Are you — or someone you know — going through a transitional period in life?
A lot of folks are being thrust into changes due to the following conditions:
- job layoff
- empty nest
- care-giving change
- “Act Two” in their life
- seeking more purpose
Some of these changes are sudden, and quick action is needed. Others have the luxury of contemplation, although this has its own double-edged sword. You can ponder something too long — second-guessing every possible outcome.
There’s no question these defining moments in life call for careful examination. At times, you don’t know where to turn.
It’s an inside job
It’s always a good idea to go inside and listen. Too often, we’re caught up in the noise of the outside world and what we “should” do. If this change has been sudden, there are likely emotions such as fear, sadness and anger that can get in the way of thinking clearly.
An external force outside your control may have caused a quick change in your life, so it’s natural to feel these emotions. Even if you learn much later that this shift actually worked out in your best interests, it’s pretty hard to see that when you’re in the midst of a crisis. You may just feel like lashing out — or numbing out.
On the other hand, your change may be providing you with additional bandwidth to spend more time on things that really matter to you. While this is exciting, it can also be daunting.
As human beings, we’re generally creatures of habit, and we’re not quick to welcome change. Breaking from our routines can present quite a challenge.
Living life on purpose
One thing’s for certain — we all need purpose in our lives. And that can change over time.
I’ve run across three books lately that could be helpful resources if you’re pondering your purpose:
- “Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life,” by Gregg Levoy
- “True Purpose,” by Tim Kelley
- “Thrive in Retirement,” by Eric Thurman
Author Levoy asked some probing questions while researching his book — and offers signs for examination. “How do you know if it’s a true call?” “How do you know whether the call comes from soul/God/passion or whether it comes from ego/wishful thinking/the desire for financial security/the desire to show the bastards?”
The responses people gave Levoy were extremely consistent.
Signs a calling is true
- It keeps coming back, no matter how much you ignore it. Our passions and callings may be “still small voices,” yet they have staying power.
- A true call tends to come at you from multiple directions — gifts, talents, dreams both day and night, body symptoms, synchronicities, books that come across your radar and the way events and opportunities show up. There’s a clustering effect, and you get to connect the dots.
- It just feels right. You may not be able to explain it; but you can’t deny it, either.
- Your enthusiasm tends to sustain itself over time and doesn’t wane after a few weeks or months. You even feel a kind of affection for all the mundane tasks involved in bringing this passion to fruition. No matter how exalted, every passion or calling has its own version of stuffing envelopes or making cold calls. Anyone who has ever been in a play or a band knows that the amount of time they spend rehearsing compared to performing is something like 90/10. It’s passion that largely explains the willingness to put up with that equation.
- It scares you. Some people even told Levoy that if a calling felt safe, it probably wasn’t the right path. If it scared them, though, it was likely true because it stirred their souls — and meant they were getting close to something vital.
- The truth or falseness of a calling is ultimately in the results. You’ve got to be willing to try it out, experiment with it and to go down the path a little way — even if you’re not sure it’s the right path.
How do you start?
Baby steps can provide signals. Surf the internet for information or go to a library or bookstore and browse.
Take one small step toward an area that you’re passionate about. Sign up for a course or seek an interview with someone in your field of interest. Volunteer.
Look at the feedback life gives you. Does your energy expand or contract? Take another step, and see if you feel more awake or asleep. Another step — what do your dreams at night tell you? Another step — what does your body tell you? Are resources showing up for you — people, opportunities or “coincidences”?
Stop, look and listen
It’s probably better to keep this experimentation to yourself at first. You don’t want other people to dash your dreams prematurely.
This is also something you can do at your own pace. You don’t need to quit your job or move across the country. At least not at first. If the six signs keep coming up for you, though, stop to pay attention.
That could be your soul speaking to you. And it doesn’t take much to feed it. In fact, we tend to drown out our souls in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So, a few crumbs tossed its way can seem like a loaf.
Will the rest of your life be the best of your life?