Saturday, February 06, 2016

My New Rules for Searching for Life Purpose and Direction

I have a friend looking for new life direction.

As a certified Life Purpose Coach® I pondered how I could best help her.

I could suggest she go through Pathway to Purpose or the Conversations on Purpose 10-week assessment process either alone or with a life coach.  It's the basis of the process I went through 10 years ago and a process I became certified in.

Since then I've written my own tools for midlife women which describe my discoveries on the idea of finding purpose in midlife.

As I pondered my friend's question, I wondered why I might hesitate offering he the 10-week Life Purpose Coaching process. I think the answer is because it tends to promise women results, but sometimes fails to give them, at least in the context most women are expecting.

I was tempted to contact a few of my coaching sisters to ask if they still believed the Life Purpose Coaching process they too were certified in.  

Challenged to Ask Myself

As I pondered asking my connections their take on the program I found myself asking, "What do you want their answers to be?"

Did I want them to validate my opinions?

Then I wondered how honest they'd be. No one wants to throw anyone or any program under the bus. I decided it might be a long wait for answers I already had formulated for myself.

I then asked myself, "What would your answer be to them if they asked your take on the program?" and "Why is it you still talk about and support it if you don't believe it offers answers? What IS your suggestion for finding life purpose and direction?"

My Take

Now that I've walked through and lived out the concepts over years, I'm happy to think of myself as an unofficial Beta tester of the program. My maturity and understanding have grown in leaps to where it is today. But I'm not sure my answers are what women are hoping to hear.  Nevertheless, I offer them in hopes one woman agrees or finds clarity.

Here are some of my thoughts:

a) No one person on earth will have your answer. No one person has developed a complete tool to solve your dilemma. If they did, there would be no need for God.

b) God does inspire writers today. He did inspire the author of the program I talk about. God anoints writers to produce products so they will become tools He will use to get people in line with His plan for them.

c) There is no it. There is no "ONE thing you're put on the earth to do." That is a concept taught in the program, but a thought I disagree with. I don't know if my disagreement is with the theory as it was expressed, or that I just didn't grasp the right understanding the author intended--maybe due to my high hopes and expectations.

At the time, I was desperate for answers about life direction.  When God connected me with the program I jumped two feet in the air. I finally felt I'd found life direction--my it--to train as a life coach!

My life purpose or mission statement was one I'd identified before my training. Over time I've written it differently.  It goes something like this:
  • To encourage others.
  • To use my gift of creative communication.
  • To help women become all God's designed them to be.
  • To launch women into meaningful ministry or work.
  • To help women find direction.
  • To walk through transition with Christian women.
  • To help midlife women find hope and direction.
  • To bring the Good News to others through writing and coaching. 

In many coaching programs, I'd fail.  Why?  Because I haven't made one focused statement.

We get caught up in the idea we are to have only one mission statement.  But why not have five or six?

Missing Factors 

What is missing in these statements is how I will do this?  Who are these women are that would want to listen to me?  How would I connect with them?

More so, we look for a title, job, or official role.  So I decided mine was life coach. Miraculously, God did connect me with several women in various parts of North America and I was hired to coach them by telephone. But then my interest waned and the inquiries became fewer.  Again I was back to square one! So the disillusion set in--if my life purpose was to be a life coach why wasn't it taking off? And the question arose whether the program misled me or not.

Expressions of our Mission 

Where many of us get stuck is in figuring out how to express our mission. I think most of us are looking for a role, title, job, etc.  Many say they are ministry-minded, but even then we want to be paid for our ministry, especially if we are still of age to be in the workforce. It doesn't feel right to use our time in unpaid ministry when we could be out there adding to our pension fund. Besides, God's word tells us to not be lazy and that a man who doesn't work won't be fed.

So it's all very confusing.

We want to be validated usually with a paycheck. Even if we choose to be a stay-at-home mom or homemaker, we want to be validated that our role is important.

We at least want to be given people to serve and venues to serve them in. When our children leave home it can be complicated to know just who we are to serve next.


The reality is that the answer isn't that cut and dried. There won't necessarily be one place or one way to use our gifts and express our mission.

When a woman goes through the life coaching process she probably expects to end it with a result that says something like this:

You are meant to be a college instructor.
You are meant to write books.
You are meant to only be a nurse.
You are meant to take a job in a tourist information center.
You are meant to go back to school to become a counselor.

Then the problem comes when she struggles to get an instructor position, sputters at writing her book or writes it and sells few, and so on.

d) The answer is to be open and flexible and to use tools along the way. I still support the program because it helped me deal with some hurts, grudges, bad habits, and so on. It helped me get to know myself, find freedom from things that bogged me down, gave me clarity, and offered direction for the rest of my journey.

