Pathfinding: How to find your life path & purpose

Pathfinding: How to find your life path & purpose

Times are changing. There’s so much conflict and suffering in the world. Big changes are happening on a global scale that are causing many to feel unsafe and threatened. And yet as a result of all the turmoil, it seems more and more people are feeling a call to action; an intense desire to somehow contribute to making the world a better place. Many people are connecting to the causes they’re passionate about and finding ways to create positive change while building thriving enterprises that are highly profitable. In the old paradigm, dedicated altruists struggled to find ways to make a decent living. Nowadays, you can dedicate yourself to a positive cause and thrive financially while doing it. Many others are simply feeling a sense of restlessness in their career and find themselves constantly wondering if perhaps there’s something else they could be doing. It’s no longer considered reckless to make a complete career switch mid-life and it’s becoming more widely accepted that we may have a couple, if not many, different career paths during our working lives.

In addition to these changes, the internet is making it possible for everyone, everywhere, to be connected. ‘Virtual classrooms’ are connecting teachers to students all across the world. People are doing business deals while lounging by swimming pools at holiday destinations. Social media is enabling anyone with similar interests, anywhere in the world, to connect and develop friendships. Stay-at-home mums are running businesses from home while raising their children. The term ‘Mumpreneur’ has already made its way into the Urban Dictionary to describe entrepreneurial mums who combine business with motherhood. This global interconnectivity means it’s no longer necessary to be bound to a desk or an office to do your work and more and more people are embracing the freedom and flexibility that the internet is offering us. Small start-ups and entrepreneurships are flourishing more than ever before. As this sea of possibility and opportunity is opening up, we’re feeling a call to self-actualise and do something deeply meaningful with our lives. More and more people are asking the question – well, if I can do anything, what on earth will I do?

The wonderful thing about living in these exciting times is that the concept of following your heart is no longer an impossible fantasy. BUT – it’s not an easy decision to leave the comforts and security of a stable career. We all have financial obligations and commitments and it’s simply not always possible to throw caution to the wind and make a big career change, without the assurance that we’re going to make good money while doing it and it’s actually going to give us the fulfilment and meaning we’re chasing. Otherwise we’ll end up back where we were. So before making a big change, we want to be sure we’re making the right decision.

And this is why I believe it’s so important to find and live your ‘true path’. What do I mean by your ‘true path’? This is how I define it:

Your ‘true path’ is the path or vocation that allows you to express yourself fully and to contribute your unique gifts in service to something you care about, while making a positive difference and earning you an abundant, reliable income.

Your true path feels like coming home. All niggling feelings of doubt and frustration are replaced by a deep and lasting sense of fulfilment. You know deep inside that you’re finally doing exactly what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing. It comes with a feeling of sudden clarity, optimism and energy.

Tim Kelley at the True Purpose Institute calls your unique calling your ‘true purpose’. In his book True Purpose: 12 strategies for discovering the difference you are meant to make, he suggests that we each have a purpose that we’re uniquely designed for. He proposes three things: 1) That your purpose has always been within you and has already been influencing the course of your life, 2) That some part of you already knows your purpose, and 3) That it’s possible to communicate with the part of you that knows your purpose. You can refer to that part of you as your ‘heart’ or your ‘soul’. Tim claims that our soul knows our purpose, and is always gently trying to guide us in the right direction. We get into trouble when our ego – the part of us that is concerned with our sense of identity and success – tries to over-ride the guidance from our soul; and this is when we feel out of alignment, lost or off-track. So if you can make the time and space in your life to get quiet, often, you’ll have a better chance of hearing that inner guidance and wisdom that’s always trying to communicate with you (Tim teaches wonderful techniques for connecting with your inner wisdom and Divine guidance that really work.)

I believe we come into this world already knowing what our unique calling is, but most of us go through a process of disconnecting from our hearts at a young age, while trying to become acceptable citizens and to fit into the mould that our society or family imposes on us. For most of us, learning how to grow up in this world meant learning how to conform. If you’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in an environment that encouraged you to nurture and embrace your unique self, it’s likely that you’ve been able to live a life true to your heart and you have a good sense of your true life calling. However, if like most of us, you grew up trying to be a ‘good kid’ or to fit the image of success that your environment demanded, you may need some more time to excavate the nature of the specific calling that lights you up and makes you want to jump out of bed each morning, and allows you to be fully you. After years of reflection on this topic and coaching others to find their purpose, I’ve come to believe that the ‘secret’ to finding your calling is to look for the special zone where the following three things overlap:

Figure 1: Your zone of magic – where your natural ability meets your passion and your true nature.

Let me define what I mean by these terms.

YOUR NATURAL GENIUS
Everyone has many different abilities and skills. But when you’re trying to find your joyful and authentic career path, you need to connect with what I call your natural genius. Everyone – yes, EVERYONE! – has a zone of natural genius. These are the things you’re naturally good at without even trying. The problem is, we’re often blind to the things we’re really good at, because we assume that everyone else finds these things easy too. You might be an excellent organiser, or be able to connect intuitively with animals, or make delicious meals without recipes, or take amazing photos without much effort. There will be something that you’re extremely good at. Perhaps you discounted it as a child because it wasn’t valued or rewarded in your environment. Perhaps it’s so obvious that you can’t even see it. Or perhaps you haven’t discovered it because you haven’t yet had the opportunity to express it or develop it.

Strengths tests such as the Gallup Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be very helpful in helping you narrow down the areas of your natural genius. But take heart – you absolutely have your own specific zone of natural genius and with a little exploring, you can find it. A good way to start finding your natural genius is to think back to the things that came easily to you as a child. What would your friends ask for help with? What came naturally to you? What would the people in your environment compliment you about? Ask your friends, family and work colleagues what they think you’re good at. Often they can see these things more clearly than we can.

YOUR TRUE NATURE
Your true nature is who you are when you’re being yourself fully. It’s the type of person you are when you’re not worried about what others think of you, or when you’re in an environment that makes you feel at home and connected to yourself. There are certain environments that bring out your true nature more than others. Do you know what those environments are for you? Perhaps you love being with animals, or working with antique furniture, or being out on the water, or solving complex technical problems. Perhaps you love being in large groups, or working alone. Perhaps you love drawing, or orienteering, or leading, or coming up with new ideas. It’s important to think here about the things you love doing. When you’re being true to yourself and you’re engaged in activities you love, feelings of joy, happiness and fulfilment emerge as a natural consequence.

Write down all the things you love doing. If you had an abundance of free time, how would you spend it? What are the things you get so completely immersed in that you lose track of time? What are the things in life that bring you joy and satisfaction? Another good exercise is to write down all the ‘high points’ of your life; times when you felt blissful and carefree. What were you doing and where were you? Often those high points contain important clues about your true nature and where your joy lies.

YOUR PASSION
When you’re passionate about something, it means you care very deeply about it. But being passionate about something doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always feels upbeat and joyful. In fact, in Joseph Campbell’s famous book The Power of Myth he explains that the Greek root of the word passion translates to suffering. Annabelle Parr describes beautifully that “Following your passion means choosing a vocation that is so important to you, so vital to your being that you’re willing to suffer for it.” She goes on to define passion as being “where fulfilment, growth, joy and change exist”. Your passion will push you to your growth edge and force you to fully develop and express your gifts which can feel scary, challenging and very difficult at times. But through this unfolding of your full potential, while being in service to something you care about, you’ll naturally feel deeply fulfilled and satisfied throughout this process of growth and change.

A good place to start looking for things you’re passionate about is to find those things that evoke an emotional response in you when you’re watching TV, listening to the radio, or hearing others talk. What breaks your heart the most in the world? What would you most love to dedicate your precious time and resources to? Studies have shown that people who feel most fulfilled are those who are giving their gifts in service to something larger than themselves, to something they care about. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can about things that you’re passionate about. Write them down.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
The key now is to reflect on your answers and to see where and how these different parts of you might overlap. Brainstorm different ideas or vocations that would incorporate the three different areas. At this stage it’s important that you don’t limit yourself – wild and crazy ideas are very welcome at this point! You have to think wild and crazy before you can locate what feels ‘right’. Make a list of all the ideas you can think of. I highly recommend LiteMind’s technique of writing a ‘list of 100’ to do this properly. Also, think of your role models and people you admire and use what they do to inspire your ideas. A good litmus test for any idea you come up with is to ask yourself if it would bring you great joy, if it’s aligned with one of your deepest passions, and if it would allow you to fully express and develop your natural genius.

When you finally tap into your ‘zone of magic’, you’ll find unlimited creative energy, motivation, inspiration, dedication, devotion and a deep and lasting sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. It feels like coming home. Finding your true path connects you to something fundamental to your sense of identity, purpose and well-being. Living in this zone provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining and expressing who you really are and you finally know – without a shadow of a doubt – that this is what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing with your life. There’s a feeling of devotion and obsession, almost. Many people who finally find their unique calling describe it as an ‘epiphany’. You might start to feel unfulfilled, empty, burned out or lost when you find yourself in one of the following three situations:

1. You have passion and ability, but no joy: You might feel deeply passionate about your work and dedicated to making a positive difference in your chosen field. And you might also be naturally very good at the work you do (you’re in your zone of genius). But if it doesn’t feel light and joyful, you’re not in your sweet spot of life and things may often feel like a struggle. When you’ve found your unique calling, you’ll love what you do and the sense of lightheartedness and joy will light you up and fill you with positive energy.

2. You have ability and joy in your work, but no passion: You might be really good at what you do, and love doing it. For some people this is absolutely enough and they lead a happy and content life in this zone. But if you don’t feel completely fulfilled and satisfied, it’s probably because you have a niggling feeling that there’s something more you should be doing with your life; you want to feel truly passionate about the field you’re working in or the cause you’re contributing to. Many studies have shown that people who feel most fulfilled are those who are giving their gifts in service to something larger than themselves. This is the key to feeling deep and lasting fulfilment. Perhaps you feel like there’s a positive legacy you’re meant to leave, but you don’t know what it is. And you won’t feel truly content until you find it.

3. You feel joy and passion in your work, but you aren’t so good at it: It’s almost impossible to feel fulfilled and deeply satisfied in your work if you have to struggle or work really hard to produce great results. You’ll tend to feel frustrated and demotivated because you’re not operating within your own specific zone of natural genius where things flow easily and effortlessly. In your zone of genius you don’t have to try to be good at your work; it’s what you’re naturally brilliant at anyway.

The problem I had in my professional career of almost 15 years was that I wasn’t operating in my zone of natural genius and my work didn’t feel joyful. I only had one of the circles covered in the diagram above – passion; I was passionate about my field of environmental protection. But despite my passion, the work always felt hard and a struggle and it drained me of energy. As a result, overwhelm eventually turned into chronic fatigue and a perpetual feeling of being on the edge of burnout. I don’t recommend living like this! You’ll want to have at least two of the circles covered in your life work (natural genius, passion or joy). But the intersection where all three overlap is where the real magic happens. This is where you’ll find your calling.

The search for your unique calling can require a little excavating and digging. The fastest way to uncover your calling is to make space and time in your life right now, to not only get very quiet on a regular basis and connect with your heart, but to also start doing things that come easily to you, that feel joyful or that ignite your passion. Start by doing anything that fits into one of these categories, even if it’s just for ten minutes a day initially. You purpose will start to reveal itself to you as soon as you set the intention and make the commitment to find it, and then start taking actions in the direction of something that feels joyful. If you’re feeling the call to action, go ahead and get started my friend. The rewards and treasures are awaiting you. You won’t be disappointed. And the world needs your precious gifts more than ever right now. You have something incredibly special and valuable to contribute. As Dr Wayne Dyer always used to say “Don’t die with your music still inside of you”. Try not to be one of those people who wishes they had taken their dreams seriously when they had the chance! Studies show that the number one regret people have when they’re dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” [2].

If you’d like more help in identifying that unique calling that’s yours to live, please download my free eBook PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND AND START LIVING YOUR UNIQUE CALLING and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

katie-signature

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Career, Life & Business Coach
Helping you find your path & purpose so you can shine and make a difference, doing what you love.
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com

Blessings in the pain: How to find your ‘calling’ in the threads of your life struggles

Blessings in the pain: How to find your ‘calling’ in the threads of your life struggles

Do you often wonder if you’ve found your true calling for this lifetime? Do you wonder if you’re using your unique gifts and talents to making the biggest possible impact? Do you feel that your career and professional life is a full expression of your authentic self that leaves you feeling inspired and joyful? Or are you still searching for that special calling? Maybe your life’s emotional wounds hold the answer…

Recently I learned a beautiful technique from visionary thought leader Jeffrey van Dyk, called Finding the gifts in your sacred wounds, which is a powerful way to either confirm you’re on the right path, or to help you get closer to uncovering that special mission you’re called to fulfill in this lifetime.

Firstly, what is a ‘sacred wound’?

We were all wounded in some way when we were younger, despite the good intentions of our parents or caregivers to protect and nurture us. This may have been an acute wound (in the form of the death of a sibling or loved one for example, or physical or emotional abuse) or an experiential wound that was not intended by anyone to cause pain, but nevertheless caused us emotional pain and caused us to take on certain behaviours to protect ourselves into the future. As painful as these wounds were (and still are for many of us), you can choose to view these wounds as sacred because in some way they changed who you were at a core level. The new way you came to view the world, or the new behaviours you adapted to survive, led you down a certain path that was designed to bring you back to your core and your true essence. And reflecting back on this can lead you towards your life’s purposeful work.

Jeffrey van Dyk is a wonderful, visionary leader with a mission to help you transform the world through your business. He’s developed some simple yet powerful questions that can help you get to the core of your purpose, by reflecting on your life’s sacred wounds. He suggests you should write down the top 6-8 emotional ‘wounds’ you experienced as a child. This could be anything from ‘My best friend moved to another town’ or ‘My Dad never wanted to see me’ or ‘A mean boy at school called me fat’ – or anything at all that stands out in your memory as causing some kind of pain to you as a child. Then write down the top 6-8 wounds that come to mind as an adult. When doing this exercise myself I initially thought 6-8 wounds was a lot, but once I started writing, all the wounds started flowing! Again, these could be acute experiences or long-standing patterns (e.g. no one heard me). When you’ve finished, with some reflection you’ll begin to notice that there’s a predominant theme running through them. Not all wounds will fall under this predominant theme, but many will. There’ll be a consistent thread that runs through your emotional scarring and pain, and interestingly, this pattern forms the basis of your unique calling. Usually what we’ve suffered most deeply in life is the one thing we’re qualified to help other people with. We tend to feel passionate about helping people in this area because we’ve been there ourselves and know how painful it is. Plus, we’ve developed the insight, experience, knowledge and resources to navigate the problem and are perfectly equipped to guide others through the process. Once you’ve identified your core theme, go ahead and answer the following questions.

The five question to uncover the gifts in your sacred wounds:
1.       What happened?
2.       How did you feel?
3.       What did you crave?
4.       What did you do?
5.       How did you develop?

To help you along, here are the answers to my questions that helped me get closer to understanding my purposeful path.

What happened?
I felt pressured to walk a path that didn’t feel authentic for me – science and engineering. I loved writing, languages and theatre but felt very pressured to excel in technical subjects because the people in my environment advised me there would be no secure future in the Arts. I felt I had to follow the technical/academic path to be loved, valued and approved of as a person. I ended up spending almost 15 years in a career that was not aligned with my authentic desires, skills or my true nature. As a result, I ended up feeling empty, unfulfilled and spent many years feeling lost and off-track. My health and relationships suffered severely as a result. Finally, a life crisis forced me to wake up to the fact that I needed to give up the struggle to be something I’m not, and to instead embrace everything I am. That’s when everything changed for the better.

How did I feel?
I felt pressured, trapped, stressed and anxious when I was younger. I didn’t enjoy learning all the difficult technical subjects at school and University, they were a struggle for me and were not aligned with my natural strengths. Success in these areas required hard work and sacrifice. I had to ignore my heart, that wanted to be immersed in languages, arts and creative pursuits, to follow the expectations I felt. During my professional years as a corporate consulting engineer, I felt inauthentic, misaligned and as though my true nature and natural genius were suppressed. I felt unseen for who I was and unheard for what I wanted. I did not feel loved for who I am – my authentic self – at my core. I felt disconnected from my truth and my essence.

