Where are you with your why?
I’m alone in a boat, it’s a smallish wooden affair with sails and it is being thrown around a fair bit out to sea from a rocky headland. It’s not a raging storm per se, it’s just not the millpond analogy which I would prefer when finding myself in this predicament. Seas will be seas I suppose, which means tides and waves and headlands mean rocks. The sun has disappeared some time ago, but it isn’t yet dark, it’s in that in between time where everything is turning purple and silvery, and it is becoming more difficult to differentiate between shadow and object. There is no one else about, I can’t see any other boats or any lights indicating people on the shoreline. I could wrap this up as romantic and exciting, but truthfully, it’s cold and wet, I’m tired and not ashamed to admit more than a bit scared. Have I mentioned I don’t know how to sail and to add insult to injury, I don’t know where I am?
Right on the headland point, rather fortuitously for me, is a lighthouse. You can go chocolate box here – it’s a full-on traditional number, yes it has stripes, and its very yellow light is both marking the place land meets shore and also illuminating the more menacing rocks out near me, which I suspect a large proportion of, are lurking out of sight.
Decision time then. Do I turn to shore, follow the light in, moor the boat, find somewhere warm to recover and replenish myself? Or do I adjust my course using the lighthouse as my marker, square my shoulders, set my jaw and continue on my vital mission?
Interestingly, I do both. Not at the same time I grant you, but both all the same. I’ve followed the light in more than once, sometimes desperate for respite from the most horrific of storms, where just survival was in question. Where it was all I had left to fall over the side into the shallows and crawl up the beach, curl up and wait for someone with the lantern to come find me and take me inside (which I count my blessings truly, that someone did). And there have been times, more frequent in number, where I have changed course, managed somehow to weave through the worst of the boulders threatening to break my little boat and trundled through the deeper channels lit golden from above.
On this occasion, it’s a hunker down, steel myself kinda voyage; eyes to the horizon and with the beam of light on my left, I head off into the darkening night, course adjusted. Yes, I’m still cold, wet, tired and scared, but I have been bolstered by the guidance winking at me in the distance.
What am I wittering on about you may ask? Well, no, this isn’t an excerpt from an attempt at a novel (although I do have one of those that has been “in progress” for about ooh four years, but procrastination is not the theme of today), this is where I currently am with the reflection, I was left with from my coach this week. Here’s what I am sitting with – I am the boat in the water looking up at the lighthouse – what does this bring me? Ultimately – trust. In what? Me.
Confused? Let me explain the inner workings of my mind!
Let’s talk purpose. Because it’s crucial. It’s the why behind what we want to be and do. It’s what keeps us motivated and ultimately defines whether we experience fulfilment. For those times in our life where we feel disconnected and adrift, it’s often because we have lost sight of our purpose. Having a life purpose can sound rather grand and for some a bit naff, and yet it really is at the root of us. For some their purpose is clearly defined and known from a young age; people refer to a calling, a vocation or just knowing what they wanted to be and do. For others, including me, it was not so clear cut, rather there were some inklings and a drive, but the direction of travel was a bit of a guess and a lot of trial and error. And it can be that we do not reach a “thing” when we contemplate purpose. For example, is my purpose to be a coach? Well, no, that’s not how I define it. After much digging, exploring, trying on ideas, and coaching (of me!), I reached the conclusion that my purpose, my whole life purpose, is to be a lighthouse. Which could be construed as somewhat confusing! But it led me to choose to coach as an expression of that purpose, it is my vehicle or mechanism of delivery. The imagery has meaning for me of course, it may not translate for you, but as soon as I landed on the image of a lighthouse, I knew I’d got something I could get my teeth into. So, the distinction – discovering your purpose may not result in you having the epiphany that you must be a teacher, a doctor, discover a cure, explore space, raise children, save the rhinos. If I am brutally honest, I wish it had for me – I was certainly looking for a definitive answer, a definite thing. I had hoped that a giant finger would appear from the sky and point to a mega neon sign proclaiming “the answer”. Instead, I got lighthouse – and yet in that moment I got enough of the point from the metaphor: guiding, navigating, reference point, solid, anchor, reliability, trust – to be able to design my course to encompass these things.
The result is relief, an exhalation that, this time, I think I am onto something and my only measurement of this is how I feel. I feel more at ease, I am more frequently in flow, what I do has meaning to me and holds importance for me, I can see a point in it. Do I now float around in a permanent state of euphoria, flanked by matching unicorns, beneath a permanent rainbow? Er no. I get cold, wet, and scared, we all do and that is going to be part of our lives regardless of anything. However, in those times I additionally have my reference point, my why, my reason. I have my lighthouse. And if you allow me the indulgence of going a bit deep and whacky, when I am sailing my seas, I have the lighthouse and I also am the lighthouse. And when I sit with that, I am better able to trust me; hence course adjustment, and on this occasion heading out round the new headland.
So where are you with your why, your purpose? If you haven’t uncovered it yet, take heart, it is there, it may need some excavating, but it is there, evolving and growing with you. And perhaps you will, or already have had, the mega neon sign with a message so clear and precise that your path emerges as a clear super-highway in front of you. And perhaps you are like me and you will get a weird metaphor, image or inkling that requires a bit of sitting with and interpreting. I have learnt both ways work just fine. Once you catch glimpse of it and start designing around it, that’s where things really start to get interesting – fulfilling.
"Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
If you are interested in how I can work with you around purpose and beyond, you can watch me on YouTube (who could have possibly imagined!?) https://youtu.be/B9EiOo-N7qI
If you want to speak directly, you can book a free (promise I won’t chase you) call here
And I am on Instagram (still learning the ropes!) @start2thrive