Archive for August, 2008

Do you really need to know your life purpose?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

I recently read a post from another life coach that made a case against expending time and thought to uncover your life’s purpose. Her main argument is that we all have life purposes, often more than one, but if we waste time trying to discover what they are, we waste our lives, period. In other words, just get moving and you’ll be following the path of your purpose…it happens naturally.

I’ve been pondering her post for a few days. It challenged me, and I had a strong reaction to it, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was just my ego reacting because I had recently written an article extolling the benefits of uncovering one’s life purpose. My point was that if you struggle with decision-making, it is easier to evaluate competing options by measuring them against the standard of your life purpose. Which decision aligns you with your reason for being, if you will? If you know where you are going, but are momentarily “lost,” you can get out the compass of your life purpose and find your way again.

The argument she made, however, was interesting in that if you just stop agonizing over where you are going and follow your instincts, you are bound to naturally end up somewhere you will ultimately benefit from being. I can see that, because I believe that whatever you encounter in life, it’s an opportunity for growth and learning. Sooner or later you stop in a town that feels enormously familiar and if you are open to possibilities, not limited by a narrow view of “this is my purpose; this is who I am,” then you may frequently discover new and remarkable places to explore in your life.

But what do we mean when we talk about life purpose, anyway? On a very basic biological level it is nothing more than to survive and procreate. As a species, we have done that quite well–all too well–and often at the expense of each other, as well as everything else on this planet. It does not require any conscious thought to follow our biological imperative and find a way to continue our existence, no matter the cost or sacrifice. It does, however, take conscious effort to consider the consequences of our biological imperative, which brings us to the spiritual, or at least philosophical, question of why we are here, beyond the mere fact of our existence and instinct to survive as a species.

It’s true that there is no need to ask this question in order to keep traveling through life, but if we don’t stop to consider, “What is my life purpose?” can we ever really say that we are “in choice’ about the myriad of options we face moment to moment?

How to nourish creativity: Google knows how

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I just received a forwarded email from a friend on the East Coast. It’s a series of photos showing all of the “fun” employee-oriented perks at Google headquarters: “decompression capsules,” slides that take you from one floor to another, pool tables and video games, massage chairs, a cozy library, only 4-6 people per work area and other amenities that, I guess, make the rest of the country’s employees green with envy. The conclusion of the email asks, “When do they work?” and “How much do the employees pay to work there?”

Few could argue that Google is just pampering its employees.  These “perks” are just a few of the ways Google encourages the creative productivity that has made it great at what it does. It’s one of the finest examples today that the American Dream is still alive and doing well.

While living and working in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to visit a number of different offices in the tech and marketing industries. In creative industries, they recognize the need to give all employees an environment in which the ideas flow, because you never know where, when and from whom an innovative idea will emerge.

While the offices I visited didn’t have everything on quite this scale, all of them had elements of these features incorporated into the work environment. Nearly all had cozy living-room style lounges where you could go off to de-stress and hang out. All of them provided a variety of free snacks and drinks for employees, and games like pool, table tennis and darts were in evidence. Some had bars where Friday evening happy hour could start an hour early. At the marketing agency where I worked, there were white boards in nearly every office and rolling white boards in the open creative department area. Play spawns creativity and it’s a good idea to have something to write on when a brainstorm ensues.
Mental and physical health, too, is a big priority, because these people work very hard, putting in long hours when a project is on deadline. They deliver. In their spare time they go hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock-climbing in addition to doing the usual partying like the rest of humanity. And when they are not working or recreating in the beautiful outdoors, they are busy supporting the economy by buying and playing with the latest tech toys other Bay Area folks have invented while working in similar environments.
To those who work in lackluster cubicles with unhappy, complaining co-workers, it must sound like a dream, but in the Bay Area, this is how business is done. I don’t think employees in the rest of the country are complaining about Google as they clandestinely log on to the Internet while they are “supposed” to be working! Its too bad they have to sneak around to have a few minutes of leisure to clear their heads.

