Passion and Purpose

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by Suzanne Zoglio, Ph.D. –

A few years back, while writing a book about living from the inside out, I spent many hours researching and interviewing others about what makes a life feel right. While some people spoke of success, others spoke of less stress. Most included positive relationships, personal growth, and ongoing adventure as essential for a satisfying life. And many said they sought more meaning in life; they wanted to make a difference. Of course, I also did plenty of soul-searching myself, reflecting on my own life lessons.

Here are three important things I’ve learned about creating a life that tickles your soul.

1. The person with the most joy wins…and joy begins with inner peace. While toys are terrific -who wouldn’t enjoy a fabulous new car, house on the beach, or unlimited shopping card?- they don’t always please. Things that we think we want often fade in value once acquired. Perhaps that’s because we sometimes seek what we think we should, rather than what is personally meaningful. I remember when my management consulting company was about five years old, everyone encouraged me to expand. Add staff, increase accounts, and grow revenues was a widely accepted strategy. Except by doing so, I ended up managing a firm instead of consulting with people, which was and is what I love to do. So although the increased income allowed me to buy more toys, it didn’t buy me joy. Bigger is not always better, I learned, and doing what you love is priceless. I downsized the business to a practice of one, and have never regretted it.

If an achievement, possession, or toy brings you joy-terrific. But if it seems a bit hollow, check to see if the “cost” is too high, or if it’s something that’s not really meaningful to you. Sometimes the outer things we seek are just poor substitutes for an inner state we crave. If what you really want is love, self-respect, or validation (and who doesn’t?), you won’t find them by acquiring toys. But when you do experience the inner peace that comes from being the kind of person you aspire to be, you’ll find joy around every corner…in all the toys, experiences, beauty, and relationships that come your way.

2. Passion for life does not wear out…it fades from lack of use. If you have ever felt older than your years…a little tired, worn out, as though life is passing you by, you’re not alone. At various stages of life we hit plateaus and then the choice is ours: coast downhill or climb to a new peak. The choice involves expansion or contraction, feeling alive or shriveling up inside. If we make the effort and muster the courage to move forward in some dimension of life, we feel renewed. Energy and passion climb, and we feel fully engaged. But pass on all things new, and we get stuck in a rut of the known – smack in the middle of our comfort zone. And status quo never yields the high returns of personal growth.

Think of the last time you tried something new – learned a computer skill, visited a foreign country, went to a party alone, or just tried a new food. Even if it didn’t turn out as you expected, chances are you got a lift from taking the risk. I remember the high I felt after finally taking a hot air balloon ride. It was a glorious experience that bumped up my zest for life, and although it wasn’t a climb up Mt. Everest, it did require pushing past fear. A lesson I learned that day was that beyond the familiar- just past fear – is where life truly expands. Passion needs exercise.

3. A meaningful life is born in the soul, grown in the mind, and lived from the heart. A sense of purpose, making a difference, leaving a legacy…these are things that can evade us if we follow along with today’s busy-is-better crowd. One day blurs into another and though dancing as fast as we can, we often feel no sense of accomplishment. You’re busy, but what are you busy about? Are you keeping commitments to your self? Growing the gifts that you have been given? Being of service to others? If not, you’re probably wondering, “Is this all there is?” That’s what I was wondering during a particularly hectic time of my life when I was rushing from one speaking engagement to another, flying in and out of airports but never really visiting any of the cities. Outer success does not equal meaning, I learned. And meaning does not just plop into your lap; it is created every day –with one thought and one act – at a time.

Each day provides a myriad of ways to live more purposefully, but we’re often too busy doing to see the opportunities. Staying on purpose requires listening, I learned – not to the cacophony of our 24/7 world – but to the wisdom in our hearts. Adding the practice of meditation to my day got me off the fast train to nowhere and back on track. Writing projects long put on hold suddenly found their way into my day. Making a difference – every day, for someone in some way – has become a habit. Saying “no” to time wasters is easier when you say “yes” to inner success. Silence, focus, conscious choices. I’ve learned that these are the things that add meaning to life.

Lift Yourself Up

by Suzanne Zoglio, PhD –

Economic environment making you feel nervous or depressed? When life throws us one curve ball after another, it’s tough to keep getting up. A deal gone sour, a loan turned down, a job lost, a medical crisis, a college fund depleted…the list goes on. In what seems like the blink of an eye, life as we know it can morph into a whole new reality. What used to work no longer does, and what might have seemed certain now seems like a pipe dream.

