I’m hoping my readers are getting in the groove of self-love, self-care and setting boundaries. We started this series to talk about what really works over 50, so now we keep going!
First of all, please don’t ever stop taking yourself through those first three steps of self-awareness, because, just like well-run companies, we need to keep reinventing and reevaluating throughout our lives. And those first three steps actually pave the way for the next, most important step in your life…living with purpose.
Now it is time to ask yourself: Why are you really here? What are you here to do, to become, to contribute?
Purposeful living is the key to a meaningful, enriching and valuable life experience.
Those who operate from a place of higher purpose are the “make it happen” people in the world. This doesn’t mean grandiosity. In my coaching practice, I often find clients who have attended classes with iconic motivational speakers and come away thinking that they have to become “global influencers” who build immense wealth, companies, political power, etc. I have nothing against being inspired to do more with my life, I just know from experience that most of us need to find deeper meaning and living with purpose in a more realistic, practical and doable way.
One of the best guides toward that is a book I have been recommending for over 25 years: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I was led to this invaluable resource in 1993 and diligently followed the program. It was vital to helping me overcome a devastating auto-immune illness, depression and lack of focus after having gone as far as I could go relying on what I thought I knew about the world and my role in it.
One process she suggests is daily journaling. At the time, I was 45 years old, had already been through 3 marriages (2 shorts and a long) and felt like nothing was really working for me. I owned a business that was operating successfully, but when I got sick, I couldn’t work the 12-hour days and weekends I was accustomed to. I had to scale back, learn to get in touch with new parts of myself in order to climb out of the hole I was in.
Fortunately, I had great employees and had built the business to essentially run itself, so the time I took away for myself didn’t hurt the business. In fact, I think it made the business better. The more I delegated and let go, the more others took on and took care of. The last 14 years I owned the company, I averaged four to 10 hours a week actually in the office. I kept tabs on everything, still participated in very meaningful ways, but it freed me up to do more of what I truly loved to do in life.
The daily journaling got me in touch with my inner voice, allowed me to express my fears, my self-doubts, my shame and guilt over not having made what I thought at the time would have been “better” decisions, especially about the men I married!
What evolved as I wrote (and threw away, because she recommends you just write and not re-read later) I found that getting rid of the “brain noise” and throwing it away allowed me to tap into my true voice, my true spirit. This led me to become much more aware of what was really important to me.
The book also leads you through a step by step process of expanding and getting to know your creative self. For me, it became clear that my true calling in life, my higher purpose, is helping others learn to love themselves and live purposeful, meaningful lives. I could see that running a quality business was part of that, giving employees a place to work where they could truly self-actualize was a form of fulfilling that higher calling.
I had already been doing coaching and consulting as a “side hustle” while running my rep business, but I started doing a lot more of it and I found that I was actually supporting my company in a different way, and my employees were quite pleased that I was leaving more and more up to them. As I kept getting less stuck in old patterns, I gradually became healthier both physically and emotionally.
After a year of journaling (every day!) I found my voice was stronger on the outside than before. I knew what I was meant to do, and I was more able to say yes to things that fit my purpose and no to things that didn’t.
What I came to understand is that living with purpose is very different from goals and objectives. Those are specific and aimed at producing certain results.
For me, purposeful living means a lifelong journey of myriad experiences that enable people to learn to love themselves. And my work with clients more clearly reflected that:
- It might be showing people how to appreciate their “mistakes” as a beneficial steppingstone to greater awareness.
- It might be helping a couple break up a marriage out of love, understanding that they were better off apart after having learned what they needed to learn from each other.
- It might be helping a mother see her daughter in a new light, let go of her fear and be open to seeing her date and even marry a man from a different culture and religion.
- It might be helping a woman bounce back from being fired, realizing that the job wasn’t actually right for her and something better was coming.
These are just a few examples of actual situations I have dealt with over the years. Each of them led to the person finding a way out of fear, anger, shame, blame, self-recrimination to seeing that they did the best they knew how to do, and that there were just as many benefits from the challenge as there were painful aspects. That is what self-love looks like in real life.
That is how I live a purposeful life. In the next chapter, we will explore more about how you can!