Did you know I used to live out of my 1997 Volvo station wagon? For 7 years it served me well. There was just enough room for me to curl up in my sleeping bag, and I had two small crates of clothes and a HUGE bin of climbing gear. Colorful prayer flags streamed from my roof rack, and my friends could find me by looking for these flags in any crag parking lot.
Later I lived out of a large 1990s Dodge Ram 15-passenger van, lovingly named Chomolungma (the local name for Mount Everest). She was a beautiful baby blue, and eventually died a peaceful death as I was driving her across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.
Since then, I’ve often blogged about how I missed living simply in that way – having everything I needed in my vehicle so I could drive anywhere on a moment’s notice.
Recently, I ended up buying a 2003 Ford Econoline 350 Sportsmobile van, a beast of a van whom I appropriately named Mama Bear. I’m having the best time playing with her! It was a great decision – the freedom she offers me and my family when we travel is fan-freakin-tastic. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to use the #vanlife hashtag here – it feels weird for me, since living out of vehicles has been a mainstay for climbers for decades, and I feel I am returning home vs joining a new movement ;).
It feels good to be home.
Why have I decided to go retro (for me) with my travels and adventures?
Part of the reason is I realized some of my dreams of the adventurous life I wanted to live with my family were outdated.
In my 20s and 30s, I felt the most adventurous way to travel was to go far (ideally at least 9 time zones away) and long (5-6 weeks minimum).
I also still had my dirtbag mentality that if I was going to spend $1800 on a plane ticket, I better make it worth it and stay as long as possible. That makes a lot of sense when you only make $1800 a month as a climbing guide. Not so much now in my life.
My husband and I stuck to these far-and-long travel goals really well – even after our daughter was born. Twice a year we would go to Asia or Africa with her for 4-6 weeks, plus many shorter trips in-between. I felt so…unconventional!
Until I didn’t.
Instead, I discovered I started to feel freakin’ stressed about it!
I was definitely the primary caregiver on trips, and while my husband paraglided, I was often alone with my kiddo in a foreign land. It was somewhat boring a lot of the time since I was limited in what I could do with a toddler, and I craved adult conversations and a good friend, despite the epic surroundings and amazing cultures I was experiencing.
I also enjoyed working on my business on these trips, since that’s a long time to go without creating something fun for my peeps. Slow internet in these remote areas (if I was lucky to have it at all) totally stressed me out. I am not as patient with technology as I used to be).
For some reason, I didn’t “need” 4-6 weeks off anymore either. That might have something to do with not being able to do 30-day expeditions as much;)
With a kid, I also found that returning from long trips abroad meant messed up sleep schedules for her (and therefore me) for a long time. It also meant the house was a shit-show while I unpacked from being gone for so long. Inevitably some plant died or some house item broke while we were away, and I’d have to deal with a broken hot water heater or a clogged up toilet on top of everything else.
I eventually realized that for this stage of my life, I wanted to take vacations with friends and be completely unplugged – for shorter periods of time.
I wanted to not have my travels completely throw me off my game anymore. I love creating through my work, and work wasn’t something I needed to escape for as long anymore. I love serving others. And I didn’t need to be away from friends and family for long periods of time either (must be that I am intentionally creating my community to be full of pretty rad people!).
I would rather hang out with a girlfriend and my kiddo gazing up at steep granite peaks from an alpine tarn in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California than chill out above a glacier in the Himalaya sans a friend.
Conversely, I’d rather go to the Himalaya and be there 2.5 weeks completely unplugged than try to stress about internet connections and finding friends to hang out with for an additional month.
It took a lot to accept this shift, and I’m still integrating it.
I had to let go of an identity and a judgement that if I wasn’t doing something utterly exotic far away and for over a month, I wasn’t leading a truly adventurous life. Sure, other people could think car camping was adventurous, but I had the belief that I was supposed to be an example of what level of adventure was possible with a family. I believe am that…but the way I was doing it was no longer honoring my new evolving self.
Recently I was sitting at an alpine tarn with a wise friend celebrating my birthday when she reflected back to me that indeed, it can be hard to let go of outdated dreams. That phrase hit me like a train.
Exactly! That’s what was going on!
I was trying to live a dream that no longer applied to who I had evolved into.
I was resisting this new desire because instead of seeing that I evolved into a new person, I thought I was de-volving into a more …boring person.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Me trying to live an outdated dream had me feeling incomplete and stressed.
Embracing my new dreams – adventures with friends and being totally unplugged on those adventures so I could be fully present the entire time – has me feeling excited and passionate about my travel again.
I’ve got a road trip planned in Mama Bear this November, and I’m going to leave her with some friends in New Mexico and drive her to my slice of heaven in Baja come Spring. I’m going to head to Asia or Africa or South America next year and plan to meet up with friends and stay for less time so I don’t need to be plugged in at all while there. I’m going to be so much more relaxed on those trips and just allow myself to savor every moment.
I am so fucking psyched.
What dream are you holding onto that you’ve outgrown?
Are you telling yourself you “should” hold onto it because you’d be failing if you let it go?
Could it be that instead, you have evolved into a new version of yourself with different needs and different dreams that are just as valid and perhaps even more thrilling?
Try to see what happens when you let go of that outdated dream and live into new ones. What happens when you honor yourself and what you want…now?
Religion and sex. Discipline and wildness. Security and freedom. There are dichotomies everywhere. It’s nature. Yin and Yang.
However, in the culture a lot of us live in, it is considered hypocritical to stand with one foot in each of these contrasting spaces. We are encouraged – and often forced – to choose one or the other.
How can you be a Buddhist who eats meat? That’s so hypocritical!
How can you be all about freedom, then tell me I have to have more discipline in my life?
How can you claim to prioritize your children’s security, yet want to get a divorce and quit your job?
How can you be Jewish and respect Islam? Crazy!
There isn’t much room for holding opposites or contrasts in the same space – yet this is often where the deep work happens. The stuff that changes us, evolves us, strengthens us.
You may be familiar with this image:
This is the Taoist tai chi, or yin-yang, symbol that reflects a fundamental truth of life – that life is full of polarities. The opposites, at their extremes, evolve into the other. Each has a part of its opposite within itself as well. You can’t have one without the other. They need each other. Like light needs darkness to exist.
When I was in the desert on a wilderness fast, there was a beautiful man in our group who was desperately torn between two very powerful forces in his life: one was of him as an influential and prominent community leader and role model, and the other as a sensual polyamorous lover (note: aspects of this story have been changed to respect privacy). He simply could not see how he could choose between these two very potent parts of his life. He saw them as completely opposite and utterly divergent realities (and perhaps you do as well). His soul was fraught with the thought of having to let one go, yet he felt so hypocritical being both at the same time. His suffering was palpable.
All of us spend more time in a similar space than we may realize. Perhaps you’re like me, leading a primarily healthy life (even coaching others to do so) and then you head into the fast food restaurant, in shame. Or you post on Facebook about all your time in the mountains and doing yoga on standup paddle boards…and then you binge on 8 hours of Netflix the next day, not telling a soul.
Or perhaps you love your family, yet you feel your soul will wither and die if you don’t go back to school or on that month-long retreat or travel the world… which means less time with your family.
Why, Freedom Junkies!? Why do we feel we need to be so…boring?
‘Cuz sister, being so predictable is actually quite boring. And us humans are definitely not boring.
Some people may say the sense of hypocrisy we feel when we hold two opposed beliefs has to do with integrity. I challenge that. Integrity is not about moral perfection. At least not entirely. While one definition is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness,” another is “the state of being whole and undivided.”
