Posts Tagged ‘purpose’

The Risks of Using Call Waiting

“Denise, there’s a call on line 1 for you.  He wouldn’t give me his name and said ‘you’d know what he was calling about’.”

“Can’t you see I have my Do Not Disturb light on?”  I replied.  “Tell whoever it is I’m busy and I’ll call him back later.”  My assistant answered that the caller said he would hold until I was ready.  I hated sales people who were that obnoxious and couldn’t hear “No” and I brushed her off impatiently with a “Fine, he can hold until I’m good and ready then!”

I went back to the project I was working on, aggravated at yet another interruption.  I was behind the eight ball already on this day, with a to-do list longer than my arm and the end of the month looming ahead of me.

Years ago, my husband had asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  Only half-jokingly, I had answered “Eight extra hours a day so I can catch up on what I always have undone at the end of each day!”  He bought me an Ipod instead, commenting that if I had more hours I would likely just try to fit more in on my schedule.   I remembered that I needed to try to find time to upload some music for relaxation onto my Ipod and wondered if there was a teenager to whom I could outsource that task.

As I was turning out the light to leave the office, late that night, I noticed that the hold light was blinking on my phone.  I picked it up and said impatiently, “This is Denise.  Who is this?”

The voice on the other end of the line said, “It’s your life.  I’ve been waiting for you.”

I dropped the phone and started thinking about how long I had been avoiding this call.

For years now, everything else came first, that is … everything that felt like an obligation or a distraction.  Each time I heard the whisper of this call, I filled my hours with something – another project, another committee obligation, another anything – just so I wouldn’t have to sit with the voice of this caller who wanted me to look at the meaning of my life and why I was here.  I avoided this call because I was afraid I would have to do something about what I heard if I listened.

How does the call of your life haunt you?  Does it come from inside you on Sunday night when you start dreading your return to the office.  Is it the pain in your heart when you hear your six year old daughter cry because you’re leaving on another business trip that will have you away from home more nights instead of tucking her in and reading her The Velveteen Rabbit.  Maybe your calling sings the familiar song “I Should Do Something” when you read about the people who have lost everything in the latest weather disaster and you wish you could get that song out of your head and just get back to enjoying American Idol.

Calls are serious business.  Responding to them is how we make something worthwhile out of our lives. Listen here to a recording on finding the courage to listen to your call.

Not every call is a blockbuster, star-making epic.  One or two of them may take up most of our time, but other more urgent calls weave their way into our lives from time to time.  Some of them, like being a nurturing, attentive parent or riding out the illness of a friend who needs our extra attention, engage our minds and our hearts and do not earn us accolades or cover photos on national magazines.  Others draw us deep beneath the noise of social conventions and impact lives in unimaginable ways.

It is neither the duration nor the visibility of the call that matters.  A life-changing call engages your ability to listen to both the subtle and obvious messages that rise within you and to see the nuance of something transcendent in the role before you.  You answer the call through your willingness to move beyond merely filling the role or carrying out the duties a task requires by choosing to imbue your intention and your courage into your actions.

When you get serious about answering your call, mentors and supporters will appear.  They will guide you with teachable moments and they will appeal to your innate human longing to be more than what you presently are.  As you move toward embodying your calling, they will help you draw upon your courage to step into the potential that sounds quietly in your dreams.

You have a choice, to just live your life, work a job, and fulfill a role or to commit to answering a series of worthy calls within this life of yours.  Listen carefully to the whispers and shouts of your callings and answer them with all the passion and cleverness at your disposal.  Use every means of introspection and mentorship available to you to help you find the courage to answer the call to make a difference – both where you find yourself now and in the place where your calling takes you.

After all, there’s a call for you on hold right now, all you have to do is answer it.

I work as a mentor to men and women ready to listen for their calling.  Schedule a complementary session or listen to a free sample of my new e-learning program on finding your true calling.


Building Your Courage Muscles

I was talking to the massage therapist the other night about my upcoming workshop on Courageous Choices and what a thrill I get every time I am able to help someone let go of the familiar to try something new. Whether it’s a new job with a different company, asserting new boundaries within an important relationship or a significant transition like choosing a new career – each step toward change requires moving beyond a well trod comfort zone and that takes courage.

