What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Posts Tagged ‘relationships

If you’ve been reading along in my series on going to graduate school, you might at some point in the process get overwhelmed.  That’s totally normal.

If it’s helpful, I get overwhelmed as much as the next person.  Thinking about life… career options… relationships… from the big picture to the smallest pixel… there are moments when it can all become too much.

From questioning where one might to live, work, study, or raise a family?  to considering what others might think?  how it might work?  or even what might happen if…? Sometimes, it can be good to pause, take a minute to breathe, and consider the larger purpose of why we are heading off to do something.

Just like anyone, I can get caught up in exploring the enormity of options, unknown variables, quantity of elements to coordinate, etc…that it’s just a seemingly never-ending pointless laundry list of tasks and duties and responsibilities…and it’s at that moment, especially if I find myself discouraged, frustrated, or wanting to just quit, one of the most powerful things I’ve found I can do for myself and others is to ask “What’s the Point?”

Try it.  Take a deeeeeeep to-the-belly-kind-of-breathe…hold in and sloooowwwwwlyyy–as slowly as you possibly can– but evenly…let your breath out.  Gather your focus in doing so.   Slow your heart rate by slowly breathing in and out.  Ask yourself: “What’s the Point?”

When I’m asking “What’s the Point?” it’s not typically in a despairingly dramatic “ohhhhhh woe is me….what is the point of living…” while swooning, gnashing my teeth, and falling on my heroic but trite sword of death, while whining that “it’s not faaaairrrr.”  Not typically.   but you know everyone has their moments.  😉

More helpful in asking “What’s the Point”, I’ve found, is that it calls for a focus on purpose or mission.  In  Breaking the Rules, A Visionary’s Guide to Effortless High Performance, Kurt Wright examines the difference between a goal and a purpose.  For example, going to graduate school or getting a job is a goal.  It is a specific (albeit large) task that can be accomplished.   Goals are great.  But, a goal without a reason is hollow, demotivating, and unlikely to be successful.

Consider any time someone orders you to do something.  It really typically doesn’t matter who it is doing the ordering: it could be your mom, your boss, your significant other or roommate; it could even be yourself, but almost every time, our natural response is “Why?”  Often that “why” question is a way to resist…or contest power…but that’s deeply understandable.  Anytime we commit our time, energy, and resources to a task, it it is more helpful to know why we are doing so, than to simply march forward with a 1000-yard stare into meaningless action.

So, in someways whenever we get overwhelmed, frustrated, or otherwise feeling grumpy about something, it can be useful to take a moment to consider that core “Why” questions because the answer is central to providing a motivating reason to each goal.  Providing context and purpose is key to swift action and to meaningful results.

“What is the Point?” is another way of asking “Why?’ and gets at the central motivating reason or purpose of the goal.    Knowing the purpose of a goal is much more likely to move me into action.  Simply telling myself “I have to do this or that” makes me actually resist or procrastinate action.  When, we know why we are doing something, we have the power of choice.

Yet, if it’s helpful for me to share, sometimes that all important “why?” question can simply be too confrontational, too personal, too combative, or too philosophical to be helpful in asking ourselves and others.  It’s a crucially important question to ask, but because it’s the most core question,it can be too much for us to address, especially at stressful moments in life.

For example, even people close to us…even when we mean no confrontation…even when we ask a simple curious “so, why’d you park out front, honey?”…and it’s not a deep philosophical issue that requires soul searching…people can snap at you when you ask “why?”

So, here are ways to ask “why” in more effective frames:

  • What’s the larger mission?  What’s the central purpose?
  • Where does the mission point?
  • How does the larger purpose or mission frame options?
  • When does the mission connect?
  • Who benefits?

Ask yourself these questions at any point along the way.  Asking and answering these can keep you going, as well as keep you focused and motivated.

It can also be a great tool in crisis.

  • So, if you haven’t yet articulated a specific mission and find yourself adrift, unfocused or unmotivated, this can be a great jump start.
  • Or, if you at one point were on a mission and then started to forget to keep checking in with your mission and begin to get frustrated and overwhelmed, this can knock you out of your rut.
  • Or perhaps like all of us, even when you are clear on a mission, certain days and experiences are just hell.   Being able to not get stuck there is key.

