Living Your Purpose

Defining Heart-Centered Success in Your Own Terms for Your Work and Your Whole Life


What does it mean to define heart-centered success in your own terms with work and your whole life?  You don't necessarily need to become famous or rich.  Most importantly, you don't need to give up anything that's really important to you.  Clarifying what heart-centered success means to you is about getting to know who you really are and what really motivates you NOW.  The drive to find work and a way of life that deeply satisfies the needs of a person's spirit can be so powerful that it blows right through old messages from teachers, parents, peers, and the media that say, "you can't" or ''that's not what you're trained to do" or "you won't be able to make a living at that."

If you’re feeling burned out or limited at work, it’s likely you’re seeing your professional future and the picture of your life based only on your past and present experience, training, education, or family expectations.  As Barbara Sher in her book on strategic change-making, Wishcraft, asks:  “Were you given real help and encouragement in finding out what you wanted to do-- and how to do it?”  

If not-- and most people I’ve worked with have not been-- then your first step is:  

Begin to envision an authentic career and life as an integrated process based on what motivates and inspires you in the present moment! 

If you're reading this post, you may be exploring what it means to feel successful

in your career or the quality of your life as a whole— with relationships, creativity,

fitness, travel, spirituality, and whatever else is important to you.  Perhaps there's something intangible that you long for to bring a glow to all parts of your life.  This is what I call the "heart-centered" quality of success.  Your can feel it as energy, vitality, and passion.  Essentially, it's about understanding what it is that calls you.

As I wrote in my book, Success with Soul, "Vitality is our energy and passion to live fully, to discover our purpose, to awaken to the gifts we have to offer and not just get by— on the job, in our relationships with others, in every activity we undertake."

When I coach people, that's where we're going— towards where their energy

vibrates at a high level and towards where they are genuinely attracted.  At this energetic level, you're able to connect with what is most meaningful to you— and to your capacity to let this open and flourish.

Nicole, is a coach in her mid-50s with a strong business background, hardworking and creative.  She began coaching with me because she felt stuck professionally.  She believed that to go forward, she needed to create a bigger business involving associates, trainings, and informational products.  Each time she took a step in that direction, however, she could feel herself losing energy and interest.

Her dream was to go back to living in the country on a good-sized piece of land, but she insisted that she needed to make more money before she could afford to do this.  However, she was clearly longing to take action in a new way.  

So I asked her if she’d be willing to look at whatever she enjoyed doing, then brainstorm ideas for career directions for each possibility.  Soon it became clear that everything she loved doing was in the outdoors.  With “Hiking,” she considered becoming a professional photographer.  “Kayaking” led her to the prospect of offering kayaking tours.

But when she offered “Chickens” as what she loved, then I really heard the passion in her voice, while she felt the upsurge in her energy!  From this place of aliveness, she envisioned starting her own chicken farm of free-range chickens, finding someone with land with whom to partner (thus reducing her need for instant capital).  

In fact, she was passionate about wanting to rid the world of chicken factory farms that torture these animals to force them to produce.  By educating people about the humane advantages of backyard chicken farms, she also saw she could have more opportunities to be outdoors helping people make this happen. 

She even stretched her vision to consulting with Hollywood film professionals about setting up “boutique farms” in their spacious backyards.  With her passion, knowledge, business and coaching skills, she saw clearly how she could help them design and operate aesthetic, flourishing, self-sustaining chicken environments.

Most importantly, Nicole felt supported in embracing a new work and life direction that made her feel alive and ready to work at achieving her dream. 

So if feeling heart-centered success in your work and your whole life sounds like the direction you'd like to take, ask yourself—

What is heart-centered success to me?

How do I want to contribute from my heart?

What support do I need to lift my energy to a higher level to find purpose and aliveness in my work and my life?

Change-Making As Pilgrimage— Finding Your Inner Path of Fulfillment

An integral part of the coaching journey is the experience of finding our own paths to what is deeply fulfilling within ourselves. Often we base our desire or need for change on what seems permissible or possible. We base our choices on what we've already accomplished, rarely on the inner voice of our dreams or longings.