For most of us, the path from the Land of Wishing to the Land of Having requires us to step through the Gate of Doing. Typically, we step through that gate only when a) the pain of staying where we are is too great to stay put or b) the desire for that for which we have been wishing becomes strong enough to overcome the inertia of resisting. I’ve seen that pain come from any of a thousand different avenues for the people I work with – getting fired, not being able to raise the next fund, learning your spouse is preparing to leave you, a serious medical issue, death of a loved one, the empty nest or a gnawing restlessness that you just can’t put your finger on but you know you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing any longer.

For nearly everyone, “wanting” something to be different may be the starting point, but as the old saying goes “nothing changes if nothing changes.” Change requires action, plain and simple – no avoiding it. It is often fear that keeps us from taking the action we most need to see the changes we desire. Fear is not the enemy, inertia is. Fear challenges you to build your courage muscles and when you make friends with fear by stepping outside of your comfort zone, your comfort zone expands. Too often we hold ourselves back from taking the steps that will improve our lives and fulfill us, hoping that our fear will go away. The fear that you might not make enough money or that you won’t be as successful in a new career or that someone is going to be upset about your decision can keep you stuck where you are, hoping that “some day” you’ll wake up and feel the courage to try something new. Believe me, courage is not going to find you, you’re going to have to tackle that fear and step into the courage whether you want to get a new job, give a speech or leave a relationship that just clearly isn’t working anymore.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the pioneering psychiatrist in the work of grief surrounding the dying found that the most oft-cited fear was the fear of death, even though we all know that it is inevitable and unavoidable. Her research showed that those who felt they understood and acted on their purpose in life or found special meaning in what they had been able to do faced significantly less fear and despair in the final weeks of their lives than those who had not.

Identifying the work we are meant to do and the strength of character to do something that frightens us and then deploying the physical or mental or emotional willingness to do it is empowering and exhilarating. It requires reflection, introspection, a willingness to look at things in a new way, and the courage to actually step out of one’s comfort zone and do something different and unfamiliar and yes, sometimes, frightening.

Often I hear “What will other people think or say if I (fill in the blank)?” A fellow I’m working with has become clear about the specific step that he needs to take to have the life of his dream, one he’s been dreaming of for as long as he can remember, admitted that he was worried about what his family and friends would say if he took this step. He wasn’t sure he could stand up to their criticism of his decision, even though he knew that if he didn’t act soon his dream would really be beyond his reach. I shared with him a favorite quote: The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. – Rollo May

Courage is the willingness to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially in spite of criticism or disapproval of others. Many people stay in jobs they detest and go to events they despise and behave in certain ways that violate their integrity just to please other people, all the while draining their life force into the pit of conformity for the poison pill of approval. To me, it is a sad waste of a life. After all, I often joke that if your friends think less of you for chasing your dream, you need some better friends! And, families often use the tool of guilt to manipulate their loved ones into conformity because of their own fears and wants. While it’s easy to confuse courage and bravery, I think courage is not the absence of fear, but the resistance to fear and mastery of that which you have not yet achieved.

Here are some questions I use to regain my courage:

1. What do I really (in my deepest heart) want? (Be precise)
2. What do I need to do to have that? (List every action)
3. What am I afraid of? (List every fear, no matter how silly it looks in writing)
4. What does avoiding this fear cost me?
5. What would I do if I weren’t afraid? (List every action)
6. At the end of my life, will I regret not having done this?
7. How will my life benefit from facing this fear?
8. What else might I be able to do if I faced this fear?
9. What specific actions must I take in spite of this fear so I may have what I want?
10. What one action am I willing to take today and who can I ask to support me?

Dear friends, I want for you the life of your dreams. You deserve it, you’re worth it and as Christopher Robin said to Pooh, “Promise me you’ll always remember you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”  If you need me to be your Christopher Robin, I’m here.

If I Were A Rich Man …

Sorry for starting this column off making you silently hum that familiar tune from Fiddler on the Roof! 

Last week while I was waiting for the dealership to complete the oil change on my car, I struck up a conversation with the woman who was sitting next to me as we watched a clip promoting a television show called “Secret Millionaire”.  The premise of the show is that someone with money goes incognito into an impoverished community and agrees to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the lives of those in the community.  She told me that she loved that show and it inspired her to see someone giving back like that and hoped to do something like that herself one day.

