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 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?

  Writing 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

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