Making changes like this seems to take less time— just a jump from here to there. But conscious change is more of a pilgrimage than a commute ride. Conscious change-making is giving ourselves permission to explore and make tangible what our hearts long for. In this way, our actions are powerfully fueled by the tailwind of our full energy.   When we give ourselves permission, that energy from deep within ourselves is what moves us forward most effectively toward what we desire.

Creating change, therefore, can be experienced as a journey for which you consciously prepare. It's based on your desire to open yourself to new explorations that call to something deep inside— a dream from childhood, a quest for adventure, or a confirmation of an unrealized, even unacknowledged, potential within yourself.

In his book, The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau writes that planning a pilgrimage is about "embarking on any journey with a deep purpose," even if you "are unsure of how to prepare for it. The art of pilgrimage," he suggests, "is the skill of personally creating your own journey, and the daily practice of slowing down and lingering, savoring, and absorbing each of its stages."

So your desire to create change can be a time in which to find meaning and relevance on the path to change itself. Indeed, accepting this new phase in your life as a pilgrimage--a journey with intention, awareness, and spirit-- allows the pathway itself to become an vital part of the whole of the change you seek to create.

One of my clients discovered this as she planned a career change from her earlier work as a professor in a British university. While she was taking her first steps in this direction, she required an operation that kept her mostly house bound for almost a year. She decided not to get stressed about her inability to give public outreach presentations that were the basis of her health education program. Instead, she planned as part of her coaching to strengthen the spiritual underpinning of her life and work through reading, journaling, meditation, and self-care.

She slowed down, savored more depth in her relationships, dealt with old fears, and appreciated the gifts of healing and spiritual connection. From this inner pilgrimage, she emerged re-energized and decided to pursue a long-held dream— to study dancing the tango in Argentina. During this trip, she met a former colleague who invited her to give a paper at a conference in Brazil. Later, he asked if she would offer a class on the same topic, which included a description of her health education project as a solution to a particular societal need.

So her pilgrimage led her deep inside herself, and later, brought her back to where she'd started with health education.  However, she now had more clarity and confidence about her new professional direction, and a more joyful, expansive outlook about her life overall.

"This is . . . why the art of pilgrimage is the art of re-imagining how we walk, talk, listen, see, hear, write, and draw as we get ready for the journey of our soul's deep desire."
The Art of Pilgrimage

What is the pilgrimage you must take to create the change you most desire?

Authentic Livelihood— What If You Always Knew What You Loved to Do?

Like many people watching the Olympic competitions in Rio de Janeiro this past week, I found the U.S. women's gymnastic team absolutely riveting. Simone Biles, in particular, with her stellar back flips, aerial somersaults, and serene poise caught my attention. Then I became interested in her back story, which showed that she'd been interested in gymnastics from when she was a young child.

Barbara Sher in her book, Wishcraft-- How to Get What You Really Want, zeroed in on this point, that what we really want to do emerges in different guises with great clarity from when we're quite young. As she says, "You were very busy when you were two . . . You knew perfectly well what you loved and what you wanted. And you went after it, without the slightest hesitation or doubt . . . Those 'rare' and 'special' qualities we think distinguish geniuses from the rest of us? You had them. I had them. Where did they go? . . . Ask any famous woman or man, and you will probably find that they remember having a very clear sense of what they were meant to do at a very early age."

Finally, Sher asks, "What talents or abilities might those early interests and dreams point to?"

Back to Simone Biles' childhood upbringing. Since her birth mother struggled with drug addiction, Simone had no opportunities when she was very young to let her natural curiosity and aliveness have full scope. When she was adopted by her maternal grandparents at age five, however, they immediately noticed that she was "happy, but hyperactive, leaping off furniture" and "doing back flips off the family's mailbox before she even took a gymnastics class."

