Living Authentically

An Oasis in Time — What Is It to Make Time to Savor and Transform Your Life?

Do you long to have a way of taking a satisfying, daylong weekly "time out of time" from your busy life?  

Are you wondering if this is even possible?  

Have you tried taking a day off from work at the end of a busy week— and enjoyed it so much that you wanted to do it again— but never did?

If having a way to disconnect from an over-busy, over-technologized, incredibly hectic way of managing a life filled to the brim with work, family, friends, fitness, social activities (and probably no time for yourself) is important to you, you will want to read and take to heart the wonderful new book by my colleague, Marilyn Paul, PhD, An Oasis in Time— How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life.

An Oasis in Time is a deeply compassionate and profoundly felt exploration of the value of the weekly sabbath day— and why it's so important in our over-stressed, modern, professional lives. Just as importantly, this book helps you design, protect, prepare for, and live your own unique sabbath— or "oasis in time."  Finally, Marilyn Paul describes the transformational value of taking a weekly day off that is dedicated to nourishing yourself, your community, and your world — emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

As Paul says about her own life, "Years ago, before I discovered oasis time, I was a hard worker round the clock, or so it seemed to me.  But I was incredibly inefficient.  

I thought I was giving work my all, all the time, but actually I was slowly running out of steam . . .  Next weekend, I told myself, I will get organized, straighten out my priorities, go for a long run, maybe out in nature, and just get back on top of things.  But that next weekend never came."

And what is the cost of delaying finding and keeping your own oasis in time? What's so important about not burning out on the job? According to Paul, "The combination of a stressed immune system and the overuse of technology can lead to another serious outcome: burnout. This one word is so powerful, and yet it hardly captures the deep emotional and spiritual costs of losing one's inner flame."

Taking a whole day off to unplug and put aside your work gives you the chance to shift your life back into your organic circadian rhythm— back into replenishment, health, and connection with what else, and with whom, you love.

Furthermore, "Taking back our time is a subversive act these days. It entails claiming that . . . we can have a good day without achieving anything other than unwinding, slowing down, connecting, and experiencing grace.In other words, you don't make the world a better place by over-working, or over-stressing in other parts of your life seven days a week! By dedicating a day a week to enjoying being in the moment, gladly spending time with those you love, playing with them, having relaxing meals together, talking a long walk, or just reading a book you've saved for a special day, you add to what famed author and neurologist, Oliver Sacks, M.D., calls "living a good and worthwhile life— achieving a sense of peace within oneself." 

Just in case you think taking a whole day off from work each week isn't possible, An Oasis in Time has great tips for helping you shift your perspective, hold your time boundaries, and become a convert to the delights of "slowing down, connecting, and experiencing grace"!

I was particularly fascinated by what this book has to say about the potential of oasis time for transformation in our lives— "Our oasis time offers a chance not only for rest and renewal but also for transformation. This is the unexpected benefit of taking regular time off: The nurturing haven you create each week can become an incubator to support the kind of growth you need to face your greatest challenges. Oasis time, with its uniquely nurturing setting, provides the perfect conditions to prepare us for deeper engagement in life."

In other words, by creating a designated day apart for relaxation and re-connection with what you love and value that you may rush past during a busy week, you're building your inner resources of vitality, emotional resilience, and creativity. You're opening yourself to your fullest potential with ease!

What Would It Be to Create Your Own "License" to Fulfillment?

Do you wish you had a career that let you take risks, experiment, and feel creative fulfillment?

Do you wish that work for you was as fascinating as play is for a child?

If so, you'll be intrigued as I was by a recent post from my colleague, Linda Graham, MFT— "Orville Wright Didn't Have a Pilot's License"— that gives another perspective on the groundbreaking work of Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of "the first fixed-wing powered aircraft." Their professional expertise was manufacturing and selling bicycles. Their hobby and passion was creating flying machines.

In other words, they had no experience flying planes, no credentials, and no pilot's license because there was no plane available to them to fly until they invented their own. The world of flight and transportation was revolutionized by the Wright brothers' vision, persistence, and willingness to risk their lives in a creative venture few could imagine at the time.

What would it be like to give yourself your own license to connect with your creative juice on your authentic life path? Give yourself your own license to fly? Anywhere? Anyhow?

