursuing happiness more intentionally. To quote the Dalai Lama, “I believe the very purpose of life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we are all seeking something better in life. …the very motion of our lives is towards happiness.”
Embracing spirituality more fully is evidenced by:
· 50% of American Medical Schools offer courses in spirituality and health.
· Many of the illnesses of modern life – stress, heart disease, hypertension – can be eased by attending to the spirit.
· Medicine is more focused on treating patients as whole human beings, and the trend will only grow as medicine becomes more individually tailored to each person.
· The environmental movement that spawns more green products, and builds green consciousness among consumers.
· The proliferation of yoga studios, candle shops, evangelical bookstores, and cosmetics that are good for the planet as well as the skin.
Pursuing happiness more intentionally is evidenced by:
As Viktor Frankl's book continues to remind new generations, the ideal life is not one driven by fear, selfishness and materialism, but it more closely resembles walking a labyrinth where the purpose is the journey itself, not the destination; where we summon the will to move happiness and spirituality into the center of our lives.
Consider your typical workday: do you wake up feeling tired? Do you take a quick peek at e-mails before you eat breakfast? Do you tend to skip breakfast on most days, or grab something lacking in nutrition on the drive to work? Do you work through lunch, eat at your desk or skip it altogether? (More than one-third of American workers regularly eat lunch at their desk.) Do you run from meeting to meeting with no breaks in between? At the end of the work day, do you leave later than you like, but then still feel compelled to check e-mail in the evenings? How about vacations – do you really get away? (More than 50% of working Americans assume they will work during their vacations, and a Harris interactive survey found that Americans left an average of 9 vacation days unused in 2012 – up from 6 days in 2011.)
Many Americans are unable to juggle what feel like overwhelming demands and achieve any kind of work-life balance. In many companies rewards go to those who push hard and continuously over time and downtime is seen as “wasted” time. Not so, says some surprising research. A new and growing body of studies shows that naps, vacations, daytime workouts, longer sleep hours and more frequent vacations (activities referred to as “strategic renewal”) are far more effective in boosting productivity, job performance and improved health:
The Greater Our Performance Demands, the Greater Our Need for Renewal
When we’re under pressure at work, we tend to follow our impulse to work harder. But human beings are not designed to expend energy continuously; we are made to pulse between bursts of energy and recovery time. You may have read that human sleep cycles follow a nightly rhythm of sleep for 90 minutes moving from light to deep sleep and back again. Scientists have discovered that this same cycle repeats itself during our waking hours. The difference is that during the day we move from a state of mental alertness into physiological fatigue every 90 minutes. Our bodies are telling us to take a break, but we too often override that signal and pump ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own internal stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.
Working in 90-minute intervals enhances and improves productivity. We can learn this from watching star performers (musicians, athletes, actors) who practice without interruption for sessions of 90 minutes. They start in the morning, take a break between sessions, and seldom work for more than four and a half hours in any given day. To get the full benefit of their long-term practice, they avoid exhaustion and give themselves time to recover.
In a recent NY Times interview, Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, described how he incorporated these principles into a business that now helps companies like Google, Cleveland Clinic and Genentech, stating “ Our own offices are a laboratory…renewal is central to how we work. We dedicated space to a renewal room in which employees can nap, meditate or relax. We have a spacious lounge where employees hang out together and snack on healthy foods we provide. We encourage workers to take renewal breaks throughout the day and to leave the office for lunch…we allow people to work from home several days a week …to avoid debilitating rush-hour commutes. Our workdays end at 6 pm and we don’t expect anyone to answer e-mail in the evening or on weekends.”
The workplace of the near future will look at time off as an investment in productivity and at renewal as a key role in creating employee retention, job satisfaction and a healthier life style. In the meantime, consider the power of renewal in how you schedule your work day:
The energy of what you bring to your work is far more important than the hours you work. By managing your energy wisely it is possible to get more done in less time and with respect for the natural rhythm of your life.
Obstacles are what turn simple things we want to do into difficult things. Obstacles can be caused by external forces, like time and money, or by internal ones such as our own habits and fears. They require us to change, and that is universally something that we human beings struggle with and resist. You may remember the well-worn axiom, "If it was easy, you would have done it by now!"
There are hundreds of thousands of people who have overcome both internal and external obstacles to become successful doing work they love; finding long-term lasting relationships; and reaching other significant life goals. If people can cultivate self-respect, confidence and a commitment to their own talents, they can rise above many limiting beliefs and other obstacles to achieve true success in life.