What did you crave?
I craved approval and permission to be who I am. I craved to be loved, seen and heard as my true, authentic self. I yearned to follow my heart and pursue things that bring me alive and allow me to unleash my natural gifts in service to others. I craved joy, freedom, abundance and full creative expression.

How did you develop?
I embarked on a lifetime of over-achieving to gain the approval I desperately wanted. I became something that in my heart I knew was not me. I became a wonderful actor, pretending to have it all together and to be living a successful life. Sometimes I even fooled myself. I over-achieved at the expense of my health and relationships. I believed life was a struggle and meant to be difficult. I neglected myself and my needs, I self-abandoned, all to try to be something I am not. This had disastrous effects on my emotional and physical well-being and my relationships suffered terribly too. Eventually I was brought to my knees and forced to realise that no-one was benefiting from me living an inauthentic life. I needed to give up the false pretenses, let go of everything that felt misaligned and instead tune into my heart to follow my authentic desires. When I gave myself permission to do this, everything changed.

So…. how does this relate to my calling for this lifetime?

Well, in my heart I feel called to help people let go of everything they’re not and find a way to embrace everything that they are. I feel called to help people find their own authentic voice and to find a way to bring their unique gifts and talents into the world in a way that has a positive impact and feels deeply fulfilling. I help them find work that allows them to express themselves fully. I long for everyone to feel seen, heard and appreciated for the beautiful being they are, and to help them bring their whole self into the career and into the workplace.

Do you get the idea? I hope so. If you have half an hour to invest in trying out this beautiful technique, have a go and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear whether you found this useful for you.

If you’d like help in identifying your unique calling, please be sure to download my free E-Book PATHFINDING: How to find and start living your unique calling and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love.

In service to helping you find your authentic calling to live your fullest and brightest life,

katie-signature

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com

 

What’s your bliss? How to love what you do so you’ll never ‘work’ another day

What’s your bliss? How to love what you do so you’ll never ‘work’ another day

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”
– Confucius

We’ve all heard this saying, and most of us aspire to doing exactly that – build a career you love so that we look forward to each day with energy and enthusiasm and feel fulfilled and happy at the end of the day – but the hard thing most of us struggle to answer is  – “What’s my bliss?” And then shortly after that, how do I make a great living out of my bliss?

At Whispering Heart coaching my goal is to help people “be true to your heart and joyfully bring your unique gifts into the world.” However, this is the biggest challenge I find I come up against when trying to help people work through this – most of us have troubles figuring out what it is exactly that we love doing. What is it that brings us joy? What brings us that deep feeling of fulfilment and love for life? And then how on earth do we build a career around that that allows us to thrive? It’s not generally an easy question to answer, and many of us can spend years, if not a lifetime, trying to figure out exactly what makes our heart sing, and how we can spend our lives doing more of that.

The largest barrier I tend to come up against when working with others on this inquiry is the expectations we feel others have of us, the conditioning of our childhood and formative years that led us to believe that certain things are possible, or not possible; that we’re not allowed to build a life around things we love doing, because that’s not practical, possible or even responsible. It’s not easy to let these beliefs go; they’ve given us security in life, boundaries, a map through which to navigate life so that we’re safe, secure and have our needs met. In many cases we’ve built an identity around these beliefs and so if we decide to let them go or change them – then who are we exactly?

In my own quest to find my bliss, I’ve come across a technique that’s helped me get closer to my true essence and authentic joy. It’s a process of reflection that I call: Those blissfully happy moments. The key lies in reflecting back on those moments in life where you felt ecstatic joy, aliveness and connection, where your heart literally did overflow with happiness. Most of us have experienced at least a couple of these moments in life. The key to our heart’s joy and true passion lies in those moments if we’re able to feel back into them and understand what they represented. They’re not random moments of happiness that you just happen to remember as highlights of your life, but rather they give us insight into the depth of our unique joy and the values we hold most cherished. And they contain the seeds of our true calling. Here are some examples from my own experience:

Blissfully happy moment #1

I’m on a road trip up north in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia with friends and we stop at a roadhouse somewhere to have dinner, in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Behind the roadhouse there’s a small hall where some locals are doing Karaoke; we decide to join them. Several drinks and many cheesy songs later, we walk outside to find our camper-van to sleep in. We come across a group of beautiful little Aboriginal children playing outside on the grass. One of them comes up to us, beaming with her big white teeth in an ear-to-ear grin. I strike up a conversation with her and we laugh and connect. Such a beautiful, innocent little girl who is a victim of circumstances – born into a race of people who are judged, mistreated and looked down upon in White Australia, living in poverty and a world of limited opportunities.

I ask her if she likes dizzy-whizzies and she says “yes!”. I pick her up, swing her around and she squeals with delight. I do this a few more times at her request, and we swirl around and fall down, laughing from dizziness and fun. Finally I tell her I have to go (or my drinks are going to come up!). My friends have already left. As I leave I give her a big squeeze and she grabs me back in a beautiful, giant hug. I feel her heart and her warmth, her beautiful, radiant soul. We stay locked in this beautiful hug and in this moment it feels like the world has stood still; two strangers locked in an embrace, sharing our humanity and love. I never saw her again, but she taught me so much and in that moment I knew: I want to be a vehicle for everyone in this world to be seen and heard, for everyone to be able to step into their full light and brightness, regardless of their background, skin colour or social setting. This was a seed of my calling.

Blissfully happy moment #2

I’m boarding a plane at London Heathrow airport where I’ve been living, bound for Milan, Italy for a three-day weekend to go to a concert of Italian rock icon Vasco Rossi. I have nothing with me but my small backpack containing two changes of clothes, my wallet, my camera and my toilet bag. I’ll be staying with a good friend in Italy for the weekend, both of us huge fans of Vasco and what this rock legend represents – rebellion against the system, full expression of everyone’s uniqueness and individual identity, living life to the fullest in all its pain and glory. The exquisite, joyful feeling starts at the check-in counter when they ask me if I have baggage to check in. I say ‘no’ (travelling without baggage feels like a true symbol of freedom for me). I walk through the security area, sit down at a bar to wait for my flight and enjoy a large beer – just me and my small backpack. The feeling of freedom and joy is indescribable.

It’s not until later many years later that I realise what the joy in this moment was telling me: that freedom is one of the highest values I cherish. Freedom of expression, freedom to live life according to our own agenda, gifts and talents, freedom to contribute to the world in the way we want, freedom to allow others to be their own exquisite selves. Freedom from shame, expectations and internally or externally-imposed limitations. Freedom to be ourselves, fully and unashamedly. Another seed of my calling.

As you can see, they did not give me direct answers. But they helped me understand more about my heart’s passion and joy and about the values I hold most cherished. And there are many more moments I could allude to; all pieces of the puzzles that have helped me get closer to my ‘bliss’, even though it’s an ongoing journey that reveals more and more of itself as life goes on. We need to look beneath the feeling of joy we experienced in those blissfully happy moments and ask what they were trying to tell us. Were they random moments of happiness or was there a message in there for us? I’ll bet you there was.

So I wonder, what are those moments in your life that have made your heart overflow with joy? What were they trying to tell you about what you value and cherish most in life? And what guidance were they giving you about your true purpose and highest calling? I invite you to spend a few minutes reflecting on those blissfully happy moments and ask yourself what’s hiding in there. You might just find the next clue that will light your way on the road to following your bliss.

Need help in identifying your true calling? Download my free eBook “PATHFINDING: How to find and start living that special calling that YOU are uniquely designed for” and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com

The moment of clarity: How do you know when it’s time to follow your heart?

The moment of clarity: How do you know when it’s time to follow your heart?

I remember the moment so clearly. It is what has become “my moment of clarity.” I was sitting on the terrace of a beautiful outdoor cafe in a leafy green suburb right on the beach. The warm sun was kissing my shoulders and there was a gentle breeze in the air. I had just been for a swim in the crystal clear, blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the underwater visibility so beautiful as I swam to the edge of the pier and back, watching the ripples of sand on the ocean floor and fish swimming by in small schools. Stepping out of the water I had felt cleansed, nourished and uplifted. Now as I was waiting for my coffee and breakfast to arrive I glanced over at the waitress serving our group of tables outside on the peaceful terrace. She looked relaxed, happy and sun-kissed, as though she’d had a fun, long summer, probably stopping to work for a few months here on the West Coast as she backpacked around Australia, gathering by the Irish lilt in her accent. She looked focused on the milk she was frothing for the cappuccinos she was preparing, in a joyful and contented way. She laughed and tossed her hair as a passing colleague made a funny comment. I was suddenly struck by an enormous feeling of envy at the ease and joy she exuded, of the deep sense of peace and happiness she seemed to feel.

How long had it been since I had felt so at ease and in love with life? I had once been like that, just like this carefree waitress, I remember it well; that feeling of light-heartedness, spontaneity, ease and joy. How had my life become so difficult, dark and heavy? Since those uncomplicated and carefree days in my late teens and early twenties, it felt like my life had been slipping deeper and deeper into an abyss and I had no hope of clawing my way back out. I had been through a five-year battle with chronic fatigue, my parents’ heart-wrenching divorce, enormous struggle to establish my career, struggle setting up my life in another country and in a new language, difficult relationships, the pain of ‘unexplained infertility’ and most recently, two devastating miscarriages that turned my whole world upside down. It took all my willpower just to get out of bed in the mornings and to face another day, when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep, or better still – never wake up.

I had recently walked into my manager’s office at work and told him that I needed to take two months off work. I couldn’t go on any longer. I was on the verge of a breakdown and I just could not keep up the facade. I needed help, I needed time out. Until this point, I had pushed through every difficulty of my life, never giving up, always pushing on, always struggling through. I had been intent on never letting anyone down, of fulfilling my duties and obligations no matter what state I was in. I had no more strength to do this. I was drained and depleted. My cup was empty, every last drop.

This was the first time in my life that I had put my own needs first, by deciding to take time off work and just be for two months. Even though I was exhausted and felt so incredibly run down, I drove down to the beach each morning to enjoy the soothing calm of the waves lapping the sand and to watch the birds frolic in the waves, to try to instill some peace and comfort within my being. I had never before felt entitled to take time out of the rat race to honour my needs, to listen to my body and heed the whispers of my heart. I had always felt a sense of duty to go on, a responsibility to keep contributing my salary to our household income and fulfill my work obligations, to put on a brave face and soldier on no matter what inner guidance I may have been getting. But losing our second pregnancy, after trying to create our family for so long, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The sense of grief and anguish was so deep and heart-wrenching, the pain touched every part of my being in every single waking moment. I was heart-broken and depleted. It was simply no longer possible to muster the energy to pretend everything was OK. It was not OK. After almost fifteen years of pain and struggle I had finally realised that this was very far from OK. Something had to change.

In that moment on the café terrace at the beach, as I sat in silence enjoying my coffee, it suddenly dawned on me that I had the power to change my life. Until now I had felt trapped in my chosen career path and life circumstances. I had invested so much in my career, I couldn’t possibly abandon it … could I? Is it possible to leave something behind when you’ve invested your sweat and tears in it, when you’ve depleted and drained yourself to achieve it, when you’ve spent more than fifteen years pursuing it and dedicated every cell of your being to it? And you’ve finally got there? When you’ve finally built up the career and reputation you’d been working so hard to achieve all those years? Could I leave all that now and finally admit that I had been barking up the wrong tree? That this is absolutely not how I want to spend the rest of my life? That this life I’ve been living is not me?

There was something inside me in that moment that changed forever. I finally opened to the possibility that perhaps I could decide to leave my career behind to pursue something closer to my heart, more aligned to my strengths. Perhaps I could do something that brings me real joy and flows naturally and easily to me. Until now my career and way of life had been nothing but struggle and an uphill battle, I’d been desperately trying to prove myself in a world that was not authentically mine. I’d always felt a little like a fraud and a square peg in a round hole, in my corporate career that valued logic, rational thought and ladder-climbing. While deep down I knew my strengths are creativity, linguistics and human relations. The only way I felt I could be accepted and respected in my corporate career was to be outstanding at what I did. That way no one could detect that I was putting on a facade. What would it feel like to let down that facade, to drop the act and discover the real me?

And that’s when a voice deep within me said “Yes. Give up. Listen to your heart for once and follow its guidance. You’ve been ignoring it since you were a teenager. Look where it’s gotten you. Sure, you’ve climbed your way up the academic and corporate ranks, you’ve gathered nice titles behind your name and achieved great things, but at what cost? Is this what living life is about? Being forced to take time off work because you’re on the verge of breaking down completely; living life in a heavy fog of sadness, exhaustion, depletion and anxiety? Your life is not meant to be this difficult!”

As I let the thought “give up” enter and permeate my being, something happened. It felt as though a veil was slowly lifting around me and light was slowly seeping in. Suddenly the colours around me seemed brighter, the sounds became louder, I could see a beetle on the tree a few metres away from me and appreciate its intricate beauty. A lightness filled my being, a feeling I had not felt in a very long time. In that moment I knew. This was a turning point. It was time for me to reclaim my life. It was time for me to listen to my heart, to be true to myself, to acknowledge that I had been living my life according to other people’s expectations, that I had abandoned the desires of my heart to pursue a life that was not authentically my own. And now I had the power to change that.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to give up my career and pursue something closer to my heart. There would be many people surprised by my decision and perhaps many who would be disappointed. There would be many who would laugh. But now that I’d felt the connection to my heart’s desires and the subsequent energetic lift that it created, there was no going back. The “good girl” in me no longer cared about what others thought; it was time for me to like the life I live.

“Listen to your heart. It knows all things, for it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there”
– Paul Coelho, The Alchemist

You can read my full story in Authentically Me: My journey of coming home to myself.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

katie-signature

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com

Quitting the rat race: 5 reasons why you should break free and follow your heart

Quitting the rat race: 5 reasons why you should break free and follow your heart

An old friend of mine who I haven’t seen in a very long time recently asked me what I was up to and if I was still working as a Consulting Engineer. The last time we’d talked I was on my way to give a paper at a conference and I was up to my eyeballs in project stress, juggling an impossible number of deadlines and deliverables. When I told him I had left my corporate career to follow my real passion, he laughed and said “Ha, don’t tell me you’ve quit your job and become a Life Coach?” with a wink. He laughed even harder when I said yes that’s right; that’s exactly what I had done (with a wink back). But we had a lovely conversation after that where he admitted that even he – a once incredibly committed corporate engineer – was also considering leaving the ‘rat race’ because his life was completely out of balance and he felt as though the corporate world had “sucked him dry”. And he was even seeing a Life Coach himself to navigate his way through his confusion and uncertainty. And his Life Coach had also once been a dedicated corporate employee too; hence his tongue-in-cheek comment about my transition.

Apparently it’s becoming almost a cliché to quit your corporate career to pursue something closer to your heart. But it’s had me wondering why this is the case, and why my story – which I once thought was quite unique – is actually very similar to the hundreds of stories I read all over the internet about people who quit the corporate world to pursue something that feels truer to their heart, more joyful and fulfilling.

I used to feel so much passion and dedication in my professional career. I was recently cleaning out the hard drive on our computer at home when I came across an essay that I wrote in 2010, that I submitted as an application for a Women in Engineering Leadership Scholarship. I was incredibly chuffed back then that my essay “Looking forward, looking back” was selected to win a decent sum of money to spend on Leadership Development, which I spent on some exciting and inspiring leadership courses. As I read through my essay again last week, I was reminded of how committed I was to making a difference in the engineering field. At the time of writing the essay, I’d been working wholeheartedly on environmental innovation projects for around 14 years.

So what happened to my dedication to environmental engineering? It’s still there; I still care very deeply about the environment and want to do something to help. But I had come to the point in 2011 where I realised that it’s not possible to be an effective change agent when coming from a place of overwhelm, fatigue, depletion and stress. My days had become a haze of running from one meeting to the other, troubleshooting and fire-fighting, scrambling to get workshops delivered, reports written and proposals submitted. I had spent such a long time working my butt off, working ridiculously long hours on very stressful projects and travelling all over the place for conferences and projects. And for what? I was so tired of feeling the way I did. Life had become an unbalanced, pleasure-less, stressful nightmare and I couldn’t imagine spending another month, yet alone the rest of my life living this way.

There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough.

