Find Your Direction

“Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

In our journey of life, it can be so hard to resist chasing more money, more things, more doing or more of anything to be “happy.”   Yet, when is the last time you examined where you were headed?  We are all moving toward something.

While goals can give our life purpose, goals without our purpose in mind can leave us lost when we reach them.   “Wanting” can lead to greed and emptiness.  “Doing” can be a way of numbing and finding self-worth.  If the chase doesn’t include enjoying the creation, discovery, and keeping the meaning of the mission alive, we can start feeling a sense of emptiness.

Have you noticed times in your life when you were chasing a goal, yet in the process people you valued were ignored?  Or did you even embrace the act, in and of itself?

In the times of my life where I have reached a point of burnout,  it was because I got caught up in the doing and no longer felt I was fulfilling my purpose.  I became someone just going through the motions not knowing where I was headed.  I became lost with feelings of emptiness.   At first, I thought my desire for a sense of accomplishment was to blame. However, when I decided to stop doing so much, I was still lost.  Then I realized I just needed to have the courage to operate by my true beliefs with meaningful doing in order to feel whole and alive again. It took doing some self-reflecting and gaining self-awareness and re-evaluating what I really wanted and what I didn’t want in life.

In my career, I have been fortunate to work in a company where the leader would say, “do what is right by the client.” The company’s values and mission were clear and the passion and energy were everywhere. Hence, turnover was extremely low and everyone was happy accomplishing the company’s goals for years.

Alternatively, many articles have been written about high turnover and burnout in companies that lack purpose. Simon Sinek in “Start with Why” tells many stories to prove most people want to feel good about their work at the end of the day. Without the “Why” companies fail. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frank shares how most of the people who survived the Holocaust had a strong sense of purpose.  Yet, I am hearing of more and more companies and coaches taking away the purpose out of the work and making it all about the money.  No matter where you are feeling lost,  don’t stay stuck.

Think of times in your life where you have been happy.  When have you felt whole?  Are you being true to yourself?   Is what you are saying and doing matching what you truly believe?

Create goals based on what gives your life meaning.  Then keep your purpose in mind all along your journey. When distractions come at you, go back to your why and let it guide you in your decisions and actions.  Be a leader.  Bring your purpose to your work and see if you can inspire change in yourself and inspire others. When you show courage to hold true to your “why” then you won’t get lost.

“People who can articulate their purpose live an average of 8 years longer.” Jay Shetty Podcast Ikky Guy

To gain a better self-understanding, take the Enneagram course through the Growth Institute Courses. If you are still struggling after this exercise, write to me at  I may not have all your answers. However, it is the writing alone and sharing your story with someone interested that may be the very therapy you need.

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For more resources:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action by Simon Sinek

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frank

“Discover a Better Life” By a Farmer’s Daughter

As I was replenishing the rabbits’ food supply the smell of hay brought me back to the days with my sisters being in that barn every day.

Growing up on a farm I learned dedication at an early age. The animals had to be fed and watered every day regardless of how of cold it was outside. In the winter my sisters and I would pile on the overalls, winter hats, gloves, boots, and make our way to the barn. If the animals’ water had turned to ice we had to break it up and provide new water. It required carrying two ten gallon buckets across the long graveled barnyard which was quite heavy for a little girl. Filled with horses, rabbits, a couple of dogs and often a new litter of kittens, rabbit poop and hay, that barn seemed impossible to keep clean. When you opened the barn doors there was always work to be done.

In order to free ourselves from the daily feedings and massive poop clean up, one Spring day my sisters and I had taken all our rabbits in the middle of the alfalfa field to run free (in our minds).  While I have fond memories growing up on a farm and am thankful for the values it taught me like hard work and dependability, I did NOT miss the chores.  After shedding many tears due to pets “going missing”, I also learned not to grow too close to the animals on the farm.