This landscape is really slick and running old plays just won’t cut it. We need a new playbook –one that helps us to bounce back, and think “up” …even when things are looking down. We’ve got to try a few new tools, or at least sharpen those we haven’t needed in a while.

While there are situations that we can’t control, there are several things we can do that have been proven to help us bounce back …even in the middle of a mess. See if any resonant with you.

BOUNCE BACK TIPS

*Take a deep breath. When we’re anxious or stressed, we breathe shallowly, and that deprives us of much-needed oxygen. Our bodies react with rapid respiration, and accelerated heartbeat, further increasing the stress response. To break the vicious cycle, schedule regular centering breaks. Several times a day go to a quiet place for just three to five minutes and practice deep breathing. Put your hand just above your waist, close your eyes and inhale slowly to the count of six. Feel the “balloon” under your hand inflate. Hold for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale to the count of six, feeling the “balloon” deflate. Repeat several times, relaxing the shoulders and neck.

*Gain perspective. When the hits come at us in rapid succession – it’s easy to catastrophize. From one lost account, your mind makes the leap to “I’m going out of business.” From a job layoff to “I’ll never work again.” From a reduction in your 401K to “I’ll never be able to retire.” To gain perspective, try rating the crumby situation you face on a scale of 1 to 10. How bad is it compared with other life challenges you have survived? Is it the worst you’ve ever faced? As bad as, say, the divorce you went through, the health scare you weathered, or losing a good friend?

Studies show that if we actually rate the stressful situation we face, it reduces our stress by providing a better perspective on the gravity of this situation and on our own history of resiliency.

*Seek inspiration. When you are bombarded by negative neighbors, panicky partners, whining coworkers, and media “complainia,” move out of range. Take a different path. Turn off the television and read inspiring words. Spend a few minutes a day in prayer or meditation. Take a daily walk with Mother Nature. Talk to a counselor or trusted friend. And remember to acknowledge -before you go to sleep each night- all that is right with your life!

Personal Power


by Suzanne Zoglio, Ph.D.

We all know it when we see it in others. A woman walks into a room radiating warmth, strength and a positive energy. We are drawn to her, although she does nothing to draw attention to herself. We are as curious about her as she seems to be about others. She is engaging, but not dominating; joyous without pretension. She reflects a generosity of spirit that accompanies a grateful heart. She is comfortable in her own skin; she is a vessel of personal power.

We also know it when we feel it ourselves. The mornings when we awaken with an inner knowing that all is well. Either life is proceeding exactly as we wish, or we know that we can handle whatever life dishes out. The moments when we are tempted to prove we are right, but veer onto a course of simply sharing our truth and accepting that others may not see things through the same lens. The crossroads where we choose to pursue an uncertain path of growth and passion instead of taking the more familiar one of comfort and perceived security. The opportunities to serve that we embrace, although others might see us as foolish and in need of some coaching in how to be more self-serving. We feel calm, focused, confident, and fully engaged.

We recognize it; we experience it. But, how do we develop more of it? Perhaps the process is more of an unveiling than of an acquisition. By it’s very definition, personal power comes from within. It is not a “role” or legitimate power bestowed upon us by others when we assume a certain position – Department Manager, CEO, or even Head of the Household. It is not “cultural” power that we assume at birth or ritually earn – Prince Charles, a Philly gang leader, or the first-born son of a Chinese couple. It is not “affiliate” power of knowing and networking with the right people within the right circle. It is not even “intellectual” power, because a genius is labeled such by others.

Personal power comes from the inside out, and therefore need not be given, earned, learned, or bestowed upon us. It simply must be revealed. Like a brilliant diamond residing within a lump of coal, our personal power needs only to be released. Through prayer and meditation, we can buff away the fears that make us weak, defensive and self-centered. By embracing life’s joys and practicing rituals of gratitude, we soon glow with contentment. And if we commit to using our gifts in the service of others, all of our facets seem to catch the light. We do not need to prove how smart, important, or talented we are. We simply know it. And others see it. Fearless, joyful, and making a difference, our personal power surfaces.

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