I was reminded of the career trajectory of Dana Gioia— currently California's Poet Laureate and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)— in reading a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, "Poetry for the People."  Dana created his own "license" as a poet the other way around. First, he got his degrees, including an MBA at Stanford's School of Business and an MA in Comparative Literature at Harvard. Only afterward did he find and follow his professional path as a writer, translator, and purveyor of poetry to the people.

How did this happen?

I met Dana at a poetry reading at Stanford University when he was a business school graduate student. He stood out because he was dressed in a suit— not the usual attire for students who came to poetry readings. When I spoke with him, it was clear that he was dedicated to writing poetry, yet he was going back east to work for General Foods Corp.

How, I wondered, could Dana hold that seeming dichotomy— mixing a corporate business career with a passion for creative writing? As it turned out, he balanced his work at General Foods by writing poetry after hours and having a family. At a certain level, it was a happy time in his life— until the sudden death of his infant son.

Deeply in grief, Dana found himself in a profound life transition. His formal degrees helped him in certain ways professionally. However, it was this shattering, life-altering experience that freed him to give himself his own "license" to come out in the world as a poet and a champion of poetry for people. It was then he realized that "what really mattered to me was my family, my writing and my sense of my life as a spiritual journey."

Whatever had taken him into corporate work (perhaps a good, steady income), was no longer important to him. The vision he had for the next phase of his life became radically different. He bowed out of the corporate world and into a new, creative beginning.

Going back to his Chicano, Sicilian, and Mexican working-class family roots and love of poetry, Dana wrote a seminal article, "Can Poetry Matter?" that critiqued mainstream poetry for acting as a closed door that left out most people. This led down the line to his becoming chairman of the NEA, in which he developed the popular program Poetry Out Loud and campaigned to make NEA grants available in every congressional district in the US. Now, as California Poet Laureate, Dana feels that "the challenge of the arts in the 21st century is to discover how to create a cultural conversation that is as inclusive as possible."

I'm looking at the photo of Dana Gioia's smiling face as he stands in front of the tangled boughs of a live oak tree in northern California, where he lives with his family. Clearly, he's found true fulfillment, personally and professionally, in giving himself the "license" to return to the creative touchstone he knew for so long was right for him.

What is something you feel passionate about that you'd like to bring into the center of your work and your life?

What do you need to free inside yourself to make this happen?

What would it feel like to create your own "license" to fulfillment?

Life's Third Act -- Generating Wisdom and Purpose!

Recently, a dear friend of mine of many years, Béla Breslau, sent me a link to a TED (Technology, Education & Design) talk by Jane Fonda, now age 77, on what Fonda calls “the third act” of her life. Fonda has always fascinated me by her luminosity and by the many ways she has re-invented her work and her self throughout her life.

Since both Béla and I are also people who have grown with re-inventing ourselves many times over-- and, like Jane Fonda, are into our third act of life-- I interviewed Béla to explore the patterns we’re noticing from this perspective as we move into our latest careers-- Béla a proprietor of a B & B in western Massachussetts and a Shintaido movement instructor, and me a career & life transitions coach. I began to realize that Béla, Fonda, and myself were talking about a certain kind of professional and personal growth-- one involving shifting perspectives and growing into one’s true purpose.

Concerning shifting perspectives, Béla-- who has a flair for friendship-- mentioned a new friend in her 20’s going through major changes. “It’s hard,” she commented, “being kind to yourself at that age, separating yourself from your parents’ expectations. It’s hard to have the more authentic perspective that life experience and awareness can bring.” Fonda, when she was 60 and examining the pattern of her family and other relationships from her past, gained the new perspective “that a lot of things that you used to think were your fault . . . really had nothing to do with you. It wasn't your fault; you're just fine.” This is valuable learning, that this shift in perspective can build your confidence from within to go forward in new directions that call you.

What about growing into and feeling our sense of true purpose? When you’re living successfully in your own terms, you can feel your purpose from within. For some of us that takes time and involves moving from the external sense of purpose that key others in our lives-- parents or teachers or peers-- try to assign for us. As Béla notes, she did not live out her parents’ purpose for her, which was to marry a nice Jewish lawyer and have a traditional Jewish family. Instead, she headed to the west coast and switched gears a number of times-- becoming a lawyer, a realtor, a fundraiser, and a long-time practitioner and teacher of the martial art form, Shintaido.