I had thought that Spring day was the last time I would ever be cleaning up after rabbits. Now years later, my daughter’s desire convinced me to agree to be part of the Bunny Brigade at the Human Society. Typically it was my daughter that handled the rabbits. I typically just went through the cleanup motions as an obligation to my daughter. Yet this morning was different.

When I started the task of removing the first bunny from its cage I could still hear my daughter’s response to my unhealthy comment the night before.

“Why do you feel I owe you for helping out animals?” She had wisely replied.

Her come-back had left me in silence and in thought. Even though it was not her fault she had another obligation, I had been irritated that it was her idea. I was once again stuck.  It wasn’t right to reschedule as they had counted on us showing up.

Over the course of the morning, smelling that hay brought back memories. After petting and holding that rabbit I started to realize my core issues.  My daughter was innocent. The truth is I had built up a blockade to not feel anything for those rabbits. I had left myself cry too hard too many times when I lost them and quit seeing them as something to love and enjoy.  By resisting vulnerability I killed my own joy.  The experience became an unwanted task because I resorted to just going through the motions.

Can you relate? Are you currently stuck and find something you used to enjoy has now turned into something you dread? Have you let yourself become bitter for feeling out of control of something in your life? Or have you even become detached to someone or something to prevent yourself from being vulnerable?

When you experience yourself feeling irritable, examine the root of it? Dig deep and ask yourself, “why do you feel that way?” Randy Creamer the lead teaching counselor at Southbrook Church then says to ask, “How are you going to find your joy if nothing changes?”

What is holding you back from experiencing joy? What is it you have control over? What can you change to become unstuck?  What are you going to do about it?

Until we dig deep about what it is that is really leaving us annoyed about our life, we will keep living each day as a daily ritual and soon our life will have passed us by. We can choose to live with a dark cloud over us or we can choose to live in the light. It is our choice.

For me, after working through the answers to those questions I began to see again. I was able to see those rabbits as God’s creations who needed care. The bitterness was replaced with delight. I also could see the positive…at least those rabbits were not in my old barn, it was not the dead of winter, and no ice needed to be broken. It was only me who needed to warm up inside.

What can you do right now to enjoy this very moment? Examine the beauty around you right now!  It is there, you just need to look for it.  Begin truly seeing again like you are experiencing whatever it is in front of you for the first time. Let your appreciation be known. Focus on the blue sky rather than the work required. It is amazing what doors will begin to open!  Doors to a more enjoyable life!

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Barn Photograph was taken near Terre Haute, IN in 2019

For the Driven Soul

If you are driven, you have dedicated yourself to your tasks lists and may have disciplined yourself to put off enjoying life’s pleasures for later.  Whether you are in your late 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50s or 60’s have you found yourself reaching a milestone in your goals and looking back and asking yourself, “now what?”

If you are approaching your late 20’s you may have made it through college and have found yourself chasing your financial, material and career goals.   You have likely shown you are capable of having a successful career and have found yourself doing everything you can to learn what you need to get ahead and work furiously to be recognized as one of the best in your roles.  Even though you are still young, you may find yourself exhausted after work.  You begin to live for the weekend or your days off.  Then you approach 30 and say, wait what happened to my 20’s.  I was supposed to have fun!

In your 30’s you may have chosen to have children and now have even less time for yourself.  You and your spouse start drifting apart because you have a high demanding career and your kids are needing you too.  You are still concerned about your finances so you put off many dates given the cost of the babysitter plus dinner and entertainment or pure exhaustion from your never-ending to-do list.  You start wishing for ways to escape your busyness but are afraid to take a break for yourself for too long because that just means more you have to do later.

If you haven’t learned to balance yet, you are then in your 40’s and your kids are growing older.  You have devoted your life to being a good parent and continuing your career growth.  If you haven’t put the necessary time into your marriage, you may also find you have distanced from your life partner and your kids now want to do things with their friends.  You are now financially better off, have your house the way you want it and if you have done a good job saving, you have plans for your kids’ college educations and your retirement nest egg.  Although according to your financial planner, it may still not be enough.

