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"Find Your Calling Boot Camp" Might Help Identify or Clarify the Purpose Behind Your Life and Career

by Leslie Godwin, MFCC, Career & Life-Transition Coach

"OK, so how do I know what my purpose is?" asked my friend Debbie over a cup of coffee the other day. I had just given her an overly lengthy, but very enthusiastic, explanation of how important it was that she not only find a career path she COULD do, but one that would express her purpose in life. So hers was the natural follow-up question. I wished I had an answer.

I've known Debbie for years. I have always admired the professionalism and care she puts into her work marketing wellness programs and doing health education presentations. I've also admired how gracefully she handles the challenges that life sends her way. And she's raised two daughters who are going to make the world a better place in their own ways. But I wished I could somehow pull out of her what her purpose is. This is where being part of the Psychic Friends Network would come in handy. I thought about the title and purpose of this newsletter, and how they apply to Debbie's dilemma.

My newsletter has an unusual, lengthy title, but one that expresses a lot of what Debbie and I discussed:

A. That becoming who you truly are is of higher importance than what you do

B. That you can use your vocation to understand, develop and express your true self

C. That there are an infinite number of things you CAN do, but you should choose from those that allow you to become your true self and avoid what gets in the way of that process.

I'll just cover the first of these in detail this month:

Becoming Who You Truly Are Is of
Higher Importance Than What You Do

"The end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
                       ---T.S. Eliot

I started my first consulting business years ago with the idea that if you found the ideal career you'd be able to find your higher purpose in that career. My whole work life had been leading up to that idea. As many of you know, I was a "passionate workaholic" for many years. In other words I had all the symptoms of workaholism but thought that that impoverished lifestyle was a great goal to aspire to. I even tried to be a better workaholic, until (thank God) I finally had to admit I was a failure at it.

While my career evolved over the years and I realized how great it was to do something I loved so much, was good at, and seemed to help people a lot, I wanted to teach others how to do this. But I still felt that work held some kind of mystical answers that would fill in the void caused by a lack of meaning in people's lives. My experience of being so passionate about my work made me think that that was where my sense of self and inspiration should come from. And it seemed logical in a certain way: if I saw people so burned out from doing work that drained, bored and frustrated them, then if I could help them find meaningful, satisfying work, THAT would solve their problem of not having a purpose in life.

In the last five years I've come to believe that work is just a VEHICLE to a higher goal. Instead of teaching that finding the right kind of work IS the goal, I developed my theory that the PATH (not the point/specific job) is the goal. ("The Path is the Goal" is a chapter in my book in progress.)

Debbie, of course, was still wondering what to do about her dilemma. I realized that she needed to get out of her day-to-day life for a couple of weeks, since it reinforced her anxiety about not knowing which direction her career path would take. Her anxiety led her to grab at several different opportunities which kept her busy, but used up valuable time she could be spending developing her true career path.

"To live a life filled with meaning and purpose, focus less on what your ego cares about, and more on what causes your experience of who you really are in your essence to grow."
   ---An eccentric newsletter author

Boot Camp
What I suggested is that she put herself through a two week "boot camp" to get out of her current way of looking at her career and give herself a chance to immerse herself in the search for her calling. This boot camp would include both structured and unstructured activity based on what she feels would provide the best results. I suggested a combination of meditating, journal writing, reading specific books (please email me for the list,) walking and other exercise. You may want to add other elements that allow you to be contemplative and relaxed, but motivated at the same time.

I am not very good at sticking to a regimen, I admit, but having a set schedule can speed up the creative process since you call upon those faculties every day at the same time. Those of you who meditate already understand this. If you meditate at the same time every day you can get into the meditative state more quickly and easily. If you write at the same time each day, you can usually feel the words flowing more freely. And if you exercise at the same time each day you don't need to argue with yourself about whether or not you're going to work out. You're body expects it and complies most of the time.

How Long Will It Take?
You may not need two weeks of boot camp, or you may need much more. It depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to change a lifetime's worth of bad habits or a career's worth of burnout, you might need four to six months. If you're trying to fine-tune your mission statement to include some new insights you've had about yourself or your career, a weekend might be exactly right.

Part of boot camp involves tolerating not knowing the answers so you'll come up with deeper and more useful ones. This is truly the hardest thing I ask my clients to do is to tolerate their anxiety until it doesn't intrude on their search as much. Don't let your anxiety push you to find instant (also known as wrong) answers. Don't let your fears, excitement, or wild hunches boss you around. J.R.R. Tolkien was reported to have said, "All who wander are not lost." It takes some determination to wander unselfconsciously, but once you start enjoying wandering you'll lose your fear of getting lost, and you'll be fascinated by the interesting and unexpected scenery.

Leslie Godwin, MFCC is a Career & Life-Transition Coach, Writer, and Speaker. She publishes a free email newsletter on career and life transition. For information, email and mention that you'd like to be on the email newsletter list.

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