It is in her third act now, however, that she notices her purpose is “to help people in their journeys through life. I really love teaching and sharing, particularly with women, helping them validate their own strength, and share their own messages and abilities in the world.” So she teaches a “softer” form of Shintaido blended with yoga, not as a martial art form, but as a way of allowing people to open to their authenticity by enjoying and paying attention to their bodies in motion. As a mother, too, she is happy to allow her daughter to become the person she really is on her own, particular career and life path.

The purpose of Fonda’s life was initially an external one of trying to please her father, actor Henry Fonda, by becoming an outstanding actress herself, and then her first husband, Roger Vadim, who directed her in the space sex fantasy film, Barbarella, in 1968. Contrast that with her 1978 film, Coming Home, in which she is the wife of a traumatized Vietnam War army officer and the lover of another war veteran whose heart has opened with his injuries. As she gained stature and confidence in her acting career, she refused to take on roles that had no value or meaning to her.

Now, in her 70’s, Fonda has dug deep into what really does have meaning for her. Her discovery?-- that “it's not having experiences that makes us wise, it's reflecting on the experiences that we've had . . . that helps us become whole, brings wisdom and authenticity. Her goal? To be “an example to younger generations so that they can re-conceive their own lifespans.”

In other words, in our third act, from our deepest learning from the obstacles and successes in our lives, we can become the teachers and mentors we would have liked for ourselves. We can help others live from more authentic perspectives that generate an inner sense of purpose-- and culminate in rewarding career and life paths.

As yet another person in her third act-- famed author, Isabel Allende, now age 71-- says in her TED talk-- “I try to stay passionate and engaged with an open heart. I’m working on it every day. Want to join me?”


Jane Fonda’s TED Interview:

Bela’s B&B in Massachusetts:

Isabel Allende’s TED Interview:

What Is It to Really Want What You Really Need?

Recently, I saw a wonderful cartoon in The New Yorker magazine (May 26, 2014) that immediately caught my professional eye as a life coach.  In it a beautiful, long-legged butterfly is standing on a tiny chair in a small office on the branch of a tree.  On a couple of twigs behind it are miniature framed diplomas, no doubt attesting to the butterfly’s professional excellence.  In front of the butterfly is a small caterpillar stretched out on a couch, head up, listening raptly to the butterfly expounding as it waves its forelegs.

What is the punchline, what is the butterfly saying?  “The thing is, you have to really want to change.”      

So here we have two realities.  First, it’s absolutely true that to benefit from coaching and be able to make powerful changes you must want to make those changes.  It’s unlikely that you will be find yourself making a rewarding career or other change in your life if you don’t have a strong desire, a clear vision, and the pro-activity to go forward and do so.

On the other hand, does a caterpillar “want” to change into a butterfly?  Isn’t it just a drive, a need, a blind instinct, that begins its cocooning process and that transforms it, finally, into a winged creature of beauty and light?

What is our drive, as human beings, to create transformative changes in our lives, in ourselves?  As with caterpillars, there is an inward thrust as well as an outer one in making powerful changes.  While we are more likely to change our conditions rather than our forms, there is still a deep need within that almost everyone feels at some point in their lives that comes forward as a deep desire to change something in our lives or in ourselves.  

In my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I mention how most clients come for coaching because they want to make changes that matter in how they work and the overall quality of their lives.  Because, in our work together, we go deeply into their true desires, they are free to go more deeply into themselves, into the cocoon where they connect with the need of their spirit-- and then move forward towards their dream from this inner awareness:

What I often notice in the first place with coaching clients wanting to make career or other life changes, is a natural wish to make a quick leap as soon as possible from an unsatisfying place to the start of a new job, a new relationship, a new plan for the future.  Once we begin exploring what they’re really wanting from their lives, however, they begin to notice that their initial goals seem limited-- a way of getting from here to there without noticing the context of their whole lives....

To find this wholeness requires giving yourself to the process of feeling the inner heat of transformation in the alchemists’ sealed vessel.  William Bridges, author of the seminal book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, calls this taking time from your daily life to empty out and go into what is calling you from within....

This is what Karen Kimsey-House, co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), calls “transformative change” or “change that occurs at the level of identity or being.”  When you go through the inner experience of transitioning from an outgrown way of working, relating, or creating, to one that opens your possibilities and your heart, you begin to understand the meaning and power of “transformation.”  