Fortunately for her, Biles' adopted parents and her coach, Aimee Boorman, supported her in following her passion and channeling it into gymnastics, which she loved since being introduced to it at age six. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "Boorman identified something in Biles that she knew she needed to nurture. She went with a low-key approach that's rare in this sport. That meant letting Biles simply have fun in the gym in her early years, rather than pushing her towards Olympic greatness and risk losing her entirely."

Essentially, Boorman gave Biles back her early childhood of exploring and enjoying running, flipping, and twisting in the air. Gradually, Boorman introduced Biles to new ways of focusing her energy and abilities that allowed her to become the top athlete that she is now without burning out her joy in being who she is doing what loves.

We know we're not all champion athletes, Nobel prize winners, or Mahatma Gandhis. However, what Sher calls your "genius" and others call "authentic self" is there right from your beginning, "like the genes in a seed that say it's going to become a . . . palm tree, or a rose."

So if you're feeling stuck, and not sure what your career or life path is or wants to become, ask yourself:

What did I love to do when I was a child? What gave me joy?

For example, I loved to create things where I got to put together bits of fabric, paint, egg shells, and found objects. So my first job was not selling lemonade, delivering newspapers, or babysitting. It was teaching other kids on the block how to make papier maché puppets and other arts and crafts objects that I was learning from my own art teacher. Even then I enjoyed what I evolved later for myself--- being my own boss, working in my own environment, and helping people enjoy learning to create something new and interesting in their lives.

Then ask yourself:

What is it that gave me joy and delight as a child that I'd like to bring into how I work and live my life now?

Did I love running? Did I love to sing? Did I like drawing pictures? Did I enjoy collecting rocks and shiny objects when I went out walking? Did I like riding horses? Did I enjoy helping people find lost keys or cats? Did I like to read or tell stories to my younger brother? Did I relax by watching clouds scudding by in the sky?

And then ask:

What held me back from doing this?

Was it a lack of support when you got into school? Or an assumption that only certain skills can guarantee you sufficient income? Or....?

And then:

What are the essential qualities of what I loved doing as a child that I'd like to bring into my work and whole life now?

These could include-- being able to move freely, feeling creative, exploring new things and places, being with animals, spending time outdoors, building things, teaching, having time to be meditative, and so on. Imagine how these essential qualities of what you loved doing when you were young could be part of what and how you work and live now.

And finally:

What is it I need to learn in order to integrate these essential qualities into a new career or way of living that I love now?

This might be developing particular career skills. Or it might be getting coaching support for a career or life transition. Or it might be meditation practice or yoga for inner balance and centering.

Remember the advice of coach Aimee Boorman--- trainer of Simone Biles, who just won four Olympic gold medals--- to the five U.S. women gymnasts in this 2016 Olympics: "Success is being happy and healthy. Compete from a place of joy!"

When "Life Happens"— Accepting Not-Knowing in the Change Process

When my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance-- came to its day of birth into the world in March 2013, I wrote that its true genesis had been my lifelong drive to live a life where I could do the work that really called to me while being the person I really am. I found that fulfillment in being a life coach over that past nine years.

Now, two months after surgery that removed part of my right lung and successfully left me cancer free, I'm re-examining where I am in my life at this time, while re-integrating the inner movement of my breathing with my outer movement in the world. When you have to think about a part of yourself that's as automatic as breathing, you know something has changed. In my case, I will regain almost full breathing capacity. However, this unexpected life change and the process of coming back to full living fully again, has been a deep transitional experience for me.

Recently, I acknowledged to my own coach that "I feel I'm really in a transition and grappling with the unknown. Why didn't I expect this?" This visceral awareness of made me aware at a deeper level about how hard it is for my coaching clients who must grapple with events beyond their control that bring the need for change into their lives. When your life gets muddied with unexpected and unwelcome events, it's easy to feel lost and without the ability to navigate.