You find yourself feeling like you have been running and chasing after your goals for twenty plus years and realize you have more than 20 more to go before you can retire.  You also are starting to feel less fulfilled by your work.  The income is now a necessity based on the lifestyle you have created for your family.  However, more money is less important and your accomplishments may become less gratifying.  You would still love to have time for your hobby you said you would do later.  You find yourself wanting a purpose and thinking about your legacy.

No matter what milestone you reach, those possessions do not keep you happy.  You may even find yourself feeling bitter at those who are able to let go of all their worries and just be. You may ask yourself, “why don’t you feel that joy inside you that you see in those who don’t have near as much as you?”

You started going through the motions of trying to get everything done.   You forgot to enjoy the journey.  You focused more on the to-do list than being grateful for everything you already had.  Guess what, you will never be able to get everything done.  Your life is about the people in it.

Wow!  All of this seems very sad for someone who works so hard, doesn’t it?  It is if you let your drive take over your life. I am not saying your drive is a bad thing, as it is not.  I am still proud of mine and have accomplished many things that have been positive for myself and others.  I am just pleading for you to listen to your soul.  Don’t blow off that inner voice or those wise around you telling you to enjoy the journey and let the to-do list go.  You may be asking, “but how?”

Here are some answers.  Pause and reflect and ask yourself these questions:

-If you find your work exhausting, take time to reexamine what it is that really fulfills you.

-What is it that makes you feel complete and energetic?

-Is the high income worth rushing through your life?

-Are you making time for family and friends over your tasks list?

-Is it that big of a deal if not all the housework is done?  Do you need to do everyone else’s laundry?

-Are you in a job where you are enjoying the people in your life at work?

-Are you going through the motions because your job has become a chore?

You have choices.

Are you going to choose to make them in your 20’s so you can enjoy the beauty of life while you are in your prime health to get active?  In your 30’s, are you going to embrace your kids and show your spouse how much you appreciate them for bringing joy and balance to your life?  Don’t wait until your halftime.  Even worse, don’t wait until retirement.  You may not get a later.

Here are some tips I have learned and found helpful when practiced:

-Check yourself for your ability to set boundaries and your abilities to say no.  Next time someone asks for your help, and you are strapped say, “I would love to help you however, I have other demands at the moment.”

-Write down the things you feel you need to do.  What can you cross off? What can wait until after you do what fulfills you?  If you have a hard time crossing things off the list, remind yourself you are no good to anyone if you become empty.

-Check your OCD qualities and then ask yourself  “what is the worst thing that can happen if I let that go?”  Is it a big deal if my spouse/roommate’s coat lays on the coach until he/she leaves tomorrow.  Remind yourself you can’t control your spouse/roommate so all you can do is control how you view the annoyance.  Stop yourself from doing it for them and taking on the martyr role.  Learn to say, “I feel unimportant when you leave your coat on the couch given you know how I prefer things neat.  Could you please help me keep the place nice?”  You will be surprised when your spouse/roommate hears how things make you feel.  (See Randy Creamers, Conflict Guide for Couples.)

-Know it is okay to ask for help if you are truly taking on more than your fair share.  Learn to delegate.  When you teach other people, you multiply what you can accomplish.

-Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and view yourself.  What are the things I do that I wouldn’t want my spouse/friend or children to do to me?  If he/she was always busy wouldn’t I wish he/she could make time for me?

My husband and girls would agree with me that I still struggle with letting myself take a break and being present along the way.  However since I have reached 45 (aka halftime), I recognize more that I can’t take the years back.   I have been working on making sure the goals I set and what I do with my time give me purpose and joy.  I stay true to my soul to how I approach my career so I can feel fulfilled and feel I am making a difference.  Also, it is the first year for me where I have plans for using all of my vacation days.

Book your vacation days. However, don’t wait until then to enjoy yourself. Stop and enjoy the beauty around you.

Other helpful tips can be found here: Shine Bright