It’s the attempts at dividing who we are into pieces and then neglecting them that tear us apart. It’s ignoring our complexity and diversity that truly harms our integrity – our ability to be whole.
I propose we all spend more time in the middle of the mandorla of these complexities. A mandorla is an image that can be used to demonstrate the concept that there is a space of overlap between two seemingly-opposed or contrasting realities (in this example, it’s Heaven and Earth, but you can use any contrasting thoughts/beliefs/constellations of your being). When we can stand in the center, without seeing two seemingly dissonant concepts as mutually exclusive, we can start to be…real. Whole. Authentic. Imperfectly perfect.
The mandorla is where the dance between the contrast occurs.
What seemingly contradictory beliefs, thoughts, or aspects of your being do you have in your life that are difficult to reconcile? Is there anything that you are feeling you have to choose between because it seems so contradictory to be both?
Whenever we see things as “it is EITHER this way OR that way,” there is a closing up of the heart and mind going on. Be open to the idea that we can hold two ideas at once. That we can BE two things at once. I believe it is in this space that the good work is done.
If you have two parts of you that feel at odds, that are tearing you apart, it’s really important that you begin to explore that.
If you have a belief that two things are irreconcilable, I recommend the mandorla as well.
Try this mandorla activity that I learned from one of my mentors, Bill Plotkin:
:: Sit on the floor or in a chair. Mentally place one of these aspects of yourself on your right, and the other on your left.
:: Then, pick one of the sides, walk over into its space, and advocate for it to the other side. Really milk it. Make the most hard-core arguments you can for why that side is “right.” Think of everything you can. All the low-blows. All the things your mother or priest or sister or boss would want you to say (if applicable;).
:: Next, go to the opposite side, and do the same for that opposite aspect of yourself. Full-on, pedal-to-the-metal, no B.S. championing for that side.
:: Then, when you feel complete, sit in the middle, in the mandorla. It will often feel very uncomfortable. If so, do the activity again, arguing again for each side. Then once again, sit in the middle. Keep doing this until you feel all arguments have been made, both sides fully “heard.”
Eventually, in the mandorla, you will likely start to see that things are really not as they seem. They are not as black and white as you thought. They are not as…contradictory. They are actually not so separate.
When you arrive at a place where you can embrace these separate aspects of you, you are not being a hypocrite. A hypocrite is “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” When you act in a way that ignores your beliefs or feelings, that is being hypocritical. When you accept yourself entirely, you are not acting hypocritically.
You are…human. Complex. And now, whole. In integrity.
My clients often want to focus on how to make their passion their source of income – and I totally get it! I am so freakin’ psyched that I get to do what I love AND get paid. However, I have been coaching a long time, and let me tell you: there are other options that also lead to a meaningful and fulfilling life.
How do you know when you should look into funding vs finding your purpose?
While there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, one big sign is that you start losing your mojo and passion for your purpose once you start getting paid for it. While this can often be shifted with some mindset alchemy, for some people, the juice simply goes dry when they start “having” to do their work.
What happens next is that people often start judging and berating themselves, saying “Why can’t you just get it together and do this?! You’re so lucky that people even want to pay for this!”
This happened to me when I was a climbing guide. There were several reasons why I moved on, but a main one was that after 10 years of guiding, I started to feel burned out and missed going into the mountains just to play. But I kept putting off leaving because I knew so many people would be stoked to be in my shoes!
Another sign is if you are so stressed about making money from your passion that you are not able to enjoy life. Another way of saying this is that you don’t like being an entrepreneur – not everyone does, and that is absolutely, 100% OK! It can definitely be stressful to not have a reliable paycheck, and for some people, that discomfort is just too much. That does not mean something is wrong with you.
A client of mine loved painting, but when she started to have to paint-on-demand with commissions, and when she started to stress about paying the bills with her art, she lost the joy in her painting and it became super stressful. She was irritable, couldn’t sleep, and realized she was less happy than when she had her previous job and painted in her off-time. She realized she was not into being an entrepreneur, and we designed a lifestyle that would help her have more time for her painting – more time for her passion and purpose. She still sold pieces, but it wasn’t a stressful pursuit.
You have the option to find a livelihood that allows you the time and money to pursue your passions and live your purpose. Some of my clients have found this with massage therapy, being a server at a fun restaurant, teaching, travel nursing…there are definitely options! When you can make the money you need that also gives you the time off to simply DO what you love without stressing what income it can make for you…it can feel so freeing.
That’s what nursing did for me. Working three 12 hour shifts that paid me more than I had ever made working 24-7 as a guide allowed me to travel the world and climb for pure fun. And I loved the ER! It wasn’t my purpose or passion, but I didn’t mind going to work. I had great ER stories to tell while belaying my friends on big walls;) Then I started working as a travel nurse/locums and my freedom opened up even more.
Let me be clear here: This does not mean you should take a job you hate, or one that feels empty of any joy. What I do mean is that it’s OK to take a job that’s good enough – that you find fun and where you enjoy your colleagues – if it allows you more time, money and freedom to truly enjoy your passions!
I know that may sound like heresy in the life coaching world. The phrase “good enough” is to life coaches what the Paleo movement was to vegans. But here’s the difference: I am not saying that you should live a life that is “good enough.” I am saying that it’s OK to have a form of livelihood that’s “good enough” so that you can live a truly epic life.
The type of work that allows you the means and time off to truly live an epic life is not easy to find – but it is out there. The bottom line is don’t fall into another pattern of “shoulding” on yourself thinking the only happy people out there are ones that are making money from their passions.
Another downside of that type thinking is that some people’s life purpose often has nothing to do with a form of income, and if they keep thinking it should, they may totally miss their life purpose all together…
You’ve heard me say “Freedom is a Feeling” over and over. It’s because I know it’s true! Be open to what it might look like for you. What matters is that you feel it.
While there are certainly many inalienable human rights that can help to define what freedom is, that’s not the freedom I’m talking about here. I am sure you can think of plenty of people that are privileged to have those rights, and yet they feel suffocated and stifled. Trapped, like a puma in a cage. Stuck. Like you will never know the true you, or live your true life.
Anything but free.
I’ve certainly been there. Have you?
Is this because we are spoiled and take for granted the freedoms we do have? That if we only realized how lucky we are to be able to write negative blog posts about the president without being blacklisted (for now, at least), or being a woman and being able to go to school without fear, or being able to stroll along the beach and not be concerned about landmines, that we’d realize how free we really are and get over it?
Personally, I don’t think so.
That’s because the deep freedom I’m referring to is a feeling – it’s something that we sense deep in our soul, when we are aligned.
The surprise to many is that deep freedom is not having a location-independent lifestyle, or tons of money to do whatever we want with. It’s not being your own boss or not having to answer to someone else. It’s not saying whatever the hell we want and wearing what we want. It isn’t kissing or loving whomever we want, or living wherever we want.
Those are external freedoms. They are measured against us being able to do/be something without ramifications from others.
Deep freedom is when YOU are able to fully accept you, be you, love you…and also accept things as they are. That’s being aligned. The only ramifications of not doing these things are felt by just one person – you. The only person that makes you feel bad about these things is just … you.
So you see, if you want true freedom – deep freedom – it starts with going within. It can be easy to get distracted by the external freedoms, and trying to shape your life into the perfect little scenario where you don’t have to rely on anyone, or answer to anyone. But take it from someone with over 20 different certifications, 3+ places to live (read: run away to), and over a dozen ways I’ve learned to make money in case myriad things happen to the economy or political state so that I will always have my needs met: it doesn’t mean shit if you aren’t really free on the inside.
At this point, you may think, “Ana, I get the accepting myself part. But are you really saying I need to accept the things around me…this craziness that’s going on?” Yes.