In Success with Soul, I write: What . . . I call the “chaos zone” is a difficult state to tolerate in our western society, because, in general, we don’t value emptiness, non-productivity, and alone time (alone without the Internet, that is). Yet, career and other life transitions that lead to deeply satisfying changes require this alone time to do nothing much but be with the discomfort and fear of not knowing which way to go.

In letting myself go deeper into the sensory, emotional, and existential currents that are carrying me now, I give myself the gift of spaciousness without the demand for immediate solutions. Some of the questions that have come up for me during this transitional time in the aftermath of my surgery are— What do I want to do with my life after such a significant health challenge? What do I feel is changing about the nature and depth of my work? How do I stay with the discomfort of not knowing where I'm going at this time? How can I honor what is changing inside of me? How do I make space for what wants to fill me now?

I've been cut open, in my psyche as well as, literally, my body. If I choose, I can see a purpose within this experience. I can hold two truths at the same time— I love my work as a coach— AND something inside me has responded to this change in my life by shifting gears in how I want to work and how I want to live fully in my life. For this period of time, I'm less on the computer making online connections— and more often outside, walking, gardening, watching clouds, and yes, coaching. I'm enjoying making more time to talk (rather than email) with friends and colleagues, as well as taking in summer by biking in new places with the scent of eucalyptus trees in the air. Like a child, I savor the cool smoothness of vanilla ice cream at the end of a hot afternoon, while it some of it melts and dribbles down my chin.

As William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, notes, transformation to a new state of awareness requires taking time out from a familiar way of life to empty out and let what is calling you from within to emerge organically, in its own time. With new vision based on healing from a serious illness, I'm feeling my way through the emptiness with no GPS, getting past the fear of flying, and letting new signposts emerge as they will.

However, I'm doing this knowing I have the support of my coach, my friends, my family, and my colleagues whenever I'm ready to shift my attention from deeply inner to the next steps on my emerging path. At this point, I have only questions, feelings, and sensations. But in my experience as a life coach, I know that the more I pay attention to these signals from "life happening," the more likely it is that whatever change emerges will be fulfilling and enduring (at least, until the next changes signals come forth!).

Defining Success in Your Own Terms-- Claiming Your Professional Dream

"To have a possibility of happiness we must at the beginning fall in love at least a little with our work." -- David Whyte, The Three Marriages

In my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I note that a major reason people come to me for coaching is a feeling of dissatisfaction with their work and career paths-- with what they are doing and the sense of disconnection with whom they have become.  Often, they don’t even recognize that they’re trying to model their ideas of what success is on what their parents or other influential people in their lives have wanted for them. In direct and indirect ways, people get messages from childhood about what they can do, can’t do, should do, and shouldn’t do in their professional lives, from their families, teachers, mentors, peers, and society at large.

In her insightful book, Hand-Me-Down Dreams, Mary Jacobsen asserts that in order to claim our own dreams for our work and lives, we may need to examine whether our parents were able to live out their dreams. Did they get the education they wanted? Were they stopped from having the career they wanted by virtue of their sex, class, racial or ethnic background?

Or Whatmaybe the careers they really wanted didn’t exist. Life coaching, for example, was not a recognized career when I graduated from college-- and is now booming. New job categories in the fields of technology and health are proliferating.  Also, the growth in number and kind of small businesses has been phenomenal over the past decade, as people (many of whom are women) pro-actively learn to sell and serve in areas of interest to them. In this way, as George Kao, social media marketing expert, suggests, you can at least have some money coming in while applying for jobs that interest you.

Those of you seeking a career within an organization might like to know that anthropology was just a blip on the map when my father discovered it. He'd expected that he would become a doctor until a friend in his freshman year at college told him about an exciting class being offered in the new field of-- anthropology! My father definitely took a risk in choosing “the road less traveled,” but he didn’t see it as a risk. Anthropology called to something deep within himself he hadn’t been aware of-- a way of working that involved cross-cultural exploration, using other languages, and opening new, global channels of communication among people.

