There are always so many ways to begin. So many stories. So many turning points in the narrative that is the history of our lives.
Here’s one turning point story.
Imagine if you can a timber-floored house, lit with sunlight, on an average street in a coastal town. There’s a woman sitting on the floor in the kitchen, holding a pregnancy test. A positive pregnancy test. Two blue lines grinning at her while she grapples with what all this means. She’s 36. Her marriage ended three weeks ago. She has three children already – daughters, 14, 7 and 18 months. She has a degree in science, graduated top of her year, collecting her degree heavily pregnant with her first child. She’s worked in agriculture, been a farmer, run a farm tourism business and currently works as a rural financial counsellor. And if she doesn’t ask herself the right questions in this moment, it’s likely she’ll go under.
Those two blue lines were my fourth daughter. She’s about to turn 6. She (like all of my daughters), I believe, saved me. I could not ask the question “Why me?” (Even though I really, really wanted to).
I instead asked the question “How can I do this?”.
I had always had a dream. A sense of wanting more from my life than mediocre. I may have framed it up as competition and being driven, but everything I did was motivated by a sense inside in me that I wanted my life to mean something, and I couldn’t just take the regular road. That morning, the discovery of my fourth child and a certainty I would be doing it alone was a massive wake up call for me. I’d already decided I was going to be a life coach, and start my own business and help people find their own pathway to the life that they wanted. It seemed hilarious and ironic that my life seemed to be getting less and less like the one I hoped for. But, here’s the thing. My beautiful dream. Happened. Because I asked the right questions, and I found that the dream was actually fuelled by purpose. And so I couldn’t not do it.
I found out what I needed to make it happen. There were three things that I’ll expand in a minute – space, rising and support.
Your path to purpose, like mine, has likely been a convoluted one. Mine involved many children, much relationship turmoil, many different jobs, many moments of thinking I might have found the way and many realising I was still lost.
The messages, no matter how they are delivered, are often made louder with shock and pain. When you finally get the message there’s the realisation that you ignored the quiet voice for a long time, until it pulled you up with a two-blue line slap in the face.
I do not believe I am here (in the world, writing this, doing what I do) because I am different or better or more able to manage. I believe I am here because we are all the same. I believe we all have a gift to the world. That through our own becoming we pave the way for others. My purpose has always been to find the gift inside me and then help others find theirs. Like that kid in “The Sixth Sense” I see things not all people can see. To say that out loud the first time was totally freaky to me. I don’t see dead people though – I see people’s magic, their purpose, their potential, all that is possible for them…and my job, if they are in front of me, is to help them bring it out. That is all.
A life on purpose is a very different life than the one that feels like an accident. I have four children, and only one them was “planned”. I seemed to go through life knowing there was more for me, but trying to get it by doing more, being busier, getting more qualifications and recognition, all whilst have more children and mostly being a single parent.
Did that make me brave? Did that make me amazing? Or did it just make me out of control?
A life on purpose has choice. I choose how I’m going to show up, who I’m going to show up with and what I do with my time, and how to do my work in a life that has many competing facets – motherhood, relationships, family, work, learning, living.
A life on purpose makes sense. Not in the traditional, sensible way but in that way that life feels like you thought life should. A life on purpose feels a certain way – the men I’ve asked have used words like “invincible”, “powerful”, “on task”, “focussed”; the women say “empowered”, “in flow”, “full”, “aligned”.
In purpose the thing you do (the writing, the art, the understanding, the words, the order) comes naturally to you, but it’s not always comfortable. It’s easy but intense. It requires you to keep showing up and levelling up and asking the right questions. It requires you to say no to the wrong things. It requires you to acknowledge you are not normal and want more for yourself and your people. It requires other people.
So here’s what I’ll do. I’m going to write about three things you can do to get closer to your purpose and bring it in to your everyday.
These things are likely to cause a ruckus in your life. A shake up. This is GOOD. This is what we want. Without this you will find that no matter how much you achieve, how much money you make, how well your kids do at school, how clean your house is, how nice your shoes are, how organised your life is it will still not fulfil you.
There is a life that you want – and it’s OK if it includes money and houses and shoes – and the question you need to be asking is “How can I do this?’.
- Make Space
Stop being so busy. Stop doing everything.
I have no doubt you are capable. I have no doubt you are good at most things. The best part about being crap at something is that generally you’ll get someone else to do it. But if you’re generally good and capable at most things, it’s almost impossible to not do them. But you must.
I can not be here if I am hanging out the washing. I can not be writing if I am organising the pantry and cooking dinner every night. I love a clean house and tidy looking kids like most parents, but if I am the person doing that then I resent them. The house, the children, the never-ending to do list of things that need doing (and I’m not disputing the need to eat here!). And I keep getting asked, “If I don’t who will?”. And I say to you, unless you ask “How can I do this?” and “this” is purpose, you will just keep doing everything and the thing that will slip away from you is the most magical and important thing about you.