Before you throw pastured high omega-3 eggs at me, know that by accepting things as they are does not mean you condone them or support them. It means that you stop wishing things were different, and get on with actively creating the world you want, while (and here’s the clincher) accepting and loving you and all the present moment has to offer.
Until you are able to pull that off, you won’t truly feel free, no matter how many beaches you take your laptop to for work, or how many Instagram photos you post about your travels. You’ll perhaps feel badass and very adventurous…but not deeply free.
This is why you always hear me say these three things together: freedom. adventure. purpose.
In my opinion, we need all these things to live a life full of Ziji (Tibetan for radiant inner confidence). When we feel deeply free; when we know we are squeezing every drop of juice out of this precious life with everyday adventures; when we use our mind, body and soul to fulfill our deepest purpose; we walk this earth grounded and with a powerful sense of confidence that is not shaken by external forces.
No. Instead we do the shaking up. From a place of confidence – not fear.
And sister, you know we need that more than ever these days.
How can you take steps towards this deeper freedom? Here are a few places to start:
Get clear about your values. By knowing you – and what you want to say “Hellz yes!” to and what you want to say “Oh, hell no” to – you will be able to move closer to loving and accepting all of you. There’s some great activities to help you do this in my free Clarity + Courage Course
Choose to focus on the things you can change, and release the things you can’t (and get reality checks from people to help you learn the difference). By refining our skills to know what we have control over (hint: usually that starts with ourselves and the way we respond to life), we can more effectively use our time, money, and energy to create positive change in the world. When you do this, you can more easily accept the present moment, and begin actively creating the world you want to live in, instead of fighting the wrong battles.
Stop giving a shit about what other people think of you. “The people that mind don’t matter, and the people that matter don’t mind.” Love that quote. It is so, so true. Whenever you think about compromising your integrity or self-love out of fear of disappointing others, repeat that quote like a mantra. You need to focus on accepting your self – your full self – unapologetically, before you worry about what others think.
I know those things are easier for me to type than for you to do – but know that I have helped hundreds of women do exactly those things, so I know at my core it is possible. And if for nothing else, know that we need you, and your special gift, more than ever. This isn’t just a request in a weekend blogpost.
You achieving your deep freedom is a duty to your people. Now go get it.
As many of you know, I spent a lot of time in the Utah desert on my own personal wilderness Quest last year. About a half year later, I led some amazing Legendary ladies on their own personal Quest in Joshua Tree. Suffice it to say that both experiences were pivotal, and after I had wrapped up my year with my Legendary ladies, I had a huge 2×4 from the Universe smack me upside the head, and I had no other desire than to go inward.
Plus, having a kid made me look at how I was prioritizing my life in way that was even more powerful than having had cancer twice. I think a kid can do that for a lot of people – especially those of us, like me, who can have issues with self-love. It is somehow easier to do it for someone else sometimes.
It was all overpowering, but I didn’t have the mental, physical, or spiritual space to have to “explain” it to anyone. I just did what had to be done. I find women explain far too much anyway, and could benefit from just doing what the hell their souls are telling them they need to do – without explanation.
:: I (almost) instantaneously unplugged from online marketing. It’s amazing how much space this opened up in my life. I took clients by referral only, and that kept me plenty busy along with everything that followed…
:: I moved through a psycho-spiritual crisis and unacknowledged postpartum depression, and healed my body. My relationship, family and spiritual practice is now stronger than ever, and my body is feeling more powerful every day…something I haven’t felt since before I had my kiddo. I shed much of my excess ama, and my body feels almost as light and energetic as it did when I was much younger. I still have some work to do, but I am well on the path.
:: I listened to the one word that kept sprouting from my Quest and popping up in Mystery wherever I went: SERVICE.
This was a doozy, because I did not want to hear it. I felt I was already in service with my Legendary and other coaching clients, and the volunteer work I did abroad every few months (diving into it at a refugee camp with Congolese and Rwandan refugees for a month counts for a lot of service, right?) But this word “Service” and its calling told me: Wake up, Woman! You are meant to do more. Open your eyes and see it. Why the hell do you think I’ve been having you cultivate those myriad skills over the years? Not just because you are a multipassionate/ multi-potentialite or whatever people are calling it these days. You are supposed to DO something with all of that.
:: So…I applied for and received a scholarship for a doctoral program and focused my project on helping to start the first emergency maternal-child transport system in Nepal. Yes, for the entire country. No, not alone. But yes, far larger than I ever thought possible. A daunting undertaking to say the least, which will extend well past my doctoral program. Anything born from the heart should endure past it’s short-lived inception.
:: I also started crafting something pretty powerful that will rock the system of healthcare that we live in. It’s something I can’t talk about yet because it will upset a lot of people, and I can’t handle that right now. But I am in deep Jedi training for the Big Disappointment that I will have to endure, knowing that I have to let go of the fruits of whatever efforts I put into this project…which, again, is the case with anything from the heart 😉
I am almost done with my doctoral degree – if all goes well, I should be receive it by December (can you believe it?! Those two Master’s degrees finally paid off, LOL). Then shit gets very, very real after that. You’ll have to stay tuned…but trust me, you will be in on it when it happens.
:: So, what does that mean for Freedom Junkie and Legendary Wilderness Quests? It means I am even more clear about what I am here to do for you. It’s simply a more distilled version of what I have been giving you from my heart since the very beginning, with my very first FullOn365 blog post.
:: I will be offering many of my online programs for free or donation-only, to honor the call to Service and to counter the craziness that our new politics is creating. Please, take all you want – but I beg you: USE IT. The world needs you to be YOU more than ever.
:: I will lead a select group of women (who are ready) into their own Legendary wilderness Quests once a year. I am committing to making this as affordable as possible.
:: One retreat a year will be held in Alaska, and the other in Baja, Mexico where we will deep dive into your Soul in some of the last great, vast, expansive lands of unadulterated wilderness there is left on this planet.
In short, if it isn’t obvious, I am focusing on in-person contact with you, my people, my tribe. I am wanting to offer a bit of Medicine to counter all the disconnect that permeates our society, because no matter how much you comment on posts and get replies, or how many different emoticons or video feeds or likes you get, there’s nothing is like talking, seeing, touching, and BEing with a real-life human BEing.
To put it differently, my strongest super powers come out when I am in your face. Literally.
So why do anything else? I’ve got too many other Service duties going on to mess with anything less than my ideal delivery system.
I’ll also be focusing on system-wide changes in our country. I’ve had enough of waiting for other people to do it.
I’m writing this just after landing in Nepal to launch my doctoral project. The 36 hour trip here has been one of the longest periods of time I’ve had to not have to choose between staring at a computer or playing with my kid in the outdoors (guess who wins most of the time?), or attending to the needs of my soul. The first thing I thought of doing was writing to you.
Guess that puts you pretty high up on the list.
I hope this inspires you to follow your Soul’s calling, no matter how scary it might be, how radically different it may look from what you think you “should” be doing, and no matter how you might disappoint others.
You know that thing we do when we compare ourselves to others until it hurts? It’s totally normal. In fact, one of the most common causes of suffering in us humans is the fear of being average…the desire to see ourselves as “above average” (a different way of saying we want to see ourselves as better than others) – and the vast majority of us suffer from this…which is why we compare so much. To see where we stand.
When I first read that factoid as I was researching info for my next course (one on self-compassion!), I really really really wanted to feel that I was not victim to this desire (because that would be kind of…average, right?).
But I so. totally. am.
I have an overwhelming fear of being…average.
I don’t want an average income. Or an average marriage. Or an average car, travel schedule, house, wardrobe, or stack of graduate degrees. I don’t want average grades, careers, weekend trips, or stories to tell by the so-not-average campfire.