I knew that it was time to let go of all the false pretences and to admit to myself that enough was enough. I had the realisation that real change in the world must begin with ourselves. Until we can learn to take care of ourselves and cultivate a way of living that enables us to feel balanced, peaceful, nourished, alive and energised, it’s not possible to be part of the positive change we wish to see around us. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” as the proverb goes; you have to look after yourself first, in order to have something to offer others. And in order to fill up my own cup, I needed to take some time out. I took two months off work back in 2011 and during that time, within the quiet, empty spaces I created, my heart started talking to me. Clarity started to emerge and at the end of those couple of months I knew I wanted to re-train to become a Coach, so that I could work with people to help them live their most balanced, fulfilled and joyful life – because I believe that the more of us who feel that way, the more chance we have of being loving stewards of the world around us.

After reading countless stories of people quitting their corporate careers to follow the entrepreneurial path, several common qualities have emerged within their stories. I’ve pulled them together into the 5 compelling reasons why you should break free and follow your heart.

1. You can fully express your unique gifts and talents
We all have what I refer to as our zone of ‘natural genius’ – the things that we’re naturally good at without even trying. Everyone has something they’re particularly good at. During my corporate career I was operating in my own zone of natural genius only about 20% of the time. The rest of the time I was doing things that weren’t aligned with my natural strengths and didn’t feel joyful. I know that every career includes tasks and activities that we like, and many task and activities that we don’t like. But when we’re working in a way that allows us to fully express the gifts we do have, somehow the other parts don’t feel so onerous or annoying – they’re in service to the beautiful thing we’re creating through our business. As Paul Coelho said “The path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey”. And now that I know how good it feels to have my whole heart in my work, there’s no going back. Imagine how different the world would be if everyone’s whole heart was invested in their work, and they were working in their zone of natural genius, for the majority of the time?

2. Make a positive difference and see the direct results of your efforts
Do you often wonder whether your daily work is having any impact? Almost all the stories I read, including my own, talk about the desire to make a positive difference and the frustration of seeing where things could have been done differently, more efficiently or effectively, but being powerless to do anything about them. In my former career I spent countless hours writing Business Cases, proposals and strategic plans that were either shelved, dismissed due to lack of funding, or often dismissed because it was “not the way we’ve always done things”. And while I was part of some significant breakthroughs during my career, I wanted to spend less time justifying and defending my ideas and more time just getting on and doing them. When you work for yourself, you can pitch your idea and philosophy clearly and those who resonate with your vision – and need exactly what you’re offering – can respond. And then you can just get on with the task of serving those people directly and effectively. I believe the more people who embrace their yearning to make a difference and get out there and start serving in their own unique way, the faster we’ll see things improve in the world.

3. We crave freedom and flexibility
We’re tired of the 60+ hour work weeks, the need to force yourself into the office early in the morning no matter how late you stayed up the night before and the lack of free time to do the things that sustain and nourish you. We crave the freedom to work according to our own schedules; to work with the natural rhythms of our body clocks and creative impulses. I love how I can now take time off when I want to and work incredibly long and hard on something if I want to, as the impulse arises. But only when I really want to. Freedom and flexibility have become especially important to me since becoming a mother to our two young children.

And thanks to the internet, our physical location is no longer a restriction on the type of work we can do; we can now work on our own business from anywhere in the world. All you need is a good WiFi connection and some effective software platforms and you have instant access to everything, everywhere. We can now teach, sell products or services, coach or roll out wonderful home study programs while sitting in our pyjamas behind the computer. I know someone who spends her whole life sailing around the world in a luxury yacht, while delivering her lectures and trainings from the various ports she arrives at! Virtual education is the new revolution that is changing so many lives and giving so many people opportunities where there previously weren’t any.

4. We want to do things on our own terms
When we work for ourselves we’re free to do things exactly how we want, when we want. In the article “Why entrepreneurs choose freedom over money”, they conclude that “Despite the fact that people who work for themselves often work more, have fewer benefits and experience more on the job stress than those who work for others, a majority of Americans would prefer to be entrepreneurs. Research shows that entrepreneurs are more satisfied with their jobs – and happier in general. Workplace autonomy is a powerful motivator.” And the number of people who are actually out there making wonderful money as entrepreneurs is ever increasing. The online world is making abundant income increasingly possible for business owners.

5. We crave fun and pleasure in our work
Perhaps most importantly, we want to feel happiness and joy in the work we do. I really needed to pinch myself the first time I received money for my coaching services; it seemed such a gift to be paid for something that I found so enjoyable and enriching. It really is the biggest gift we can give ourselves, to be in love with what we do. As Confucius said “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. I couldn’t agree with this more.

If you’re at the point of wondering whether you should leave your career behind to pursue something closer to your heart, Helena Klein suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you have to justify your job to yourself and others?
    Do you find yourself saying your work is actually ‘not that bad’, when in reality you know there must be a more joyful and fulfilling way to spend your working days?
  • Is your work giving you energy or draining you of it?
    Is there at least one part of your work that you look forward to each day? If there’s no part of your work that truly excites you, it’s time to make some changes.
  • Is there anybody I work with whose life I would like to have?
    If you don’t see any positive role models at work to look up to and who have the kind of life you want, then why are you there? There is no use in working your way up to a job that you don’t want to have.
  • Do you feel inspired by your work?
    Are you able to think freely, out of the box? Or do you feel trapped and patronized? If you spend too much time completing other people’s tasks, ignoring your own thoughts, or withholding your talent from the world, then it’s time to think seriously about change.
  • Last but not least: is my work in line with my personal values?
    If the things you’re doing at work don’t feel good to you, this is a big warning sign. You should feel proud of what you do and feel good about yourself when you do it.

As Farnoosh Ahram says “If you want to venture out on your own, pursue a call to greatness and live a meaningful life on your own terms, do it. Do not wait for permission. Do not wait for acceptance or validation. Do.Not.Wait, my friend, because time is the one thing that you cannot buy back with all the gold and power in the world.”

Do you yearn to discover your unique calling and to thrive financially, while doing work you love? Do you crave a career that makes you jump out of bed in the morning? Then get yourself a FREE copy of my report PATHFINDING: How to find and start living that special calling that you are uniquely designed for and learn how to build a career that unites your true nature, your passion and your natural genius into work that is a full expression of yourself, allowing you to get your unique and valuable gifts into the world in a way that is FUN and deeply fulfilling!

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

katie-signature
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
Feeling frustrated in your career? How to get unstuck with Life Design principles

Feeling frustrated in your career? How to get unstuck with Life Design principles

Job hunting can be one of the most soul-destroying, confidence-zapping processes to go through. If you’re currently without work, or stuck in a job you hate then I’m sure you know how depressing the whole job-hunting process is. You troll the internet for job vacancies, then try to mould your cover letter to express a (perhaps inauthentic) desire and perfect match for that job and then wait seemingly forever for a confirmation email or response that sometimes never comes. The trouble in this situation is that we give all our power over to a process that we have absolutely no control over. And we’re only focusing on what’s available out there, not on the ideal or dream job we truly want to create. Enter Life Design Principles.

This week I learned of a staggering statistic in Dave Evans & Bill Burnett’s wonderful book Designing Your Life: Build a Life That Works For You – only one in five jobs are actually posted in job search engines or anywhere on the internet. This means that four out of five jobs are not advertised – anywhere. No wonder so many people feel frustrated and rejected when job seeking. If only one in five jobs are advertised, where are the other four out of five jobs? Evans & Burnett call it the hidden job market, which they describe as “the job market that’s only open to people who are already connected into the web of professional relationships in which that job resides. This is an insider’s game, and it’s almost impossible to get inside that web as a job seeker.”

So how do you become one of the ‘insiders’ when you’re on the outside? Accessing the hidden job market all comes down to one thing – networking. In a recent LinkedIn study it was shown that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking [1]. ‘Networking’ is a word that makes some people cringe while conjuring up images of making small talk with potentially helpful strangers or approaching people cold turkey with a business card. But it doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be that way. The whole process of networking to access the hidden job market can be turned into a very pleasant and enjoyable – and extremely productive – process, through a technique that Evans & Burnett describe as Life Design Interviews.

In this process you first figure out what your dream career path would be. This can be a challenging task in itself and it’s important that you first take the time to get very clear on exactly what your dream career looks like (if you need help with this, please be sure to get your FREE copy of my E-Book PATHFINDING: How to find and start living your unique calling). Once you’re clear on what you want, you then invite someone who is already connected into your desired field to have a conversation with you about what it’s like to work in that field or job. You approach the conversation with a mindset of curiosity and interest and with the intention to find out whether this kind of work really is something you desire yourself. People are generally very happy to be interviewed to talk about themselves and their work, especially when they know that the intention is to seek information, not to request or apply for a job. Evans & Burnett state that you must approach the conversation “as a sincerely interested inquirer – someone looking just for the story (not looking for the job). That’s how this works.”

There’s something magical that happens when we move from a place of desperation and neediness into a place of open-minded curiosity and non-attachment. There’s a shift in our energy and we open up the conversation to an authentic connection and conversation, as opposed to an attempt to coerce the other person into giving you something you need. There are two wonderful outcomes of this approach:

1) You find out first-hand whether this field really is what you think it might be and if it’s something you really do want to commit your time, effort and resources to, and;

2) You establish a connection with an insider in that field. You are networking in a completely organic and non-forced manner, bringing you closer to accessing the hidden job market.

The more people you interview, the more information and insight you learn and the more connections you make. Evans & Burnett describe how one of their clients, Kurt, started off as a job-seeker. He submitted thirty-eight job applications, along with his impressive resume and thirty-eight individual crafted cover letters. Out of all his applications, he received terse rejection emails from eight companies and never heard back from the other thirty. “No interviews, no offers, no follow-up calls.” Needless to say he became disheartened and dejected. After learning of the Life Design Interview process, Kurt then identified people he could talk to and went out and conducted 56 life design interviews in different companies and organisations related to his dream field. During that process he established a wide web of authentic connections and in the end was offered seven wonderful job offers and had to spend significant time considering which one was the best fit for him. He turned his situation of desperation into one of being connected and in-demand. This is how the Life Design Process works.

To get unstuck in your current career crisis, it’s crucial that you shift yourself out of a powerless, dependent-on-others mindset into an empowered, proactive and non-attached mindset. This shift in itself will create several positive benefits you hadn’t anticipated. Take back your power and rather than wait for the next best thing to come along, get busy deciding what you want and figuring out how to create it. Burnett & Evans describe five Life Design Principles that are essential to accompany your Life Design Interviews. These are:

Life Design Principles

1. Be Curious

There is something interesting about everything. Endless curiosity is key to a well-designed life. Which fields interest you and what would you like to know about them? Which kinds of people could you talk to to find out more information? What do experts in this field argue about and why? What are the key issues people in this field deal with? What are the problems/issues/challenges that keep these people up at night and are these issues you are passionate about too? “Endless curiosity equals increasing knowledge, options and clarity about your life direction.”

2. Try Stuff

When you shift into a mode of bias-toward-action you stop being stuck. There is no more analysing, worrying, pondering, or solving your way through life. Evans & Burnett talk regularly about “building your way” into your dream job. Keep figuring out the next action to take and do it. Who can you talk to next? What is something you could do to find out more about a certain field? What can you read or learn to find out more about a particular idea you have? Are there any courses or self-study modules you could follow to learn more and upskill yourself?

3. Reframe Problems

Reframing is a change in perspective, viewing something from a different angle and changing the meaning around it. For example, a dysfunctional belief could be “I’m too old and it’s too late to find my dream job”. A reframe would be “It’s never too late to design a life you love and I have the power to create anything I desire.” Ask yourself “What perspective do I actually have in this situation?” and if there is a way to change it for your own benefit and empowerment. We have the power to reframe any situation and substitute a limiting belief with a resourceful one. We get to choose and design our own life.

4. Know It’s a Process

Knowing that building your dream career is a process means you don’t get frustrated or lost and don’t ever give up.

5. Ask For Help

We’re not meant to walk this path alone. Our success depends on building networks of support and collaboration. Find yourself a mentor (or several) and join groups or networks of like-minded people with similar aspirations. Facebook Groups is an amazing resource for people looking to link in with groups of people on a similar path. As Jeffrey Davis always says “Doing it Together (DIT) beats Doing it Yourself (DIY)”.

So get yourself unstuck by brainstorming who you could conduct some Life Design Interviews with and get out there and start actively and intentionally building the career you desire. YOU are in charge of your life and your destiny and only you have the power to build the life you want. And good luck dear friend, please let me know how you go, I love hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this article, you can sign up here to receive email notification of new blog posts and to receive our community newsletter. I’d be honoured to have you join our tribe!

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-survey-reveals-85-all-jobs-filled-via-networking-lou-adler

The art of dreaming big: Imagination and the Law of Attraction

The art of dreaming big: Imagination and the Law of Attraction

“It’s not your work to make anything happen. It’s your work to dream it and let it happen. Law of Attraction will make it happen. In your joy, you create something, and then you maintain your vibrational harmony with it, and the Universe must find a way to bring it about. That’s the promise of the Law of Attraction”
– Abraham-Hicks

I’ve recently been doing a course for entrepreneurs and business owners called Profit Quest by Jeanna Gabellini, and her tag line is “Double your profits, double your fun!” When I first saw her promotions I thought wow, that’s a big call. Can I really double my profits and double my fun in my small coaching business by the end of her course? I enrolled in her course to find out and lo and behold – it appears her system really works.

It’s powerful and yet it’s so simple, and it’s based on the Law of Attraction. Do you remember the big hoo-ha surrounding the movie “The Secret” when it came out all those years ago? That movie was all about the Law of Attraction. I really liked the message in the movie, but at the time I thought it was also a bit simplistic and materialistic, telling people they could have whatever house or car they desire if they could just imagine having it. But I’ve since realized that there’s much more to the Law of Attraction. It teaches us how to be a co-creator in our own life, to align ourselves with a vision we love and then allow it to unfold.

The law of attraction is basically this: like attracts like. When you imagine having, being or doing something you care about deeply, something that feels joyful and exciting, you create an energetic ‘blueprint’ for what you desire. When you step back and surrender, and (importantly) believe that you can and will have the thing you desire, then quite miraculously, what you desire starts turning up in your life somehow. Not always straight away (although sometimes it does!); but the steps to reach it will start appearing.

The key is to let your imagination run wild and to feel into what you would really, really like to manifest in your life. And here is the catch – most of us are so trained into thinking a certain way; we have so many beliefs about what we think we can and can’t have, and when we focus on what we would really love to create in our life, we come up against all the internal, negative programming that tells us we can’t have that. We’re not trained to dream big. In fact, most of us have been taught to keep our dreams small.

One of the tasks we had to do early in the Profit Quest course was to define exactly how much money we would love to make by the end of the year if everything in our business suddenly started aligning and flowing. This was quite difficult to do; at first my head took over and I wrote down a number that I thought I could realistically achieve. That number, however, is not a number that got me excited and inspired. We were asked to write down the dollar amount that would make us super excited – not a number too far out of our league that it feels impossible and overwhelming (hence leading to disappointment and fear of failure), but a number that feels like a big stretch, but also feels energizing and exciting. So I wrote down a number that felt like that. At the time I wrote it down, I didn’t actually believe that I could make that much money, but I thought it would be cool if I did!

And when we allow ourselves to think big like that, all of a sudden things start showing up that align with that vision. I’ve only been doing this for around 6 weeks now, but since doing it I’ve experienced major positive growth in my business, all because I’ve managed to make big shifts in my internal mindset around what is possible for me, my business and my clients.

Jeanna makes a journal available called her Speed Dial the Universe (both digitally as an App and in hard copy), and it’s been an incredibly powerful tool for me. It’s a daily reminder to dream big and to set your internal compass towards allowing miracles to manifest in your life. I was skeptical at first, but my experience with it has shown that it really does work. The journal is a fun way to start your day because it focuses your mind, body and soul on positive outcomes that you desire in your life. Here’s what I’ve come to understand about how the law of attraction works.

Clear intention + Surrender + Belief = Manifestation

First you need to be able to dream big and set a big, clear intention about what you want to create. This isn’t easy when we first start out. Our internal beliefs put all kinds of limits on what we think is possible. But you can strengthen this ‘muscle’ and over time, if you commit to doing this practice daily, you will find that you’re able to allow yourself to dream bigger and bigger. And when you start seeing the signs and small steps of what you desire appearing in your life, it’s so much fun!

The other important ingredient is surrender. You have to set your clear intention and then let go. Again, this is not easy as we’re so used to controlling everything we want to create in our lives. However, without surrender, you cannot be in a receptive state and be open to receive the insight and wisdom that’s being transmitted to you.