What is it, then, to really want what you really need?  Perhaps it is what performance artist Kim Rosen writes about our very human alchemical power to meld need and desire:

in impossible darkness
the sheer
of wings.

  (from “In Impossible Darkness”)

Success with Soul-- Frida’s New Year Dream Challenge!

As we step over the threshold of the year 2014, what do you want to do or become that will enrich and open the way you work and live? Challenge yourself and explore a new path that interests you? Contribute to the world in a different way? Deepen and stretch yourself as you try growing to a new level in doing the work you love? Below is a message from a friend of mine from Sweden, Frida Modén Treichl, a professional “musical theater performer” who took on a BIG career challenge this year. I found out about this as I was reading some new reviews of my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, and was struck by Frida’s.

She wrote: “This book helped me make a big life decision! It’s a must for everyone who is or has been at a crossroad in their life!” Of course, I contacted Frida immediately to find out what this big life decision was! It turns out that Frida, who’s well-known in her own country for her powerful, expressive voice and larger-than-life presence on stage, decided to go for her dream of starring as Elphaba (the green-faced witch) in the musical “Wicked” on Broadway. A very large dream in many ways! Enjoy reading below about Frida’s leap across the Atlantic into a new world and an expanded; vision for her performing life!

Hello, I'm Frida Modén Treichl. In Sweden, I’m a “musical theater performer.” Here in the USA, I’m an actress/singer/dancer. I’ve been a professional in this field for the past five years, since I was 24. But I knew when I was 18 that this is what I wanted to be.

Actually, I wanted to be a Hollywood movie star, but there’s no college education to become a Hollywood star, so I completed a higher education program in Sweden in the field of musical theater performance-- and that has determined my career direction. Right now, the big step forward in my life has been my decision to move to New York City and audition for starring roles in Broadway musicals. My big dream for a long time has been to play the part of Elphaba in “Wicked.” I know that it’s an important next step for me professionally to be here in New York now. It’s a huge challenge and a very big adventure. But it’s taken me a while to make the leap.

What’s held me back? Lots of fears! First, the fear of not succeeding, not reaching my goal. Also, English is not my first language (though I’m fluent in it), and I’ve sung most of my roles in Swedish. Plus I’m shy around new people, though that surprises people who know me. What’s helped me take a big chance to live out my dream of performing in a major Broadway musical production?

Several things, including the support of my family, of course. Financially, I had the good fortune to receive a scholarship from the Swedish foundation of Anders Sandrews for young, talented artists. This has helped me pay my living expenses in New York while auditioning. Plus I got to work with a great voice instructor from New York who was in Stockholm last spring and who bolstered my confidence by telling me I was definitely “Broadway material.”

And your book, Eve, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, was so helpful in making my decision. I was inspired by all of it, but particularly Chapter 6, “Living Out Your Authenticity and Aliveness”-- you know, that final exercise where you say, “Now breathe, feel your feet on the ground, and consider the professional and personal risks and paths you’ve taken towards living your life with heart and meaning.” Then you asked us readers to respond to the questions that you asked me earlier in this interview: -

How have you felt held back from expressing what really matters to you-- on the job? in other relationships? - How have you been supported in being authentic and open to your own aliveness? In your career? In your primary relationships? When I think about these questions now, I feel this vibrating energy in my belly! I am so thrilled to be here in the great city of New York at last! Just being around so many people with high professional standards lifts my spirit. It’s such a large theatrical smorgasbord-- you have it all here, and now I’m part of it!

Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change

When you think of change, what images and feeling come to mind?  Do you think of the fall foliage of maple trees turning bright orange and red?  Do you remember the feeling of pure excitement running through your whole body the day you moved on campus and began a new life as a university student-- or traveled overseas for the first time-- or when you got your first acting break replacing the star performer in a major play?

Or does the word “change” bring back the sweaty palms and pounding heart of your first deep-sea dive-- or your first day at a new school in a new town as a child-- or when you knew deep inside that you were no longer satisfied with a way of life you’d lived for many years?

Are you afraid of the crack in the shell of your life?  Or are you eagerly peering through this new opening to a life with more expansive and fulfilling possibilities?