In the course of our chat, I also learned that she is going through a divorce, recently filed for bankruptcy and had been struggling with her teenage son who has a drug addiction.  When the service rep entered the waiting area and began recounting the necessary repairs to her car, I pretended to be engrossed in the magazine on my lap but I could feel the tension building long before he told her that the repairs would exceed $3700, money I was sure she didn’t have.  She authorized the service department to handle the one safety issue that otherwise left the car unsafe to drive.

As we continued to pass the time waiting for our respective vehicles to be ready, she told me that she had been a homemaker for the past 23 years and that she was struggling with a new sales job she had just taken since she has to support herself.  She had been a top sales rep for Xerox before her children were born and she had taken the sales job since it was the only job she knew how to do. 

I asked her what she longed to do, if money wasn’t a concern.  I find that whenever I ask people this question, they always have an answer on the tip of their tongues.  Everyone knows what they wish they were spending their time on.  Sometimes it’s a sport or a hobby or a charitable mission or a dream they long ago put up on a shelf because someone labeled it as “unrealistic”.

Her answer was that she’d like to work with women whose husbands had cheated on them, to help them recover their self-esteem, like she had had to do and to help mothers whose children have a drug addiction.  I asked her what she was doing to make that dream a reality.

That’s when she looked at me as if I had three heads.  It seems to be the response I get most frequently when I ask someone why they aren’t doing what they really wish they were.  Her subsequent statement also echoed a version of what I hear most from people who aren’t following their dreams, “What would I do for money?  Everyone knows I wouldn’t be able to support myself and my kids doing that.”

I wondered if it was really true that she would be unable to support herself and her children doing something she was passionate about.  Why do people assume that their passions are incompatible with economic sustenance?  So, I figured I had nothing to lose.  I asked her what it would take for her to be willing to do what she was passionate about.  Her answer, like many I’ve heard before, was that when she had enough money saved she would think about doing it.  “How much money?” I asked.  She said, “I don’t know.  I guess ‘enough’.”   I pressed a little further, how was she supporting herself and her children now and learned that she was living with her mother since her husband refused to pay his child support.

I asked whether her mother would throw her and her children out of the house if she didn’t bring home “enough” money.  Would her children be forced to become shoeless beggars?  Of course not.  I asked whether she had thought about just staying with her husband while he was having an affair and doing the work she loved.  She said no because she didn’t want her kids to see her living a lie and selling herself out.  Can you guess my next question?  Why was it better for her children to see her selling herself out to a job she hated, while she waited to garner “enough” money to do what made her happy?

My conversation partner became a little aggravated at that point and said that if she had enough money then she would do exactly that, but until then it was better to teach her kids responsibility and the value of hard work.  I’ll admit it, I was pushing the edge of a conversation with a relative stranger when I asked her what exactly the value was of the hard work she was modeling.  And why the lesson for her children about responsibility couldn’t be modeled  in doing what brought her happiness instead of modeling responsibility as a miserable duty that must be endured to earn money so one could then be “happy”.

I reminded her of how much she admired the Secret Millionaires, how each of them made a point of finding out what really made others’ lives better and made their contribution doing exactly that.  Did she really need to wait until she was a millionaire to be able to make her contribution?  Couldn’t she do that in addition to (or instead of) holding a sales job?  I wasn’t encouraging her to be a loafer and live in her mother’s house forever or to leave her children without shoes or with hungry bellies.  What I was doing was questioning the falsity of the unspoken premise that is only the dollar value or enormity of our contribution that makes it worth doing and that, until we each have amassed our personal fortune, we can’t do what makes us happy or that contributes to the well being and happiness of others who are less fortunate?  I think that’s a myth that too many people have bought into – the eternal deferral of what fills you with passion until after you’ve made “enough” money – whatever that is. 

Over the past year, in addition to working on the book I have been writing on work-life balance issues, I have been guiding individuals who are looking for a solution to exactly that dilemma – how to reconcile their desires to do what fills them with passion and still provide for their families while making a difference in their community.  It is this work that fills me most with my own sense of purpose and I enjoy inspiring others to find ways big and small to live their purpose NOW, not later, in an authentic and meaningful way.  I hope you will join me at one of my many workshops and gatherings to explore the solution to this dilemma for yourself. Until then, I leave you with two very important questions:

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  – Mary Oliver