#70 The Perils of Neglecting Your Purpose
And a helpful framework for you at the end
I hit a bit of a creative wall last week. It might have been the full moon.
The moon was easier to blame than it was to look my problem in the eye and acknowledge it even existed. It was a problem of a creative nature.
I was feeling stuck and overwhelmed and a sense of urgency that was making me anxious. I was in a rush to get things done but had no sense of what I needed to do or where to start or what to focus on. I was actively procrastinating my writing and being overly productive on course development.
And it all felt wrong. I was deep in my work but utterly lost.
It all came to a head on Thursday. I spent an entire day out of sorts and flailing to figure what the problem was. Unfortunately, I have the bad habit of thinking I can think my way to a solution for every problem I encounter. Although I’ve been a strategist long enough to know that some solutions require that you listen to your gut or your heart and not just your head, as an enneagram five I have resisted acknowledging and actually accepting the fact that some problems have answers that only our hearts can understand and address.
I can do it for others, but struggle when it comes to applying that value wisdom in my own life and work. I’m a mentor for B-School, a program created by Marie Forleo a business coach that I’ve followed and learned from for years. During the run of the program earlier this year we had a question on one of the live sessions from a student struggling to figure out how best to move her business forward. My feedback after listening to her express her challenge and frustration at around the decision was to suggest she sit and listen to her heart. Hers sounded like a heart problem and not something she could think her way into figuring out. Because even if I resist believing it, I understand that not every problem is a problem for our brain to solve. And no, she wasn’t confused about a lover or family member, she needed to make a big decision about how best to grow her business.
So what was I struggling with last week that left me frustrated and introspective enough to share it? Nothing earth shattering. I was having trouble planning how to tell the story of the new program I’m launching in January (thanks to your input and feedback from pilot participant, it is a thing born of my love for this work). Honestly, I was freaking out and feeling like a needed to get EVERYTHING done that day, right away or it would be a failure. I wasted a day in that state, tweaking and trying to perfect little things that truly don’t matter for the course or the launch. I even missed a meeting because I was so caught up in it.
Until finally I stopped. In the middle of my living room while wandering from one random task to another, I sat down, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and told myself to slow down and listen. I put my hands over my heart and my belly, and I just breathed. And in that quiet, a part of me whispered, “you have a story to write.”
My life’s purpose is to share untold stories. I do that as a writer, a freelance journalist, as a strategist and in my business as I help my clients, readers, and students uncover and share their own stories. It all feels so urgent to me. That quiet voice was reminding me that I have set aside these months until March next year to write a story that has sat with me for over a decade waiting to be shared. But I’ve struggled with it over the past few weeks. I don’t know who the narrator is—which means I can’t properly start writing it. I’ve been doing research and reading and thinking about the characters and scenarios, but I have yet to sit down to write.
So, I started to look at the course and the things that needed to be done for it (it is my number two priority for the next few months) and the creativity and words there flowed easily. That easy flow of ideas and words were seductive. So, I kept going back to it for more and longer hours, and my story was pushed further and further aside at least until I could figure out the narrator problem I kept telling myself.
But that quiet voice was reminding me in the miasma of my emotions and urgency and anxiety around the course that it would get done and it would be great. The thing I need to focus on right now first and every day before I dive into my other priorities is that story I have to write; those characters who have come to life in my head; the love and adventures among them that need to be put into words. Even if it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
As creatives and business owners and ambitious people and storytellers with many passions, we can get in our heads and lose sight of what truly matters. Of the purpose and priorities, we’ve identified for ourselves in our work and in our lives. The job takes over, the client work takes priority, the new program needs attention, there’s always something else to get done instead. I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling.
What I want to remind you and what I had to relearn for myself is that in those moments of overwhelm and uncertainty we need to stop, close our eyes, breathe, slow down, and listen. Your purpose, if you’ve taken the time to know it, is there and it will take you back to where you need to be and help you find the path to move forward.
That’s what it’s there for.
A Story Well Told – Your Own
I’m launching a new resource for storytellers over the next little while. A framework I put together after writing about the elements of story for this newsletter. I wanted to make it easy for folks to sit down and outline their own stories based on those elements. As I say in the original post, if you have these elements organized you have the beginning of a story outlined. Of course, I had to share it with you first. It’s a simple framework or starter guide for storytelling and be a guide as you sit down to craft your own stories. I hope you’ll give it a try; with any new story you’re setting out to tell and share with the world. Remember stories live across mediums so I’ve created this with that in mind. And yes, you can feel free to share with others. Download your copy here. And let me know what you think of it by sending me a note or commenting below.
ALSO, in case you hadn’t heard, Adele did a thing. It ripped my soul wide open and I loved it from beginning to end. Talk about musical and storytelling genius.
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