Contrary to the stereotype many of us hold, inspired living is not exclusive to monks meditating on mountains, musicians penning lyrics, or writers waiting for their next big idea while strolling beaches. We all have access to a life that is inspired and tied to a sense of purpose.
I have compassion for younger colleagues and people new to a role struggling with the notion of finding their purpose, as though it is a tiny needle in a world-wide haystack. This can be a much simpler process than we make it. Going from the general to the specific is a helpful place to begin. For example, part of my intended purpose is to be used at my highest potential in every moment. I see that as an overarching intention that guides my decisions. One day it might mean I’m coaching a team to higher performance, and another, I might reunite a lost child with her mother in a Christmas parade. Both are meaningful and important. When we know what our values are, and what we stand for, identifying our purpose comes more organically, with ease. A few weeks ago, I published this article on writing a personal manifesto that makes a great starting place: “Harnessing the Power of a Personal Manifesto: What Do You Stand For?”
Once we know what is most meaningful to us, we have to be very selective about the few things we commit ourselves to in this world of infinite choices. Otherwise, we run the risk of spreading our attention and time so thin that we aren’t able to make a deep and meaningful impact in any area. We can easily have our energy and attention diffused by social media, work issues, family dynamics and our creative interests. Discernment about priorities is key. Maybe we can have it all, but not all at once.
If we are so busy that we are constantly in reactive mode to something external, there is no room for inspiration. Having access to inspiration means we are listening to internal cues that might be subtle. Head, heart and gut are in tandem with each other. We leave room in our schedules for serendipity. We ask for inspiration, then listen quietly to hear what comes forth. We spend ample reflective time to see the patterns in life—the metaphors all around us informing us on intuitive levels.
In The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros encourages teachers and students to use the DEAR acronym to remind them of the power of reflection – the letters stand for drop everything and reflect. We do this to keep ourselves awake, aware and present to what is happening. If we are running from phone call to phone call or event to event without taking time to process, we easily miss so much. We have these amazing minds that inform and expand and create beautifully when we give them time, space and freedom to do that.
One of my favorite vacations was when my husband and I visited San Diego and agreed to be spontaneous each day. We had planned a trip to Old Town and were about to board a train to get there, when we both felt inspired to do something else. We hopped back in the rental car and drove to Balboa park, where we found our way to some artists’ studio spaces and had a delightful afternoon seeing beautiful art and enjoying the artists’ company as they worked on large sculptures. We discovered that we could return on Sunday and hear an outdoor concert performed with the largest pipe organ in the US, which was delightful. There was such a sense of freedom about allowing our desire in the moment direct where we went next, we both count that as one of our best trips ever.
“You can’t plan an inspired life” — Tama Kieves
A few years ago, I heard Tama Kieves, the author of the bestselling This Time I Dancespeak on this topic and the following quote stuck with me: “You can’t plan an inspired life.” You can’t because life is dynamic and changing in every second. New opportunities are born every moment. If we can learn to leave room in our schedule for something wonderful and invite inspiration to speak, it will. To live like that means we have to be flexible–rigidity and inspiration do not go together. We must bring curiosity into our reflections asking questions like, “What if I tried this?” or “I wonder where that leads?”
If we are clear about our overarching intentions, like to make a positive impact and contribute—those objectives can be met in unlimited ways, whether or not we are employees or entrepreneurs or both. As we trust ourselves and the world to provide opportunity every day for our expressions and others’ desires to coincide, beautiful synchronicities happen. We don’t have to have a purpose statement nailed down to be living a purposeful life. Relax, and allow life to unfold with new opportunities every day. It always does. Listen for your muse, and follow where it takes you.