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Episode #150 – HOW TO LIVE YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
Living your life’s purpose feels like a heavy topic, especially when your life is busy buying graduation cards, driving to baseball games and awards banquets.
But my intention for this episode is to show you that following your destiny and fulfilling your life’s purpose is easy, light hearted and fun.
If you feel like the purpose of your life is to be a mom, you might worry about what will happen when your kids grow up and leave the house.
Maybe you are trying to guide your child towards living THEIR PURPOSE and a successful future but the world is changing so fast, you worry the wisdom you’ve acquired may not apply to the next generation.
Perhaps you thought motherhood would give you all the purpose you would ever need, but are finding the daily tasks of motherhood empty and hollow.
Wherever you are in your journey towards finding purpose, today’s episode will help you understand how to know if you are on track for your life’s purpose.
There is no need to stress about going back to work or staying home, whether to invest in competitive or recreational soccer, or worry about life after your kids leave the house.
Your purpose is always guiding you, whispering in your ear, so finding your purpose isn’t an issue, you just need to know what to look for.
Following life’s passions and purpose is one of the great joys of being human! BUT, most meaningful journeys start with a whole lot of suffering. Like becoming a mom starts with the pain of childbirth, discovering your life’s purpose can begin with suffering, but if you learn to listen to the hints and signs, you can minimize the suffering and jump into the flow your life wants to take.
Life coaching helps us get back into the flow your life is meant to take.
We are born with certain interests, personality traits, and proclivities. Our job is to figure out what those proclivities are, and go do them. It benefits the survival of our species for us all to have DIFFERENT interests and talents. If everyone LOVED staying home and tending to children, who would build the shelter, hunt for food, heal the sick, repair, explore, invent, translate, educate, etc.?
Somehow, our culture decided all moms should be good at all things, leading to a generation of burned out, overwhelmed and exhausted mommas. It’s the PRESSURE society puts on us to be good at everything that leaves us in a constant state of inadequacy. This “I’m not good enough” mental belief blocks us from listening to our intuition and feeling like we are living a purposeful, meaningful life.
I will tell you 2 stories in my life that helped guide me towards living my purpose and feeling like I was fulfilling my destiny. The first one involved years of suffering, the second involved years of fun and games. Two different ways to react to the same intuition calling you into a new direction.
My hope is that by telling these stories, you will be able to learn what signs to look for, hear how your intuition speaks to you and get back into the flow of your life with fun instead of struggle.
Intuition is often the source of our greatest suffering. It can guide us forward in playful, interesting ways or it can be the voice you don’t want to hear, but that won’t go away. It’s the voice that tells you it’s time to leave your marriage or quit the job you spent 8 years preparing for. It’s the relentless nagging that wakes you in the middle of the night until you surrender your life to the flow of destiny. But if you catch it early and keep it playful, it’s a clue, a sign, a feeling to move towards that will help you live a life that is right for you.
“Life is always speaking to you. Are you going to listen to the whispers or wait until it hits you like a brick upside your head?” Oprah Winfrey
It was a cold, February day like any other, feeling stuck inside my house like many stay-at-home moms. I was watching the clock, counting down the hours until I could put my son to bed.
My first born was 3 years old which meant all my mommy friends were either pregnant or nursing their second child. Sure they were sleep deprived and exhausted, but they seemed content.
I was the opposite of content.
Although I loved being a mom and adored my son, I felt CRAZY. I was RESTLESS, TIRED, ANXIOUS, OVERWHELMED, DEPLETED. Other moms seemed to have their act together, but I felt like I was drowning and no one knew. I couldn’t even THINK about having another child in the state I was in.
I walked around my house, using the clutter as evidence to prove that I wasn’t measuring up as a wife, mother, housekeeper, etc. I put one glass in the dishwasher, then remember I never paid the electric bill, I’d go to the computer and think, I should be doing laundry. I’d walk to the laundry room, fold a shirt or two and think, I need to get dinner started. I’d start cooking and remember the deadline for gymnastics camp was starting soon so I’d better fill out the application. I jumped from thing to thing, mentally spinning in circles, never really accomplishing anything noticeable. By the end of the day, I was exhausted but had accomplished nothing. The house was still a mess and so was I.