And finally, belief. This is very intertwined with surrender and can be difficult. With many things I write down in my journal, at the start I’m not sure I actually believe I can have those things. But I’m willing to write them down. And with this simple act, it opens the floodgates for possibility, belief and optimism to flow in. And this allows us to start behaving as if we already have the thing we desire. This in itself opens the doors to miracles. As the late Wayne Dyer always said:

“You don’t attract what you want, you attract what you are
– Wayne Dyer

So when you start acting as though you already are someone who has the things you desire, you start attracting those things into your life. When you have a clear intention, you start calling it forth. I’ve experienced profound internal shifts since using the Speed Dial the Universe journal each day. I haven’t doubled my profits yet, but I’ve definitely doubled my fun and I finally have real clarity and inspiration about exactly how I can double my profits too. And I can’t wait to implement them as they feel energizing, authentic and magnetic. I’m receiving insight and guidance each day and the next steps seem to be appearing effortlessly on my path. I feel excited, clear and optimistic. And I know my course colleagues have all experienced similar internal shifts that are helping them create a very real and clear road map to live the life they love.

Feel like giving it a try? Start dreaming big, focus daily on the things that you would really love to create in your life and then sit back and enjoy the ride. And let me know if anything shifts for you. As always I would love to hear from you!

For more information, Jeanna’s website has loads of information on how to harness the Law of Attraction to bring more profits and fun into your business!

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
The gift of writing: How to find meaning & purpose in the story of your life

The gift of writing: How to find meaning & purpose in the story of your life

“Story is a vehicle for us to create meaning in our lives. We need story like we need our bodies. It creates our meaning”
– Mark Matousek, author of Sex, Death, Enlightenment

A few years ago I was in a very dark place. Life felt heavy, overwhelming and horrible. My heart ached constantly and every morning I struggled to get out of bed, tired of the continuous sadness, depletion and exhaustion that plagued my life. Nothing made sense and life seemed cruel and meaningless. As I forced myself to put on a brave, smiling face every day to go to work and face the never-ending deadlines and meetings, inside I felt like I was dying. It was exhausting to put on this facade day in, day out, to pretend that I was happy, coping and succeeding. While inside I was desperately sad and exhausted – emotionally, physically and spiritually.

As often happens when we’re in these dark places, I prayed for help, for some small sign that there was meaning to all of this, and some glimmer of hope that things would get better. Shortly after, an email landed in my inbox from the famous visionary thought leader Dr Jean Houston, about her upcoming course Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. To this day I still don’t know how I got onto her e-mail list. I didn’t know much about her work at the time or the courses she offers. But her email caught my attention and after years of feeling like I was on the wrong path and that my life was not going where I wanted it to be going, Jean’s call to finally uncover my true calling felt like an absolutely essential and urgent thing for me to do. So in spite of my head telling me I didn’t have the time or money to do this course, out of desperation I enrolled myself because my heart was begging me to.

Jean Houston’s course – among other serendipitous things that happened soon after I sent out my S.O.S call to the universe – was the start of a slow but massive shift in my life. One of the key elements in her teachings is the power of story and myth to create meaning in our lives. One of the assignments we had to do as homework was to describe the story of our in lives in the context of the ‘Hero’s Journey’. The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of storytelling identified by the famous American scholar, Joseph Campbell, that weaves through many human stories, movies, drama, theatre and myth. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization. The journey typically includes the following 12 stages.

The Hero’s Journey
1.    The ordinary world
2.    The call to adventure
3.    Refusal of the call
4.    Meeting with the mentor
5.    Crossing the threshold
6.    Tests, allies and enemies
7.    Approaching the cave
8.    The ordeal
9.    The road back
10.  The resurrection
11.  Return with the elixir (Read more details about the Hero’s Journey click here)

Since becoming aware of this pattern of narrative in our storytelling, I’ve seen it appear as the underlying theme in many films and stories in our entertainment world, the most famous and obvious ones being Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I recognise it woven into children’s movies when watching them with my young boys.

At first I was a bit skeptical about the significance this could have as a homework task, but I dutifully sat down and started to write out my life within the template of the Hero’s Journey. I made up a fictional name for myself and started writing about my life in third person, describing the key events and relationships I had been through. As I wrote about the different phases of my life, amazingly I began to see how my life has roughly followed this basic theme, and that during the time that I was working on this assignment, I was stuck in the phase of ‘refusing the call’. I had spent my life living in the ‘ordinary world’, and had heard the ‘call to adventure’ several times deep within my heart. Except that I had been busily refusing the call, blocking it out, determined to make my life follow what my head insisted was the right path, rather than surrendering to the impulses of my heart – ‘the call’ – that wanted to pursue a different kind of life. The more I resisted this call, the more I suffered and the deeper I sunk into the abyss. It had taken deep and prolonged suffering and finally a ‘meeting with the mentor’ – my wonderful healer who held my hand and helped me surrender to my own inner truth, courage and wisdom – that finally allowed me to ‘cross the threshold’.

After spending many years committed to overcoming my fears, doubts and insecurities and preparing myself for my new career path, it currently feels as though I’m immersed in the ‘tests, allies and enemies’ phase in which I’ve surrendered to the call, while continuing to be tested in many ways to strengthen my resilience and resolve. I’m learning who my allies and enemies are and learning to surround myself with loyal and supportive comrades who support my journey in this ‘new world’, as I strive to live my brightest life and make a positive contribution through my work and presence.

I can’t explain the uplift and joy I felt after recognising my life story within the archetypal pattern of the Hero’s Journey. Suddenly my pain and suffering felt worthwhile and a necessary part of my life’s journey. It gave my life meaning just as Mark Matousek suggested happens when we harness the power of story. By choosing to follow my heart I feel I am now on my way to ‘return with the elixir’, tapping into the joy, flow and abundance that comes to us naturally when we align with our heart and soul. This road will not be easy, but it’s the only road that makes sense to me now. Sometimes my inner skeptic comes in and tells me this is just something we tell ourselves to help ourselves feel better. And then I think – so what? If we find meaning, comfort, strength and motivation by seeing ourselves within this context, as the Hero within our own lives, surviving trials and tribulations on our path to finding the treasure, then isn’t that great? And isn’t that all that really matters?

And yet another interesting thing happened as I found the courage to share my story with others in my course group. As I dared to put myself out there and share my story, suddenly I was being approached by several class mates who were telling me that they related to so much of my story and that they too had been through similar things. And as I read through the stories of everyone else, it occurred to me how much I also related to their stories, and how much of our collective human suffering follows common themes and patterns. And this, says Jean Houston, is why myth and campfire stories are so important to us, because they connect us to each other through the sharing of common human experiences and emotions. They connect us to each other and they give our lives meaning. And this sense of meaning and connection is what can be so healing when we surrender to the power of our story.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional coach & founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
Forget IQ tests. Here are the real reasons why people succeed.

Forget IQ tests. Here are the real reasons why people succeed.

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us I here for.”
– Oscar Wilde

Have you ever felt constrained by a label? Or been unfairly compared to others? I felt compelled to write this article because I’ve seen the destructive forces of labels playing out in the lives of many people close to me and I’ve felt them acutely myself. Labels put us into artificial boxes that don’t exist and they limit — or over-inflate — the way we feel about ourselves. Plus, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies in that what we believe about ourselves tends to become our reality. Labels can hold us back. By comparing ourselves to others, we feel less-than. And they don’t allow for the ever-changing nature of our authentic self to unfold and flourish.

As a coach, one of the biggest hurdles I experience when coaching people to unlock their full potential is their own internal beliefs about themselves. I see them get all excited and lit up by a vision they hold for their future, and then I see the fear and inner gremlins creep in that tell them they’re not good enough, or ‘smart enough’ to make it happen. In this article, I describe why IQ tests are not necessarily an indicator of your potential and the four real reasons why people succeed. I describe how you can apply these four principles in your own life to thrive and love life.

“In the 40-plus years that I have worked with children, I continue to be in awe of each young soul whom I am privileged to get to know. I have learned a great deal about each Self. I’ve experienced their emotions, anxieties, joys, passions and ambitions, and I see that each Self is perfect in itself. It is only when we start comparing them to each other that we begin to see imperfection.”
— Annemarie Roeper, quoted in Ungifted, by Scott Barry Kaufman.

I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about the concept of human intelligence ever since I can remember and the idea that some people are inherently more ‘intelligent’ than others. I’ve simply always felt it’s not necessarily accurate. I’ve always believed (and experienced) that we’re all equally intelligent, but in radically different ways. When I was about nine years old I was made to sit a test called PEAC (primary extension and challenge), based on IQ (‘intelligence quotient’) measurement. I was very surprised that I scored highly on that particular test, because I knew very well that I wasn’t any more or less intelligent than my classmates. I was under no illusion and knew that my classmates were very good at some things that I wasn’t, and vice versa. We were all different and clever in our own, very different way. My mind just seemed to work in a way that made me score high on this particular IQ test.

As a result, I was labeled ‘gifted’ and channeled into after-school extension classes. Suddenly my afternoons that were once filled with play time were spent sitting in a classroom learning about electronics, meteorology, ancient mythology and Italian. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I really didn’t enjoy those classes (except Italian, which I loved). It became a real source of anxiety for me to attend them. Plus, the label ‘gifted’ was very uncomfortable for me among my peers as well as at home among my siblings and created all kinds of unwanted tension. Comparison really is the beginning of all problems.

Then there is the story of Scott Barry Kaufman, author of the wonderful book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined [1], who at a very young age was diagnosed as having a learning disability based on IQ tests, and was channeled into special classes for the learning disabled. Like me, he knew that he wasn’t any more or less intelligent than the others, but his particular kind of intelligence wasn’t fully quantifiable in an IQ test. He tried and tried to escape the label of ‘learning disabled’, which affected him in immeasurable ways (as you can imagine), and it wasn’t until one particular teacher in high school took a chance on him and allowed him to enter her ‘normal’ classroom. Scott went on to prove his school psychologist (and countless others) wrong by graduating from high school and he eventually completed a Ph.D in Cognitive Psychology at one of America’s most prestigious universities, Yale. He is now one of the most respected Psychologists in the field of human intelligence and is a wonderful example of how labels can be proven utterly wrong.

“We don’t have standardized minds, so why do we have standardized tests?” 
— Scott Barry Kaufman

Kaufman’s book highlights the real limitations of IQ testing. He discusses how the first modern IQ test was developed in France by Alfred Binet in 1905, who was given the task of inventing a test that would distinguish ‘fast learners’ from ‘slow learners’ in a school environment. The IQ-test that Binet developed was quite effective at doing so, but Binet himself knew the limitations of the test. After working with hundreds of children and their test results, he knew that the outcome of the test was not 100% reproducible and depended on a number of factors including the level of anxiety of the child at the time of the test, their current level of maturity, their environment, how motivated they were to do well in the test and the amount of stimulation they received until that point. He knew that it was not a direct sign of potential, which depends on a myriad of other factors. He said himself “With practice, training and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”

And yet despite his public statements about the limitations of the test, the test was fervently adopted for measuring human intelligence worldwide. Lewis Terman, a professor of psychology at Stanford University in the USA was smitten with the Binet test and with some modifications developed the Stanford-Binet test in 1916, which went on to propel the IQ-test forward as the gold standard for human intelligence testing and remained America’s test of choice for half a century (Kaufman, 2013). Terman and his team believed that intelligence is fixed, enduring and hereditary (which we now know is not the case). His labels influenced a whole new generation of IQ classification schemes. Interestingly, as Kaufman discusses in his book, Terman’s impact surprised even himself. As he noted about fifteen years after the first edition of his test was published “I knew that revision of Binet’s tests was superior to others then available, but I did not foresee the vogue it was to have an imagined that it would probably be displaced by something much better within a few years.”

Well, as Kaufman says, it wasn’t. It’s still the basis behind most intelligence testing used worldwide today. In his book Ungifted, Kaufman refers to research by Kevin McGrew which showed that IQ tests are “fallible predictors of academic achievement.” He explains how for any given IQ test score, half of the students will end up obtaining final achievement scores at or below their IQ score. Conversely, and frequently not recognized, is that for any given test score, half of the students will end up obtaining final achievement scores at or above their IQ score [2]. So as you can see, IQ tests are not a be-all-and-end-all summary of your potential. They simply “measure an important but limited slice of intellectual functioning in a very limited test environment”, as Kaufman says.

So what is intelligence then?

I’m a big fan of Nicholas Lore’s definition of intelligence in his book The Pathfinder: How to choose or change your career for a lifetime of satisfaction and success. Lore says:

“Intelligence is a natural gift for doing anything well.”

We all have a natural gift for doing something well. And therefore, we are all intelligent. Each of us is unique, with a very distinct and particular zone of what I call natural genius; a particular set of skills, gifts and talents that are unique to us. And who are we to judge whether one set of skills and abilities makes us more intelligent than someone with a completely different set of talents and abilities? I call the things you do naturally well your natural genius because I believe that the term genius shouldn’t be reserved only for those who become successful and wildly famous because of their specific gifts. It should be acknowledged that we all have a specific kind of genius, and the only things that separate you from a well-known ‘genius’ are these following things:

· The right conditions, environment and support to nurture and develop your particular zone of genius;
· The belief that you have a very unique and particular zone of genius;
· An attitude of ‘grit’, a term gaining popularity to describe “A passion and perseverance for long-term goals” (defined by Angela Lee Duckworth);
· A passion and love for something that allows you to sustain and fuel an attitude of grit, which in turn allows you to develop and express your genius to its fullest extent.

In her famous book Wishcraft, Barbara Sher discusses how we’re all born with a ‘seed’ of genius that contains the maximum potential of our fully expressed life; a bit like the acorn contains the blueprint of the fully developed oak tree. But that acorn will not become a fully developed oak tree unless it is nurtured in the right conditions with nutritious soil, water, sunshine and air. Your natural genius needs a special kind of nurturing too with regards to the environment you grow up in and live in. Sher explains that all accomplished ‘geniuses’ received the right conditions to nurture their particular genius, including support from their environment, encouragement, stimulation and opportunity. Kaufman (2013) says that a nurturing family environment is a necessity to help a child flourish, just as a fish needs water to swim and survive. And one of the most important discoveries in recent years is that the environment you’re in triggers gene expression. This means that some talents lie dormant in all of us, waiting for the perfect environmental conditions to trigger them. So a supportive and stimulating environment is critical to the development of your own unique intelligence.

To understand whether your own zone of natural genius was nurtured as you were growing up, try to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions [source Wishcraft]:

Was your natural genius carefully nurtured while growing up?

1. When you were a child, were you treated as though you have a unique kind of genius that was loved and respected?
2. Were you told that you can do or be anything you want, and that you would be loved and admired no matter what that was?
3. Were you given real encouragement in finding out what you wanted to do, and how to do it?
4. Were you encouraged to explore all your talents and interests even if they changed regularly?
5. Were you allowed to complain when the going got tough, and were you given sympathy?
6. Were you rescued when you got in over your head, without being punished or reprimanded?
7. Were you surrounded by happy, fulfilled people who were pleased when you succeeded?

If you answered ‘no’ to four or more of these questions, then it’s likely your natural genius wasn’t provided with the optimal conditions to fully unfold and develop. It’s possible that you don’t know what your natural genius is and perhaps you feel skeptical about even having one. On the other hand, if you answered ‘yes’ to four or more of these questions, it’s likely that your natural genius ‘seed’ was nurtured very well and allowed to germinate, perhaps grow into a seedling, or perhaps even into a fully developed tree. It’s likely that you have a clear and healthy sense of your own abilities and your unique gifts and talents. That’s a wonderful thing; you’re very fortunate!

If you’re not sure what your particular genius is, I cover tips and strategies for uncovering this is my free E-Book Pathfinding: How to find and start living your unique calling. One of the best places to start looking to uncover your natural genius is in your childhood. What are the things you loved doing as a child, what did you naturally gravitate towards and what would others say you were naturally good at? And what do you love doing? The seeds of your natural genius will be hidden in there.

