• Sophie Hedberg

3 steps: How to realize your potential – finding your life’s work and purpose

When people come to me for coaching, I often get the question “Where do I start? My mind is chaos and how do I know what the first step is and in what direction I’m supposed to go to reach my full potential and what I long for?”. This is often followed by telling me everything that they DON’T want, all the WRONG paths and directions that they see (which by the way is a good start! By knowing what you don’t want you can narrow all the options down and become clearer).


However, knowing the “dont’s” won’t take you all the way to where you want to be. Instead, taking some time to increase your self-knowledge and do a bit of inner work is essential to the effectiveness of whatever you decide to undertake in the outer world.


What you need to do has a lot in common with the way an artist works.


It’s much like the sculptor’s daily work routine, where she holds a vision in her head and heart of what the finished sculpture will look like. Every day coming in to the artist’s studio, she carefully chisels out her masterpiece by gently and mindfully removing one piece of excess marble after the other, with sharp tools and good lighting, until her vision finally takes physical form inside that big, unformly chunk that was there to begin with. It was there all along really, only you couldn’t see it at first.


Chiseling out your personal story – which always includes your professional since there should be no division between the two – and make it come alive by piece by piece seeing more of who you are, what you are about and that way making sense of this big “chunk” that may seem like you at first glance, is what will make you see your next step, where you are going, what your right direction is.


So, in order to move forward and bring some clarity to that overwhelmed mind of yours you need to focus on the first step of the Heroine’s Journey which Joseph Campbell calls The Calling (I write about Joseph Campbell and his “Hero’s Journey” in a previous blog post The power of story & The Heroine’s Journey )


Every Heroine’s Journey starts with The Calling.


Let me tell you a little story that illustrates this.




When I was in third grade, back in 1983, my best friend Hanna and I would spend every day together after school. With her family being the first in our neighborhood to have a Betamax VCR (it was the first consumer VCR – very cool!) we would spend numerous afternoons in her dark basement watching the few films that were available at the time (about three…), one of them being The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It was the first one in the series called “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and I was completely absorbed and mesmerized by it! For those of you that haven’t seen or read it, it’s a story about four children who travel through a closet to the magical land of Narnia, a beautiful land of fantasy and adventure, where the great lion Aslan lives, but the whole country is ruled by a tyrannical White Whitch.


The film, and the books, are pure beauty, amazing imagery, enchanting and fascinating adventures packed with symbolism and creatures from classical mythology (giants, dwarfs, centaurs, unicorns, fauns, and so on). The story has great mythical qualities, the way it deals with the marvelous and supernatural, exploring basic issues of our existence, such as origins, endings, meaning and purpose. It’s a great imaginative experience, a true epic story and is regarded as one of the big classics of children’s literature. It deals with some of the deepest questions of life and points us to the true meaning of things. The kind of story that has always grabbed my heart and infused my soul.


But about this I knew nothing back in 1983, sitting in that couch in my friend’s basement, glued to the tv set. I just knew that I absolutely loved it. That I felt joy and excitment and that I wanted to be there, with them, in the movie experiencing everything magical they did, feeling passionately alive!


A JOURNEY INTO YOUR OWN PASSION WILL LEAD YOU TO YOUR POTENTIAL


I am sure that you’ve had that same experience at some point in you life. Maybe it was a book that you read and couldn’t put down, a play you saw that stayed with you for days after or like me, a movie to be cherished and remembered for a long time.


But how is a fantasy story relevant to finding your direction and your path, as a leader in a professional role as well as a human being? How can this lead you to your potential and the contribution you are here to make – in your organization, in your family, in the world?


As it turns out, stories that captivate our hearts have everything to do with our every day real lives and we should listen carefully to what they have to tell us!


What I experienced back in that basement in 1983 was in fact the first sound of “The Calling”.


Many years later, I had an “aha-moment” when I as an adult realized just exactly why this movie Narnia had such an impact on me, even as an eight year old kid. When I looked at it closely (with the right tools and lighting, just like the sculptor) I could see that it had been the first “clue” on my journey and that it contained all the ingredients that for me create the experience of what Joseph Campbell calls “Bliss”.


If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there the whole while waiting for you; you find that the life you ought to be living is the life you are leading” – Joseph Campbell

As I have written before, in a world that seems overwhelming, myths and stories are clues to our own inner world and guides us to a place where possibility and potential lies, where we have the ability to unlock our own “voice of wisdom”, what we know to be true about ourselves. Myths and stories cast light on our road ahead, creating clarity, certainty and resilience. It’s a self leadership tool to help us make the choices that are right for us, to find what we are truly passionate about and that way making the contribution to others that we are here to make.


Let me repeat that: stories that captivate our hearts is a self leadership tool which helps us make the choices that are right for us. Follow the bread crumbs, the energy, the clues that are laid out for you and trust the journey even though you might not have all the answers yet as to how you will do it all. In fact, you can’t have all the answers yet. At this point in your Journey, it’s about connecting the dots.