Had my father become a research physician, he would certainly have pleased his own father, an immigrant to this country, who would've been delighted to have a son be a doctor-- a career offering societal respect and financial security. But when his father gave him his blessing to go in this new direction, my father didn’t hesitate to claim his new career path (being a professor at Stanford University, which lasted a lifetime).

Despite the scarcity of job opportunities at the time, my father was convinced from the start that he would find way to work as an anthropologist-- and would enjoy it in a way he never could have as a doctor.  What was important for my father was that his own father didn’t demand of his son that he sacrifice a way of working he'd chosen in order to please his father’s desire. The great gift my grandfather gave his son was the emotional freedom to follow his own path, trusting that he would best support his family by loving his livelihoodf.

The kind of conviction and determination of my father is really the bedrock of many career seekers and innovators up through now who have felt professionally successful. Steve Jobs, for example, who created his own tech career and business, knew what he wanted to do and persevered, even under humiliating adversity.  By the time he was 30, Jobs had set up the wildly innovative and successful company, Apple-- and then was fired by the Apple board, who felt he was no longer the right person to lead the company.   He was devastated and blindsided.  As he said in his commencement address to Stanford students in 2005, “I felt ashamed, I didn’t know what to do.  I’d been rejected, but I was still in love.”

His lifeline, ultimately, was discovering deep inside himself that no matter what, “I loved what I did.”  Not knowing what else to do, he followed his intuition using “beginner’s mind,” and started the company, Next, still doing what he loved to do.  Then he got back his dream job when Apple rehired him, with Next technology becoming “the heart of the Apple renaissance.”

Most of us are not Steve Jobs, but most of us do have the potential within ourselves to choose to work at something in our lifetime that deeply satisfies us by what it allows us to do in supporting, innovating, leading, and enhancing something that's important to us.  Defining success in our own terms requires that we listen deeply to what we are genuinely called to do and "pass by that which we do not love."

Now try this exercise: Write down a list of all the jobs and careers you’ve tried. For each, write down what you liked best about it-- and how it affected your satisfaction level with your whole life. Afterwards, consider and then write down, your own definition of success, wherever you are in your life path, with regard to: 1) The way you work and/or stay involved in your community; 2) What messages from your family and/or society you’ve had to overcome to find rewarding work; 3) What kind of support you've received (from family, friends, coach, therapist, colleagues) to find rewarding work; and 4) What is important to you in your life as a whole.

What is the next step you plan to take to claim your professional dream?

Eve’s Journey-- Going for the Big Dream and Making It Real

I’ve just completed a 7-month journey of writing and editing my forthcoming e-book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance!  Now it’s in the hands of the layout people, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they will do to make it attractive and irresistible to read when it goes public in October.

I had no idea that writing a relatively short book based on my work experiences as a career transitions coach and somatic therapist helping people make positive changes in their careers and lives would be such a rich and demanding process. I’d written blog posts for several years on the value of doing work you love and living authentically, but writing a book about these topics was like navigating the ocean where before I’d been paddling in a pond. 

In writing a book, I realized I was now sharing the whole scope of my professional and personal discoveries about what makes work and life compelling and alive. 

Have you ever chosen to manifest a BIG dream you’ve really longed to make vibrantly alive for yourself, such as finding work or an avocation you love, having a child, creating a piece of art or writing, claiming a new path for healthy living, or in some way changing your life to serve a larger purpose? Then you know what an extraordinary experience it is to see the distant outline of your dream fill in, and become closer and more real, with each action step you take towards its fulfillment.

What is the impetus for taking a big leap forward in life (which is what writing my book feels like to me)? In my case, I sense it’s about widening my community in the world and taking my place more purposefully within it. With the publication of my book, I look forward to greater and more innovative possibilities for engaging with people embarking on inner and outer journeys towards positive change.

What is your impetus for taking a big leap forward and making a change that really matters to you . . . THIS YEAR? . . . NOW?