“Who you are isn’t passive or static or unchanging. It is a vital design that needs to unfold and express itself through the medium of your whole life. And the unique pattern of talents and gifts that lie hidden in the things you love doing is also the map to your own life path.”
— Barbara Sher, Wishcraft

There are many, many different kinds of intelligence and an infinite number of ways in which these types of intelligence can interact and complement each other within each of us. Commonly referred to as ‘talent stacks’, different combinations of talents can result in very different and powerful abilities. Thankfully today there are numerous approaches, systems and tests for discovering your own particular innate strengths, which can help you understand the best professions and environments that suit and nurture your particular genius. I’ve highlighted just some of the many different ways the innate abilities can be classified in Table 1 at the end of this article. What’s important is that you recognize that you have a zone of natural genius. In her book Coach Yourself To A New Career, Talane Miedaner says “Our inherent abilities are so much a part of our makeup that they can be like breathing; we may take them completely for granted and not even recognize them as special talents and abilities”.

You will know you’re operating in your zone of natural genius if:
· It feels fun and easy;
· You can do it for hours and you are more energized afterwards, not less;
· Time collapses around you — you lose track of the hours when you’re engaged in your natural talent;
· You create superior results with less effort;
· You add value effortlessly to those around you;
· It is easy to be successful;
· You are happy and fulfilled;
· You feel fully alive and self-expressed (Miedaner, 2010).

So how do we realise our maximum potential and full self-expression?

The four essential ingredients of success – Grit. Perseverance. Belief. Passion.

Potential, Kaufman says in Ungifted, is a constantly moving target. The more we engage in something, the more we develop our brain capacity in that area and the more our potential grows. In his book Brain Rules, John Medina describes how what you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like — it literally rewires it. So you can absolutely develop intelligence in an area, depending on how much time you dedicate to something.

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
– Stephen King

In her compelling TED talk, Angela Lee Duckworth describes how in study after study, she found that the most telling factor for success was grit (passion and perseverance for long-term goals). Talent and success are usually unrelated or even inversely related. She argues that it’s all about perseverance and follow-through. She says “There are lots of brilliant people but it’s the ones who stay true to themselves and follow through that make it. The key to success is setting a goal and pacing yourself. It’s staying true to that goal even when life gets messy and when it’s inconvenient.”

This brings me to what I believe is the number one essential ingredient for developing your potential — PASSION. Passion is what fuels and sustains grit and follow-through. When you’re passionate about something, it means you care very deeply about it. But being passionate about something doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always feels upbeat and joyful. In fact, in Joseph Campbell’s famous book The Power of Myth he explains that the Greek root of the word passion translates to suffering. Annabelle Parr describes beautifully that “Following your passion means choosing a vocation that is so important to you, so vital to your being that you’re willing to suffer for it.” She goes on to define passion as being “where fulfillment, growth, joy and change exist”. Your passion will push you to your growth edge and force you to fully develop and express your gifts which can feel scary, challenging and very difficult at times. But through this unfolding of your full potential, while being in service to something you care about, you’ll naturally feel deeply fulfilled and satisfied throughout this process of growth and change. Many studies have shown that people who feel most fulfilled are those who are giving their gifts in service to something larger than themselves. Find your passion and you will discover your capacity for grit, which will allow you to develop your intelligence and proficiency to follow your dream.

So please, if you ever feel those inner gremlins creeping in that tell you haven’t got what it takes to fulfill your dreams, I am here to remind you of this:

· You are a genius in your very individual, unique way. Don’t let an IQ test result, or anything else for that matter, stand in the way between you and your dream;
· The world needs your specific gifts.
· The way to develop and express your full potential is to forge ahead with grit, perseverance and belief in yourself.
· Find your PASSION and let it fuel and sustain your grit and perseverance, and take you to the most fully-expressed, happy and fulfilled version of yourself you came here to be.

“Greatness is not born, but takes time to develop, and there are many paths to greatness.”
— Scott Barry Kaufman

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Life Coach & Career Strategist
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
QUEST 2017: A profound approach to plan an impactful year ahead

QUEST 2017: A profound approach to plan an impactful year ahead

#Quest2017 #TrackingWonder #JeffreyDavis

For the first time ever, this year I joined an inspiring group of wide-minded, visionary entrepreneurs in Jeffrey Davis’ Quest 2017: 12 Principles to do Business as Unusual – a powerful approach to planning the year ahead that involves weekly writing prompts to invoke “a possibility mindset, provocative points of view, deep reflection and a healthy dose of wonder”. The group shares their thoughts and ideas in a Facebook forum that provides the container for everyone to share what kind of possibility 2017 could hold for each of us. As Jeffrey says “Together, we’ll seek meaning, integrity and impact in life and career while remembering that Do It Together (DIT) beats Do It Yourself (DIY)”. This is an open, free forum that you can join too if you’re looking for a thought-provoking and creative way to plan your year. The QUEST2017 group process is finished for now, but you can still use the writing prompts in this blog to reflect on your own journey.

I decided to share the process with you here for two reasons: 1) To share my reflections, hopes and aspirations with you for the year ahead, and 2) To help you reflect and ponder your own plans and ideas, in the hope that it helps you align your own heart, body, mind and soul. This is a long blog post with 12 short essays so I don’t expect you’ll have the time to read through all of it! But please feel free to scroll through and jump to the sub-headings that feel relevant for you. Below are the 12 different writing prompts from 12 different visionaries, plus my responses.

 

THEME 1 – INNER YOU

Writing prompt #1: Your True Calling

 

The first writing prompt has been contributed by Krista Tippett (@kristatippett). Krista is an American journalist, author, and entrepreneur. She created and hosts the public radio program and podcast On Being. In 2014, Tippett was awarded the National Humanities Medal by U.S. President Barack Obama. Krista asks:

What is your vocation, your sense of calling as a human being at this point in your life, both in and beyond job and title?” #YourTrueCalling

This happens to be an easy one for me to answer right now because the question has been a central theme in my life for as long as I can remember. They say that what we’ve struggled with most in life is often the very thing that we’re called to do as our vocation. And interestingly enough, the one thing I’ve struggled with most in my life is having a clear sense of what my true calling is. And I’m quite clear in my heart now that helping others find their true calling is my true calling.

To me, your true calling is something that makes you feel completely aligned in body, mind and spirit. It allows you to unleash and fully develop your very specific and unique gifts in a way that feels joyful, uplifting and energising and allows you to contribute your gifts in service to something larger than yourself. I believe we each have unique and valuable gifts that the world needs and that we each have a specific calling that we’re uniquely designed for. I’ve come to believe that your true calling is the alchemic ‘sweet spot’ where your true nature (your authentic self), your natural genius (your natural strengths and talents) and your passion (what you care about deeply) intersect. Walking the path of your true calling allows you to become more and more of who you are (a process of unfolding), while giving your gifts in service to something that the world needs.

“Our purpose in life is to become the fullest expression of ourselves”
– Kate Northrup

We start walking our true path when we commit to following what feels light and easy and joyful (I agree completely with fellow Quester Paula Trucks-Pape on this concept). And as another one of our fellow Questers Ginny Lee Taylor quoted, your true calling is:

“… Where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
– Frederick Buechner

I now dedicate my business Whispering Heart Coaching to helping people uncover their true calling through a process that’s designed to find their own sweet spot where natural ability meets passion and joy.

If we’re doing something for the money or success or image, it isn’t our true calling. If we’re doing something for the job security and to play it safe, it isn’t our true calling. Sure, we may have to do these things as intermediate steps on the way to our true calling, but I believe it is our intention that defines whether it’s our true calling or not. If our intention is to serve the world somehow through our unique abilities, then we’re living our true calling. The calling itself may take on various forms and outwardly appearances along the way, but if we stay committed to developing and expressing our natural genius in service to something we care about, we’re on the path of our true calling.

I know firsthand how soul-destroying it can be to feel completely out of alignment with our true calling and to ignore what wants to be expressed through us. I’ve felt a deep call to do something meaningful with my life for as long as I can remember. There was a distinct moment when I was seventeen years old as an exchange student in rural Paraguay, South America, standing on the banks of a local river looking out at people bathing in the polluted water that was just downstream from a major cement factory. I felt called to do something about situations like this where people and nature suffer from the effects of heavy industry. And that’s what I ended up doing for almost fifteen years, working as a process engineer designing wastewater treatment plants that clean up polluted water before it’s discharged back into the environment. It felt good to be doing something to keep our environment and waterways clean. For years I was a strong advocate of sustainable planning and strategy.

But even though it felt good to be doing something positive and to work on interesting, challenging and rewarding projects, internally I felt empty and frustrated and a continuous, nagging feeling that there was something else I was ‘meant’ to be doing. If I’m completely honest, I pursued science and engineering to please my parents who thought that engineering would give me lifelong job security and opportunities (which is true). But I most definitely wasn’t operating in my zone of natural genius, or in my zone of joy or true passion. I knew I had gifts to give that were completely untapped. My gifts are in languages, writing, teaching and connecting with people. For years I struggled on in different roles as an engineer, always hoping that the next role would give me the fulfillment and satisfaction I was seeking. But it never did.

Eventually, this stifling of my natural talents and heart’s desires turned into very real physical effects. I developed what the medical world could only describe as ‘chronic fatigue’. I battled constantly with lingering illnesses and viruses, combined with continuous, overwhelming fatigue. I kept going to work during this period, but every day felt like a living hell. I can now see clearly that the illness was a ‘soul crisis’ and my body’s way of telling me that I was completely out of alignment. But it took me almost ten years to finally accept that I had to stop living my life to please others and to finally find out what it means to please myself. I had to go through a process of shedding everything that I’m not, and to instead embrace everything that I am, in order to ‘find’ my true calling.

Interestingly enough, after years and years of seeing different therapists, medical professionals and natural healers (with little to no effect), my health made a sudden turnaround on the day I decided to quit my corporate engineering job of almost fifteen years to focus on things closer to my heart. I gave myself permission to give up the struggle and striving and committed to doing only what feels joyful and uplifting. And every day after that my health and energy improved. Today I feel so blessed to experience ongoing health and vitality. And I’m convinced that it’s because I chose to finally listen to my heart and give myself permission to be me.

If it feels at all relevant for you, feel free to get a copy of my free E-Book Pathfinding: How to find and start living that special calling that you are uniquely designed for, where I discuss this topic of finding your true calling in depth. Helping you find your true calling really is my true passion!

Writing prompt #2: Do I love myself enough to stop working on myself?

 

The second writing prompt comes from Susan Piver (@spiver), a New York Times bestselling author, a meditation teacher and renowned speaker. She is the author of eight books, including How Not Be Afraid of Your Own Life. Susan’s mission is to teach everyone to slow down, soften our hearts, sharpen our minds and create a life of fearlessness and authenticity. Susan asks:

“Do you love yourself enough to stop working on yourself yet? Who would you be in that case?” #LoveYourself

My immediate response to the question “Do you love yourself enough to stop working on yourself yet?” was – No. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to answer that question in the affirmative, although after reflecting on this question these past few days I’ll definitely strive to. Here’s a picture of my bedside table today.

It pretty much always looks like this, the titles of the books just shift and change over time. But they’re almost always on topics of personal and spiritual growth, psychology or social entrepreneurship. I’m a life coach by profession, so it’s hard to know how much of my reading is to stay informed and abreast of the latest developments in my field and how much is my desire to improve and ‘fix’ myself (because I don’t love myself enough to stop working on myself yet?). But I find this question intriguing and through-provoking and I’m grateful to Susan Piver for asking it. I feel such an ongoing hunger for knowledge in the area of personal growth, and despite how many times I’ve told myself to take a break and read something different for a change, I always end up getting bored and reverting back to whichever self-improvement book I was reading.

So am I constantly reading because I don’t love myself enough to stop working on myself yet? Or am I doing it to better serve my clients? I think both. And because it feels like my calling. In my response to the first Quest 2017 prompt #YourTrueCalling I explained how my true calling happens to be helping others find their true calling. And funnily enough, the one big issue that gets in the way of people having the courage to follow their true calling is SELF-LOVE.

We all know the inner critic dialogue that says “I can’t do that, I’m not smart enough” or “I couldn’t run my own business, I’m not savvy enough” or whatever line it is that comes up when you try to justify to yourself why you can’t make the transition to making your JOY your full-time job. “I can’t/couldn’t …. [insert what your heart really wants to do] because I’m not … [insert limiting beliefs and negative judgments about yourself]”. A big part of my work is helping my clients work through their own inner barriers to authentic self-confidence and self-worth (= self-love), just as I struggle continuously with this myself (we’re all human after all). We’ve all built up so many excuses and reasons for why we can’t and won’t commit to pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and into the zone of uncertainty and fear – where the magic happens! – to follow our true calling. And why? Because we think we’re not good enough and can’t make it happen. Because we don’t believe in ourselves enough. And perhaps because we don’t love ourselves enough to do whatever it takes to make ourselves blissfully happy…? Don’t we think we deserve this and nothing less?

We were all born as pure, unconditional love, before we started getting bombarded with negative judgments and criticism from our environment. Panache Desai calls our original pure love essence the ‘liquid gold’ that’s inside each and every one of us. And he refers to it as gold because it can take time to excavate and dig through the layers of emotional scarring that we’ve built up around it to protect ourselves from the pain in the world. If we want to fully love ourselves, the opinion in the psychology/healing world has been that we need to peel back the layers of the emotional onion, layer by layer, with the help of a therapist, counsellor or healer, to heal them and to rediscover our original, undamaged inner child who knew only love.

Or do we? Could we just make a conscious decision right now to love ourselves anyway, emotional scarring, warts, imperfections, flaws and all? I guess that’s the whole purpose of Susan Piver’s question “Who would you be if you loved yourself enough to stop working on yourself?”. Perhaps we’re fine and worthy of 100% self-love right now, as imperfect as we are. What if there’s nothing to learn, do, or fix or improve? Who would I be then? Hmmm. Good question.

Could I stop working on myself and love myself anyway? Could I stop bombarding my clients with techniques and tools for removing emotional barriers and instead just mirror back to them the unconditional, pure love that is within them already? Is it my true calling to reflect back to others the liquid gold that is already theirs? Interestingly enough, I had similar thoughts recently when I realized that everything boils down to being able to love ourselves in the midst of all our imperfections. I wrote about this recently in my article Radical Self-Love & Acceptance: Could this be our one true purpose in life?

But back to Susan’s question. Who would I be if I loved myself enough to stop working on myself?

I would be free. I would be relieved. I would be relaxed. I would be at peace. I would love and be loved, fully, unconditionally. I would be secure in the knowledge that I have arrived, and there’s nowhere to go. I would be someone who feels so at peace in my own skin and in my own heart that I naturally exude peace and love to all those I come into contact with. A kind of Dalai Lama. Is that possible? I don’t know. But I’m sure as hell willing to give it a try.

Thank you Susan for your beautiful question. I can see now. This is it. This is what we’re all being called to do. To love ourselves unconditionally just as we are, right now, right where we are. In our all imperfection and total perfection.

Writing prompt #3: Where will I be brave enough to bring forth even more of myself this year?

 

The third writing prompt comes from Kristen Noel at Best Self Media (@BestSelf_Media). Kristen is a writer, speaker, motivator and Editor-In-Chief of Best Self Magazine, the leading voice for holistic health and authentic living. Kristen asks:

Where are you going to go deeper this year, where can you be brave enough to bring forth even more of yourself — to infuse your work, creativity and business with that which is uniquely YOU, thus inspiring others to do more of the same? What could that look like in 2017 for you? #BringYouForward

Hmm. Another good question, thank you Kristen. I guess this brings me to the first question – who am I if I’m being uniquely ME? I believe the keys to our uniqueness lie in who we were as a child, before we became conditioned by our environment. So I started looking there.

My uniqueness #1 – An ability to embrace the paradox of life

The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m quite a person of paradox. My brother Cam who’s 14 years younger than me always saw this quite clearly. He used to call me a ‘square on the edge’, which I thought was hilarious (once I could get past the square part). When he was young he observed me as a teen and young adult and he saw someone who worked hard, studied hard and got good grades, but who also loved to party hard, rebel and push the boundaries. My mother used to say that I didn’t just burn the candle at both ends, but that I “snapped the candle in two and burnt all four ends”. When people asked me how I did it all I would reply, “I don’t sleep much, I’ll sleep when I’m dead” (thanks Bon Jovi).

As I’ve grown older I’ve been forced to find a more appropriate middle road, because living that way is not sustainable (obviously). But I still walk the tightrope between the polarities of my character. I love yoga and meditation and reading books on Buddhism and spirituality, but I also love to drink gin and rock out to Led Zeppelin or AC/DC. I love going for slow, peaceful hikes in nature but I also love to compete in high-energy triathlons. I love drinking my hot lemon juice and green smoothie every morning, but I also love to eat hot chips and drink beer on occasion. I’m a responsible Mum to two young boys and a focused and disciplined small business owner, but I also love to goof around, be silly and dance to Hi-5 with my boys.