Asking great questions, creating mission statements, or reciting inspiring quotations  and the like are a powerful tools in controlling our thoughts, beliefs, motivations, actions, and are a few of the key elements of transforming our lives on our terms.

Sending fabulous energy!

All of us want to be liked, but most of us feel it’s a bit of a random process of who likes us and who doesn’t.  We worry and obsess about whether or not someone might like us or not, but we often feel that it’s not something we can control.  That’s totally normal and understandable.

So, let me share a secret with you…and this is the honest truth: I was voted class introvert in high school.  Painfully shy and insecure, most days I felt like nobody liked me.   What I discovered over time was that feeling came from not fundamentally liking myself very much.  In that I discovered a bigger secret that can benefit us all.

So, want to know how to make people like you?  It works almost every single time…with all people and all situtations.  And, if it doesn’t, you will know that it wasn’t you.  That you’ve done everything you can do.  It’s a powerful tool and it’s very simple.

There are two ways to make people like you:

  1. Like them first
  2. Be helpful

There it is.  So, whether it’s a social gathering, a job interview, or first date….if you want someone to like you (and that is completely up to YOU) then start by just liking them first.

Find something about them that you can genuinely like. For some people that might be that you like their shoes, for others it may be that you have a shared interest in a cause or field of study, and for still others it may be that you like what they do.   The like has to be genuine for it to work or you will do more damage than good by being fake.

Then, if you want to build on that initial sense of like and create a solid relationship, focus on being helpful.

And, by helpful, I don’t necessarily mean you need to go tromping though someone’s life doing stuff for them.  Often there are things people do because they mean to be helpful, but aren’t because they are intrusive, bossy, or irritating.  That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.  Rather, adopting a spirit of helpfulness or an openness to being asked for help is more on target.

For example, after chatting with someone,  a simple “it was so very nice to talk with you today.  If there is ever any way I can be helpful to you, let me know”  can do wonders in building long term relationships.  It doesn’t matter who the other person is or who you are.   This offer of help resonates with people as deeply likable.   You don’t commit to anything in particular and of course reserve the right to say no if what they ask isn’t something you can do, but you hold out an openness to helping them but don’t assume you know what might be helpful.

All of that communicated very simply, honestly, and directly.  Likably.

So, just try it to see.  Smile at a stranger.  Talk with someone sitting by you at a meeting or in class.   Take a leap of faith and know that you are deeply likable and there is absolutely no reason why someone wouldn’t like you if you like them first and radiate helpfulness.   Life’s so much more fun when you like people. …  Starting with yourself.

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium.   In this deeply powerful lecture, he provides a number of great examples of where he ran into a brick wall and yet still made his dream happen.    One of his lessons that he shares is that the “brick walls are for the OTHER people.  The people who don’t want it as bad as you.”

In a similar vein, what if the brick walls aren’t really brick walls?   What if you could regard them as walls on swimming pool?   As a swimmer you can of course choose to be stopped by the wall and continue ramming your head into the wall…each time cursing at the wall and saying “WHY ME! why, oh, why does this brick wall ALWAYS get in my way!”

Or, you might choose like many swimmers to regard the wall as something to turn and kick off of, gaining more momentum and speed as you turn using it as a spring board, not a stopping point.

So, what if you asked yourself, what are you currently regarding as a brick wall?  What are you allowing to get in your way?

  • What else could you do?  What is another way to see the situation?
  • Who else might you speak with to get another perspective?
  • What about your approach or energy might you choose to change to better facilitate a solution?

So, truly, what if not only are the brick walls for the OTHER people, but also that the walls might actually be spring boards so long as you are focused and on a mission?

What might that mean for you?

Where we often discover our passions in people and develop our purpose in learning, we can discover unlimited motivation when we apply passion and purpose in our practice.

People will ask me “is that class hard?” or “isn’t going to law school hard?   And, I ask, “is cleaning my bathroom hard?  I mean, really, it is and it isn’t.

It is not physically or mentally hard to clear my bathroom.  I still don’t want to do it.  I don’t know, maybe you do?  if you are a complusive bathroom cleaner,  bully for you.   I still find it hard to clean.  That is, until 1 or 2 things happen:

1) If someone is coming over who cares about a clean bathroom, I in let’s say 15 min or so, tidy up the bathroom to appropriately spic and span condition.   This is crisis motivation.