The voice in my head was filled with “have to’s”, “need to’s” and “shoulds”. This made me feel like a prisoner in my own life. When people said, “You are so lucky you get to stay home and you don’t have to work” I added guilt to the shit storm of emotions I felt.
Before I agreed to marry my husband, I had two mandates. One was that he had to be willing to go to couples counseling with me, and two, that I could stay home and raise our children. I loved kids: I studied child development, family life education, and educational theories. I was CERTAIN that when I had my own kids, I would be fulfilled by being a stay home mom. I knew in my bones that I was meant to be a mom.
My a-ha moment came this dark February afternoon when O, The Oprah magazine arrived in my mailbox. I put my son down for his precious nap and plopped on the couch. I opened the magazine to an article about a life coach, helping a woman organize her home. I felt a wave of enthusiasm come over me. Suddenly I had energy AND clarity. The voice in my head said: THIS!!
I wasn’t meant just to be a stay home mom! I was put here to help others like this life coach was. I had been trying to convince myself that being a stay home mom was enough for me. As much as I THOUGHT I knew what I wanted, the contrast in emotions I felt from my daily life to reading about life coaching was DRAMATIC. It felt freeing to discover the thought, “I am meant for more than this.”
You might think I immediately signed up for life coach training and started my career, but NO.
It was a longer, more circuitous route filled with resistance and beliefs like, “I don’t know how to do that” “I could never work for myself”, “I’m not an entrepreneur” “life coaching sounds so cringy”. It was another 7 years before I signed up for life coach training, but it did start me in a new direction of finding work outside the home.
Experiencing the contrast of stay-home-mom-misery to reading-about-life-coaching-joy, put me on a new trajectory. For the first time, my aim switched from “trying to enjoy my life as a stay home with pressure, inadequacy and guilt sitting on my shoulders” to “what activities are going to give me that feeling again?”
I was at a crossroads and both paths felt terrible. The one I had been on (SAHM) felt confining, limiting and frustrating, but it was familiar. I knew where it would take me. The second path (Life Coaching) felt confusing, overwhelming, scary and I didn’t know where it would take me. This uncertainty had the potential to give me that energizing, exciting and purposeful feeling. So I slowly walked a very windy road following what felt good to me.
I needed to suffer for many years in order to give me the courage to sail into uncharted waters. I couldn’t just apply for a job as a life coach that already existed (although I tried many times). I had to navigate without a map: try new things, make mistakes, embarrass myself, fail, learn, switch directions. I learned to experience what coaches call “failing forward”. Failing for a purpose, my purpose, growing me toward a life that felt a lot more fulfilling than trying to convince myself that raising kids was enough to fulfill my soul’s calling.
I had a lot of fears and limiting beliefs to overcome. “Who do I think I am?” “What if people don’t like me or think I’m weird?” “No one will hire me if my life isn’t perfect.” I had to learn to tame the mean sabotaging voice in my head and find some compassion glasses to put on when I talked to myself. I had to turn down my empathy dials and give up a habit of overwhelm and worrying. I had to stop people pleasing and find courage and gumption instead.
It was a whole lot of work that involved a whole lot of suffering. But as sucky as it felt, I could fall back on that feeling that I was doing the right thing for ME. After a few hours of teaching, doing the dishes didn’t BOTHER me like it before. Now I could enjoy folding laundry because it was a break from putting myself out there. I had something interesting to think about while doing the same old tasks. I was back on track with my life’s purpose and I knew it because it felt so much better.
We are born 100% ourselves, very connected to the essence of who we are, what interests we have, our innate personalities and talents. Along the way we become socialized away from this knowing. We learn what our society values and approves of. We learn to feel embarrassed or ashamed. We hide parts of ourselves, and exaggerate other parts, in order to be accepted and approved by our culture.
Two things give you purpose and meaning:
Reconnecting with your essence.
Obeying the call to align with that essence.