So here are a few tips I would recommend to my friend who is looking for life purpose and direction:

  • do identify your skills, abilities, and discern what you feel God has equipped you to do or made you sensitive toward. 
  • get rid of the idea there is only one calling, one role, one way to express your mission.
  • get rid of the idea there is some business that is waiting for you to join them or some job with your name on it.
  • use multiple tools, tests, courses, and books with the expectation that they will only be one piece of your life purpose puzzle.
  • consult God and take steps to try things out with the mindset you can change direction as God leads.
  • enjoy the process of everything you try.
  • think micro.  That means, ask God about every little thing you do, and be confident he will use it for good. Be happy with micro. 
  • rewrite your definition of success and validation. We get too hung up on paychecks. 
  • discover your top passions and when you don't know what else to do, work on them.  See where they take you.

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; 

the LORD bestows favor and honor; 

no good thing does he withhold from 

those whose walk is blameless" 

Psalm 84:11 (NIV). 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Brain Health in Women

I just wanted to pop in to write a quick post before I go to bed. 

I realized today January, 2016 has gone very well for me.  Last year, 2014 had ended with challenges making January, 2015 difficult. 

My husband had lost his job (done in a very rude way) just a few days before he was scheduled for surgery (how uncaring that was). He was in recovery while I fielded his calls and helped him get to the lawyer's office on pain killers. That was our November double-whammy. 

Then, two days before Christmas, our cat of 13 years died. There were a couple of other fairly serious issues added to all this and Christmas thrown in. All the incidents that occurred had long-lasting emotional and mental effects for some time.

A Woman's Brain and Stress  

I read recently an article by Dr. Amen that talks about the biology of the female brain.  I really can't explain it as well as the article so please read it on the link above.  What I do know is that it has confirmed some of my own deductions.  

I've had times where I've had low tolerance for dealing with issues. Especially in perimenopause it seemed worse at times (although mothering young children was pretty hard too.) 

In one of these periods of stress I feel overwhelmed, stuck in overthinking and ruminating, am physically exhausted, and sometimes my brain just plain hurts with a headache. Sometimes I've felt depressed.  

Dr. Amen points out that a woman's prefrontal cortex is very active.  The benefits are that it makes women more empathetic, discerning, and so on.  The risk is that sometimes a woman's prefrontal cortex reaches overload causing her to stall. Dr. Amen describes it as being like a parking break that's stuck. 

That was me last January. My parking break was stuck. When it gets stuck my mind goes places it need not. Bleak winter weather often makes it more difficult.

Solutions for Brain Care

The solution is self-care and prevention. We need to learn skills that will help us set protective boundaries so we pull back before we reach our limit. 

We need our vitamins, exercise, meditation, healthy diet, and so on. And when our brake gets stuck, in my opinion, we need to stop and let our brain rest. That might mean watching mindless TV, taking a walk, or going to sleep. 

The next time you're edgy, mouthy, or stuck in a foul mood, you have my permission to say, "My prefrontal cortex made me do it." 

That may be true.  But my bigger wish is that this post awakens you to what's really going on so you can take effective steps. 

You're not a bad person. You're not weak. You're just over-stimulated.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Set Personal Boundaries to Stop You From Meddling

Maybe it's just part of my personality makeup, but I often feel another's pain.  I can be so empathetic that I too become troubled. 

My hairstylist shared with me something similar.  He gets to hear a lot of his customers' problems.  Because he's sensitive, he sometimes goes home troubled.  He chocks it up to being over-empathetic while at the same time unable to do anything to help the person. 

I wish now I'd told him he had done his part--listening. Being heard is what we all long for. It is very therapeutic, in fact, so just listening may have helped his customer. 

What I did tell him was to say to himself, "Not my circus, not my monkeys."  It's a great word picture for setting emotional boundaries.  It means, it's that person's problem and they need to handle it on their own.

Empathetic Personalities Struggle the Most

Personality tests have shown I'm the feeling compassionate type. I often feel another's pain. Coaching clients has sometimes been hard for me because from the outside solutions are often easy to see but I can't push a client to make the changes I imagine. When a client takes a step backward or seems unable to move forward, I feel ineffective. But like the hair stylist, I've done my part by listening and asking prompting questions. 

Dealing with Burdensome Friends 

Have you ever had the following scenario happen to you?

An acquaintance pours out their troubles and you begin to offer advice.  Or, you start researching possible solutions.  You want to email or message them thinking your idea will be well received and encouraging.  But instead, you discover your friend doesn't want advice or solutions.  They merely wanted to vent, I suppose.

It's all too easy to take on another's problems. It's all to easy to feel another job has been added to our to-do list--to figure out life for someone else.  We end up unnecessarily stressed and our feelings might be hurt when our advice is rebuffed. We surely feel we've wasted our time and energy.  

I found guidance for this problem when reading Chapter 13 of Susan Day's   Divine And Perfect Order, A Companion Journal: 52 Simple Truths, Simple Tools & Simple Words of Wisdom for Your Life (Hardcover)

 Click to buy

In this chapter we are urged to not spend time on things that aren't our business. Yes, God does call us to lift each other up and help each other, but we should only take action when asked or are given permission.  

Symptoms of getting into another's business might include: wanting to control an outcome, finding ourselves digging for details, gossiping, or interfering with things that are someone else's business.

