Have you ever asked yourself “Who am I?” and “What am I here for?”
These are big questions. The kind that can have you running for cover and becoming so busy there’s no space to even consider them. I did the busy-busy-busy thing for years. Getting on with life. Aiming high. Doing very well by conventional standards of success in society. Then one day aiming high and conventional standards of success just didn’t cut it anymore. Facing the big questions that I’d been dodging for years became both inevitable and deeply desired. I wanted to know who I was. I wanted to feel that I was doing what I was put on this planet to do.
What I’ve come to understand through my life experience and through my coaching work is that if you don’t give the big questions attention they will find a way of getting your attention. And, if repeatedly ignored, the way they find becomes increasingly difficult and dramatic.
I want to share a beautiful story told by author Jack Kornfield.
“There is a tribe in East Africa in which…the birth date of a child is not counted from the day of its physical birth nor even the day of its conception, as in other village cultures. For this tribe the birth date comes the first time the child is a thought in its mother’s mind. Aware of her intention to conceive a child with a particular father, the mother then goes off to sit alone under a tree. There she sits and listens until she can hear the song of the child that she hopes to conceive. Once she has heard it, she returns to her village and teaches it to the father so that they can sing it together as they make love, inviting the child to join them. After the child is conceived, she sings it to the baby in her womb. Then she teaches it to the old women and midwives of her village, so that throughout the labour and at the miraculous moment of birth itself, the child is greeted with its song. After the birth, all the villagers learn the song of their new member and sing it to the child when it falls or hurts itself. It is sung in times of triumph, or in rituals and initiations. This song becomes a part of the marriage ceremony when the child is grown, and at the end of life, his or her loved ones will gather around the deathbed and sing this song for the last time.”
I call the song described in the story a Soul Song…a unique song for each one of us here on earth. The child in this story will most likely grow up with a strong sense of who s/he is and what s/he is here for.
As a reader of this blog, chances are you weren’t born into this tribe in East Africa and you didn’t have your Soul Song sung to you as you grew up. Chances are you were born into a society that told you who you had to be to succeed in life and what the good jobs were.
For you to feel the inner confidence that comes with living on purpose, it might take a wake up call or a life transition to get your attention and motivate you to unlearn what you have unconsciously taken on from others and the environment, and to reconnect with what you’ve known all along about who you are and what you’re here to do.
Living with purpose is good for your health.
When we live purposefully our lives have meaning. In less poetic fashion than the Soul Song story, medical evidence suggests that living purposefully is good for our health. Common sense tells us this too.
Our physical health suffers when we live out of alignment with our purpose. The greatest predictor of having a heart attack isn’t high blood pressure, lack of exercise, high cholesterol or smoking. It’s Monday morning. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. Medical studies have shown that patients who had serious illnesses were more likely to recover if they responded yes to the question “Do you want to live to be 100?”, indicating a deep sense of meaning in their life. Psychological studies also indicate that people who feel they have a sense of purpose in life live longer.
Our emotional health suffers too when we live out of alignment with our purpose. The psychiatrist Carl Jung claimed that after age 35, every emotional crisis arises because of a spiritual crisis or a crisis of meaning. The recent research of Canadian psychologist, Patrick Hill, suggests that a sense of purpose protects against the harmful effects of stress.
These findings are significant to each and every one of us personally. They are also significant to businesses.
Those of you reading this who lead or manage teams, or have a career in human resources, will know that disengagement and stress at work are a major issue in most organisations, and they directly impact the bottom line. An organisation that can cultivate a shared sense of purpose and support their employees in finding meaning in their work is likely to have more engaged people, fewer days of the absenteeism associated with stress related illness, a happier more productive workforce, a more positive impact on the wider stakeholder network outside the organisation, and a stronger financial position.
A philosophy on purpose.
I believe our purpose in life is in our DNA and that we are coded with it in the deepest level of our biology. When we live our purpose we feel a great sense of alignment and ‘rightness’ about our place in the world.
