Page 1 Page 2
Finding your path starts with finding your center. The hard truth is that most other people are of little help on that inward journey of discovery. You have to do the heavy lifting yourself before you can finally meet the person you really are.
My mentoring engagements are a breed apart from my other ones. I enjoy working with people to develop their skills and abilities. Mentoring is fulfilling because I can see the advancements and the increased confidence that results. However, life mentoring is something else altogether. Here we are working at the very root of what it means to be human and to find a fulfilling life path.
I generally start life mentoring engagements with a question or two. Here is a sample:
Do you love your life so much that you would actually pay money to live it? Do you wonder that you are being paid for what you do?
Most of the time the answer is no. so I follow up:
What are you prepared to do about that? How much of a commitment are you prepared to make to be able to answer yes?
With that, one of the most important conversations in any human’s life begins. The objective is nothing less than a search for passion in life. A common response is, “I do not really want to feel this way. As it is, I am just not passionate about anything right now. How do I find my passion?”
My life-mentoring clients have ranged from very senior and successful executives to people just starting out in life. One client - a very successful CEO - was making more money than he ever expected to. However, he felt that something was still missing. On the surface, his life appeared to be full and fulfilling. He had a good marriage, a family and occupied his free time with volunteering and interesting hobbies. He was looking for his purpose - wanted to find his passion.
Another client was just starting out. He had recently graduated from college and had landed a job that appeared to fulfill his best chances for establishing a career. However, he was suffering from the same malady. He was not passionate about it and was about to conclude that he would have to sacrifice his search for passion to the practicalities of making a living.
Both of these individuals - and so many more of my life-mentoring clients - had made a decision that almost certainly doomed them to a career of increasing frustration and remorse for what might have been. They had accepted what life had offered them - an offering that was rather random and accidental - when they should have developed the self-knowledge that would help them go out and find the path that would lead to their passions. This single misstep put them on a downward path and delayed the possibility of them finding the upward one.
A major mistake that most of my clients have made before they come to me is that they assume that the job or the relationship will contain the passions that they are looking for in life - those passions are ‘out there’. The answers are not ‘out there’ - they are ‘in here’ and the journey to them is inward rather then outward.
This misstep ignores the real value of every human’s life journey - that it is unique and unique because the individual taking it is unique. Passion does not exist in the world in which we live, it exists and grows within us. We find it there or we will never find it. You can find and ignite those passions within you. When you do, the external world has a miraculous and magnificent way of rearranging itself to suit the person you really are.
The Passion Search
All of us have the ability to transform ourselves. However, it is not as simple as a shift in our perspective. It takes commitment and extended effort. The first part of any search is an assessment of things as they are - but not with a focus on the negative - a search for those positive things that resonate for us. Sometimes the thread is small and takes following - but it is a start. At other times, it is the proverbial eight hundred pound gorilla that has been sitting in the middle of the room all the time - grinning back at us. The search begins in earnest when you make that inventory and the commitment to follow the threads - or gorillas - wherever they lead you. Here is a suggestion:
- Take an inventory - use a small notebook - carry it with you at all times - think of it as your ‘detective’s notebook’ - you are on the hunt!
- Spend some time looking for those threads that connect with things that you may be passionate about - do not give up after an effort that leads to none - stay with it - they are out there - find them.
- Whenever you find a thread, make notes about it and follow up with an effort to expand on the focus - Google, search, ask people, read about it, find groups of people who share your interests
- Pay particular attention to things you are grateful for - people you like to be with
- Don’t just focus on things - pay attention to experiences that make you feel good - that you would like to have over and over again in your life
- Now take action - do something every day to follow the leads - and build on them - remember, it is important that you accumulate - build on these thin leads - find your way into the center. I like to review my notebook at the end of the day - before I turn in. That habit seems to give me something to dream about. I wake up with a determination to do something that would take me closer to my passions.
- Every so often, go back and re-read your notebook - find things that you may have missed - remind yourself of things that you have found - remember, accumulate
- Finally, this journey is much easier if you have help - someone to keep you focused and motivated - someone to suggest things that you might have missed. As a life mentor, that is a big part of my contribution. Remember, this is the most important journey that you will make in your life. It touches on all other parts of your experience. A good guide will make a big difference.
What’s At Stake
More and more people are seeking life mentors. They realize that life gives you one chance to go around and there is no do-over button like there is on a video game. Make the commitment and stay with it. Seek out help and learn to benefit from it. It is your life - live it well and follow your passions.
© Earl R. Smith II, PhD
PJ, Mentoring Client,
Mentoring Client, CEO and Serial Entrepreneur,
Mentoring Client, Deloitte,
CEO of Croix Connect and Host of ABC Radio’s ‘Taking Care of Business’,
Partner, IT & Telecom, Defense Solutions,