I want a fucking extraordinary life. Waaaaay above average.
I have had a fear of being average since I learned what was possible if you proved you were above average in this world (aka school). Being above average got me out of the ghetto and into my Freedom Junkie way of living. It got me amazing opportunities: scholarships, grants, adventures, jobs…lots of good things. I was terrified of what would happen if I ever lost my ability to rank as above average. Indeed, the idea of losing my mind like my father did (he had schizoaffective disorder) was the scariest thing I could imagine. It was my above-average mind that…kept me safe.
The fear of being average was such a big part of my life that it even drove me to hound my uro-oncologist when I was first diagnosed with kidney cancer to find an alternative to removing my kidney and chucking it.
I was sitting in a meeting with him at the uro-oncology unit of UC San Francisco (he happened to look like the Dalai Lama in a lab coat, which helped with our negotiations;). He told me that my tumor was in a part of the kidney where all the blood vessels come together, and that to remove the tumor while my kidney was still attached to me – and have a good chance of complete tumor removal without causing other severe complications – was very, very small. So they would have to just remove my kidney altogether.
Then he said the thing that got me researching my ass off:
“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine with having one kidney. In fact, studies have shown that people who donate a kidney have the same level of happiness as the average American.”
Oh heeeelllllz no, Dr. Man.
“Ummm. No offense…but I am way happier than the average American – and I plan to keep it that way,” I replied. I didn’t say out loud that to be an average American was the most miserable thing I could think of. I just saw myself watching TV on a couch and having the big adventures of my life be camping out for Black Friday sales.
I got on the internet that night, and while I was watching multiple YouTube videos of the surgery I was about to undergo, I saw an interesting blip on my Google search page: “UCSF: #2 renal transplant facility in the country”
Hmmm. So if the issue is they can’t cut the tumor out safely while it is attached to me, why not remove my kidney, cut the tumor out, confirm the margins are clear, then put it back in me?” Shazaam!
I called my surgeon the next morning.
“Interesting. I’ll see what the tumor board has to say,” he said in response to my suggestion. (Since this was such an involved surgery, you have to get the OK from everyone on the team – in this case, uro-oncology, the transplant team, and other hospital folk.)
The next day he called: “OK. We decided that we can try the autotransplant – but one of the main reasons is because you are a rock climber and have a higher risk for trauma than the average person, and thus may have a higher need for 2 kidneys.”
Woohoo! Being above average saves my scared ass again! (But that is soooo not the point I am trying to make here;)
What’s poignant here isn’t the fact that I got the team to try a new surgery…but rather that the fear I felt when thinking I might end up average was all-consuming.
Yes, the outcome was great for me in this scenario – but it always haunted me that it was my fear of being average that was the driving force. That it had been the driving force behind so many of my actions in the past.
So what’s wrong with striving to be above average when so many cool things can come of it? Like awesome adventure travel, getting to keep your organs, and free tuition, to name a few?
When you have “fear of being average” as your main motivation, you are also susceptible to a deep, wounding type of suffering, because your happiness is based on something outside of you: how you compare to others.
And as long as your happiness depends on where you stand in relation to others on the scale – even for something as noble as adventure or compassion or generosity – you will never have the kind of deep, radiant confidence (aka ziji!) that comes from knowing your own inherent self worth.
So you know those days when you internet troll or just perseverate endlessly while comparing your life to others on Facebook or in “real life” – someone in a similar field as you or in your social circle or tribe – and you wonder why they seem happier or more loved or more famous or more exciting or more wealthy or more adventurous or more kind and compassionate or more relaxed … or more anything than you?
That’s from our fear of being average. The Comparison Carousel. Round and round. “Where do I stand now?” we wonder. All. freakin’. day. It’s exhausting.
I used to think only my friends and others with FOMO (fear of missing out) had this type of fear, and that it was this fear that helped them have such amazing lives of adventure. But then I started to realize that we all have the fear of being average. It’s why scapegoating is so common when times get tough – when there is an economic depression or scarcity of jobs, racism and discrimination increase as people strive to prove in a scarcity environment that they still have the one-up on others.
Don’t take this lightly, folks. This tendency to want to be above average creates more suffering in us as individuals, as well as worldwide in small communities, large countries, and in international relations.
You may not realize the degree of suffering this causes if you manage to stay “above average” in the categories important to you or your culture for a long time…until you start to get exhausted running the race; start to fall behind; or finally find that person who is smarter than you, prettier than you, sexier than you, more adventurous than you…just better than you all around (all else created equal). And you will find that person. There is always – always – going to be someone “better” than you are at something (except, of course, at your own unique purpose;).
When that happens, you feel crushed. Or suddenly depressed, even though you have achieved some amazing shizzle in your life. Or you feel devastatingly not enough.
I know some of you may be wondering if this means we should all strive to be “average.”
This life is precious, a gift like no other; to be born in your body on this planet with the ability to create life experiences and a mind to dream…its all a miracle and you would be a fool to not take full advantage of it and make the most of this life.
I want you to live an extraordinary life.
Because of that, what I do want to encourage is this:
Do not let your motivation be to feel like you are better than others, or “above average.” Let your motivation in life be to live your best life. To live your gifts into this world. Screw what anyone else is doing. Only you know if you are living life full-on. And that is all that matters.
After all, in reality, we are all average. As Dr. Kristin Neff, a Developmental Psychologist from the University of Texas at Austin, points out, “To be human is to be average.” It’s true. We all have our strengths (the things we do really really well), and the things we do just so-so (sort of average)… and we also have our weaknesses – those things that we just suck at, or have a lot of room for improvement.
The key to sustainable happiness – and indeed the true inner confidence that follows – is to accept that we are all beautifully average. The world needs us all to be average at most things! Then, we can focus on our gifts – those things we do really really well – and leave the rest to the other average humans that rock the things we suck at.
We don’t have to do it all or know it all (ahhhh…isn’t that relaxing!).
While the reality is that we may need to stand out from the crowd to get certain jobs or attain certain accomplishments, we don’t have to be better than someone else to be happy.
Indeed, the opposite is true. Embrace your averageness;)
Live an extraordinary life on your terms.
When you release the desire to be above average and embrace your true gifts and the preciousness of this life…ahhhhh – that is when the fun begins. The freedom. The adventure. That no one can take away from you.
Since this tendency to have a fear of being average exists in almost all of us, don’t beat yourself up about it when it arises. Just notice it. Notice it as part of the average human experience.
Then do things differently.
Choose to be motivated from your own heart’s desires…what makes you happy, no matter what else others are doing.
When you see yourself comparing, ask yourself what you really want in this life, and what is one action you can take right now to move you closer to it.
Embrace your “average,” and focus on extraordinary living from your heart
Recognize the common humanity in all of this – that you are not alone in your fear of being average. That we all fear it. And that is it precisely our averageness that beings us closer as humans….And it is precisely the unique gifts that every single one of us has that, when expressed fully, make this life extraordinary. It is savoring each moment, staying present, being kind to ourselves and each other, manifesting your gifts and living this life as the greatest adventure of all time that will give you the radiant inner confidence to know you are crushing this whole carpe-the-dang-diem thing.
make a list of 5 culturally-valued qualities you have in which you are above average
make a list of 5 culturally valued qualities you have in which you are average
make a list of 5 culturally valued qualities you have in which you are below average
Now, can you look at this list and embrace it fully? Can you accept the fact that we ALL have traits in which we kick ass, fall within the bell curve, or need to leave to someone else – which makes us all…average? And can you feel in your bones that just because you – and everyone else – is actually quite average does NOT mean you cannot live an extraordinary life?