This has similarities to what professional athletes do before an important competition. They mentally step into the “zone”, a place inside themselves where they can visualise what they want to happen in such a way that they create the feeling and experience of already being there. Just like a good story does for us when we “step into it” with all our senses wide open. If we can put ourselves in there, we are able to connect to what is really true, authentic and meaningful to us and from there clearly see where we need to go next.


It’s about following the passion, and feeling passionate about, what you are doing and where you are going.  And one thing great storytelling can do for us is to make us feel passionate and alive. Be and act out of passion! When you surrender to this truth, you will find peace on your way forward, even though the actual goal might feel distant.


If you just can’t connect to that passion, to a sense of aliveness and energy, start exactly where you are. Maybe the word “passion” is too big for you right now. Maybe your mind is too cluttered and frustrated and becomes even more so when you try really, really hard to find “passion”.


Relax. Take a deep breath. All is well.


See if you can let your shoulders down for a moment and be willing to just open yourself up to whatever is here right now. Trying too hard makes us tense, too much effort and struggle make all the doors close and our behaviour becomes driven, not open to new possibilities.


Relax – and pay attention to what happens.


There is a crack in everything – that’s where the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen

When you do something for the wrong reasons, you will feel anxious and uneasy. The wrong reasons being fame, becoming rich, receiving other people’s appreciation and applause. Because deep down, you know that such a goal isn’t what you are really in search of. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to become rich or famous, it’s just that those things aren’t enough to fulfill you in the long run, they aren’t the primary goals. There needs to be something more to it.


WISDOM IN BUSINESS


I’ve talked to numerous clients over the years who said they would gladly cut their pay check in half, if only they’d find their passion and experience fulfillment and peace. I’ve been there myself and know the truth of it.


It’s about the passion, the aliveness, your contribution you make in this lifetime. But here’s the thing: when you act out of passion, joy and bliss, wanting to contribute to the well being of others you will eventually attract other people to you, your tribe. People are going to want to follow you, to have what you have. Results will come. Financial as well. Maybe even fame. The world is desperate for people living purposeful lives and we are all inspired by those brave enough to do work that matters. This is the best fertile ground for a leader to lead his or her tribe to greatness and create prosperous, successful organizations.


Follow you passion is the same as following you bliss. Following you passion means you have to get authentic, get real. Which can be frightening at first:


To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily – not to dare is to lose oneself.
– Soren Kierkegaard

And this is exactly what I am experiencing every day in my life now that I have chosen to follow what I know to be my path, my calling.  I’ve done the work and put all of the clues given to me throughout my life together and by doing so, the picture has emerged clearly showing me the way forward. I get to step into that Narnia closet, not quite knowing where it will take me, except that it will be to a place filled with life, with energy, with the unfolding of new truths and new worlds for the people that I coach. Actually, my clients and I step into that closet together, exploring what there is for them to find out about themselves and their Journey. Looking for the qualities and ingredients that make them come alive and then putting them into practice in their every day lives. That’s how you become a vibrant leader! It’s true, authentic and powerful.


It’s also scary, some days very dark and lonely where your heart is throbbing and your mind is creating thoughts that scare yourself more than any horror movie ever could. Those days I do my best to comfort myself with the knowing that this is normal, that it’s an inevitable part of the process and the brain’s reaction to unknown territory. It is NOT a sign that I should stop and give up. That knowing relaxes me.




Finally, why is what I’m writing about in this blog important? Because without the sense of aliveness, of bliss, of energy there can be no authentic action filled with flow towards realizing your potential. Everything becomes an effort, a struggle, a loss of energy, grey and dull. We become exhausted. And that place is not a good point to lead ourselves from, to make wise decisions, to be efficient, to lead others, to…change the world for the better with our contribution. We need to be illuminated ourselves before we can help others find their light and express their passion in creative ways – the most important part of being a true leader today.


FOR REFLECTION


So what does all this mean for you, what’s the next step, the authentic action? If you are willing to do the work, here are the 3 first steps I recommend you take:


  1. Look for the clues that point you to your passion, your bliss. What’s the pattern you see emerging from looking back at your life? Where do you see you’ve been filled with energy, joy and felt a sense of purpose? What has real meaning and importance to you? What catches your attention and makes your heart sing? Be like Sherlock Holmes and connect the dots!

  2. Create a clear and vibrant vision of what you see. Don’t bring any excess marble into your vision. Make it clear and to the point: what are your most important intentions right now in you life? (Don’t get stuck on the thought that you need to know all the steps how to get there!)  Write your vision down (in great detail!) and if you’re like me and love visuals you create a “mood board” with beautiful and inspiring pictures and put it in a place where you see it at least once a day. (This way you constantly remind yourself of where you are going which creates new positive neural paths in your brain – a must for success!).

  3. Take a first small sweet step. What is one step you are willing to take in the present which brings you closer to your vision? Make it a small promise to yourself, you don’t want to overwhelm your brain with too big steps that lead to failure….instead you want to create the experience of “yes, I can do this!”


Take a moment to celebrate – you are on your way!

Eager to take the next steps and want to know what they are? Great! I will be happy to continue to guide you on your Heroine’s Journey in my upcoming blog posts!


Please share! What are ways that have worked for you getting started on your Journey? What do you see? I would love to hear your thoughts, experiences and tips – as would others!