What’s Your Costume?

What are you gonna be for Halloween? Who are you going to dress up as?

Masks and costumes. Parties and planning. Fervor, festivities and fever pitch. halloween

Bigger than Christmas is seems.

What is it about Halloween that so excites, that so sparks the imagination?

Yes, fun for sure. The chance to let loose, hide out, switch it up. The possibility of being someone new, something new, someone different from who we are in the hum-drum of each day.

And the truth is that a lot of folks are worn down by the hum-drum of each they. The want new, better, different. Just not the same. For god’s sake, not the same.

So, who do you want to be?

More important: Who are you already… really?

Are you your job? Your role in a relationship? Your hobby, pursuit, passion?

I am a an executive coach, high altitude mountaineer, blue-water sailor, adventure photographer, husband, father, business owner… .

But is that who I am… really?

  • If you have a job and lose that job… who are you?
  • If you have a marriage and the marriage unravels, who are you?
  • If you have kids and they grow up and move away, who are you?
  • If you’re an athlete and you’re injured, who are you?
  • Who are you when your friend betrays you? When your parent dies? When your business fails?
  • Who are you in the face of success, failure and change?

Who are you… really?

Our identity. The very core of who we are. What a struggle that can be. Especially for success and achievement junkies… I know a few… They’re the folks who come to coaching… (As for myself, on advice of counsel, I can neither admit nor deny any of the heretofore!)

When we’re not doing, achieving, accomplishing… who are we?

Ann and I have been at our home in Ireland for the past month… a completely different culture… a completely different pace… Some have characterized Ireland as the “Jamaica of the UK.” If stress and adrenaline are your fuel, you won’t find much here. And without that fuel, we ask, … who are we?

The Buddhists teach: Nothing to do, nothing to be, nothing to have.

Really. WTF? What then?

One of my very favorite stories from the Torah is when Moses comes upon the burning bush. God speaks to Moses from the bush, telling Moses what he needs to be about. Moses, looking for a bit of borrowed cred, asks God for God’s name. God says, “I am who I am.” Tell those Israelites that “I am” sent you.

Maybe there’s a clue here. Maybe when we define ourselves with a title, give ourselves a label, tie an object to who we think we are, we make ourselves small, we limit our (divine) potential.

Maybe, at the end of it all, one more billable hour booked, one more product sold, one more article published, one more email sent, one more race run, one more mountain climbed, won’t really matter.

Maybe it’s ok just to be.

And damn, what an interesting (and unusual) costume that is!

Happy Halloween.

Doing It On Purpose

We shall never cease from exploration
And 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 spent years; decades even.

I conferred with priests and ministers.

I consulted with counselors and therapists.

I sought out spiritual directors and shamans and energy healers.

I even hired a high priced consultant.

I was looking for my “purpose.”

I’ve discovered that I wasn’t alone.

I’ve come across lots of folks in the course of my coaching practice lately who are searching for their “purpose.” Folks from all walks of life; between jobs; coming out of dissolving marriages (and in happy ones); looking for the next step (or the first one); weary of their professions (or just ready for a change); certain that there is something “more,” but without a clue as to what that “more” might be.

They’re searching for their purpose because, for many, finding it really does matter. Because living day to day with a sense of purpose is important. Because, ultimately, we all want to make a difference with our lives; we want to make an impact; we want to leave the world a better place.

Purpose is a sense of mission, a vocation, a calling; a grand arc. More than a job or a role, it’s a sense of wholeness that weaves the pieces of our lives together.

The act of searching, though, can become a distraction; an excuse; a reason not to get our hands dirty, to buckle down and do the work. Searching for our purpose sounds important. And if we’re doing something as important as searching for our purpose, like a Holy Grail, how could we possibly have time to find the job, get the degree, launch the product, write the book, paint the picture or compose the song? Those are things you do after you’ve found your purpose! I should know! I’ve engaged in my fair share of circle jerking purpose searching.

“So how do you find your purpose? people ask.

I’ve discovered that it doesn’t have to be rocket surgery.

What excites you? What lights you up? What quickens your heart? What draws you like a moth to a flame? Where do you lose yourself in time? What have you always wanted to do? What brings you joy? What would you do, even if you weren’t getting paid to do it?