Whatever your perspective on change, one sure thing is that it will keep happening and knocking at your door.  The question is, will you embrace it and see what it offers?  Or will you turn away, vulnerable and fearful, from from this calling, trying to keep yourself small and untouched?

The people I’ve worked with as a career and life coach contacted me because they’d felt for some time that they needed to make a change in their jobs and the way they lived. How did they know this?  Some said they’d had significant dreams, body signals (stress, pain, illness), and other signs (e.g., lack of interest, burnout at work), forcing them to realize that their existing life patterns no longer felt meaningful.

They resisted change, however, because of the equally strong counterforce of fear-- of loss (of a job, a relationship, status, family/societal approval, control); of failure (not reaching their dreams); and of the unknown.

Their resistance to the upwelling clamor for change within themselves came at a high cost, though. One woman I worked with in a software firm kept taking sick leaves and had occasional difficulty completing projects for which she was responsible. She was terrified of being fired, though she also longed to be, and the emotional stress was overwhelming. As we examined her situation, I asked her what it was she feared the most. “Not knowing what I want to be doing instead,” she responded.

It’s understandable that we cling to the known for its predictability, comforts, and societal approval. However, when the emotional pain of this clinging becomes too great, we have the opportunity — with the right kind of support — to choose to move past fear into our potential for living and working authentically and well.

The urge towards change, which is natural and inevitable, can be surfed like a wave in a new way, to a new destination.  Change can also be mindfully observed and simply allowed to happen, as when turning leaves feel their hold on the tree loosen, and they float down to their next incarnation on the earth.

Change can be our inspiration towards transforming ourselves and our lives into the happiness of living and working from our true nature.  For most of us, however, embracing change requires outer support and inner attentiveness to face the fears that inevitably arise and to allow its gifts to manifest for us.  As Brené Brown says in her book, The Gifts of ImperfectionWe don’t change, we don’t grow, and we don’t move forward without the work.  If we really want to live a joyful, connected, and meaningful life, we must talk about things that get in the way.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic in more depth, please join me in my upcoming Teleclass, “Success with Soul - - Transforming the Fear of Change” on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at 12 Noon Pacific Time.  To register, click here!

Envisioning the Gifts of Change -- The Path from Hobbiton

What is your quest or journey of change for 2013?

A surprising holiday experience for me was seeing the film, The Hobbit-- based on J.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world adventure of the same name.  I’d enjoyed the book when I read it in my teens, but hadn’t planned to see the film.  However, curiosity won out, and I went.  To my astonishment, I now saw the story of Bilbo Baggins, hobbit/halfling, not as just an adventure story, but as that of a person propelled, however reluctantly, on a quest not of his making, but which he made into his own.

In the first chapter of my forthcoming book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I allude to the inner awareness and prickles of sensation that you sense before you actually “make” a change in your life:

"How do you know when it’s time for a major career or other life change?  Sometimes you’re in a situation where a new opportunity presents itself, and you may intuitively be highly motivated to go for it.  Sometimes an incident happens that radically alters your life, and you have to decide how to face this change.  Or you may have a growing awareness of gnawing dissatisfaction and lack of interest in what you’ve been doing for years."

In The Hobbit, Bilbo is presented with the second situation when the wizard Gandolf and a troupe of dwarves seeking to regain their homeland invade and take over his comfortable underground house with its stores of good food.  Why is this happening to me, he exclaims to Gandalf.  Whereby Gandalf counters, “What happened to the Took in you?”  (The Tooks being part of Bilbo’s lineage and prone to sudden happenings that disrupt the lives of the not-so-prone-to-change inhabitants of Hobbiton.)

Bilbo has no response to this and goes to sleep, awakening to find the dwarves and Gandalf gone.  Suddenly, his Took-ish self mixed with Gandalf’s promptings to wake up to the wider vision within himself and outside Hobbiton come alive in Bilbo, who picks up his walking stick and runs after the dwarf contingent to join in their quest.  He has decided to face this change by trusting that he has a reason to be there, though he doesn’t know what it is or what has really propelled him forth.

