August 18, 2021
Have you ever been at a crossroads with life? Stuck knowing your current situation is no longer working for you, but having no idea where to go or what to do next? If so, you’re like me, or at least me about six years ago. Driving home from work, sitting at a stoplight, it hit me… I’m not happy. My career felt at a standstill, my love life non-existent, and the things that usually brought me fulfillment were just not that interesting anymore. That moment of realizing what wasn’t working felt like a relief and at the same time terrifying, because now it meant I should do something about it. I allowed myself some time to process and ran away… or just took a solo vacation to the mountains where I was able to be in nature, exploring new terrains, and doing the uncomfortable thing at times, being with me and my thoughts.
During my solo vacation, I allowed myself to think about what I wanted and what I could control in the moment. With this new insight, I sought out volunteer opportunities that connected me with what I enjoyed and felt was meaningful. I gave myself permission to apply to a new job. My new job was at Blue Zones Project, a well-being improvement initiative around transforming environments to make healthier choices easier. Blue Zones Project is based on the studies of National Geographic explorer, Dan Buettener, who found where people lived the longest and the healthiest. He found that these five longevity hot spots (Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California) had nine common lifestyle habits. These lifestyle traits (called the Blue Zones Power 9) consisted of: Moving Naturally, Purpose, Downshift, 80% Rule, Plant Slant, Wine at 5, Right Tribe, Loved Ones First, and Belong.
As you can imagine, being engrossed in this work is going to rub off on you. All of the Blue Zones Power 9 resonated with me in some capacity and made sense. Of course moving naturally and eating wisely would improve someone’s health and longevity, but it was the other Power 9 that got me thinking. How were these other traits showing up in my life? Is there an opportunity to improve these and bring more fulfillment to my life?
I started exploring my relationships and how I connected with my family and friends. I’ve always had strong relationships, not being the perfect daughter, sister, friend, or colleague at times, but doing my best to show up and be present with those I cared most about. I had curated a strong network of people over the years that encouraged, supported, challenged me and had nicely weeded out those who were toxic and not adding value to my life. Take a look at your connections and do an evaluation of those you spend time with. Ask yourself who isn’t on this list that should be? Are they adding value or draining me? What are meaningful ways I can foster those relationships that mean something to me?
Next I looked at how I downshifted. We live in a world that is full of distractions, being pulled in multiple directions, one-upping each other with how busy we are. Sometimes it’s exhausting just thinking about how exhausting all of it really is. But is that how life should be? Being acknowledged for how well you deal with stress or manage the chaos that is life? Over the years, I’ve done work to figure out ways to take a step back and be present. It’s ranged from finding peace and healing being in nature, practicing yoga on a regular basis, quieting my mind with meditation, affirmations, the occasional happy hour, and naps, definitely naps! This doesn’t mean I don’t get stressed at times, it just means I’ve found the right tools and resources to cope when life gets hard. Also, the recharge I get when I give myself permission to take a step back, downshift, and relax has been so much more rewarding than getting a gold medal in the stressful life race. If you’re finding yourself unable to give yourself at least five minutes a day to rest and reset then it’s time for you to uncover what downshifting means to you. Pay attention to the moments and circumstances when you feel calm, relaxed, and content. What are you doing? If these moments aren’t as frequent for you to recognize, then try visualizing which activities or techniques would support you in taking those quiet moments and being present in life. Challenge yourself to do these at least once a day until the day when you don’t do them isn’t even an option.
The last Power 9, for me, has been the most important on my journey because it’s led me to be writing to you today: purpose. How many times have you asked yourself, “What am I here to be or do”? Purpose seems like such a big word and defining it seemed so overwhelming, yet important. I had an inflection point, sitting on my couch one evening watching a Hallmark movie about a therapist and her love life (I’ll hold off on the love life blog for another day!). Weirdly enough, I had an epiphany watching the therapist work with clients, why couldn’t I do that? I’d always been the person who people came to to talk things out with, ask for advice, or troubleshoot issues and opportunities. Was this thing that always came naturally to me, that I enjoyed and felt passionately about, the answer to my purpose question? It was.
After research and reflection, therapy wasn’t my answer but coaching was. I came to understand my gift of connecting with people gave me the opportunity to help them be successful on their life journey, in whatever capacity it may be. Connecting with my purpose has become the motivating force behind what I do and has helped me tap into a source of energy and potential I didn’t know I had. If you struggle to answer the question, “why do I wake up in the morning?,” I encourage you to begin the process of discovering your purpose. Unlocking your purpose may not happen watching a Hallmark movie, or overnight. It may take weeks, months or even years of self-discovery, and that’s okay.
Richard Leider, founder of Inventure – The Purpose Company, has spent decades creating tools and resources to support individuals discover their purpose. For everyone on their purpose path, he encourages you to begin spending time to understand yourself by asking questions such as what are my gifts, what are my passions and what are my values. I encourage you to take the time to reflect and journal on these because you never know where your answers may lead you!
This was my journey to finding purpose, but we all have our own and there are many paths to take to lead us to the answers we are searching for. Most important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong path, just movement forward!
Erin is also leading our latest Professionals Group series, a deep-dive into Confident Communication, starting August 24th.