NAV TIP: The "Prep" section of the Evolution Through Vacation e-guide takes you through interesting and insightful questions to identify any "baggage" you may want to explore – or release! – on your upcoming vacation. All based on the seven Life Areas pictured above, I'll dig into a few of these concepts to give you a glimpse into how it works. Hopefully you'll find some inspiration to explore on your own adventure! Let's go...
OK! We made it!
I'm half-way around the world and, naturally, the gazillion-hour flight (+ getting settled here in Indonesia for a spell) gave me some more time to work through the Prep section of the Evolution Through Vacation guide!
Let's see what I uncovered...
The main questions of the Prep section? What "baggage" are we carrying around with us ... and what do we want to leave behind? This, of course, is that emotional baggage we drag with each of us every day – even on vacation.
With this 3-month adventure including a hefty load of literal luggage, I was inspired to unpack my suitcases as well as take a look at the emotional baggage that's been weighing me down as of late.
The e>v guide takes you through a cool exercise on how to rate your current "Level of Aliveness" in each Life Area pictured above. And then, leads you through questions on possible baggage in that area and, of course, what that Life Area might look like baggage-free.
- What are the stories you carry around in regard to this Life Area?
- What will you take along (emotionally) to help you explore it and ... what will you choose to leave behind?
- What can this adventure teach you about your Life Areas?
- And, more importantly, who do you want to be when you come back from this journey?
For me, after working through the questions, journaling and taking some time for personal pondering, one of the Life Areas that popped out first was Purpose.
This seemed right on. After all, I've been recently focused on selling the company I've co-owned for the past 12 years, the Frank IT Change Kit. This shift has definitely put Purpose on my radar.
Specifically, as I'm moving on from my business, I've been struggling with the questions of: What is my purpose if it's not my company? Who am I if I'm not "Frank"? And – aack! – who will I be in the future? Even more, as you can see, my sense of Purpose is completely tied to my work ... and nothing else. Oof. I feel some hard questions coming on to evaluate if this is beneficial to me and my inner being...
Case in point: As a young girl, my favorite board game was Careers. (Umm... that alone causes me to pause.) Anyway, if you squint and look at the tagline it says, "Fame... Fortune... Happiness... The choice is yours." I remember, when I read this as a child, this didn't seem like a choice to me. The three CLEARLY went together. The prospect of fame/fortune not only led to happiness, they were the precursors to happiness. I consumed this message early, found many supporting narratives in 80's and 90's media, and over the years, I'm realizing, this became my Purpose. If I worked hard, made big money and got recognized for it, I'd be happy. And for a while, I did just that...
I began my career gung-ho as an advertising copywriter and worked with agencies across all media platforms and verticals. I started my own company at age 31 to transform the world of IT change through creative communications. Along with my business partners, over the past 3 years, we transitioned our service firm into a product company with Intellectual Property, which now is on the market.
That big, glittery finale of "fame and fortune" is truly within my reach ... and it'll finally lead to my "happiness." Right?
Well, here's where the struggle comes in.
When I first started my career, I felt so much more connected to this world of work and hustle and corporate climbing. But this past year, in the midst of the business transition, something just didn't feel right. The supposedly most exciting part of my self-created, Careers-esque journey – you know, the big scene at the end of the movie where the plucky heroine triumphs ... overlooking a shimmering city skyline ... with Carly Simon singing "Let the River Run" in the background – well, it wasn't really happening as I imagined.
Or, if I'm being completely and utterly honest: it's really, really, really freakin' hard to release a company that one has built from the ground up into the hands of others. It's poring over a lot of details, it's long hours and it's constant negotiating. It's a little fear and a whole lotta faith and trust. And, I was learning, most of all: it's so, so, so scary to let go of my identity as "being the owner of this company."
All in all, it wasn't the picture-perfect ride I had imagined as a young girl. Instead, with all the changes, the unknowns, the new learnings, it was more of an emotional roller coaster ... without seatbelts ... during an earthquake ... after a hot-dog-eating contest.
Even more confusing about this topsy-turviness was the fact that everything happening with my business – this sale, this transition – was right in line with our master plan. My partners and I had worked for three years toward this outcome. In essence, we were "successfully" achieving our goal. Emotionally, however? I was so confused about who I would be after this was all said and done.
During this internal chaos, my husband Daniel lovingly tried to remind (read: encourage) me often: "Honey, your work is what you do, not who you are. Remember that and it'll all be OK."
And, for months ... oh, how I fought him tooth and nail.
I would proudly exclaim, "No, Daniel, you just don't know what it's like to be an entrepreneur. My business is who I am. It's core to my being. I can't NOT be my business. I know... I'll just find a new business to be... yep, that's what I'll do. I'll start working on the next business and I'll feel OK again..." This tirade would trail off as I flashed my don't-mess-with-me, Careers-board-game smile, focused back on my computer screen, and the conversation would be over.
But now? Here, on this new journey half-way around the world? Looking at the baggage of all of this? Feeling the heaviness of my sense of Purpose being only tied to my job? My gauge of fulfillment connected to money or productivity or if the market tells me I'm "succeeding" or "failing?" Looking back at how my perceptions of entrepreneurship and work have changed, not only since I first played Careers as a young girl, but even over just this past year? Or, now, just this past week?
Well, I think Daniel might be on to something...
And then, right in e>v fashion, as I sit drinking tea in Indonesia, as I'm pondering these thoughts, I hear my phone (ding!) tell me I have a new email. I open the message. It's a daily auto-email I get from this entrepreneur/artist I follow, Hugh MacLeod; every day he sends out one of his cartoons and this was it...
In the context of this drawing, Hugh's message goes on to say: When Steve Jobs said, “Let’s make a dent in the Universe,” this is what he talking about, being part of something that matters. Being more than yourself.
I set down my phone. I looked around at all the new, different faces around me smiling with their friends and family, eating a meal, walking around, living life, doing what they do. I took a deep breath, allowing new, foreign smells and sounds to wash over me. I returned to this amazing place of the journey, of liminality, of being in the moment, of letting new thoughts and ideas pop. Of realizing how so much more is "out there" for me to be a part of.
And then, as plain as the nose on my face, I realized:
Elissa, you've been completely missing the point of "Purpose" all along. Since you were young, your "Purpose" has only been about YOU ... your work, your success, your business, your ego.
But, Purpose is bigger than that.
Purpose is outside of us. It's part of the collective whole, in honor or service or recognition or, even, in just the seeing and connecting with others. It's rooted in something "more than ourselves." And, if it is, our "dent in the universe" is one that can reverberate around the world even stronger, bigger, and more impactful than you can imagine.
A purpose that inspires us to get up in the morning whether we're paid or not. That motivates us to act whether someone is watching or not. That delivers fulfillment and contentment and peace and gratification and achievement to our inner selves – no matter what external forces are at play.
With Purpose, unlike the old game of "Careers," there actually is no choice to make. With Purpose, you don't have to claw through fame or fortune. With Purpose, you just get to jump right to the happiness part – to feel good and alive and connected to your reason for being ... your "Purpose."
(Hmmm... I think this adventure is off to a good start.)