I am a life coach and you may have wondered, “What do coaches do when a client comes to them for help in overcoming obstacles?” For example, a client may enter coaching with the stated goal of overcoming their procrastination. A trained coach knows that all behavior has purpose and takes care of something important to the client. Thus, resolving procrastination will involve addressing the hidden obstacles that are hampering progress, such as learning to stand up to others and say ‘no’ to demands; or learning to focus energy and minimize distractions; or learning to finish less rewarding duties first before engaging in more pleasurable pursuits.
I am going to share with you five strategies that coaches use to help clients overcome obstacles. As you read through them, you may want to consider how you might use them to challenge your thinking, your assumptions and your fears in the same way that a coach might. Think of a real life situation you are involved with, and see if these approaches can help you expand your options and create new solutions.
Strategy One: Ask Good Questions
Coaches have many tools with which to help clients, and asking questions is one of the most important. Here are some questions that a life coach might ask a client in order to help identify external obstacles:
“What makes this so hard to get done?”
“What might you need that you haven’t had in order to reach your goal?”
“If you could identify one primary obstacle you could conquer that would make all the difference in reaching your goal – what would it be?”
“When you have tried in the past to overcome this what got in your way?”
Coaches also ask questions to help clients identify internal obstacles:
“When you think about making this change, what kind of feeling, physical sensation, or other reaction do you have?”
“Even though you really want to make this change, what do you gain by staying stuck and not changing?”
“Relax for a moment and pay attention to what is going on inside your body as you consider the obstacle; where do you feel the pressure or stress from this situation?”
“Not that you know for sure, but just take a guess: What is the critical voice in you saying about making this change in your life?”
Coaches may direct their clients to imagine that the obstacle is gone, and that they are free to act in a new way to attain the desired future they want. For example, a coach may say something like this:
“Let’s imagine that the obstacle no longer impacts you - it has been completely taken care of and is gone - how does that change things for you? How does that make you feel now that you are no longer held back from using your full personal power? What dreams or goals might you now pursue?”
This strategy is related to advice that coaches sometimes give clients to “act as if.” Acting as if they are competent in the face of an obstacle requires clients to suspend beliefs and fears associated with it, and to see, even if only for a brief period, how that feels. The insights gained from a “taste” of success can be revealing and the feeling of empowerment can be highly motivating.
Strategy Three: Learn from the Past
By reflecting on their past successes, clients build courage, and self confidence; they can be encouraged to see that previous obstacles were overcome when they took certain risks or actions that could be duplicated with present challenges. Coaches may instruct clients to think back and reflect on their past actions in this way:
“Tell me about a time when you faced the fear of failure and chose to move ahead anyways, and succeeded - maybe even to your surprise or to the surprise of others. What specifically did you do?”
“When you were struggling earlier in your life and overcame an obstacle blocking your path, what was the turning point for you? How can you apply that learning to this current challenge you face?”
Strategy Four: Face the Fear and Take a Baby Step
Obstacles have the greatest power over us when we let them live in darkness, unexamined, and unchallenged. By bringing them into the daylight, giving them a name and talking about them with a coach, they lose the power to control us. A coach might help a client face fear by asking:
“What is it about this obstacle that makes you feel the most afraid? What’s the thing you are most afraid will happen?”
“If you were to give your fear a name, what would you call it?”
“I’d like to give you a homework assignment. This week, take a small step each day toward doing the thing you fear; pay attention to how taking that step makes you feel. Then give yourself 10 minutes to write down a few notes about the experience to track what is going on in your thoughts, feelings and awareness. Bring the notes with you to our next session and let’s explore together what you’ve identified.”
Strategy Five: Change the Perspective
Coaches help clients gain a new perspective by helping them see the Big Picture, by using emotional detachment, by seeing circumstances through a different lens, and by building the assurance to act with confidence. Coaches reframe issues for clients by asking questions such as these:
“What will this look like to you in ten years? What will seem the most important part of this challenge to you then?”
“Think about the importance of this obstacle in relation to your health, family, and spiritual growth. How important is this in the overall scheme of things?”
“What if this obstacle were placed in your life to prepare you for what you were born to do; how would that change your perspective on it?”
“How is your response to this obstacle affecting your family and friends?”
“If you had all the time, money and resources to overcome this obstacle, how would it change your perspective?”
As you can glean from these strategies, once we become aware of what is really holding us back and how we participate in that self-limiting process, we are then free to change and that freedom leads to more freedom. Something gives in us, fortune smiles on us and luck, providence or coincidences happen as if a dam has broken, and our authentic life comes rushing to meet us. The choice is always ours: to feed our attention to our obstacles or to feed our attention to our desire for happiness in life. The first will bring us more obstacles; the other brings us the courage to change.