“Lifting these bars and opening your vision to the universe of your possibilities is the first daring step you need to take to see clearly where your heart wants you to go.”
-- from Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance

If you, too, are feeling the inner promptings to set off on your journey or quest towards change in your career or your life, remember what Gandalf told Bilbo-- that you may never come back to the place where you began and if you do, you will be different from the way you were when you left.  The implication is that, if you lend yourself to the process of change, you will gain the boon of understanding what it is to be fully engaged in the emergence of your whole life.  You may grow in compassion and in the wisdom of what it is to be human, as Bilbo did in his nearly fatal encounter with the deranged and wretched being, Gollum.  You will know yourself and what you are capable of offering and receiving.

“Now I can’t hear a travel story, watch a film, or read a book without asking, ‘What was brought home?  Where is the gift?  Show me
jewels sewn into the lining of your coat.  Where is the boon?’”
-- Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

  Now consider:

What is your quest or journey of change for 2013?

What is an obstacle you’re facing in setting out on your journey?

What are your inner and outer resources for surmounting obstacles and engaging in change?

What is the gift you want to bring back from your journey?

What Is It to Succeed with Work and Your Life?

This past weekend I saw an incredible play at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, Chinglish-- David Hwang’s mind-bending play about cross-cultural miscommunication-- and I couldn’t stop talking about it for hours afterwards! Since I’ve been writing an ebook this year about transitions to work you love that expresses your own authenticity, I particularly resonated with aspects of Chinglish that moved in this direction.

We first meet Daniel-- the American protagonist and owner of a small family sign-making business-- as he is acquiring a personal translator to help him in his business negotiations with local Chinese politicians and government bureaucrats. What the audience gradually learns is that Daniel desperately needs a contract with the Chinese in order to support his business and, thereby, redeem his self-esteem, which was mangled from a disastrous ending to his former career.

In the chapter in my book called “Defining Success in Your Own Terms,” I note that:

Often, a successful career or other life transition depends on your choosing a perspective to live with that gives light and meaning to your new direction. You may possibly not get the job you most wanted, but staying open to the possibilities of another one that you do get can bring unexpected rewards, such as new learning and new directions you might not have dreamed of. Or you may meet someone who helps change your life.”

This is what Daniel experiences as he moves out of both linguistic and cultural ignorance in China to the new understanding that what he knows and expects is heard and understood entirely differently by the local government officials he needs to convince to buy his services. He moves in “new directions” he would never have dreamed of by allowing himself to be guided by an initially hostile woman, Xi Yan, the Vice Minister for Culture. For reasons only gradually explained, she becomes an ally, helping him redefine success for himself.   In the process, he becomes a person with far more understanding of the bewildering wonderland of cross-cultural and woman-man miscommunications.

I wonder what Daniel would say if I asked him (as I do the readers of my book), What did you need to change in your attitude or perspective to feel successful in your work and your life as a whole?” I suspect he might say “letting myself stay open to possibilities in the face of complete misunderstanding of my words, my intentions, and my culturally shaped expectations.” For it was only in this way that his shame could transform into unexpected redemption for his work, and for his whole life.

When have you made a change in your attitude or perspective so that you felt successful in your work and your life as a whole?

         Some Action Steps for You!

1) If you’re planning to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, get tickets for Chinglish at Berkeley Repertory Theater-- until October 22nd!

2) If you, or people you know, are interested in finding work you love with a life in balance, keep reading my blog posts this fall for previews from my forthcoming book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance.

The Soul of Successful Career Change and Lives in Balance

[An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Successful Transitioning to Work You Love-- Inspiration for Those on the Path to Heart-Centered Livelihood and a Life in Balance]

  “The more deeply our work stirs imagination and corresponds to images that lie there at the bedrock of identity and fate, the more it will have soul . . . Most of us put a great deal of time into work, not only because we have to work so many hours to make a living, but because work is central to the soul’s opus.

                 -- Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

What is the soul of success? What does soul look like and feel like to you?

Since most of my work is with people seeking fulfilling work and/or lives balanced by rewarding relationships and well-being, Thomas Moore’s words stir me with a sense of wanting to know more about being soulful. When we say something has soul, like joyous music, we mean that it grabs our spirit and sings out to us.  When something feels soulless, like certain work environments, on the other hand, we have a feeling of deadness or lack of energy in its presence. 

Soul is a feeling of life and vibrancy that we can feel within from our experiences and relationships in the world. Soul is real and tangible, and it deeply affects our ability to feel satisfied with the work and lives we create for ourselves. 