“We cannot run from paradoxes; we can only embrace them and become one with them. For, in reality, the apparent opposites are two sides of the same coin that are meant to reside in harmony”
Patricia Spadaro

How will I use this quality to infuse my work, creativity and business this year to inspire others? In reflecting on this question, it strikes me that the ability to embrace seemingly contradictory behaviours can actually be beneficial for all of us. It’s about balancing out all the different aspects of ourselves. By giving ourselves permission to embrace all the crazy impulses we feel, we start expressing ourselves more fully and feel more alive as a result. This year I’m going to commit to embracing my paradox even more. And I’m going to encourage my clients to give themselves permission to feel all the unique impulses they have and to find ways to act on them. This seems to me a fun and enjoyable road to authentic and full self-expression. And since my calling is to help others express themselves fully through their work and life calling, this is probably an essential component that I hadn’t thought of until now! (thank you, Kristen) .

My uniqueness #2 – A (latent) ability to speak my mind freely

As a child I was always very forthright with my opinions. My mother tells me that she always knew exactly where she stood with me. But growing up, I was constantly told by my family that I would end up having no friends if I didn’t learn to keep my thoughts to myself and be ‘nice’. So I learned to temper my opinions and say only what I thought people wanted to hear. I learned the hard way that others don’t always value what you think and that true authenticity and honesty is an opinion that’s tempered with maturity and compassion for the other person’s perspective. Otherwise you’re just being obnoxious and small-minded.

But over the years I’ve swung completely the opposite way and it’s now a major challenge for me to speak my mind freely and to put my opinions out there, for fear of upsetting someone. I’ve developed a hyper-alert sensitivity for knowing when I could upset someone and to keep my thoughts to myself. But given the challenges we’re facing as a global community right now, I don’t think we have the luxury anymore of beating around the bush. I need to develop the courage to voice my opinion and withstand the inevitable controversy and discomfort this brings, and hopefully inspire others to do the same in the process. I’m going to shift my focus from wondering how I might offend someone, to how I can say the right thing to inspire and motivate someone towards positive action, even if I risk receiving negative feedback. I have to assume that the number of people I will help will be greater than those I might offend.

My uniqueness #3 – An ability to see and hear others

It’s really important to me that the people I’m with feel heard and seen. If I’m in a group I want to make sure no one feels left out. I like to really seepeople and to appreciate the unique qualities, abilities and perspective they bring. I’ve been fortunate to live more than half of my adult life overseas in different countries on four different continents and this has given me a deep appreciation of different perspectives and the huge challenges that people face around the world. It’s helped me see that at the end of the day, no matter what our background, history or culture, we all want the same things – to feel secure, to belong, to feel valued, to be appreciated and to be happy. This is my true desire for everyone.

Where will I be brave enough to bring forth more of this quality this year? I feel committed this year to take an even stronger stand to connect people with each other (to nurture a greater sense of belonging for people) and to really see and hear the people I connect with. I will make a commitment to ask and listen, rather than teach and talk.

My pledge for 2017

This year I commit to bringing even more of myself forth into my work, creativity and business with that which is uniquely ME, by focusing on these key areas:

  1. Embrace and nurture the paradox in myself and others.
  2. Speak my mind more freely with the intention to inspire and motivate.
  3. Nurture connection and belonging. Ask and listen.

Thank you taking the time to read my thoughts. I’m so excited to dive into the next writing prompts to plan the year ahead with possibility and wonder!

THEME 2 – ENGAGE

Writing prompt #4: How will I use my power as a force for good in 2017?

 

Today’s writing prompt comes from the visionary psychologist Dacher Keltner at the Greater Good Science Centre (University of California, Berkeley). Dacher asks:

“In your work life, your personal life, and in your community, how will you use power as a force for good, and empower those around you in specific acts that make up your day?” #PowerforGood

At first glance I found this a difficult question to answer, given that I haven’t had a particularly broad sense of the word ‘power’ until I decided to download Dacher’s highly revered book The Power Paradox. I was immediately glad that I did. This is a man who speaks to my heart and who believes that each and every one of us has the potential to be a force for good in the communities and networks we move in. I love how he defines power:

“Power is the medium through which we relate to one another. Power is about making a difference in the world by influencing others.”

Keltner has a beautiful way of describing this concept further: “Power is not something limited to rare individuals in dramatic moments of their highly visible lives – to malevolent dictators, high-profile politicians, or the jet-setting rich and famous; nor does it exist solely in boardrooms, on battlefields, or on the U.S. Senate floor. Instead, power defines the waking life of every human being. It is found not only in extraordinary acts but also in quotidian acts, indeed in every interaction and every relationship, be it in attempt to get a two-year-old to eat green vegetables or to inspire a stubborn colleague to do her best work.”

Given that I’m a mother to two young boys, much of my ‘power’ these days is indeed in getting children to eat green vegetables. I found Keltner’s description refreshing and uplifting, reminding me that power is indeed not limited to how we conduct ourselves in business, but how we operate as a person in every aspect in our lives. In his enlightening book, he defines four ‘social practices’ that constitute powerful, positively influential leadership: empathising, giving, expressing gratitude, and telling stories. He suggests that each of these practices “dignify and delight others… They constitute the basis of strong, mutually empowered ties. You can lean on them to enhance your power at any moment of the day by stirring others to effective action”.

So, to answer this writing prompt, I decided to address how I’m going to implement these four practices in my work life, my personal life and my community.

Empathising: Like many creatives, I have a natural ability to empathise and I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to figure out where the other person stops and where I begin, so that I can untangle myself from the emotional problems of others and give back what is not mine to carry. Learning to turn down the dial on my empathy register has been a challenge for me and to move from being a ‘fixer’ and ‘saver’ into someone who has healthy, strong boundaries, while still maintaining my ability to empathise.

I spend a significant amount of each day empathising with my sons and my husband and the issues they’re dealing with, as well as with my coaching clients where I act as an empathetic sounding board for the challenges they’re working through. However, in terms of using empathy in service to ‘power’ more effectively, I could be more empathetic in my networks and social communities by asking more questions and listening to the answers, as opposed to focusing only on giving and teaching. People like to know they’re being seen and heard, and I can definitely pay more attention to seeing and hearing those in my social networks in 2017, and showing genuine empathy for the challenges they’re dealing with.

Giving: Again, giving is a natural part of your profile as a mother and wife. It seems that most of our day is spent in giving our time, attention and focus to people other than ourselves. However, I can definitely focus on giving more to my clients this year in terms of excellent service, providing more free resources and helpful information to support them on their journey. The same goes for my social media networks. After reading Dacher Keltner’s book, I believe that a subtle shift in focus from ‘marketing’ with an agenda of giving to receive, to plain and simple ‘giving’ will help me grow my social outreach more organically, with more authentic and genuine impact.

Expressing gratitude: While gratitude has been a focus of mine for a few years now, this is definitely something I can always do more of. I can extend heartfelt gratitude to those people already within my networks and in my community, because without them, I have no ability to have any ‘power’ or ability to influence others. I can express more gratitude to my family and friends because they are my support, my nourishment, my everything. And I can especially extend more gratitude to my clients, because without them, I have no ability to build my business, to develop my gifts, to live my true calling or to affect any kind of positive change.

Telling stories: I love this one. I really believe that stories are how we connect to each other. It’s through sharing our stories that we connect authentically, share our humanity, our vulnerability and our strength. And most importantly, stories help us know that we’re not alone in our humanly struggles and triumphs. I’ve written about the Power of Story in a recent blog post. Until now I haven’t thought of telling stories as an effective ingredient of leadership, but I can see how it is. Leadership is all about creating connection and a sense of camaraderie around a common cause. I will strive this year to use story – both telling my own stories and encouraging others to share theirs – as a way to nurture a feeling of camaraderie, belonging and togetherness in my networks. As Jeffrey always says, Doing It Together (DIT) beats Doing It Yourself (DIY)!

Thank you Dacher Keltner for helping me reflect on this topic and for your valuable, refreshing insight.

Writing prompt #5: What sacrifice am I willing to make in 2017 in service to the greater good?

 

Today’s writing prompt #5 comes from Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director at the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center (University of Pennsylvania). Scott asks:

“What is one major personal sacrifice you are willing to make this year in the service of the greater good?” #Sacrifice

This was a really hard question for me to answer. I’m coming out of a long phase of life that’s felt like one long, challenging road of self-sacrifice. I’m 41 years old and we’re very blessed to have two young boys aged five and two. It took us a long time to manifest these two little guys and it wasn’t easy. It was a journey filled with heartache, loss and pain, but we did it and we’re so grateful that we’re one of the fortunate couples who were able to make our baby dreams a reality. I’m acutely aware of how many couples struggle every day with the pain and devastation of unfulfilled baby dreams. The road to parenthood was filled with much sacrifice; sacrifice of the small pleasures in life while we tried to live, eat and be extremely healthy to give our bodies the best chance of conceiving. And then as every mother knows, the first few years of raising young children requires an enormous sacrifice on every front. We sacrifice our sleep, our bodies, our sport, our free time, our work, our social lives and more. I really like the quote that fellow Quester Alicia Anderson found on sacrifice:

“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves.”
– Mother Teresa

I’ve definitely done all of that and more 0ver the past six to eight years. Would I have it any other way? No, absolutely not. And yet I’m at the point in my life where I’m ready to reclaim my life, to start building my own identity again and to keep working on building my business and my dreams, which include the ability to inspire and empower others to live their best lives through my small coaching practice. The hardest part for me over the past six to eight years has been the need to put my work and my business on the back-burner to focus 100% on my family. This year I’m finally in a position where I can start to focus more on myself and my work and that feels good!

So, what is one personal sacrifice I would be willing to make this year in service to the greater good? Hmm. My greatest challenge as a mother to young boys is time. What do I need to sacrifice in order to find more time – Sleep? Family time? Time with friends? Sport? Social outings? No, I’m no longer prepared to sacrifice those important things because they’re what make life so rich and rewarding and I believe we must enjoy the journey as much as – if not, more than – the destination.

“You should never sacrifice three things: Your family, your heart, your dignity”
– Unknown

Rather than sacrificing life’s small pleasures for the sake of the greater good, I believe that my ability to make a positive impact will lie in becoming more focused in the time that I do have. I’m making a commitment to myself to spend more time planning and less time jumping in and engaging in random actions that aren’t aligned with a bigger vision. I’m making a great start by planning the year with Quest 2017 for the first time, and I start private business coaching next Monday to help me approach 2017 with laser focus.

I’ve decided that my one big personal sacrifice this year will be along the lines of what many fellow Questers have already voiced – my addiction to playing safe and small. While I continue to play small and keep my (potentially) controversial thoughts to myself, I’m not serving anyone. The fear of speaking out and attracting negative feedback is irrational and no longer a reason to withhold the gifts I have to offer by speaking and writing freely.

It’s only through truth, raw honesty and authenticity that we have the ability to provoke, invoke and inspire. It’s only by daring to put ourselves out there and be seen, that we reap the joy and satisfaction of being of true value and service.

My pledge for 2017

This year I’m willing and prepared to sacrifice my addiction to playing small and safe. I will endure the (potential) discomfort of negative feedback when voicing my opinions freely and without inhibition. I commit to stepping up into greater visibility in the knowing that in doing so, I’m helping others do the same.

Thank you Scott Barry Kaufman for helping me reflect on this topic and for your valuable, refreshing insight.

Writing prompt #6: How will I shift my focus from ‘keeping busy’ to ‘leaving a legacy’ in 2017?

 

Today’s writing prompt #6, the final prompt under the theme ‘ENGAGE’, comes from Jocelyn K. Glei (@jkglei), author of the book ‘Unsubscribe’. She describes herself as a writer who’s obsessed with how we find more creativity and meaning in our daily work. Jocelyn asks:

“How can you shift your focus from “keeping busy” to “leaving a legacy?” #Legacy

Hmm… another great question, thank you Jocelyn. I often help my coaching clients get a sense of the kind of legacy they want to leave, so they can build a life vision and goals around that. It’s a very useful and powerful technique for getting through to people’s desires and motivations in life. But it’s been a while since I’ve reflected on the question of legacy myself. So thank you Jocelyn for the prompt. What kind of legacy would I personally like to leave?

When I think of legacy I often think about what my dearest ones would say about me at my funeral. I’d love to be remembered for my big heart, for my big dreams and my zest for life. I’d love people to say that I uplifted them, nourished them and made them feel good about themselves and their choices. I’d love people to remember me as someone who was fun to be around and who could make them smile and laugh. I would be touched if people felt that they could be themselves fully around me, knowing that my heart is warmed by people who have the courage and confidence to be themselves without inhibition, who don’t care what society expects or demands, but who choose to do what makes their heart feel good. But in reflecting on this, I have to remind myself that legacy is not what people will remember about you when you die … it’s about what you leave behind that will continue on without you when you’re no longer here.

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will”
– Chuck Palahniuk

So what will be my legacy? Who am I to leave a legacy? Is it reserved only for the mighty and powerful who change the world in some significant way? Or is it possible that we all have the oportunity to leave a positive legacy, no matter how small we feel our contribution might be? If I’m to leave a legacy, what would I like to leave behind?

I love to empower and inspire people to embrace everything about themselves and to find ways to express themselves authentically in life and through their work. My business mission is to help as many people as possible in this way: “I’m devoted to helping you connect to your heart and find your calling, to design a life that feels truly joyful and fulfilling.” I believe a life well lived is one where we give ourselves permission to own the desires and dreams we have and to make them a reality in whichever (small or large) way we can. I believe we’re all born with natural, innate gifts and talents – what I call your natural genius – and I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible to unleash their natural genius into the world in service to something larger than themselves. My business vision is all about helping people harness their natural gifts in service to the greater good. It states:

“I hold a vision of a world in which each and every one of us is expressing and contributing our unique gifts in a way that feels deeply satisfying and rewarding, in service to something larger than ourselves. This focus on serving the greater good while bringing our full, authentic selves into our work creates a world in which everyone feels connected and valued and is expressing their full potential, while contributing to the flourishing of life.”

If that could be my legacy, to know that I’ve contributed to this vision in some bold, impactful and courageous way – I would be one proud lady. If what I leave behind is a trail of people who have – because of me – had the courage to follow their hearts and to impact the world in some way through their gifts, then I would know I have left a positive legacy. And what is the part that will continue on without me? Perhaps it will be an organisation that I set up, dedicated to helping people get their gifts into the world. Hmm, I like that idea…

So – how do I shift from simply keeping busy, to aligning my daily actions and choices directly with this greater vision for my life and my business? I believe the answer may lie in questions that I could ask myself each and every day before I jump into action:

  1. What’s one thing I can do today that will allow me to serve people more effectively?
  2. What can I do today to uplift or inspire someone to step up and find more courage and confidence?
  3. What can I do today to build on my legacy of helping people get their natural gifts into the world?

I’m excited about the New Year and the chance to see how these questions might act as a daily compass to keep me focused on the bigger vision and legacy for my life and my business.

THEME 3 – CHALLENGES

Writing prompt #7: Do you spend your time acting or reacting?

 

This week’s writing prompt came from Jonathon Fields (@jonathonfields), a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media producer and entrepreneur. His most recent book, How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom, is a wake-up call and a path to possibility, complete with 30-days of inspiring, actionable explorations. Jonathan’s current focus, Good Life Project, is a global movement that inspires, educates, connects, and supports mission-driven individuals in the quest to live better, more engaged, connected, and aligned lives. Jonathon asks:

“When it comes to the way you live each day, do you spend more time acting or reacting? If the latter, what one commitment can you make to be more intentional in the year to come?” #ActingorReacting

This will be a short response today. I’m very fortunate that I’m a Mumpreneur who gets to divvy up my time in the way I want, working from home while raising two young boys. They both go to wonderful schools and so I have time during the day to work on projects that I want, without the inevitable disruptions and distractions that come with working in an organisation or company. So, I spend my days every day acting very intentionally, rather than reacting to things around me. It’s a delightful way to live and I chose very intentionally to live and work this way so that I can focus my time and efforts on my life work and passions. One of my biggest frustrations in my old corporate career was the inability to focus and get things done, due to the constant need to react to the things happening around me. So it’s truly a blessing to be able to work the way I do now.