Changing the Way Things Are-- from “Downward Spiral Talk” to Possibilities

I’ve been happily listening to the enthusiasm with which people I know from all over the US and Europe have been talking about the springtime weather this year.  It’s the first thing anyone mentions in a conversation, as if all the large and petty problems of daily life can take backstage for a time while we watch the flowers bloom.

What a great perspective to have on life!  Of course, work challenges and life upheavals exist and play their part in how we feel about what we’re doing.  But we can choose how much of our time and energy we feed into ways of thinking and talking that uplift us, as well as those that spin us downward.

In their dynamic book, The Art of Possibility, authors Ben & Roz Zander describe the phrase “downward spiral talk” as “a resigned way of speaking that excludes possibility.”  A woman in her early 30’s, Susanna, talked to me about how she’d selected a career in food management several years previously based on her assessment that she loved food and had all the requisite skills. Then she lamented that she’d never had a job that she enjoyed in that field.  As the Zanders say, “Downward spiral talk creates an unassailable story about the limits to what is possible.”

In the course of our coaching together, Susanna began to realize that she was more than the sum of her parts.  In other words, in planning her career direction earlier, she’d left out considering her purpose, what was important to her whole life, what fueled her energy and got her excited about working in the world. When she realized that her passion in life was fundamentally to create community, she was able to look at work in the food industry with an eye to finding rewarding possibilities.

With this new vision based on a deeper understanding of herself, Susanna took over the management of a restaurant that shared activities with a local community center.  Instead of continuing the downward path of negativity and self-doubt, she radiated her sense of commitment to working and living out what was important to her.  She attracted new possibilities where she helped people connect and come together in enjoyable ways that led her to feeling successful in her chosen career.

How about you?  How would you like to open a field of possibilities in your career?  What’s a different perspective you can choose to hold and inhabit to create a new, positive direction in your professional and personal life now?

“Radiating possibility begins with things as they are and highlights open spaces, the pathways leading out from here.”

-- from The Art of Possibility

Freeing Time for Living the Way You Really Want!

I’ve been meditating about time for the past couple of days since I gave a coaching consultation to a woman in her 50’s concerned about how to have time for her high-level professional career, her marriage and teenage kids, and stay healthy.  As usual, the big question was, “How do I find enough time?”

In my mind musing, I recalled that as a child, my personal life was divided into family time (meals, chores, holidays, travel), school time (classes, homework) and “free time.”  I loved free time, especially the summer holidays when the hours seemed to stretch out endlessly as I played with friends, lay on the grass watching clouds, biked, and swam.  My father also contributed to my feel for the value of free time, since he firmly believed that a day off from school or work each week (Wednesdays) was a useful break from routines that could stifle creativity.

No, I didn’t get to stay home from school every Wednesday (my full-time working mom had a different point of view), but this rather novel perspective from a parent has helped me learn to prioritize intuitively what’s really important to me through my life.  By doing so, I’ve found that there’s almost always been enough time to live the way I wish, even when that seemed like quite a challenge.  What a paradox!  But such is the power of intention.

There are many excellent systems for learning to manage time incrementally, saving 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there by eliminating wasteful habits and so on.  However, the vital starting place is becoming aware of what’s already in your life and what you want to bring into your life that really matter to you (family, career, friends, creative projects, fitness, time just for you, travel, etc.).  This will help you clarify how you really want your life to be and ultimately, the time you’ll need to make this happen.

The next big question is “How do I create a beginning?”  I suggest you start by giving yourself the gift of some free time.  Sit or walk comfortably in a serene environment and breathe so that you feel the easy movement of your body from within.  Feel that time is endlessly extending itself within you, that you have all the time you need.  From this place, allow yourself to envision the shape, look, and feel of the life you long to be living.  What are you doing?  Who is there with you?  What are you creating?  How strong is your energy?  If you feel anything blocking your experience, continue breathing and just notice any fears, concerns, or images that arise.  Be aware of them, then let them go (you can always come back to them later).  Return to your inner place of spaciousness and be with the vision of your life as would like itWhen you come back from your time out, write down what you wish to remember. 