2) I can choose to identify why I care about a clean bathroom.  I can decide I would really like to have a clean bathroom.  I can tell myself that I can clean the sink as I brush my teeth and scrub out the tub as part of the end of  a shower.

So, what if that is true in all of life?  Things can be hard if we choose to see them as hard.  We can make huge mental barriers, invest in limiting beliefs, invent assumptions, and embrace interpretations of all sorts to make things hard.  Many of us live in a state of perpetual stuckness (or “it’s hard”) until we are motivated by crisis.   We resist doing until we finally feel so compelled by outside forces that we “have to” do something.

Or, as in my 2nd option, what if we can choose to identify how we might put what we care about into practice in small ways?  How might that be productive for you?

What does it mean to have purpose?  to be ON PURPOSE?

A lot of people will start naming goals, like graduate from college or get a job.   Those are goals.  So, what is the relationship between goals and purpose?  Well, goals are defined, tangible accomplishments.   Purpose is the reason why.  Purpose is the reason for the goal.

So, why did you choose these goals?  perhaps the honest answer is that you didn’t choose the goals.  perhaps the goals were given to you, expected of you, and you thought you had no other choice but to pick up the goals and slug through, racing to the finish line, hoping that it will provide happiness.

Consider the following questions:

  • What do you want most out of life?
  • What would you like to see happen in the world?
  • What makes you special?
  • What would you like to accomplish right now?

Make a list of at least 3-5 items in each area and circle the elment that is most important to you or provides the others.  Take those 4 elements and make it a sentence.

I will (Take the circled item from List 4) , using my (Take the circled item from List 3), to accomplish (Take the circled item from List 2 , and in doing so, also achieve (Take the circled item from List 1) .

Read this out loud to yourself and let it settle in.

How does it feel to know your purpose?  How does it feel to know it is YOUR purpose?

Keep in mind this a draft and you can continue to polish it up.  So, what if you can choose to put it somewhere you can see it on a daily basis?  What if you could put it on your screen saver?  put it in your journal?  put it on your mirror?  make it a creative collage?

What is the power of music?  Does it change your mood or frame of reference when you listen to an upbeat song or a old favorite?

What if song is not only external but also internal? How might our thoughts be like lyrics in a song with a specific refrain?

How might you choose to express your voice in ways that better serve you?

What if we could see life not as a series of arbitrary barriers preventing us from experiencing success?

What if we could believe that life is not a chronological time-line where we struggle, gasping through each day holding out for the mystical “someday” of calm security?

What if we can imagine  life not as a marathon run at spring pacing, where we never measure up to the insistent to-do list, and we perpetually aren’t good enough to enjoy happiness

What if instead we could choose to see life as a building process where learning from each experience, each relationship, each layer has purpose?

What if it was possible to believe that we create our solid foundation of success by living our values in daily practice?

What if we could imagine that we find success every day when we move with passionate curiosity?

How might the whole process become more meaningful, joyful, and successful, if we each had a purpose we could practice with passion each day in each relationship?

What if life is an improv dance? What if you could read through http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyrical_dance and see how each element could apply to how we might choose to live our life? How might you apply the ideas of fluid movement or passionate expression in your life? in your relationships? in your career? What would it mean to see it that way?

Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVPKnNXWr9s for inspiration

How often do we say “I just have to get through this?” What does “getting through” really mean? How does that drain your energy? What does it mean when we set up educational goals, classes, career aspirations, family get togethers, and other activities, but tell ourselves that we just need to “get though” it?

Many of us envision our lives on a time-line , like in history class… Often this timeline has only the big milestone markers on it, like high school graduation, college graduation, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, and then die. There is a distinct beginning and end to things. There is a sharp fracture between milestones, at each marker a total shift of being or behaviors. Often these goals or milestones don’t seem very connected to each other and then also, even when we do reach these milestones, they frequently feel like hollow victories. At each milestone moment we expect that we will feel more complete, more “grown up,” more successful, but each time we get to the milestone and are left feeling like “this is it?” and then move on to “face what’s next.”