Have you ever had a moment when you realized you don’t know what is supposed to come next in your life, what your next purpose should be….and you felt like the weight of the world was crushing you?
If yes, you can likely relate to what I’m about to tell you. If no, please keep reading anyway as a reminder that it isn’t about what you “have” or “do” in the world that helps you feel happy or content. It’s way better than that;)
I CAN’T BREATHE
I was hanging out in the sun after some quality time with my girlfriends. It was an awesome day. I was Superfoods Cleansing with my Urban Wellness Club tribe, my body was feeling lighter, my skin brighter, and my mind clearer. My biz was cruising along and my clients were rocking their mission.
So why the hell couldn’t I breathe? Why did I feel like I had an elephant on my chest?
I don’t mean I had trouble breathing in an OMG-pot-is-legal-now-and-I’ve-taken-it-a-bit overboard kind of way.
I mean, my chest was tight with anxiety, with a sense of doom. Thoughts started flooding my mind.
…about something my husband did that pissed me off.
2 years ago.
…about doctoral programs and which one to pick and what if I made the wrong decision and should I do it at all…and why the hell did new opportunities around this decision keep popping up?
…about the trip we were going to take to Nepal…what now after the earthquake? Do we still go? If not there, where? Eastern Europe? East Asia? South America? Would Maia get cholera in Pokhara?
…about my body and how it still hasn’t totally felt like “mine” again after having my baby, and how I knew this was in large part because of the choices I was making about how I was eating, drinking, and moving.
…about what direction my biz was going to take next
Then I felt like shit and beat myself up for being so overwhelmed.
I could keep the list going. All this and more was entering my mind, one after another, without respite. Too many decisions. Not enough clarity.
And this had been going on for months. I felt like I was losing my mind.
This claustrophobic feeling overcame me between my periods of the realization that, “Holy shit my life is awesome!” I would be playing with Maia and watching her beam me this utterly EPIC smile and blow me a kiss with this postcard view of the Alaskan mountains behind her and I’d feel so amazing…and then I couldn’t breathe again.
I knew this feeling, this chapter of life. It is a chapter in life and not simply a moment because unfortunately, this transition isn’t as “transient” as I would have liked it to be. This was a bona fide Spiritual Crisis.
I have lived it twice before, and I’ll tell you about the first time.
SPIRITUAL CRISIS #1
I was 19. I had an amazing boyfriend, I was excelling at my University, I had a work-study job where I took UCSC students on climbing and backpacking trips (beats the hell out of working in the cafeteria any day), and I did homework on the freakin’ beach in Santa Cruz. My mother and I were finally friends, and my dad had not been hospitalized for a schizophrenia episode for years. I lived with a strong tribe of women and could hear the ocean waves and harbor seals barking at night while I slept. I spent long weekends rock climbing in Joshua Tree or peak bagging in the Sierra Nevada.
Finally, finally, everything in my previously chaotic life seemed right.
Yet…it was sooooo far from right.
I was desperately anxious and felt something huge – monumental – was missing, even though I “had” everything.
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think straight. I’d go on epic mountain bike rides just to open my lungs and prove to myself that I could indeed breathe. I’d go so hard that I’d feel exhausted at the end, and finally be able to relax from pure physical fatigue.
I didn’t know what to do. I spoke of this with no one. I was afraid I was going insane like my dad, and wished I hadn’t taken so many hallucinogens in high school.
I walked into one of the spiritual bookstores in downtown Santa Cruz and went up and down each aisle with no aim, but with a shitload of hope that something would help me.
One book caught my eye.
It was about having a Spiritual Crisis. I can’t even remember the title. I flipped through the intro and it said something like:
Spiritual crisis (also called “spiritual emergency”) is a form of identity crisis where an individual experiences drastic changes to their meaning system (i.e., their unique purposes, goals, values, attitude and beliefs, identity, and focus) typically because of a spontaneous spiritual experience.
I took a deep breath. Holy shit, this is it, yo! I was having a Spiritual Crisis. Thank fucking gooddess. I wasn’t going insane.
My “spontaneous spiritual experience?” Having everything I thought I wanted and still not being happy. Realizing – truly realizing – that happiness wasn’t about life on the outside…and not knowing how to find it. I felt like I’d never, ever, be happy.
Holy shit that was major at 19 years old. At any age, really.
“Spiritual experiences” don’t come riding in on rainbow unicorn farts all the time.
OK. Spiritual Crisis it is. But…now what?
To spare you an even longer version of this story, I’ll cut to the chase: I somehow knew deep down that my spiritual crisis could be healed with clarity about my purpose.
And there was one ideal way for me to get there: meditation.
And I had no freakin’ idea how to do it.
I called Transcendental Meditation places but they wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars for a course. I checked out a group on campus that ended up being a cult (which I totally called them out on and found an investigative reporter in LA that had been trying to expose them for years, who then interviewed me). I called a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher and they were charging almost $300 for the program. I called so many people and all were either creepy or expensive – especially for a college student.
WTF? I’M HAVING A FUCKING SPIRITUAL CRISIS HERE, PEOPLE! WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TEACH ME HOW TO MEDITATE WITHOUT MAKING ME BROKE !!!!????
(And FYI – this is why I offer free stuff along with my juicy programs. EVERYONE deserves access to this stuff!)
So then I called this Buddhist center in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz mountains. They said a free weekly class was being taught by a nun, Robina Courtin.
I showed up at the next class.
She was a stout Australian woman with a lovely accent and very direct communication style. I liked her already. She told me how she had become a nun after coming to the U.S.A. to learn martial arts so she could go back to Australia and kick all the cops’ assess that were jerks to her and her lesbian friends. But then she met a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Lama Yeshe, who pointed out that she was very, very angry. And he suggested that perhaps this should be her focus instead.
After studying with him and noticing immeasurable benefits, she became a nun, and here she was teaching me meditation in the middle of old-growth redwood forests in the Santa Cruz mountains. She missed the city, she told me. But she would go where her teacher wanted her to. We meditated on sex. And chocolate cake. And our attachment to them.
I was hooked.
I ended up living in a gypsy wagon at this retreat center the rest of my time in college – a funky little wooden cabin with an outdoor shower perched on the bed of a converted Ford F100 that was up on blocks in the middle of a redwood forest. One day I’ll dig out the photo and show you guys. It was boho awesome.
I meditated regularly. I took revered Tibetan monks visiting the center on trips to see the coast and on rollercoaster rides at the Boardwalk. I brought them their meals and even made them oatmeal in the mornings. (I thank the living stars everyday that I understood how lucky I was sharing all those moments with great teachers). I took care of the meditation gompa and swept all the floors and watered all the plants and dusted the beautiful statues. I loved every minute of it.
Then I went to Nepal, did a month-long meditation retreat at a monastery, and almost became a nun. The “almost” part is another story.
Then I hiked into the Annapurna mountains alone for another month, and did some serious thinking.
And I came out…clear. Finally. Ahhhhhh.
It was the biggest relief of my life at that point.
But the point of this story is to share what am I going to do to take care of the Spiritual Crisis I am in right now.
MY TOOLS FOR A SPIRITUAL CRISIS
I heave learned in my 41 years on this zany planet that the two things in my life that have been constant compasses, serving to help guide me in times of duress, are a regular meditation practice and solitude in the wilderness. When I veer from either of those two things for too long, bad shit happens because I tend to then fall out of alignment and I get crazy monkey mind. Yoga pulls in at a close third.
When I look back on my life, I think, “Wow, in those days at the retreat center I was so easily compassionate and patient towards others. I was fearless about doing whatever was right. I knew what was important. My next steps were clear, even if my greater life plan was not. I felt so calm and centered and…content.”