Sometimes we think that “doing” our purpose has to be hard; or that working at our purpose will require toil and sacrifice. But just the opposite is true.

Ask yourself instead: what makes you happy, what’s fun? In fact, ask yourself what would be too much fun to do? That likely will point you in the right direction of your purpose.

But, ultimately, remember this. We really don’t have the time to search for yetis or lost cities. The clock is running. And every second counts.

Just get busy. Purpose has a way of finding you.

Purpose is about discovering what has been within you all along.

It’s about loving deeply and serving freely; it’s about sharing the gifts that only you can share with the world.

Likely, your purpose is close at hand; right here; right now; right where you are. Doing the work you are doing in this very moment.

Don’t miss it.

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This is an encore of a post first published on September 20, 2012.  The search for purpose can be a daunting one. Coaching is an awesome way to cut through the noise and get clear. Email me today if you would like to explore one of our transformational coaching programs.

Act Out

One of my fondest memories from my early years as a young single dad is of watching my boy, clad in his yellow slicker and red rubber boots, stomping in the puddles, standing in the rain. He always liked being out in the ‘mess’ of it all. Still does, I dare say.

Being out in the mess, of course, is where the action is; where it’s all happening; where our lives unfold.

Not in the house; not where it’s warm; not where it’s dry and safe.

Out there. Out on the field.

Out where it’s rough and tumble and muddy.

Out where it’s cold and wet… Out where we might get hurt.

It’s always interesting when coaching clients come to me with things they say they want to do: projects they say want to pursue; goals they say they want to achieve; and these ‘things’ they say they want to do have lived in their heads, in their minds and in their hearts… often for years… decades sometimes… as thoughts… as hopes … as ideas… as wishes.

Of course, all great things start in our minds and hearts. There wouldn’t be an electric light bulb or Sistine Chapel or car or democracy or computer or iPhone were it not for an idea that once lived only in someone’s consciousness.

The tricky part is that next step.

The tricky part is getting out there and doing something.

The tricky part is: Taking Action.

There’s a reason that comfort zones are called that…. They’re pretty damn comfy. Not much is at risk. It’s easy imagining a new relationship or a fresh career. It’s fun to think about being a published author or an award-winning photographer. The idea of an advanced degree or a successful business is alluring… and exciting.

Doing the work: That’s messy.

And overwhelming.

We fear discomfort. We fear failure. We fear criticism. We fear judgment.

We fear change.

We fear success.

And our fears keep us small. They keep us ‘safe’ in the warm, comfy, cozy house that is our mind.

As long as we entertain ourselves with the ideas, as long as we pretend that we’re going to get to it… someday… as long as we delude ourselves that, when the time is right, when the ‘conditions’ are right, then somehow fool we ourselves into believing that we’re actually doing something.

Except that we’re not.

And time goes by… and one year dissolves into the next. And the delusion stays just that.

Here’s the truth: It’s NEVER the right time to act. Conditions will NEVER be ideal. The time will NEVER be right.

There will ALWAYS be reasons not pursue your hopes and dreams and aspirations.

And the clock WILL run out.

The time to act is now.

To overcome overwhelm, to combat fear: Take tiny steps. Really tiny steps. If you want to lose weight, work at losing one pound a week. If you want to start a running program, run around the block. If you want to explore a new career, take a one-week workshop. If you want a new degree, take a course, just one course. If you want to write a book, write a page (or half a page) a day.

A pound a week is 50 pounds in twelve months time. A page a day is a pretty hefty book in a year.

And how fast a year flies by.

Consistency is key. Staying at it… every day… no matter what. Braving the cold, the wet, the fear, the judgment, the discomfort.untitled

My friend Pete Winiarski wrote a great book called Act Now!, a wonderful system for moving forward with your goals. Get his book. Or get a coach. Find an accountability partner. Form a mastermind group. Whatever you need to do to create your ideal life, to make your dreams come true.

Get it out of your head and into your life.

Make it real.

Act out. Now.

Love It or Leave It

You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out. –Steve Jobs

I have a client – articulate, driven, highly educated and talented – whose business is failing.

Because she doesn’t love it.

I have a friend who is having a devil of a time landing a job in a field in which he has worked for years – and excelled.