I also believe that our purpose arises out of the circumstances of our lives. The family and place we grew up in. Our passions and interests as a child. The decisions we’ve made along the way. Our deepest desires right now. These are all elements of the fabric of the tapestry that is our life purpose.
And I believe our purpose to be a loving expression of both being and doing. How we are in the world and what we are here do are interwoven into our unique soul song. As we are multifaceted individuals our expression of purpose may evolve and shift over our lifetime but my observation is that there is a core principle to our purpose that remains foundational throughout.
These beliefs form my philosophy on purpose. If they resonate with you, here are some questions to ponder to help you begin the process of forming language around the heart of your purpose. Adopting a mindset of lightness and curiosity helps you to relax around ‘getting’ answers and allows them to come to you instead, perhaps when you least expect them and when your attention is on other things.
- What gives your life and work meaning right here, right now?
- What is it that you have to do – that you can’t not do?
- What are you most committed to?
- When do you feel most alive and absorbed in what you’re doing?
- What brings you back to you?
- What do you do easily, effortlessly?
- What do others see in you that is special and which you take for granted?
Don’t worry if you can’t articulate a nice, neat, clear purpose statement at one sitting. It’s taken me years to put language around my purpose even when I’ve known I’ve been living it. But it is worth investing the time to find language that resonates and fits for you. Words can help you to ground and clarify your purpose so that you can embody and live it fully. They can also offer you guidance in your decision making and give you direction for the journey of a life lived on purpose. This is transformational.
Registration for the Autumn series of the 8 weeks Journey Back To You group programme is now open
In the programme we consider living on purpose in our fifth module.
Journey Back To You is a programme that can support you if you’re a professional who is:
- Feeling stressed through having to spin lots of plates in work and life, play lots of roles, and meet lots of expectations (including the high ones you have of yourself).
- At a crossroads in life and facing big decisions as your priorities shift and a new beginning calls.
- Wanting to approach change in a new way, one that is loving and doesn’t leave you exhausted or disheartened.
If any of these resonate with you then please do contact me and book a call to explore if Journey Back To You is right for you. You can reach me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7715 704953 and we can set up a time to talk.
Participants from the last series of Journey Back To You in the Summer had this to say about the experience.
“I have just finished the Journey Back to You programme and I have to say it was an amazing journey. The structure of the sessions every week is thoughtfully constructed, flows very naturally and Mandy also has the intuition and skill to allow flexibility where there are specific issues that come up that may not “fit” with that week! She is an incredible individual, who has the ability to engage so genuinely and fully that it is quite humbling. I always finish a session feeling motivated, invigorated and with a positive feeling deep inside. It is a special gift to be able to engage in this way over video – but Mandy is able to deliver on her promise. I would highly recommend joining for the next programme or program depending on your location and I would be happy to give more feedback directly to anyone who is contemplating taking part.”
Tracy Isacke, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank
“Mandy is an insightful, caring and thoughtful coach. Because she can work with energy and doesn’t get involved with life ‘stories’, she can penetrate to the emotional energy that lies behind the story we tell ourselves and gets to the heart of the matter…the real issue that is blocking our path. I love that. In my opinion Mandy is the coaches coach, because as coaches we hold a lot of energy for other people. I would not feel comfortable divulging these confidences but working with Mandy and her energy work leaves my clients anonymous and the release easy. I don’t work in my head with Mandy, I work to release through my body and my energy. I find working like that so much easier and a relief. It is a wonderful, enlightening and lightning experience. If you are at a crossroads in life, wondering which direction to take, or perhaps need some energetic space clearing from old wounds then I would HIGHLY recommend working with Mandy.”
Adele Stickland, Fitness & Nutrition Coach, Get Gorgeous
All details of the programme, its content, timelines and investment, are HERE.
I’d love to see some of you on the Autumn series of Journey Back To You.
If you know anyone else who might be interested please do forward this blog on to them.
M: +44 7715 704953
Author: Mandy Muckalt
An experienced passionate mentor and guide helping professional women create positive change in their lives and in the world