What should I do with my life?

What should I do with my life?

I’ve had conversations recently with colleagues, clients and friends who have been re-examining the direction of their life and work… They’ve felt unfulfilled, frustrated, empty, and in touch with an inner deadness that is demanding to be brought to life. I’m no stranger to the experience, myself, of course – two years ago I had an idea about writing a children’s story about a dragon who loses his fire, and goes in search of it. In exploring this idea, I had to admit that I was that dragon! I think many of us reach a point where we feel inauthentic and unfulfilled, doing what we do. But what do we do next? How do we intervene in the unfolding of our own life, at these points when our Purpose calls for a different kind of attention?

Author Todd Henry believes in a cultivating a sense of identity that illuminates where you want to go to and how to get there. In other words, if you want to find your ‘calling’ you must first ask some serious questions about who you are at this point of your life. Perhaps this sounds obvious, but in my experience, most of us separate our Being from our Doing – work can become something we do by rote, to earn money and/or status, rather than something that is a creative expression of our being in the world. That might be fine for a while, but ultimately, who we really are craves our attention.

I agree with Henry. To begin to answer the question ‘what should I do with my life?’ requires us to look in the deep dark truthful mirror of our identity. We need to explore our desires,  our dreams, our untaken directions, and to experiment with designing a different version of our self. The right kind of coaching can really help here – this is not about performance coaching or career coaching, but ontological coaching. I often take clients on specially-designed 1-2-1 retreats called ‘PurposeQuests’ where we explore and challenge the organising narratives of our life. Getting the themes and patterns of your life reflected back to you in ways that open unimagined possibilities can be deeply satisfying.

Sometimes these Quests involve re-examining the loves we put aside at some points in our lives, and become re-acquainted with them… For example, as a younger man I loved acting and the arts, yet chose to put these sources of pleasure and fulfilment aside to concentrate on a career in business. Finding new ways to integrate arts-based approaches in my work has opened up incredibly revitalising sources of meaning as well as income for me. Currently I’m exploring how film-making and culture change can enrich my OD work and my clients’ results…

There are also lots of wonderful books that can inspire this search for new direction – some of my own favourites include writing by Po Bronson, Parker J Palmer and Julia Cameron.

Whatever you do, when you begin to question your calling, begin with exploring whether the ‘self’ you are in touch with is simply too small for you – and have the courage to go beyond what you believe others in your life need you to be…

Posted in Change Coaching Creativity Happiness Work on Friday, Jan 1st, 2016

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