This wasn’t because of the worry-free college years.
It was because of my regular and dedicated spiritual practice, and my regular visits with myself in the wild.
I know this because I went through this again much later in life, when I had many more responsibilities, and the same practices helped me through it.
And now, here I am. Again.
Here I am with what seems to be everything I have ever wanted. Yet I have no idea what’s next, and instead of invigorating me, it is causing me to feel utterly crushed.
Shall I be content simply with what is (which is actually awesome!)?
Shall I strive for something greater?
Shall I go in a completely different direction?
WTF does this feeling even mean for me right now?
What I DO know is that this kind of suffering often arises when our minds are unsettled and unfocused and chaotic. When I have a regular meditation practice, these thoughts are much less likely to overwhelm me. I am more content with what is, and can intentionally drive my focus.
IDENTITY + PURPOSE
If you check out the description of the Spiritual Crisis above, you’ll see that it often occurs with shifts in identity, purpose or focus (among other things). This is where I am at.
New state (I’ve finally hung out long enough in Alaska to feel like I actually live here).
New purpose…but what is it?
In discussions with my clients and friends, I often see that people think identity is a static, fixed thing. They feel this way about purpose as well. Often we can fantasize that once we figure out our purpose, we’ll be set for life!
But here’s the thing: purpose is inextricably linked with your identity.
And your identity will shift over time. If I had aimed for the same identity and purpose I had in my 20s, I’d likely be living out of my car and eating leftovers from Outward Bound courses, telling my mom I couldn’t afford to help her with her medical bills because I wasn’t making enough money, but that I loved her oodles. I wouldn’t have Maia and I wouldn’t be with my soulmate. Nothing is necessarily wrong with the above, but it would have felt out of alignment sooner than later.
If you plan to evolve in this life, you must allow your identity – and purpose – to shift.
And it ain’t easy, sistah! That’s for sure.
But it is absolutely necessary to go through this process, through the Hero/Heroine’s Journey, if you will.
You come out the other side with more clarity and purpose than a Library of Congress filled with self-help books could ever offer you.
So what is my plan?
Going back to what works: Meditation + Wilderness. And let me toss in Integrity + Alignment too.
Meditation. I know that when I have a regular meditation practice, I am more calm and clear and can see what is truly important. This always leads to less anxiety and white noise in my head. And shuts up my inner critic as well.
Wilderness. I have already planned out 4 solo trips into the wild over the next year, during which I will go on vision quests and soul crafting journeys to open up more deeply to what is next for me. I’m going to embrace the Heroine’s Journeythat I know shows up when a transition like this manifests in life. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. In other words, it’s an Adventure.
Here’s a simple graphic to give you a peep of what that’s like:
This, my Freedom Junkie friends, means I also get to find out what juicy next step is in store to bring to you too! I have a good idea of what it is…but want to be have more Ziji (radiant inner confidence) about it before telling you.
To be clear, you don’t have to go on a vision fast to gain Clarity. You can go on the Heroine’s Journey in so many different ways. I help plenty of clients get clear without having to send them into the wilderness alone without food for several days. They arrive to me at some point along this Journey, and we dive into it together.
I just know that for me, at pivotal transitions where nothing else seems to be helping or able to get me to the depth of clarity I need, the vision fast and accompanying Heroine’s Journey is my preferred method. This is my path when I need more clarity related to a total shift in identity and purpose – beyond clarity about my next career or the next place I want to live etc. The clarity I have after such an experience is backed with unshakeable confidence in the next step.
I haven’t had to do this in a long time…and you can see that it is not an easy or quick process. Note that I said I’ve made some plans “over the next year.” Not the next week. But I know from experience that it is well worth it!
Integrity + Alignment. This is where the vows come in. When you are in integrity, you are more calm and centered. We can all believe we are in integrity, but without committing to a clear description about what that is, we can cheat a little here and there, or fool ourselves into thinking we are in alignment when in fact, we’ve got a little kink going on.
In certain traditions, on auspicious days of the calendar like the new moon or full moon, it is said that when you commit to certain precepts/vows for that time-frame, you benefit exponentially. You also aren’t supposed to just pick all the vows so that your odds of good karma credit go up. On the contrary, if you take a vow and break it, that’s worse than not taking it at all.
I have found that this wisdom of choosing what you can truly commit to 100% – knowing yourself well enough to know what you’re ready for, and what you’re not ready for – is so brilliant. It acknowledges that you are human and that you are in absolute choice about how you live. Vows or precepts in this sense aren’t rules you have to follow – they are recommendations that, when followed, tend to lead to a calmer mind and a happier life. If you find otherwise, so be it.
But why reinvent the wheel, right? If these things have been found to be helpful for millennia, then they are probably a good idea. So I’ll be taking a few of these vows for at least 1 month, starting June 1st.
Goddess knows I need a calmer mind right now.
Three of them that I’ll share here are:
1) No intoxicants. Pretty straightforward. I need all my brain cells and emotional calm and a warrior’s energy to figure this one out.
2) No stealing. This also means not “borrowing” pens from the clinic, and it means I point out when I get too much change back from the megacorporation I didn’t even want to buy from in the first place … and not buying from the megacorporation in the first place ;).
3) No sexual misconduct (so grateful I am with my soul-mate and that this comes so easily)
In addition to the myriad other vows, I am committing to a daily meditation practice, and not just doing it “most of the time.” Cuz most of the time becomes “when it’s convenient.” And we shouldn’t just be tending to our minds when it is convenient. It’s kind of like having a baby – there’s never a convenient time. Especially to do The Work.
So that’s my really long post about my really long plan for dealing with this current Spiritual Crisis. I am thrilled I didn’t collapse and think I had to figure this all out by the end of the week. I am grateful that I know this path and have walked it before, and that it will be well worth the patience and trials that come ahead.
And I am beyond excited about this new little big thing I’ve been conjuring… just for you. But like all incredibly epic things, it will have to wait until it’s good and ready.
Share with me if you’ve been on a Heroine’s Journey and what you gleaned from it. Or tell me about something you think a Heroine’s Journey would help with! Are you on the Journey right now? At what stage? I know I’m not alone out there, because if you’re reading this, you too are making this wild and precious life – and how you live it – a top priority.
This time of year can be for a lot of us entrepreneurs – especially those of us in the personal growth/wellness fields. This is the busy time, as most people want to take a break from working on their inner awesomeness during summer;)
But for us, this is CRUNCH TIME! This is when we launch and crank out blog posts and try to time our launches and best goodies to not compete with the Big Mamas on the scene (like Marie Forleo launching B-School, which totally takes over the internet – and people’s inboxes;)
People starting a biz always ask me where to begin, so I wanted to share with you the top 10 things I think need to happen to get the ball rolling – and you can see where you’re at! This especially applies to beginners, but if you’ve been in business awhile, you may want to make sure you’ve got them covered still (especially #10!!!)
Make sure you are rocking these 10 things in your business (check them off when done!):
___ 1. have a wordpress website that is hosted with someone like Bluehost.com (google it if you have no idea what I am talking about!)
___ 2. the following step is particularly true if you are a multipassionate that works directly with clients: buy your name as a URL and have that be the domain your website is hosted on. You can forward your business name URL to that website if you prefer. And then you don’t have to move your whole website when you move on to the next business!
___ 3. start an email marketing account at Mailchimp.com or Aweber.com
___ 4. start building your list and collecting emails and adding them to the list you created above
___ 5. you will best to #4 if you have an amazing gift to offer your peeps – create something beautiful or divine or super informative or uber-valuable for them to celebrate them giving you their precious email address!