The starting to point to purpose is making space for it in your life. You don’t have to know what it is yet (although I believe we all at least have an inkling and it’s connected somehow by a thread to all the things you’ve already done) and you don’t have to know how to do it. You just need to make space to hear it. It’s calling. It’s always been calling.
The starting point for me, back then with 2 blue lines, was to get a support system in place, to stop trying to do and be everything for my children and everyone else and actually ask for help and then (which was even more confronting) ACCEPT it. Without this though, all that would be possible for me would be surviving.
Expect more. Raise your standards. Be more.
This bit is super uncomfortable. This is the bit about continuing to show up. About vulnerability. About letting go of what you think everyone is thinking about you, and choosing to just show up.
It’s not doing more, it’s being more. Being honest. Asking questions. Calling people on the things that don’t fit or feel right you to. It’s have strong boundaries and self-belief and knowing what you believe in. One of the most powerful things about purpose is that it’s aligned with you, and integrity and your values and what you believe in and being able to speak about it – even and especially when not everyone agrees with you – brings you to the world.
When you start showing up as you, you have to be prepared to do it everywhere. I’m best at it for my clients. In a work context. Helping others. I had to learn how to show up for myself first and value who I was and what I did, and then I found a way to bring this to others. I learnt how to do it better in relationships. Heaps of trial and error there, but I’m so much better at showing up with my guy and in my friendships. The hardest place for me to show up is as a mother. Especially if I’m tired or stressed or busy or stuck in survival mode. Showing up then is hard. So that’s why not doing everything is the starting point. When you’re not just surviving there’s room to rise. To show up. To bring your wisdom and your connection to what or who is right in front of you.
And why does showing up matter? Why is authenticity the buzz-word is business? Why do relationships work better with vulnerability?
I believe your message or your magic or your genius is for some people. They’ve been waiting to hear it. From YOU (no pressure!). And if you don’t show up as yourself they won’t hear it, and without it they’ll still be lost. And I’m guessing. So will you.
The third and most possibly important thing (although it’s so wound in with the other two it’s hard to say)
Connect. Find your people
I believe that when you have purpose and are connected to others, life becomes real. I believe purpose and connection don’t allow depression or anxiety to take over. I believe anxiety is your calling, calling. I believe depression is the result of too much “settling” – of trying to make the situation you are in fit with you and be OK, even though you want more or something different. Depression is made up of too much silence. Of not speaking the truth. Mostly to yourself.
Earlier this year we moved house and in with my partner and his two children. It’s like I have a switch. Let’s call it “suburban housewife”. A model of a good mum and wife that just clicks on automatically when I get in a relationship. So automatic and seamless, I can’t even notice it’s happened. I was struggling to get up in the morning, and all the things that worked before weren’t working and I was trying to tell myself to be grateful for my beautiful new home, and healthy children, and supportive guy and I just couldn’t find time or space to write or work on my beautiful work, and I slowly started doing a lot more washing and controlling the kids. And then my friends, a collection of my bestest friends in the whole world says “We miss you!”, and I thought I was here all along. But the guy I love is looking at me like a rabbit in the headlights, and the kids can’t really look at me at all, and I’m guessing they’re all wondering where I went too?
So I had to rise, again. And re-centre myself in purpose. And find my people.
With purpose there is focus and directive. A direction. A path. With people there are the hand holders and the butt kickers, and the dreamers and the realists AND MOST IMPORTANTLY….they will not let you NOT do it.
Your support system is made of all the people who love you and your children, and whatever funny combination of family you have, and all the friends and the coaches and the teachers and the mentors. This is like the number one thing to have in place to be purposeful. It’s a choice to have a cleaner, or an au pair (a live-in nanny) or someone who cooks meals or someone who helps out with kids after school one day or supports you to have time to exercise or go on dates with your love or go to work each day. A choice. You can make it about money or the cost or you can make time your most precious resource and ask the question “How can I do this?” followed by “And who will help me?”
And here’s what happens. When all those three things come together…
There’s space, and in space magic grows. Ideas. Innovation. Hope. Creativity. The most valuable stuff you have to offer. Already inside you.
And when you rise and you’re showing up, your people – the ones who believe what you believe – will see you and hear you, and they’ll resonate with what you offer or who you are and suddenly you’ll not only be doing your favourite work all day, you‘ll be doing it with all your favourite people.
The ones who only know you as yourself. Who expect nothing less.
And that life? Feels incredible.
And that, most simply, is the power of purpose.
Footnote: This was shared originally as an Inspired Live event. Go to Inspired to see the video version.
PS: Don’t know your purpose? Can’t figure out what you’re supposed to be doing? Feeling busy and overwhelmed but unsatisfied? Here’s how you can talk to me about it. Click here and pop in your details. I’ll call you. No pressure. Just an honest look at where you are.