My biggest distraction while working from home is my own procrastination and household chores than can always be done, rather than working! I find that having a very detailed plan of what I need to do each day helps me to focus and stay on track and inspired with the work I’m doing.

Writing prompt #8: Adapt from within or adapt from without. Are you ready?

 

Today’s writing prompt #8 under the theme ‘Challenges’ comes from Linda Rottenberg (@lindarottenberg), author of the fantastic book ‘Crazy is a compliment: The power of zigging when everyone else zags’’. Linda is the CEO and Founder of Endeavour, the world’s leading organisation supporting high-impact entrepreneurs. Linda asks:

“Today we all have a choice: We can take risks and actions to ensure that we adapt with the constantly changing times or we can hope for the best and do nothing. Adapt from within or you may be forced to adapt from without. Are you ready?” #Adaptation

I think this is a great question and so relevant for the times we’re living in. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life wondering how to best adapt to the times we live in. I studied Biotechnology at University, largely because of long discussions I had with my Dad when I was trying to figure out what to study. We both agreed that innovation and environmental protection were going to be big needs in the 21st century and Biotechnology was at the forefront there. My Honours research was on a topic called ‘Bioleaching’ – a mining process that harnesses bacteria to remove precious metals from minerals. It was a pretty novel process for the mining industry back in the late nineties. My first professional job was with BHP in Reno, Nevada (USA) in 1998 as a process engineer. It was exciting to be involved in cutting edge, innovative projects that promised to be more environmentally responsible.

But then I experienced my first mining industry crash in 1999. Less than one year out of University and the entire mining industry ‘busted’ as metal prices came crashing down. The BHP headquarters in Reno was forced to close its doors and my colleagues and I were made redundant from one week to the next. A classic case of ‘adapt from without’. I vowed after that experience I would never work for such a volatile industry or allow my life to be so heavily dependent on market conditions. I decided to go back to University and study further in the field of environmental engineering. I was determined to do something positive for the environment and to immerse myself in a more stable and predictable industry.

I had an interesting and challenging career in water management and I was fortunate to experience the good times in Australia from 2005 to 2011. Infrastructure projects were booming and the engineering consultancy I worked for had an over-supply of exciting, large and challenging water projects to work on. Engineers could name their price and pick and choose where they wanted to work. We received generous pay rises each year and bonuses were in abundance. They were definitely the glory days. And then in 2012 the bubble burst. On the back of yet another resources industry collapse, engineering consultancies across Australia were forced to let go of many of their staff and those left behind were forced to fight over the small project scraps being tendered out, as infrastructure expenditure halted across the country.

We were fortunate enough to be in a position to move overseas with my husband’s work in 2011 for a 5-year long adventure in Paris, France followed by Geoje, South Korea, for his role on Shell’s first ever floating LNG facility. When we first arrived in Geoje in 2013 it was yet another ‘boom’; big companies from all over the world were working on large shipbuilding and oil & gas projects at the massive shipyards here in Korea and expats were flown in from all over the world with generous salary packages. And then the bubble burst again. For the past two years oil prices have come crashing down and again massive projects are being shelved and people are being laid off.

In 2011 I’d had enough of the boom-bust cycle in engineering and I made the decision to branch out on my own and start my own coaching business while raising our young family. I’m so grateful I did. It hasn’t been easy and I’m learning the hard way that working for yourself is uncertain and challenging and it stretches you well beyond your comfort zone. But the rewards are deep job satisfaction, flexibility and an ability to do things on your own terms. You get to do what you want, when you want, and work on things you care about deeply. But most importantly, you develop a certain resilience and ability to generate income even when times are tough globally. If you offer something of real value where there is a deep and consistent need, then you’ll always find a way to serve people and build your business in the process.

Adaptation has become my middle name since branching out on my own. I’ve been on a steep learning curve while adapting to the field of coaching and the online business world. I’ve had to learn how to set up and run my own website and blog, how to create and launch programs, how to market and sell my services, how to set up online systems to support and develop my business and how to move with the times in technology so that I can stay afloat and embrace the fast-pace changes in the online world rather than get left behind. It’s become plainly clear to me that we’re facing times of unprecedented change. It’s most definitely a time where we need to adapt from within or be forced to adapt from without, as Linda Rottenberg suggests. I’m so incredibly grateful that I happen to love change, variety and finding new and creative ways of doing things. So to answer Linda’s question – “Adapt from within, or adapt from without – are you ready?” – my answer is YES! Bring it on.

Writing prompt #9: How will you stop yourself from being held back this year?

 

This writing prompt was contributed by Desiree Adaway of Adaway Group (@desireeadaway). Desiree is a writer, speaker and coach whose mission is to build resilient organisations. Desiree leads difficult conversations on race, class and gender. She asks:

“How have you allowed a system, institution, or tradition to hold you back? What will you do to make sure this does not happen in 2017?” #HeldBack

I didn’t need much time to reflect on this one, and my answer will be short. I’m thankfully in a phase in my life where there is nothing holding me back except my own fears and inner gremlins. I’ve worked in many organisations and institutions during the course of my life where I’ve felt held back in some sort of fashion. My decision to branch out on my own in 2011 was a direct result of this frustrating feeling. Now that I’m working on my own terms, I’mrevelingg in the delicious feeling of freedom and free reign to work how and when I want, and to impact the world around me in the way I want. Nothing feels more delightful than that, and it’s my mission to help as many people feel the same way!

Thank you Desiree for the prompt!

THEME 4 – LOOKING AHEAD

Writing prompt #10: What is your intuition telling you to do in 2017?

 

Prompt #10 is from Jess Lively of The Lively Show, a podcast designed to uplift, inspire, and help you add a little extra intention to your everyday. Inc.com named it “the #1 podcast that all female entrepreneurs should listen to” and Levo League named it “one of the 10 best podcasts every woman should know.” Jess asks:

What is your intuition calling you towards next?” #FollowIntuition

Whew. It’s mid-January and my family and I have just returned from a few weeks away to my second home – Holland – where my husband comes from and where we lived for many years. Although our time away was filled to the brim with jetlag, visits and catch ups, I always find holidays a refreshing break from the routine of day-to-day living and they allow me to gain fresh insight, even if they are crazy busy. They also help me tap into my underlying intuition. There are a few things calling to me this year.

Intuitive nudge #1 – Forgive more

I’m a believer that things don’t tend to come into our awareness ‘by chance’. As I was reflecting on this question this morning, a tweet popped up on my phone screen by Emily Burgess that says “The only type of growth comes from forgiveness. Heal your heart. Forgive more.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think my intuition is telling me loudly that in order to make sure this year is a good one, I need to forgive more. Forgive myself, firstly, for the things that I could have/should have done better in 2016, and give myself permission to be human and to make mistakes. What’s important is that we acknowledge our mistakes and try to make amends where we can. I need to find the grace within me to forgive those who I feel ‘wronged’ me in 2016 and refer to the quote by Lewis B. Smedes that says “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.” We all do the best we can under whatever circumstances we’re presented with, and sometimes our imperfect actions hurt someone else. We need to cut each other some slack and allow each other to make mistakes, and forgive quickly. So first port of call this year – more forgiveness.

Intuitive nudge #2 – Step out of the shadows into full visibility

Next, I’m feeling a very strong intuitive urge to step up and out of the shadows. I’ve been comfortably hiding in the shadows for the past few years while I’ve undergone several major life transformations; quitting my corporate career to re-educate myself and start my own business, becoming a mother to two young boys and living in several different countries as we follow my husband’s work. As we prepare to move back to Australia in the next six months, it’s time for me to have the courage to live my message out loud. I’m passionate about helping people find their true calling and to live the work that lights them up and energises them. The only way I can do this effectively is if I commit to stepping up and proactively getting myself in front of people, with the intention to serve them in the best way I can.

Intuitive nudge #3 – Employ at least one virtual assistant to help develop my business

The next message coming loud and clear from my intuition is that I must start to leverage my time more effectively and employ one or two people who can assist me with the things that I’m not good at – social media, website development, email newsletters, administration, book-keeping etc. This past year I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure these things out myself when I could have been spending that time coaching or putting my ideas together and developing services and products. I’ve been stuck in the chicken-and-egg thing; I want help getting my business off the ground properly and yet that requires a significant financial investment. So I continue to try to do everything myself, which means I don’t have time to move my business forward as effectively as I could. So it’s time to bite the bullet and employ people to do the things I’m not good at and frankly do not have the time for. It’s time!

Intuitive nudge #4 – Develop and launch my coaching programs

My next intuitive nudge for this year is to work hard at developing the content for two coaching programs I’m working on that provide people with the opportunity to do much of their deep self-reflection and introspection at home, privately, before they enter coaching sessions with me. This leverages my time much more effectively, and allows me to serve and reach more people. I just need to stop procrastinating and get the programs developed and out there!

Intuitive nudge #5 – Continue to get private coaching myself

At the end of 2016 I decided to invest in private coaching from Jennifer Smith at The Art of Better Blogging, and it was the best decision I’ve made. Thanks to Jenn’s help, I’ve been able to get crystal clear on exactly what I need to do to grow my business and get the exact, specific advice I need to hear in order to step up into full visibility and get my products and services out there. For too long I dabbled in online programs and courses without private coaching, thinking I could do it myself once I had the necessary information – wrong. I became stuck in an endless cycle of spinning wheels and was not going anywhere. Deciding to invest in private coaching was by far the best thing I did in 2016 and I now know it’s an absolute necessity going forward.

Intuitive nudge #6 – MORE is not BETTER

Something I discovered in a very tangible way last year was that doing more does not mean I accomplish more. What’s important is that I take the time to get quiet, to listen to my own intuitive guidance and to align my heart, mind, body and soul before proceeding in any particular direction. I’ve been a perpetual ‘doer’ my whole life, and it’s not only exhausting, but ineffective. In recent years I’ve experienced that when I take the time to slow down and align my actions very intentionally, magic happens. And this year I intend to infuse a whole lot more magic into my life!

Wow. That’s a LOT to work on this year. I’d better stop writing and go and get started.

Thank you Jess Lively for your wonderful prompt and for your super insightful podcast that I’ve recently started listening to. I highly recommend Jess’s podcast to anyone who wants support, encouragement or advice on how to live your best life. @JessLively.com

Writing prompt #11: How will you take stock of your habits and improve them in the coming year?

 

Writingn prompt #11 comes from Charlie Gilkey (@charliegilkey), a self-described “Walking contradiction: author, consultant, social philosopher, and veteran. Co-creating a better tomorrow with others today.” He’s a champion of and catalyst for Creative Giants, talented Renaissance souls with a compassion-fueled bias towards action. Charlie asks:

“How are you going to take stock of your habits and improve them the coming year?” #KeepDropAdd

Charlie advises that in order to make way for new things in our limited time, we need to ‘drop’ some things. He asks us to reflect on which things in our lives should stay, which things should be dropped, and which things should we add? Thanks Charlie for this reflective prompt. It was necessary for me to think about these things with intention, even though my habit is to just keep ploughing ahead without thinking about these things. I think I can answer this one fairly quickly. Here’s what I’ll keep, drop and add this year.

KEEP: My morning 20 minute yoga routine, quality family time on weekends

DROP: Unfocused time on social media, trying to do things myself that I’m not good and instead pay for help to do those things. Paying for help with the tasks required for running my business is the only way I’m going to break the unproductive cycle and win some extra time in my day. This will be a big goal for me this year.

ADD: More self-care (a massage once a month, more yoga practice, more meditation), more telephone chats or catch-ups with friends, more date nights with my husband.

Writing prompt #12 – What does your ideal day look like?

 

This prompt comes from visionary Jenny Blake (@jenny_blake), an author, international speaker, business strategist, career coach and yogi now living and working in New York. She’s the author of ‘Pivot’, a wonderful book I’ve just finished reading that outlines a four-stage process to mindfully navigate career paths. Jenny asks:

“Describe your ideal average day one year from now. Where are you? What routines help start the day? What projects are you thrilled to dive into? What kind of impact are you having on the world around you? Who are you with? How do you unwind at the end of the day? Don’t think too hard about the answers; go with your gut and fill-in whatever first comes to mind.” #IdealDay

This is a fantastic exercise that I get my coaching clients to do when I’m working with them. The only way we can begin to create the life we reallywant is to first imagine it. The hard part here is to let our mind think truly big, rather than confining ourselves to what we think is possible. It’s not easy to imagine our most ideal life, but opening up our imagination to what’s possible is the first and critical step to creating more magic in our lives. It was great for me to spend the time reflecting on this (I don’t tend to do it enough myself).

Here’s how my ideal day would look:

It’s December 2017 and it’s been a truly wonderful year. I wake up to the gentle noise of birds outside our window and as I lie in bed I give quiet gratitude for the day ahead and for all the blessings in my life. I wake up gently, put on my yoga clothes and head outside in the cool, fresh morning air with my yoga mat to do my fifteen minute yoga routine on the back lawn. The sun is just coming up over the horizon and the birds are chirping on this beautiful, warm summer morning. I feel my body ground down into the earth as I move through my yoga poses and then I sit quietly in ten minutes of meditation and reflection, imagining a perfect outcome to the day ahead.

I head inside to make my morning lemon juice. My boys are now awake and we enjoy a cuddle, a chat and breakfast together. It’s my husband’s turn to get the kids organized and off to school this morning, so I take the time to relish a long shower and prepare myself for my exciting day ahead. Today I’ve been invited to speak on ABC Radio about my Joyful Career Academy that helps young adults through a process of self-reflection and self-discovery that identifies their unique strengths and soul gifts, to uncover the most ideal career path that allows them to bring their full self into the work place. Before the talk after lunch, I’m spending the morning with two of my favourite coaching clients who I’m guiding through a process of starting up their own business. We’ll be working through some of their biggest challenges and helping them break through their blocks to maor growth in their business.

After the delightful coaching sessions I go out for lunch with a dear friend of mine and we discuss all things from family life and holiday plans to the things that light up us up and make us feel excited. We discuss music, fashion, sport, shopping, our latest projects and ideas. After a nurturing conversation, I head off to the ABC to get ready for my talk. It’s a wonderful afternoon connecting with like-minded people and reaching out to more people with my message. I feel uplifted and inspired by the impact I’m able to make in helping people unleash their natural genius and get their unique gifts into the world in a way that makes them feel deeply fulfilled, satisfied and valued.

I head to school to pick up my beautiful boys and we head down to the beach for a play in the sand, a swim and an ice-cream. My husband meets us down at the beach for fish and chips. We all head into the water for one more swim and play before we head home. The kids go to bed easily after a bath and bedtime story, and my husband and I relax onto the couch to enjoy some quiet alone time with a good glass of red wine. It’s been a great day. It’s been a great year. I’ve developed a full and rich website of resources and guidance for people seeking a more fulfilling working life. I’ve earned my first wonderful annual income based on my high-end coaching packages and public speaking engagements. I’ve launched an online course to help fulfilling career seekers find and live their calling. I have a wonderful team of talented, highly competent people working for me and helping me serve and reach more people. We moved back to Australia and found the perfect family home, in a suburb we truly love. We’ve made new connections and rekindled old ones. We’re surround by caring friends and family. We really are truly blessed.

BONUS writing prompt #13: How will you manifest your understanding that we’re all connected?

 

Our final visionary for Quest 2017 is Rebecca Walker (@rebeccawalker). She may be best known for her role as the original leader and founder of Third Wave Feminism, the movement, and the co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization that works through grant-making, leadership development, and philanthropic advocacy to support young women ages 15 to 30 working towards gender, racial, economic, and social justice. She has authored many books, including her latest collection, Black Cool, which explores the singular aesthetic that has helped to shape the world. Time Magazine named Walker one of fifty most influential American leaders under forty because of her transformative views on race, gender, sexuality and power. Rebecca asks:

“This coming year you have the ability to share a bit of your privilege, energy, and love in a way perhaps you haven’t done before. In 2017, for what person or group will you support with your whole heart and clear voice to make their life easier and personal evolution more possible? How will you manifest your understanding that we are all connected?” #Connected

I truly do believe that we are all connected and that when we make the decision to show up powerfully and be the best version of ourselves, we have a positive and inspirational impact on those around us. We impact the world predominantly through our connections and relationships. And so this year I commit to connecting and reaching out more, to proactively building networks and communities with the intention to serve as many people as I can with my message. My message is an echo of Howard Thurman’s famous quote “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”.

