There’s a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes like this:
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
I love this quote.
But, besides being an admirer of Mark Twain’s genius as a writer, I’ve been inspired in more recent years by the “inner work” that he did. When the family trust finally released his autobiography 100 years after his death in 2010, I listened to it in audiobook form and it was a revelation.
He dictated much of it from his bed or porch the last 10 years of his life. The book contains the journal-style, reflective way he thought of his life and everything in it. Through this intimate foray into Twain’s remarkable memories, he describes in his words certain recollections, and also actively revises, dreams and wonders out loud, creating in the process a divinely jumbled process that evokes his own experiences and feelings as though he is both reliving them, and also possibly editing them!
The net effect for me: it was like sitting in the room with him listening to the inner workings of his mind.
What a delight.
Being a life coach is a little like that for me now, too, with my clients.
I have the incredible privilege of listening to you tell the story of your life. And, to help you learn to understand your own inner world, while you concurrently express it in the real world. You are the author of your life story.
It’s undeniable: no one else on the planet is like you. And because authenticity—living an authentic life, your "best life"—involves continual growth and self-knowledge, understanding, a life coach can help you define the WHO and WHY of your life.
One of the exercises we engage clients in is developing their own life purpose statement. So those two questions, “who am I?” and “why am I here?” can truly be answered.
Wait, what? You mean, it’s possible to write out your life purpose? Um, yes.
It’s part art and part science—it’s definitely a creative process but it has structure to it. I guide you to use your mind, body, and soul, and not just what your intellect alone tells you to want.
With a purpose statement exercise, I help you first understand a couple of things:
1. Whether or not you are conscious of it, you have been living out your purpose in some way already.
2. Like Mark Twain’s "unconscious" ramblings, you have an opportunity to tell it out loud, to write it, because it is based on your life and what you have already experienced and felt.
3. You already know some things, again, because you have learned about yourself from many years of living.
Of course, client purpose statements are unique. You can’t copy someone else’s. Maybe it would be helpful to see how someone might word theirs, but, the exercise makes you “do the work” of examining your own successes and past experiences, and draw upon the skills and resources that are unique to you.
The exercise itself comes in four (4) steps.
1. List a dozen or more times in your life when you knew you were “on” purpose. These are times you can recall when you were aligned with “why you are in the world.” It’s important to cover your entire life, and then include more experiences from the past five to 10 years.
2. Next, you write a few sentences, bullet points, or phrases about each experience, defining for each:
(1) What you did
(2) Where you were
(3) What the outcome was
(4) How you felt
3. Then, your writing should also answer the questions:
(1) What was essential to my sense of being “on purpose?”
(2) What about this experience was richly satisfying?
(3) What was of value for me?
4. Highlight key words and phrases, then copy them onto a different page. Examine them to identify commonalities and themes. You will use these words and phrases to build your statement of purpose.
5. Draft a brief statement of your life purpose in two (2) to four (4) sentences using the key words and phrases of your life.
No two purpose statements will be the same, of course. “My purpose is to manifest love in caring for self and others” might be a short and sweet declaration for one person. Others might get more wordy, and more detailed. “The purpose of my life is to…” is a good way to start.
Don’t expect to get it right in an hour. I find it’s best to let it sit for awhile. Read it to others and be open to feedback. Read it out loud over several days. Let the words resonate. Percolate. Incubate.
Finally, test it.
You know where you are headed when you purpose is clear: Does your statement clarify what you will do in your work and your life?
Here are some clues that you have connected with your purpose, according to the Institute for Life Coach Training:
· You feel a strong connection with the purpose you have described.
· You have a desire to fulfill it.
· You feel deep pleasure when you act in concert with it.
· Your interests naturally gravitate toward fulfilling it.
It’s important to feel an internal “yes” – a tug of sorts that keeps you on course – to know that your life purpose statement fits you. It is not a professional statement to convince others, but when you speak it to yourself it resonates and gives you power to act, to enrich the world, to find personal fulfillment, to live your passion. Your purpose statement hums like a tuning fork…attuned perfectly, and only, to you.
Let me help you sort through your own "divine jumble."