Time for you, yet?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Everyone used to tell me to take more time for myself, but I was on the proverbial treadmill, doing for my bosses and always being available to my loved ones when I wasn’t at the office. Time for myself was out of the question. I became so compulsive about doing for others that when I didn’t have anything to do for anyone else, instead of enjoying an activity of my own choosing—something that nurtured the things that I’d always claimed were important to me—I would pick up the phone and call a friend to find out what was important in her life.

I seem to have equated my self-worth with how perfectly I could serve the needs of others. I thought by so doing I could prove I was not self-centered and self-absorbed. I was so wedded to this concept of serving others that I couldn’t conceive of letting go and noticing all the large and small ways I was not serving numero uno. A voice inside often reminded me that taking precious time to consider my own needs was selfish, even though my childrearing days were long over.

Then, one day after I’d studied coaching, it struck me that I was giving away my priceless life in service to others who were using it to pursue their own dreams. At my job I was getting paid well, but I was not spending any of my time practicing or pursuing activities that nourished and supported me in ways other than financially. For me, the only way to overcome this inequity was to do something radical. I quit ignoring my needs cold turkey. I left my job, retreated to relative seclusion far from family members, and got a friend to pay back a loan I’d made to her by covering my living expenses for the year.

I have spent the past year being completely self-absorbed—and learned to love it! I’ve devoted myself solely to examining who I am and what my purpose is, and to acquiring some of the skills I need to live a fulfilling life. My loved ones (none of whom really needed my attention 24/7 anyway, since they are all adults) survived well enough. I seem to have defined new boundaries for myself in the process. I realized that I’d actually been resentful of all that I did for them, so I was constantly reminding them of what a huge sacrifice I was making on their behalf. That was tantamount to holding them emotionally hostage, which is what my slavish devotion to them actually was doing to myself!

On a recent airline flight I was reminded of the common sense logic of all this, as the flight attendant went through the familiar litany of instructions in the event that the oxygen masks drop. Put on your mask first before helping others. Helloooooo.

If you aren’t breathing, it’s awfully hard to help anyone else!

Pursuit of Prosperity: What are you worth?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Money is not good or evil. Like everything in life, it is both, and how you perceive it is personal. What is money exactly? We don’t even see it anymore. We swipe a plastic card and somewhere in cyberspace funds are moved electronically from one bank account to another representing someone giving monetary value to someone or something. So the amount of “money” we receive for work or services we perform is simply a representation of what our work or services, and by extension, ourselves are “worth” to someone else.

The more important question is, What are you worth to yourself? If you want to attract prosperity, you have to first believe that you are valuable and that what you give is valuable. Without that first crucial step, you are not going to be attracting enough money to sustain yourself.

Is your life worth living? Then it is worth getting paid, at the very least, enough for necessities. If you believe you’re more valuable than that, you will always be taking steps, even unconsciously, to receive more. If you believe what you do benefits others, you will receive enough money and enough fulfillment to be happy and secure. In other words, it all starts with whether or not you believe you are valuable.

Scrabble is like life

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Sometimes you look at the seven tiles you’ve got, and all you can think of making from them is a two letter word. That’s it, that’s all you’ve got this round. Other times you can take all seven letters, miraculously arrange them to form a big, fat juicy word with a “Q” or a  “Z” or an “X” or a “J” or all four of them across two triple word scores! If you play just for fun sometimes, like I do, and you show your letters to someone else, they immediately see the potential you can’t. You are amazed (and embarrassed) when they whip them into a word where you saw only yowling vowels or dissonant consonants. In either case, you’ve got all the tiles, but you just can’t put them together.

So what if you can only make a two or three letter word that doesn’t land on any colored squares? You still get to pick a couple of new ones. There is fresh potential in every pick, every round, every set of seven letters. It’s all in the way you “see” them.

Like I said, Scrabble is like life.