As the rock and soul group, The Chambers Brothers, sing in their shimmering song, “Time”:  “Now the time has come/ There are things to realize/ The time has come today.”  My question to you is, “What is the work you long to do and the way you want to live that’s worth freeing time for now?”  Once you’re clear about your intention, you can learn how, and get support for, making the time you need to realize your dream.

Japan and the Force of Nature-- Loss, Endings, and Remembrance

With all the chaos and upheavals going on in the world at this time, my heart and soul goes first to Japan, struck out of the blue by one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history and a tsunami hit of unimaginable proportions.  This is human life slammed into the pure force of oppositional nature.  This is beyond “transitions” and into the limit of human endurance.

With all the reverence for the diverse manifestations of nature in a limited island terrain, the Japanese have traditionally had a profound awareness of nature as a defining element in their lives.  In a volcanic region of earthquakes and threats from the sea, it’s easy to sense that life is precarious. 

Which brings up the question, “After catastrophic suffering, when all has been lost, what can we hold on to for remembrance and sanity?”  Once I read that the Japanese Zen Buddhist master, Suzuki Roshi, when asked, “What is Nirvana [enlightenment]?” replied, “Seeing one thing through to the end.” 

I live in earthquake country in California, and still I find it almost impossible to imagine what it would be to lose my family, my home, all my daily possessions, and my sense (however untrue) of basic security in a natural disaster of major proportions-- like the thousandsof people in northeastern coastal Japan recently.  Yet, I hope that something would illuminate deep inside me a sense of purpose in being there, even in themidst of such chaos and loss-- and would shine through me like a light, however wavering and flickering, guiding me through to the end..

When I was twelve, I lived with my family for a year in Tokyo-- a magical, transformative year that introduced me to an exotically other culture from that of suburban United States.  One difference that I could see even as a child was the way the Japanese people we met and came to know interacted with nature.  Unlike California where I grew up, Japan was so limited in space that personal gardens were small, sacred places, carefully tended, each stone, flower, and leaf having a place and a purpose.  Going away to the mountains, forest or ocean was often like going on pilgrimage, a re-connection rather than just recreation.

One way I stay connected with places and people I love and must leave is to find a stone for each experience of loving and interacting with these people, these places, that commemorates our time together.  Even if I had to leave these stones behind to flee for safety, they are gathered in my memory and will stay with me, lighting my path.

            What are ways you’ve discovered to honor heart connections in your life that you’ve had to leave behind?

Finding Soul in Career Transitions

Today I spent some time reading from a favorite book of mine, Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore.  Moore-- a psychotherapist, writer, and former Catholic monk-- claims that “fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power, and relief from symptoms [physical and emotional] are all gifts of the soul.” 

          Since most of my work is with people seeking fulfilling work and/or lives balanced by rewarding relationships and well-being, his 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 lives that we create for ourselves. 

            In coaching, this sense of energy and vitality is crucial as a guideline to choosing new directions for work, relationships, or generally how to live.  As Moore says, “[Care of the soul] is not to make life problem-free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness . . . It has to do with cultivating a richly expressive and meaningful life at home and in society.”  Almost invariably, my clients seeking new career directions are, underneath that, asking for work that has meaning for them and adds to their sense of purpose 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 the following questions about the “soul benefits” of particular jobs: 

  • What is the spirit of this workplace?
  • Will I be treated as a person?
  • Is there a feeling of community?
  • Do people here love their work?
  • Is what we are doing and producing worthy of my commitment and long hours? 

            I’ve worked and talked 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 in the significant amount of time and energy they’d need to spend working.  An architect wants to build and manage a jazz club and restaurant.  A former engineer has become an emergency medical technician.  A former government employee is planning actual and virtual city tours to offer as part of his retirement.  The connective feature among them all is clearly the desire to live and work with soul! 

Please Join in the Conversation! 

  • What are some “gifts of the soul” that you’ve experienced in your life?
  •  What would you risk to find work with soul?
  • How can you bring soul to a current career transition?