It was a cozy evening in November, I was sitting by the fireplace watching my son about to open his first college acceptance letter. We weren’t expecting any to come this early so we were surprised. He hadn’t even finished filling out his applications yet so there was no built up anticipation. His school of choice, (Western Washington), accepted him in the major of his choice, (Linguistics). He smiled as he read. He looked up at me calmly and said, “That’s it. They want me, I want them. That’s it, I am decided.”
I spent the next month trying to convince him otherwise. “Are you sure?” “Don’t you at least want to tour this (more prestigious) school?” “We still have our trip planned to visit (out of state school offering good financial incentives), don’t you want to have something to compare to?”
I made it sound logical but really, I was struggling. As soon as he chose his school, I realized something scary.
It wasn’t that he was moving 900 miles away, I was mentally prepared for that.
It wasn’t that I thought he was making the wrong decision, this school had everything he was looking for.
It was this voice that came into my head saying, “This is where my adventure ends and his begins.”and I didn’t want that to be true.
I LOVED the process of helping my son plan for his future. I loved touring schools, dreaming what it would be like to live in different places. I imagined my visits and what activities I could do while there. I got excited thinking about the different people, clubs, and opportunities he would have by going off to college.
The truth of the sentence “This is where his adventure begins and mine ends.” hit me hard because I knew, in my heart, that I didn’t want my adventure to end. I wanted something new and exciting as well, but I didn’t know what that would be. I had 4 more years until my daughter graduated high school. I was content with my life. I had a part time job, a wonderful coaching practice, a good marriage, a house I loved, family and community nearby, I didn’t want to go back to college or change anything in my life.
I ignored this call to adventure and decided I would be satisfied with visiting my son at school and going through college tours with my daughter.
But in the back of my mind, I knew having an empty nest was going to unearth some realities I wasn’t ready to listen to.
Instead of WAITING for the suffering to start, I went on a scavenger hunt. I started paying attention to which activities I loved and which ones I didn’t. I started imagining life without carpools and volleyball tournaments. When I encountered a mom with adult kids, I interviewed her to see where she found passion and adventure.
Imagining this future life did not make me feel good. I was worried about where I would find meaning and purpose. Who would I be without kids in the house? What would happen to my marriage? My social life?
I paid attention to what lit me up. When I looked at social media, did I get jealous? If so, what was I jealous of? What books, TV shows and movies was I drawn to? Which friends did I enjoy the most and what topics of discussion did I find interesting?
Over the years I have learned to TRUST this still small voice in my head. I knew it would lead me onto the right path for me, I just had to pay attention.
Our friends came to visit from Costa Rica and tried to convince us to plan a vacation there. I wasn’t interested (seems crazy now but I think I was just too tired to think about it). But what REALLY surprised me was how I perked up at the idea of MOVING to Costa Rica and having my daughter do high school there. That was weird. Why would I be interested in moving to a place I’ve never been? Why would I rather live there, but not vacation there? I paid attention and made a mental note.
When we went to Costa Rica and fell in love with the nature, the people, and the feeling of being removed from our busy, stimulating world. As a life coach, I knew that Costa Rica wasn’t magical (even though it felt that way), it was who we became while we there that we fell in love with. I tried to bring those relaxation vibes home with me. I experimented and played around with how to make my life in the suburbs more like Costa Rica.
I planned an outing for my son and I before he left for University. I figured between it being my birthday and his last weekend at home, I could make him agree to do something fun with me one last time. We brought our bicycles, reserved some kayaks and drove to a lighthouse on the Pacific Coast to spend the night in a youth hostel.
In the morning I woke up to the most beautiful view I had ever seen.
Towering cliffs plunged into the sparkling blue ocean while birds dove into the waves looking for their morning meal. The gentle waves rolled on the pristine sandy beach inside a serene cove while out into the ocean, the waves crashed against rock formations. I was awestruck. The sea otters rode the undulating waves on their backs without a care in the world. As I sipped my latte overlooking this panoramic view, I felt a feeling that I knew I wanted more of. This beautiful clear day, in an unfamiliar place, filled with planned, outdoor activities and a very clear voice inside that said “THIS”. This is what I want.