___ 6. make sure a way to sign up for the aforementioned amazing gift is on every page of your website
___ 7. create awesome content AT LEAST once a month to help your website get traffic (the search engines prefer websites with fresh info)
___ 8. create at least 2 ways (ideally 3) for people to work with you (this isn’t a MUST, but it usually helps if people can get a taste of you with a “date” before “hopping into bed” with you. Have an intro program and your more in-depth access to you. Or more! Or not…but like I said, this tends to work, especially when you first start. The entry level can be “free” by the way!
___ 9. get business cards with your name, website, and email address (at a minimum) so that people can find you when they think of you again, and how you rocked their world in the short encounter they had with you. Do not hand out free ones that say Vistaprint on the back. Tacky.
___ 10. Last, but certainly NOT least: Remember that you are NOT your biz. No matter what is going on with your biz, you are SO MUCH MORE. If you are crushing it, know that you are still even more than that. If you are struggling for even one client, know that the challenge does not define you. Being an entrepreneur is a spiritual path.
There is so much more, like getting really, really clear on who you want to serve…but I find that doesn’t always come right away, and we can get stuck in analysis paralysis in the meantime while we try to figure that out!
In any event, I hope that short starter list helps a wee bit. Share with me your progress in these things by commenting below – I read every single one!
And if you haven’t heard yet, I wanted to remind you of a few awesome things that are going away – way too soon!
First: Please know that while I totally believe in Marie and B-School, you don’t need it to be successful. While it is worth $2000 – easily – you don’t have to spend that to create the biz and life of your dreams. There’s “The Google” (as Marie calls it) where you can learn so much about how to do things on your own, as well as amazing YouTube trainings and great free offerings and summits out there to soak it all up. But if you want to rock it with Marie and me, check out my review here
OK, now the reminders…
1. the free B-School training videos that Marie Forleo put up are going away on March 4th. So if you’d like to watch those videos and get those free lessons — now is the time because they won’t be available much longer!
2. Muy importante: B-School 2015 is closing down Wednesday, March 4th at 3pm EST. (that’s in the morning at 11am for my west-coast peeps!). Since B-School is only done once per year, now is the time to register if you know it’s the right fit. PLUS, if you register through me you get the awesome Clarity + Courage Immersion ($1500 value with just that bonus alone), plus support throughout B-School, and other fun surprises.
To sign up for the free training videos, click here
If you want to watch the training videos first to decide, that’s totally fine! But if you want my juicy bonus you’ll have to register with my link here, or go to my review page at www.AnaVerzone.com/best-b-school-bouns
Some people are fortunate enough to know from an early age exactly what resonates in their heart and soul and “gleefully” go through school doing everything to get them there.
I find this extremely annoying.
But deep down I am happy for them;)
For the rest of us, however, it’s just not that simple. So often there are the things that we think we SHOULD do and we spend a lot of our time, effort, and money going down a path that ends up being a job and just a paycheck.
The biggest problem with that is we can end up spending our entire lives following that paycheck and feeling hollow inside. This leads to all sorts of issues: depression, lack of self-esteem, chronic illness…sometimes even death. Crazy to think how powerful following one’s dream really is in our mental and physical well-being, right?!
It doesn’t mean that those of us who do follow our passions go through life with no challenges, woes, or misfortunes. Finding our purpose does give us something special… a huge gift… a purpose for living… a purpose for engaging with the world around us on a daily basis. Imagine waking up every day feeling excited about what you get to experience that day. Pretty cool, eh?
In The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, he very straightforwardly points out that if every person on the planet found their purpose and followed their passions, there would be no need for therapists let alone medical doctors. And probably coaches too, right?!
We’ve all read stories about the person diagnosed with a terminal illness who quit their job and followed their life-long dreams only to fully recover and go on to live a long fulfilled life.
If, instead, we were taught to follow our hearts and our passions from childhood, perhaps we could live in the utopia described by Steven Pressfield. But that’s not usually what happens, and we are taught to conform and learn how to be successful following American standards for the definition of success. Most of us go off in a different, less fulfilling path and we lose sight of what fills our hearts and souls.
If you are one of the millions who hasn’t a clue about your purpose or how to live in that heart-filling manner, read on for 12 tips on how to explore your unique path and all the possibilities to find and fuel that passion in your life!
12 Tips for Finding Your Purpose in Life
1. Write down 5 things you loved as a child. What made you happy? Even if it doesn’t seem significant, you might find something in it. A client of mine did this recently and remembered her favorite Christmas present ever…it was a cigar box her mother had painted making it into a school-supply box, filled with pencils, erasers, tape, etc. She loved that box. Remembering that box made her also remember just how much she loves academics and learning. It doesn’t mean she needs or wants to be a professor to be happy…just that she loves life-long learning, and that as long as she is learning something new, she is happy!
2. Chat with your amigas. When you are talking with your friends, what gets you really excited? Sometimes our resistance gets in the way of even knowing that answer. So…ask your friends to tell you what they see as a topic that really gets you going. Maybe even ask them to suggest what they see as your life’s purpose. They quite possibly can see something you are missing.
3. Meditate. I know some of you get pissed off when I mention meditation, but hey – the shit works. Clear your mind and sit in stillness. If sitting still doing nothing with your body is hard, try a breathing practice like Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, to really clear your mind and help you focus. The more you can sit in stillness, the more you are able to open yourself up to receive messages from your soul. Learn to pay attention to those messages and write them down so you can explore them more once they’ve had time to expand in your consciousness.
4. Walk in nature and let it fill you up. Whether it’s the woods, mountains, or a sandy beach that does it for you, go there. Spend time filling your senses with all the sights, sounds, smells, and feels… and even the tastes of the air. This helps to ground you and to open your heart to your intuitions and dreams.
5. Journal. It is amazing how much more likely we are to figure something out and then actually do it if we write it all down. Putting it into writing makes it far more real and tangible. It gives us fodder for exploration and definitions for further discussions. Spend five minutes and free-write…that means don’t sensor your thoughts and check for grammar and spelling or if you sound cool enough…just write whatever it is that comes to mind.
6. Track your dreams. Keep another little journal by your bed. Every morning, first thing, jot down any of your dreams and look for consistent themes. Pay attention to what might be causing you anxiety too. Eliminating those things can help clear the path to connecting with your passions. You can even set the intention before falling asleep that your dreams will give you insight into your passions.
7. Volunteer. Get out into the world and experience it firsthand. There’s no better way to find out what really fuels you than by doing it. It’s also a great way to eliminate those things that you thought sounded good in your head, but in reality it’s just not what you imagined. It’s also a great way to connect with like-minded people and to explore an organization. Another client of mine went from a class volunteer, to board member, to executive director of one of her passions…therapeutic horseback riding. She also eliminated the desire to become a counseling psychologist by volunteering in an eating-and-weight disorder clinic…and quickly realized that was NOT her cup of tea! Good to know, right? Way better than wondering, “What if?”
8. Visit a nursing home. It’s a great way to hear the successes and failures of longevity. Get inspired by what they did or did not do. It’s a cool opportunity to make someone’s day AND learn from someone’s else’s experiences. We really don’t have to learn everything by our own hand and something might click inside that you’d never even considered.
9. Take the Clifton Strengths Finder. If your passions are so buried inside, and they often are, one great way to start clearing the clutter and identifying your heart’s passion is to identify some of your strengths. This can be a valuable tool in your journey to self-fulfillment.
10. Call your mom. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers…our family members often see things in us that we have covered up well and can’t find. Ask them questions about the lights they see in you and the possible causes behind the rays that brighten your being. Similar to asking your friends, but often our family knows you in ways that no one else does. Caveat: Sometimes, what they want to bring to light aren’t necessarily the good things…if that’s your scenario, skip this step!