When find ourselves getting caught up in meddling, Day invites us to write the issues on paper and throw them into our None-of-My-Business-Bucket. 

I've created a little bucket myself from an old tea can.  Whether I use it or not remains to be seen but for now it is a visible reminder of this principle.

"Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
    is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own" Prov. 26:17 (NIV).

You're invited to check out the DAPO Facebook Group. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

More Thoughts on the DAPO (Divine and Perfect Order) Movement Journal

It's been over a week since my last post on the book Divine And Perfect Order, A Companion Journal, by Susan Day.

Continuing on from my previous post, all I can say is "Wow."  I have approached the chapters in the book with deep reflection.  I'm asking myself the questions and using them as my gauge for life.

The lessons have hit home more than once. I won't go into detail, but an issue came up at home and the basis of it was very related to one of the chapter topics. 

I've read up to Chapter 20 now, but each time I sit down I start at number one again and work forward stopping at the points that haven't quite sunk in yet. They really are words of wisdom for living.

Change Needs Work 

I "chatted" with the author Susan Day recently. She mentioned that a lot of Christian women say they want to change, but few are willing to put in the work.  This book is such a simple way to understand the work that is needed. It gets straight to the point. 

I heard another story recently where a woman was asked to fill out a questionnaire in her doctor's office.  The receptionist said, "I know you've filled this out before, but we need you to indicate any changes there may have been."  

The patient replied, "Honey, the only changes in my life for the last 10 years have been new wrinkles and new aches and pains."

That indeed is a sad commentary on life.  This simple self-coaching tool offers simple challenges designed to help correct, develop, and renew people and transform the way they deal with others. It's all about positive change. 

DAPO Moments  

I read passages of several books a day as well as posts in social media and articles online. There have been many DAPO moments as passages have communicated similar messages as the chapters I've read in the DAPO book.  

The first chapter talked about God wanting to answer our questions, and since I read it, I've been writing out simple questions to God. Then, yesterday, I came across promotional material for Tony Stoltzfus' book Questions for Jesus.   When two thoughts concur about the same topic in the same week, to me, that is a DAPO moment.   

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Thoughts on the DAPO Movement Journal

I mentioned in a previous post that I'd received this book for Christmas (from myself).  Yes, I often put things under the tree for myself from myself.  

When I was handed this one to open, I had actually forgotten about it so it was a fun surprise!

I was immediately impressed with the layout. Before gift giving continued I was already immersed in reading Susan's heartfelt introduction.  

On first glance the lessons seem so simple.  They are truths I know. It's tempting to speed through the book. But rather than do that I've chosen to pause and re-read the chapters repeatedly.  

I've glanced at the first four, and each time I've re-read them I've been challenged.

The First Word of Wisdom (Page 4) 

I'm comforted by the truth that God is in control and I'm intrigued with a couple of sentences Susan has written. 

I'm captivated by the idea that the clarity and peace I seek might be behind a door I didn't think to open. Now my mind is scurrying to think of what door I might not have opened.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

I'm also intrigued by the sentence that says God has the answer to the question I've been asking.  That made me think of how many questions I ask God, myself, my cat, dog, husband, or other person in a day. I realize God wants to help answer all my questions.  

This first chapter asks us to list examples of synchronicity that has defied explanation in our life. I have had many of those moments this year.  

A DAPO Moment from My Summer 

I don't want to share too much about this, but enough to show God's DAPO power.  Here's one of my DAPO moments from this summer:

An extended family member had recently been diagnosed with a mental health issue that was untreated.  For a time this year, she went missing. It's been hard on all of us. Her own children and mother hadn't seen her for three months when her son finally reported her to police as a missing person. 

Lots of prayer was being said over this issue, but we had no idea where she might be.

In July, my daughter made a trip to her old university campus where her boyfriend was living and working over the summer. My daughter lived in another city so the timing of this visit was unique--something only God could have orchestrated.

As she and her boyfriend strolled through the campus corridor, suddenly, right there in front of her stood my missing relative!  My relative didn't recognize my daughter though they said hello.  My daughter's boyfriend had never met this relative so didn't realize who it was but was able to tell us she had been staying in the temporary summer hostel for about two weeks.

My daughter caught the room number and phoned me right away.  I let her son know and he was flabbergasted.  All our family members were so flabberghasted they didn't believe it.  They wondered what the odds were of my daughter being there--a city 50 km from where this person normally lived--at just the right time and place so that she would bump into our relative who'd just been reported missing days earlier?  

It was true, though.  Her son was able to go to this city and talk to her.

The problems with this relative were certainly not resolved then and there.  It's complicated.  But this DAPO moment was enough to reassure us that God was on the case.  

I'm happy to report that just before Christmas, my relative was brought to the hospital and is now undergoing treatment.  God made us wait (more on that in reference to Chapter 2).  But God came through and we continue to trust him with the issue. 

If you are interested in obtaining this book and becoming part of this movement, you can find buying information here.  

Until later.