“True vocation is that work in which the world’s deep hunger and our deep gladness meet.”— Frederick Buechner
Buechner offers great advice.
As do Joseph Campbell and Oprah, when they tell us, “Follow your bliss!” or “Live Your Passion.”
But what if you don’t know what your bliss, your passion look like?
Passion and Purpose Emerge From Structured Action
In spite of many gurus’ advice, most people don’t find their bliss, they create it.
With all the clients I’ve helped shift to a results-focused framework, somewhere during that process, their passion, purpose, and “deep gladness” emerged.
For example, at the beginning of our coaching relationship, a New York lawyer told me she hated Law, and only stayed for the $150,000 salary.
But it was not meaningful or satisfying for her.
“Worse,” she said, “I don’t have a clue about what I really want.”
I assured her that she didn’t need to know that, at the outset.
First, she needed to develop the skills and structure with which to create results, independent of her starting point.
So she practiced the creating process at the core of Life Design on small, nonthreating results that, as she put it, “won’t kill me if I fail to create them.”
Creating Her Dream Bedroom
For her primary practice my client focused on creating the bedroom of her dreams—a result she had tried to create several times, but had failed at, and given up on.
She’d assumed there must be something wrong with her, or lacking in her character.
However, as she worked on the bedroom using the Life Design Framework, she discovered there were at least 100 sub-results and sub-sub-results involved in creating it.
For example, the anchor for her dream bedroom was to be a goose down duvet. She envisioned a 600-fill power quilt, with a 750-thread count, organic Egyptian cotton duvet cover, in a subtle “coral” shade.
Finding the right quilt was easy. But, after hours searching online and days visiting NYC stores, she could not find a cover that met her clear specifications.
This was, she told me, where she’d previously given up.
However, using the Life Design framework, she created a written sub-plan to create the duvet cover she most wanted.
As well as including a clear vision and an objective assessment of reality, i.e. where she was in the process, her plan outlined sub-results and action steps for making her own cover.
She bough white, Egyptian Cotton sheets, dyed them coral in her bathtub, and sewed them into a duvet cover with an invisible, plastic zipper. Success!
M.J. sent me stunning photos of her bedroom. Then turned to the closet of her dreams, and did in two days what she hadn’t been able to do in three years.
As she created these important, but not critical results, she realized there was nothing wrong with her, or her character. Hidden complexity, not laziness or procrastination, had stymied her efforts and results.
She’d been trying to create a complex, multi-part, multi-action result with a simplistic, problem-focused, react-and-respond structure.
Creating The Simplicity On The Other Side of Complexity
I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity,— Oliver Wendell Holmes,
but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Neuroscientist, John Medina, author of Brain Rules, says, although our deep memory can store billions of bits of information, our working memory can only manage 3 or 4 bits at a time.
Thus, the need for shopping, packing, to-do lists, and written plans. Imagine going shopping for 100 items, with no list!
Creating a 100-piece end result is even more complex. You need to integrate all the actions within a concrete planning framework that matches the complexity of the desired outcome.
Upping your own complexity through a list, a plan—or better yet, an organized planning framework that integrates vision, reality and actions—helps you match the complexity of the task or result you want to create
When you can do so, you greatly increase your chances of achieving “the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
Building Momentum, Scaling Up
After creating her bedroom, feeling energized and confident, my client scaled up.
With Coaching help, she created a complicated, 10-minute, multi-media, family video to celebrate her grandmother’s 80th birthday. The first video she’d ever created. On a new iMac she’d never used before. Over 200 action steps!
Emboldened by her successes, she stretched to create a fundraising campaign that would generate $100,000 to help a friend afford stem cell treatments .
As she created these and other results, she increased her competence, and developed authentic—demonstrated—confidence.
Slowly, clarity emerged about what she truly wanted in her life, and work.
Toward the end of our second round of coaching sessions, she told me she wanted to create a wilderness-based, adventure program to increase women’s personal power and mastery.
“I kinda thought about it, a long time ago,” she said. “But I never even admitted it to myself, for fear of failing, and looking foolish.”
During the next 3 months the we worked together, she set up an organizing and planning framework for action on her grand result, and started ticking off the simple, easy tasks.
Over the next two years, she cut back her law work, and used her income to finance the creation of her dream. Then came the inflection point.
She quit law, and devoted herself to running her women’s adventure program, and providing follow-up coaching for the women she worked with.
When she sent me the announcement about her new program and business, she said, “I never could have done this without the Life Design skills and structure. They now guide almost everything I do.”
You too can create your most desired results, using the Life Design Framework.
The most important thing is to clarify what results you want to create.
Six Questions To Help You Clarify What Matters
At the beginning of coaching relationships, I suggest clients ask themselves the following questions, and explore the answers that come up.
- What brings me joy?
- What makes me feel most fully alive?
- What was I doing when I was most happy and engaged with life?
- What am I excited about doing now?
- What gifts do I want to give to the world?
- If money was no object, and you knew you couldn’t fail—what would you most want to create?
It helps to think about these questions at different times of the week or day. Different moods often bring different—and, sometimes, surprising—answers.
Don’t worry whether your answers are “right” or “wrong.” Try them on for size, and note those that bring you joy, and/or make the hair on your arms stand up.
As the poet, Rumi, suggested, “Let yourself be silently drawn / by the stronger pull of what you really love.”
That’s how you create purpose, passion and bliss.
• My How I Work page will give you ideas about structuring goals and actions to create desired results, easily, effectively, and enjoyably—with whatever you have to start with.
• If you need help making your goals and dreams a reality, email me with “Help” as a subject line.