Soulfulness also involves both the dark nights and the illumination that comes from going deeply within ourselves about the changes we seek. Soul asks that we extend ourselves into all our senses, our hearts, and our minds. Soul is being vulnerable and open enough to risk making the changes we need to work and live fully-- and therefore is about creativity and change. 

When you step outside the bounds of what you have known, you must find a different radar to guide you in choosing new directions for work, relationships, or generally how to live. In my experience, it is your awareness of energy and vitality-- soul-- that is the crucial guideline. Almost invariably, my clients seeking new career directions are, underneath that, asking for work that is energizing and adds to their sense of purpose and breadth in their lives overall.

For example, Moore suggests a radically alternative way to exploring whether your career options have enough to engage you in an ongoing way. He suggests asking questions, which I’ve paraphrased below, about the “soul benefits” of different options/directions for your work, such as: 

What is the spirit of how or where I want to work?

Will I feel I’m contributing authentically as a person?

Will I have a feeling of community in how I work?

Do the people I’ll be interacting with love their work?

Is what I plan to be doing and producing worthy of my time and energy commitment? 

I knew two women-- one who had a position in a nonprofit group with me and another in a public relations firm-- who were both dissatisfied with their work in these places. However, I didn’t really understand that until they both started their own businesses and began simply radiating happiness. Then I realized how pinched, critical, and dissatisfied they’d both been while working in environments that lacked purpose and satisfaction for them. What a difference it made for them to take charge of their own professional directions, and feel they were contributing authentically and doing what was worthy of their time and energy! Like the Ugly Duckling, they blossomed in the environments appropriate to who they really were.

I’ve worked with many people who’ve come to realize that in their quest for satisfying jobs and careers, they’re really looking for what will make them feel alive and empowered for the significant amount of time and energy they will be spending at work. The connective feature among them all is clearly the desire to live and work with what energizes their spirit-- with soul! 

If you’re interested in creating a soul-ful career change with a plan for balancing your life priorities, join me for my two-part teleclass, “Successful Transitioning to Heart-Centered Livelihood and Life in Balance”-- on Wed., June 6th, and Wed., June 13th! Click here for further information and registration.

Building Life-Enhancing Relationships-- “Giving Each Other an A”!

[Note:  My blog post this week is one I wrote last fall.  Since I’m planning to give a presentation on the book, The Art of Possibility, on Sun., July 31st, at Books Inc in Berkeley, I’d like to share with you again the excitement I felt when I first discovered it.

Since I always enjoy the insights in The Art of Possibility whenever I open its pages, I hope that if you’re re-reading this blog post, you, too, will continue to feel the sparkle and engagement of connecting with the possibilities in others that can expand your own life, as well.  My appreciation, too, to Leslie Williams Schwerdt for her scintillating photo of our friend, Joel Stratte-McClure, exploring his own jazzy, pre-birthday possibilities.]

This past week, I was really charged up with the combination of participating in my Stanford University alumni reunion and reading the book, The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.

One aspect of this book that struck me at my reunion was the part the authors call “Giving an A.”  By this they mean allowing people and experiences to be what they are and could be-- not limited by your own expectations.  Most people I met at my reunion said that this one was the best ever, and I agree.  My feeling is that every successive five years when we come together, we allow more of ourselves to be seen-- not just the parts of us that appear to be successful in the world.  At this reunion, there was definitely a sense of trust that who we are-- and what we’re doing that’s opening us to who we are-- was of interest to others. In the context of having graduated from a very competitive university, this more open way of interacting with each other constitutes major personal growth!

At earlier reunions, more people interacted from the “measurement” perspective of “what grade did you get?” that was the norm during college and “how well are you doing?” that was prevalent as people were starting to activate their careers.  A number of years later, my classmates and I have grown into the “possibilities” perspective that sees people as whole and evolving.  There’s so much more energy and authentic connection when you relate in this way! We’re not limited by others’ expectations of how we should write or take exams, how many trips we’ve taken or how much we make a year.  We care more about how fulfilled and expansive each other’s lives have become-- and are becoming.

“When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves . . . This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.” (The Art of Possibility).  Isn’t this the essence of how to create and sustain life-enhancing relationships-- whether with your soul mate, the store clerk you see every week, a casual acquaintance on a subway, or even someone whose political views you don’t understand at all?  It’s also the essence of how to create value from any new experience you embrace.