Because he doesn’t love it.

Love for what you do is the only thing that sets you apart.

Love for what you do is the only thing that will sustain you.

Benjamin Bloom (of Head Start fame), while he was a professor at the University of Chicago, did a study of 120 outstanding scholars, artists, and athletes. He was trying to figure out what made them tick; and even more important, what common factors contributed to their greatness.

He controlled for intelligence; he controlled for family background. He discovered that geography didn’t matter; that race didn’t matter; that socio-economic advantage didn’t matter; and that it didn’t matter whether these folks were ‘naturally smart.’ The only thing – the one common denominator – that distinguished these folks was extraordinary drive.

And the only thing that fuels extraordinary drive… is passion.

A love for the ‘game.’

A love so keen that it propels you out of bed in the morning and sets the day on fire.

A love so strong that you can take the heat, endure the pain, keep the faith, go the distance.

There are lots and lots of sales people, countless Internet marketers, a bazillion coaches, more lawyers than real people, doctors out the ying yang. A nearly inexhaustible selection of authors and artists and plumbers and HR managers and executives and electricians.

Your ‘job,’ your position, is not unique.

But you are.

Over the long haul, you can never compete on price, credentials, ‘novelty,’ flashy ads or noise.

Because at that level, everyone looks the same. Your voice disappears in the landscape. All noise; and no signal.

But when you’re on fire, you stand out.

When you’re filled with passion, there is no one else who looks like you. No one else who can possibly compete.

When you claim your own authentic voice, there is no competition.

None at all. Your success is guaranteed.

Your energy signature is yours alone. It carries the day.

Here’s the truth: Just because you’re good at something, or have done something for a long time, doesn’t mean you should keep on doing it.

Dale Carnegie once said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” league84382_774_logo

And you can’t possibly have fun unless you’re really feelin’ the love.

Steve Jobs said, “[T]he only way to do great work is to love what you do…. Don’t settle”

Each of us is called to do great work.

Find that love.

Don’t ever settle.

Quiet

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
1Kings 19:11-13 (NRSV)

I have a buddy who studies anomalies… things that are at odds with the norm… things that don’t necessarily make sense at first blush. He does this as a means for predicting market trends… and making investments. He ‘picked up’ the purchase by a Japanese airline of automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs) long before they became expected fixtures in nearly every public venue.

I came upon an interesting anomaly recently: The population of monks resident in monasteries around the world is at a record low… while the number of guests visiting and staying in those monasteries is at a record high.

Why?

One reason is that we crave the ‘sound of sheer silence.’ void-of-silence

I’m reading a fascinating book right now written by George Prochnik: In Pursuit of Silence, Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. Prochnik postulates that as the world becomes more noise-filled and chaotic, we search ever more desperately for respite, for ways to control our acoustical environments, for islands of quiet and renewal.

We seek peace.

There is, of course, a rich tradition for this search: From before the mystics and the Desert Fathers to Thoreau’s stay at Walden Pond. Indeed, the Jewish mystic Isaac Luria posits the pursuit of silence as nothing less than the foundational act of the universe. As in, out of silence, creation comes.

But this search is not just about some existential ideal. It is integral to our well-being: We cannot possibly be whole when constantly fragmented and bombarded by the world… the roadway noise, a TV in every checkout line, an iPod in every ear; connected and available, online and amped up, 24/7/365.

We need quiet not only to survive… but to thrive. Did you know that your breathing, your heart rate and your blood pressure increase when exposed to noise, even when you think you’re ‘used to it,’ … and even when you are asleep and don’t ‘hear’ it? (!!!)

Noise can kill.

I spoke recently at a professional conference. The conference was fairly ‘cutting edge’ in that it included a track for personal development in addition to the traditional tracks on the tools and tricks of the trade. My workshop was on emotional well-being. I shared a guided meditation… a four minute island of refuge in an otherwise crowded day. I couldn’t believe the palpable hunger in that room for those few moments of quiet.

I used to believe that I was the anomaly… the introvert who needed silence in order to re-charge. (And introverts do for sure.) But the truth is that all of us, introvert and extrovert, need quiet to rest, renew, recharge and restore.

The flight to the monasteries may be a trend worth investing in.