When you spend 18 years raising kids, it’s easy to lose track of who you are. When nobody asks you, “What do you want to do this weekend, Mom?” or “What do you want to eat for lunch?” You forget to ask yourself those fundamental questions. Everyone else’s desires come through loud and clear but are own are quiet.
Our life’s purpose speaks to us through our desires. If we ignore our desires, we don’t know what our purpose is calling us towards.
This intuition, that we all have, gets our attention through yearning and discontent.
If we ignore the desire, it turns to discontentment.
If you ignore the discontentment, it turns into suffering.
After this a-ha weekend with my son, I found some friends who were willing to create a “Mom’s Adventure Club”. A group of moms whose “kids won’t play with them anymore”. We plan hikes, bike rides, kayaking, snowshoeing and skiing adventures. It has been a saving grace for me during COVID and the transition to having kids move out of my house.
I could have waited until I was sad, lost and lonely to figure out my empty nest strategy but why suffer if you don’t need to? Watching for clues of things that light you up, noticing where you feel jealous of others, what ignites you, imagining alternative life plans, is a light hearted way play at the game of life.
You are always living your purpose. You cannot escape it. It will either get your attention through yearnings and desires, or it will get it through suffering and discontent. It will never leave you.
Now as I get ready to leave the house I raised my kids in, I have to remind myself that this adventure is what I wanted. I didn’t want predictability, I wanted uncertainty and I’ve got it. I want that awestruck feeling of waking up and seeing something amazing. I want to spend more time outdoors having new experiences. My life feels scary and uncomfortable, but very aligned with my purpose. My plan is to live summer’s at the lake, winter’s in Costa Rica, and coach my clients from beautiful places around the world. I’m not sure how working while traveling is going to go but I am excited to obey the call to adventure I heard almost 5 years ago.
Following your purpose can involve a whole lot of suffering, or you can treat it like that game of you are getting warmer. You don’t know exactly where your destiny lies, but you have to take a step in some direction to find out if it feels warmer or colder. Even when you feel aligned with your purpose, something could change at any moment to uproot you. We never stop playing this game until the day we die. Does watching the news before bed make you feel warmer or colder? Does having a weekend with no plans make you feel warmer or colder? We are always changing but if you can keep a playful attitude while on this game of life, you will ENJOY the discovery of your purpose and eliminate unnecessary suffering.
Supermom Power Boost: Try this exercise at home.
Create 5 different paths for your future.
Your purpose isn’t just ONE thing. It’s about being the person you were meant to be. When we attach too tightly to things going a certain way, we get too rigid. One way to stay flexible and open minded in a constantly changing world is to create 5 different paths for your future.
Your job is replaced by Artificial Intelligence. Your marriage implodes. Another pandemic hits. Aliens abduct your family and no one believes you.
At any moment, something can derail your life. If this makes you feel anxious like it does me, exercise your creativity and come up with 5 alternative life plans. This way, your job is replaced by Artificial Intelligence, your marriage implodes, another pandemic hits or aliens abduct your family and no one believes you, you can just move on to Plan B. It’s a sneaky way of feeling in control of something you don’t have control over.
Here are my 5 alternative life plans, all of which I would be happy to pursue.
- I travel and work abroad with my husband, continuing to grow my podcast and coaching practice, from beautiful new places.
- I work at home but take time off to work in volunteer camps around the globe. Organizing trips for parents to come along with me and bring their teens.
- Find a small community that I love and want to get involved with. I teach kids, play golf, Pickleball, yoga, hike, and enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. Maybe I work a booth at art & wine on the weekends supporting a volunteer organization.
- I move abroad by myself and get a social job in the daytime where I can meet people (like waiting tables or some easy service job), then coach my clients at night.
- I live with a group of female friends, hosting speed dating events, working as a matchmaker and dating coach.
There are many ways to live your life’s purpose. You can’t NOT live your life’s purpose.
Even if you are suffering, that is coming from your higher self, trying to get your attention so you can get back in the flow of your life.