So, what if we are not really on a timeline? What if, instead, we are building our foundation with each thing that we do? What if we are not getting through calculus, getting through the degree, or getting through the day? What if we are really building our foundation with our education? What if each class, each conversation, and each new idea or experience is part of our foundation of success?

What is the purpose of a foundation? How does the foundation function in a building? What happens if my foundation is very broad? Very deep? Very intentionally set together? What am I able to do with my house if my foundation is very solid? How does a strong foundation empower us to have a more fabulous house? So, how could that change the value of education, if we saw each experience as part of our foundation? What if each experience is set in place as a piece of our foundation when we consciously decide to learn from our actions, others’ responses, how we feel, the material, the patterns, the connections, in essence the building material of our foundation. How is it helpful to see how each experience as connected to previous experiences and set an intention as to future experiences? How could it be beneficial to explore how we could practice our new intention in specific ways? How does that empower us to take our foundation to the next level?

What might the value be of not “getting through” anything, but rather simply celebrating each learning experience? What if we could see not mistakes, but rather opportunities to learn and grow? How could that release us to enjoy our present and truly celebrate each experience? How might that change our energy to transform our image of moving through life, one huge far away milestone at a time, to an image of building foundation and like a spiral staircase, we circle around the same values because we are still ourselves, but each time, each learning experience, we become better, truer versions of ourselves, when we learn?

How could this shift of energy be helpful to our friends? Our families? Ourselves? What might we change in our interactions with them if we saw each experience, each class, each conversation, each moment as having the potential to learn and to grow? What if we were looking for the growth and could focus on what we are doing right? What would be the benefit of building on each person’s strengths? How might that focus on what we are doing right change our engagement in the learning process? In life?

How might that build stronger foundations for ourselves when we see what we can do? What we have learned? How might it color our college and career experiences if we saw the meaning and relevance of each moment? How might it empower us all to compose our success with each learning experience?

We have all heard that networking is fundamental to our career. We may have even remarked with a touch of bitterness at times that it is “not what you know but who you know” that determines success in our careers. Yet, we clearly believe it IS important to focus on what we know because we continually invest in education. What we know is crucial to our success in life, crucial to our ability to lead, and crucial to confidence, but what if it is equally important to know who we are, what we value in relationships, and practice building community in service to those values? How could it be beneficial to focus on how what we know relates to who we know? How could that build a lifetime of successes?

So, how do children network? What would it mean to see networking as building friendships? As being in relationship with others?  As building community around common values? So,  how do we learn to build relationships at school? At home? How can we learn to take those skills with them as they envision possible careers? How is education in this key developmental way a stage of life, not
preparation for life? If we see life as a process of building relationships, and that starts as children, the stronger a foundation we create in our neighborhoods and schools, the more opportunities we tap.

As we set about to create opportunities for ourselves, how is having a grounded sense of self as innately likeable just as crucial to success as grades or natural intelligence? What if the kernel of truth in “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” means that success is first and foremost about knowing who you are? And, THEN forming strong relationships that build our strengths so we shine?

When hiring a professional, certain experiences and skills are likely to move a candidate into the interviewing pool, but the question of getting hired will rest on how well the candidate resonates with the organization. Central to establishing a good fit is a candidate able to clearly articulate who they are and how they fit into the organization. So, bottom line, people hire people because they like them. This is not a bad thing. This is crucial to making sure there are great relationships at work. Great teams begin with great relationships. Great relationships start with great communication skills.

This desire to resonate is true in friendships as well. We might notice particular interests, witty remarks, or knowledgeable observations, but the reason we move from surface level similarities to great friendships is because of HOW the information was shared. Did their humor, ideas, or actions resonate with ours? Were they likeable? So, again, what we know is very important, but, if not shared appropriately, knowledge alone doesn’t motivate buy in, loyalty, or build solid relationships.

When we learn from our relationships and when we have great relationships with our educators, we have greater knowledge of self, greater likability, and greater success. So, what kinds of relationship do we want to form with our peers? What about with ourselves? What if each of us really knew who we were? What would be the power of them articulating what we value about relationships? How might our success depend on it?

Evelyn Van Til

Practicing Purpose with Passion!