There are so many people out there feeling less than excited about their work. So many people drag themselves into their office or workplace and feel frustrated, uninspired or at worst, depressed and loathing about the way they spend their days. Many people don’t know how to lift themselves out of the rut in which they’ve unknowingly landed and struggle with the nagging feeling that there must be a more enjoyable and fulfilling way to live life. Many people feel they have a ‘calling’, if only they could figure out what it is and know how to live it, and how to make enough money in the process to quit their day job. I will show up for those people this year.

I’ve heard many stories lately from friends and acquaintances who struggle at a very deep level with overwhelm and fatigue in life. One of them said “I just have to rediscover my love for my work”. But perhaps the love for your work has changed or been lived to its completion and it’s time for something different. We need to let people know that it’s okay to crave change and something different. It’s a very normal and healthy reaction to life, if we could only embrace the positive side of wanting change. We shouldn’t see it as a failure or a shortcoming of our own in some way. It’s simply acknowledging that you’re ready for the next exciting phase of life. There are ways to change or shapeshift your career to find more pleasure and enjoyment in day to day living. It is possible – and necessary – to move in the direction of something that lights you and up and allows you to use your strengths and talents in a way that offers real value to others. It’s possible to love your life, and you should! Life is too short, it’s a tragedy if we spend our time feeling stuck and overwhelmed.

So – my commitment this year is to show up for all of you who struggle with the issues I just described. I know how it feels. I’ve been there – for almost 15 years I was there, struggling with feelings of frustration and complete lack of inspiration. And now that I know the joy of finding my calling, I want more than anything for everyone to feel that kind of deep joy and satisfaction every day. So dear friends, this year I will be here for you, cheerleading you and motivating you to dig deep, to find your calling and most importantly find the courage to take the necessary steps to get out there and start living it. And since we’re all connected, I know that any small positive impact I can have on someone’s life, those changes will flow onto the people around them and the ripple effect takes action. All we need to do is step up and show up for the people we’re here to serve.

Pulling it all together – synthesising the QUEST

Wow. What a process! So much reflection and deep processing of my values, thoughts and ideals. I’ve emerged so much clearer and stronger in my convictions and plans for the year ahead. Thanks to Jeffrey Davis tools and resources, I’ve been able to process the different themes and visions to come up with a solid plan for 2017. I feel really thankful to have been able to participate in this process. A big shout out to anyone who wants to jump on board this process for next year, I highly recommend it. And I hope that by sharing this process with you, it’s helped you in some way on your journey.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Life Coach & Career Strategist
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
Authentically Me: My journey of coming home to myself

Authentically Me: My journey of coming home to myself

What does it mean to be authentically oneself?

This question has fascinated me since I had a recent epiphany on this very topic. I realised suddenly that so many years of struggle and pain I had endured were because I had been living an inauthentic life. It was Katherine Woodward Thomas who came up with these words during one of her coaching calls and they were a true light bulb for me. It’s not that I hadn’t known this before, that I had been living in a way that was inauthentic to my heart’s desires, but more that I could finally name it and see clearly in how many ways I had been inauthentic to my heart and soul throughout the course of my life.

I have since been on a rampant search for my own true, authentic voice. Who am I really? What do I really want? What does it mean for me to be authentic?

We receive so many messages when we’re young. So many messages that are not necessarily true for us, yet we take them on as if they are, because who are we to know? We’re young and parents and teachers know better, they’ve experienced the world. Of course, the messages we receive are radically different depending on our cultural background, our gender, our parents’ social class etc. And how we react to them also depends on our own individual personality. In my case, a middle class white family in suburban Australia, I received messages like: You’re a good girl if you do this, you’ll get far if you do this, you have to work hard and struggle to get anywhere but it’s worth it, success takes sacrifice, education is the most important thing in the world, particularly science & engineering as those fields will always have jobs, corporate careers are the way to make money, we have to sacrifice what we love to do what is best, financial security is paramount, creative talents are for hobbies, not a real career, there is no money in the arts, humanities studies are not real studies, you will never make money as a linguist, you are loved and valued for what you can achieve… . As an impressionable young girl, desperately wanting my parents’ love and approval, I took these messages seriously.

I ignored the whisperings of my heart, telling me… you love writing, you love languages, you love creative expression, you love people, community and connection, you love stories, you love dancing. Because the messages I received allowed no room for these whispers. They simply didn’t fit in my world of parental expectations. I was fortunate that I did not ignore every whispering I received from my heart. I’m blessed with quite a stubborn, rebellious and adventurous spirit that urged me to spend 12 months in rural Paraguay (South America) as a cultural exchange student, which was a life altering and heart-opening experience, and to take 12 months off university after my second year to backpack and work my way around Europe. I learned the art of living off the lowest wages, of doing any job that came up to cover the next train ticket, of feeling at home in all kinds of squalid accommodation, befriending people from all walks of life and all different countries and lifestyles. Each of these experiences cracked me open in some delightful way, allowed the light to flow into my heart and reach the furthest corners where my true essence was lying there waiting for me to tap into it. I discovered my love for people of all cultures, all races, all backgrounds, a deep compassion for those born and raised into poverty and difficult circumstances, a deep compassion for the planet and all the damage we are inflicting upon it, a deep joy of connecting with other human beings and listening to their stories.

But somehow the childhood messages were deeply ingrained. I remember the exact moment at which I made the decision to ‘sacrifice’ my heart’s joy for the noble good of earning a decent living and setting up a financially secure future. I was sitting in a plane on the way back from Argentina, having travelled there over the university holidays on money earned from working three part time jobs (yes I had a tendency to burn the candle at both ends), and savouring the delicious experience I had just had. My heart opens in an indescribable way in South America, there’s something about the way they value family, fun, community and dancing above all else, and live a seemingly uncomplicated and joyful life. At that moment I was on my way back to finish my final year of university, which I knew would be tough, and I knew I would have to do post graduate degrees after the basic degree to find a good job in my particular field. If I’d had the courage to put aside my childhood conditioning when deciding what to study at university, I would have chosen to study languages without a doubt. Learning and speaking other languages brings me so much joy, I absorb them quickly and easily, with almost no effort. Wouldn’t that be a sign of your heart’s purpose, if something is so joyful and effortless?

But my childhood conditioning and parent’s advice urged me to pursue a career in science & engineering, given the increased job opportunities I would have. In that moment sitting in the plane, coming back from my overseas holiday, I knew the fun times were over. From now on it would be hard work, sacrifice, and time to build that much coveted financially secure future…. my heart sank and I knew I was making a choice that was perhaps not authentically me. But what choice did I have? A financially insecure future was no option in my mind of beliefs. I knew that a secure future would require sacrifice, hard work, sweat and tears, right?

And so I embarked on the journey of being an inauthentic version of myself, in quest of financial security, job opportunities and deep down, my parent’s approval. I knuckled down and finished my degree with Honours, then on to completing my Doctorate (self sacrifice is honourable right? And we’re seen and loved for our achievements right?). This is where I started unravelling at the seams. While I was passionate about my chosen field, the whole field was simply not in my zone of genius. I’m a creative soul, a linguist, a humanitarian. So why on earth was I doing science & engineering? The work was tough and difficult, I had to work long hours to keep up with the demands, it didn’t come naturally to me yet I was determined to do well. There was no room for failure. My health plummeted; I was drained, depleted and completely exhausted. Yet I had to achieve and do well, after all that was how I would be seen and loved. I was chasing that elusive abundant financial future and job security. I was chasing love and approval. Childhood conditioning runs deep.

As I moved from university into the corporate world, I was finally able to enjoy my first decent income. So it was all worth it right? I had a great permanent work contract with a great company, I had interesting and challenging projects. I’d made it. I was secure. I consistently ignored the signs of my inner wisdom. I over-rode them. I was getting more and more tired, my brain was becoming foggy, my attention span was dwindling. I was tired, always tired. Physical symptoms started manifesting, indigestion problems, sleep problems, and finally an acute over-active thyroid that caused me insomnia and a loss of 10 kg within one month. You would thinkthis sign would get my attention that something in my current life was not right, right? Well, not really.

I read Louise Hay’s book on the spiritual causes of physical illnesses. The spiritual cause behind an over-active thyroid was ‘when would it be my turn?’ This was absolutely what I was thinking. When I looked around me, I saw all my friends enjoying life, with active social lives, budding careers, travelling, starting families. While I was stuck in pursuing a difficult career that had wonderful career prospects and financial security, but with my physical body that was falling apart and a mind that was in torture but had no idea how to escape it. There was no room for changing my career path. I had invested so much in this path, I’d given everything, my blood, sweat and tears — literally. My partner and I had bought a house and we were financially stuck. We needed my income. There was no room to take time out. I hadn’t earned enough sick leave at this early stage of my career to take time off. I had chosen this path and I had to make it work.

As ways to survive I delved into yoga and meditation that helped tremendously. I read spiritual teachings, hoping to discover my true life purpose and how to live it. I rested as much as I could. I got help through acupuncture and bio-resonance to alleviate my physical symptoms. I maintained a semi-decent social life. On the surface things looked pretty good. My career was flourishing, I had been invited to be a Shareholder of my company and I was holding down senior management positions. I was facilitating workshops, attending conferences and presenting well received papers. This was everything I had always wanted, wasn’t it? So why was I still always so tired? And why did I feel so empty? Something was missing. Something big was missing. I wasn’t getting my gifts into the world. I didn’t feel as though I was making an impact, my soul was under-fed and under-nourished in every possible way.

And at a deep soul level I was simply exhausted.

I believe the Universe never stops giving us gentle nudges in the direction we need to be going to live our purpose. I had ignored my gentle nudges for so long that they were eventually turning into sledgehammers. The final wakeup call came when my husband and I wanted to start our family. We went through two devastating miscarriages within a 12 month period. For the first time in my life I actually thought I could no longer go on. I entertained thoughts of leaving this world. Nothing could explain the deep, gut-wrenching pain and sadness I experienced every waking moment. I had always wanted to be a mother. I couldn’t understand why the Universe was making me endure this, after all the suffering I had been through continuously since my early twenties, with the constant fatigue and physical symptoms, why this on top of that? Hadn’t I suffered enough?

But fortunately the Universe knows the game plan. Somehow it knew that this was the only way to wake me up from the deep illusion I had dug myself into. It didn’t work after one miscarriage. I went straight back to work and into the same old routines and behaviours as before. Over-doing everything. Over-achieving in everything, as a way to prove my worth and that I was good enough. It took a second miscarriage to shake me up sufficiently such that I would walk into the office the next day and request 3 months off work. I handed over my job and went home to rest, reflect and rejuvenate. For the first time in my life, I was choosing for me and my needs. What an amazing feeling. At the age of 35 I realised I had never done this before, put my own needs first, I had always been trying to please others, live up to others’ expectations of me. It was during this time, away from the grind of corporate office life, sipping coffee at the beach one morning, that I had an epiphany.

I had a choice. I could continue this life of chasing love and approval through things that do not feed me spiritually and emotionally. Or I could choose to leave that life behind and find the path that is authentically me.

I didn’t take this decision lightly, given how much I had invested in my career to date, but once the thought had entered my head that there was another way, there was no going back. It felt like a tonne of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders. It felt like the light was seeping in under the veil of illusion that had kept me separated from my authentic self. I felt my heart fill with joy. It felt like the Angels were rejoicing and celebrating that I had finally heeded their call.

It’s been two and a half years since I left my corporate career and finally became a mother, to our absolute delight. We were given the amazing opportunity to embark on overseas postings through my husband’s work, which has given me time and space to dig deep and discover my true passion and calling (does the Universe suddenly support us in every way after we’ve woken up to the call to find our authentic self?). After much reflection I decided to study remotely to become a Life Coach and to focus on writing. Through coaching I am finally following my heart’s passion, connecting with people, listening to their stories, helping them find their own authentic self. I cannot explain the synchronicity that has followed me since I made the decision to be true to my heart and soul, doors opening at exactly the right time, my health improving out of sight, my energy levels soaring, meeting the right people at the right time, being guided to the right books, the right teachers and the right clients at the right time.

How did my friends and family react to my decision to leave my old career behind and follow my heart? Initially with shock and disbelief (I had many people openly laugh at my decision), followed by understanding and compassion, and these days with admiration and respect. People are realising more and more that the only path to real, authentic joy, is to be our real, authentic selves. There is something that happens when we dare to connect with what is authentic and true in our own heart. In my case, I feel like I’m finally tapping into the Universal power, opportunities miraculously open up, synchronicities abound, I feel I am flowing with the river instead of swimming upstream and I feel a deep sense of relief, joy and clarity that I had never felt before. I wake up excited about the new day ahead and uplifted by the positive contribution I can make through my own unique gifts and talents.

To me, this is what it means to be authentic. My heart and soul feel alive and connected to all of humanity, I feel aligned, I feel infinite gratitude and deep inner happiness, and most importantly, I finally feel free. I don’t believe there can be anything more beautiful than being able to joyfully serve others, in a way that feels authentic to our hearts. I think we pay a high price for being inauthentic.

It’s as though the Universe is programmed to increase our pain and struggle exponentially the further we get away from our true, authentic self.

So I wonder, how do we help each other to find our own authentic selves? In their hearts our parents had the very best intentions for us as children. It isn’t their fault they embedded messages into our belief systems that encouraged us into directions that may not be our authentic path to follow. They grew up in difficult times when financial security was the only thing that mattered. It was still about survival, not self-actualisation. And I don’t want to paint a bad picture of my parents; they were very loving, very supportive and simply wanted the best future for us. I wonder how many of their generation and all the thousands of generations before were able to be their authentic selves? How many people actually had a choice? I dare to think not many. The fortunate few who were able to be authentic to their heart and soul were the lucky minority. We are so fortunate that we’re now entering a time of prosperity, of increased choices and opportunities to explore deeply how we can earn a living doing what we do well and what we love. Times have changed.

I am now 100% committed to helping others find their own authentic voice. I am passionate about helping people experience that degree of freedom and joy that comes when we take the time to slow down and listen to those whispers in our heart that lead us back to our authentic self. It has to be acknowledged that the path of our authentic self is not always easy. We are still challenged with many things we need to learn along the way, it can be difficult creating a secure financial base and livelihood from doing what we love. It takes courage to escape the confines of our secure jobs that provide for all of our needs except perhaps our spiritual and emotional ones. We have responsibilities in life and commitments, it is not always possible to take that leap of faith when we want to. But I do truly believe that once we make the commitment to find our authentic self and to courageously take steps in that direction, we suddenly find unlimited support and opportunities opening up to help us, the support of the Universe is suddenly up underneath us and limitations we thought we had dissolve or go away. Miraculous things can happen when we decide to ‘go for it’, all the way. Just as it seems pain and struggle increase the further away we get from our authentic selves, in reverse, joy and ease seem to increase the closer we get to being our authentic selves.

So what would I recommend we do in our quest for finding and being our authentic self?

Number one, we need to listen to our hearts. Stop, slow down, take time out, get quiet, and listen. I know we lead busy lives, I know we think there isn’t always time. But once we make the commitment to be true to ourselves, we find we can make time, and suddenly and miraculously we find our access to time increases. The whisperings are there in our heart, just waiting to be heard. We need to ask ourselves, what do I love doing? What kind of person do I love being? Within those things we love doing lie hidden the treasures of our own specific, unique gifts that we uniquely have to bless the world. The world desperately needs our specific gifts because no one else can give them except us. If we don’t nurture and contribute them in service, we and the world will have missed out on our biggest blessing and the Universe will mourn that loss. The heart cannot give false advice, it always leads to growth and expansion, to service in joy and a profound blessing to our soul and the world. So we just need to get quiet and listen.

Of course we encounter obstacles along the way, those false nagging beliefs that tell us we can’t do that, or we’re not good enough to do this… we are all slaves to our internal beliefs. But these beliefs can be overcome through gentle and deep belief work that remove the obstacles we have created in our minds. We might come up against unforeseen challenges that make us feel we’re on the wrong path after all. However I believe the Universe continues to provide us the challenges we need to grow, strengthen and evolve the skills we need to be doing the work we want to do. Being authentic requires growth and expansion, healing and love. It is not a journey for the faint-hearted, but it is one that is guaranteed to bring us back to our soul, where all that is joyful and wonderful in this life resides.

If you feel lost and need help uncovering your ‘true calling’, please be sure to download your FREE copy of my E-Book PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND AND START LIVING YOUR UNIQUE CALLING.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com