11. Listen to the whispers of your heart. We’ve been taught to follow success, prestige, power, or status…even the all-mighty dollar, and it’s often not until we are facing our own mortality in some way, whether it’s through having children, an illness, etc., that we start to realize that maybe there really is something more. Your heart will guide you and give you clues. Now you just need to start listening. You voice of truth is often still, quiet, and peaceful. A quiet knowing. It usually doesn’t have an aggressive or negative vibe. It takes practice to hear, for sure!
12. Work with a coach. It can be difficult to change – and even more challenging to rid ourselves of – the blocks we have to living a life full of purpose. One great way to help with that is to work with a great life or career coach. It doesn’t have to be someone with a fancy degree, just someone who is willing to call you on your shit and support you in a kind, loving way through the minefield of your self-doubt. Also, look for someone who walks their talk. No sense in seeking guidance from a coach that isn’t living a life that you respect and admire.
We unfortunately don’t live in a culture that values spiritual individuality and life purpose. We live in a world that focuses on the dollar-definition of success, and we are bombarded with constant reminders that it’s all about how much money we make. The latest Cadillac commercial blatantly (and embarrassingly) tells the world just how materialistic we American are and how our focus should be on working, working, working so we, too, can drive a sleek Caddy. What they aren’t showing us are the statistics showing how many top executives suffer from depression, chronic illness, unfulfilling relationships, etc.
This is changing…and you are a part of that movement.
A couple of other tips I have to add in before I go:
Remember that your passions don’t have to be your career. If they are, then I’m doing happy dance for you! But remember that we are to LIVE our passions – not necessarily have them as part of our careers. If you can find a career that gives you more time to live your passion, then fantastic!
Lastly, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a lovely story full of adventures, and a reminder of the beauty in following our true life’s purpose. I like to read it with a friend or lover.
By no means is finding your passion easy – but it is possible. When you feel like giving up, remember this quote from one of my favorite rebels, Albert Einstein:
“You never fail until you stop trying.”
Have you found your life passion? Awesome! And if you haven’t found it yet…what are your best guesses?
Once you’ve gained some clarity about who you are, how you want to live your life, and what you want to have, you need to take action to make it all happen. More often than not, this action will require you to tap into your courage. Think you don’t have courage? Think again – it’s in there, deep inside of you!
What is the difference between confidence and courage? I like to describe it as confidence is what you have when you feel or believe that things will turn out alright, or at least that you’ll be ok with the outcome.
Courage, on the other hand, is what you need when you’re going to do something even though you’re scared – or at least can’t guarantee things will turn out in your favor.
Courage means that even if you’re scared, you do it anyway.
People often ask me what is the most courageous thing I’ve ever done. They usually ask me this knowing that I was an international climbing guide (and one of the few women in that profession, to boot!), working in the Himalayas and leading expeditions in places like Nepal and Alaska.
Or maybe, if they know me a little better, they think it was when I survived cancer – twice.
But the people that really know me understand that my most courageous acts were with some of the more “ordinary” parts of my life. Like getting a divorce. Or quitting my job and starting my own business.
You see, climbing mountains and being diagnosed with cancer definitely required me to summon courage. But deep down inside, there was something in me that knew I was going to be OK. It was a deep knowing…and it seemed to transform my courage into confidence.
I remember being diagnosed with cancer the first time (kidney cancer) and after crawling into bed with my friends, curling into a ball and crying as they hugged me, I sat up, took a deep breath, and said, “I am going to DO this.” And so I did.
The same thing with mountains. I wasn’t they type to climb mountains where 1/10 people die. But I climbed some hard and scary stuff. Still, somehow my courage would move me through the fear, and confidence would take over. I can safely say that I never climbed a peak that I didn’t think I’d survive.
But divorce….that was a whole other ballgame.
You see, I was in one of those “maybe” marriages. It wasn’t a “Hell yes!” or a “Hell no!” kind of relationship. Knowing what to do would have been easy in one of those. Instead, I found myself with a lovely, good looking surgeon, who liked the outdoors, dogs, and made me laugh.
But there was something missing.
I think some people refer to it as passion – the kind that lasts. Whatever it was, I felt like I had to at least define it before I decided I wanted a divorce. Like just knowing it wasn’t right wasn’t enough.
That was one of my first lessons in courage: having a feeling and trusting it is definitely enough.
Then I started my own business, combining my skills as a healer, coach, yogini, functional medicine geek, midwife, adventurer, explorer, and lover of dancing under the moonlight.
The whole clarity bit came in because as a multi-passionate, it wasn’t enough to know what I loved doing – it also became important to know what needed to be important to me NOW. Which, of all my passions, would I benefit most from focusing on for any given day, month, season, or year? I had to learn I didn’t have to pick just one. I had to think creatively!
Courage came about because as I started my own business, I realized that it was the Clarity I had gained that helped me have the courage to quit my awesome job as a nurse-midwife and start my own business. Even though I didn’t know what the outcome would be, I KNEW what I wanted – which made taking the risks completely worth it.
Until I had clarity that my mandala of a business or finding my soulmate was what I was supposed to be doing, it was much harder to leave the marriage, or to quit the job. Clarity was the first step.
Could you imagine leaving a secure and wonderful job or a marriage to a perfectly awesome human being WITHOUT being clear about what you wanted? Not me. Not for those things.
But wait: I want to make something clear here (no pun intended): you shouldn’t always wait for clarity to arrive before taking action. I got more clear because of taking action.
Clarity that what you are currently doing is not what you are meant to do is a good enough place to start. Getting clear enough about your next step and going for it works! You don’t need to wait to know exactly how it will all pan out. That’s what courage is for.
Clarity didn’t arrive by me sitting there and thinking about what I should do, or from making lists, or chatting with friends. I got clear by trying different things, by getting in touch with what things light me up, and which things sapped my energy.
I had lots of relationships that taught me what I clearly did and did NOT want in a partner.
I had experiences with cancer that taught me what I wanted to prioritize in my life.
I had at LEAST three different websites and business names and tag lines before I realized I was a multi-passionate and should plan on never sticking with just one thing.
I want you to have the courage and confidence to listen to your inner wisdom, your intuition, your proverbial inner guru.
No matter what your definition of freedom and happiness is, know that it begins with Clarity and Courage. Don’t wait for your confidence to arrive before taking the next step towards creating the life, the career, or the health you want.
The time is NOW! Share with me the next courageous thing you are going to to below, no matter how great or small. We all need to start somewhere!
Want more? Join my Ultimate Confidence Course, a 7-week, full-on immersion program where you learn my 5-Step proven system for getting clear, managing your inner critic, and cultivating the courage and confidence to manifest the life you want and deserve. Head on over to www.UltimateConfidenceCourse.com to sign up now. Next course starts October 6, 2014.
You can also sign up for my FREE 7-Day Clarity + Courage Course. You’ll receive a gorgeous 52-page activity book, daily email prompts to help cultivate Clarity and Courage, a group forum, and recordings of past live calls where I teach you skills, laser coach, and answer pressing questions. Go to www.DefineYourFreedom.com to join the tribe!
Note:This is Part 2 of a 2-Part Series on Clarity + Courage. For Part 1 – Clarity – click here for the guest post on Maia Toll’s blog
Ana Verzone is a skilled Boredom Slayer, Thrive Maximizer, and Mindset Alchemist. As the original Freedom Junkie, she is devoted to helping passionate women create their own unconventional lives of freedom, adventure, and purpose on ALL levels – from their cells to their spirit.