Unconscious Commitments

You’re committed; I’m committed. I’d bet $1,000,000 that not only are you committed, but that you are an extremely committed person.

Let me rattle off what you are most likely committed to:

  • Being late to meetings or events. I have plenty of proof.

  • Odds are you’re committed to being overweight.

  • To watching TV. Alot of it.

  • To being in debt. No?

  • To not being happy at work.

  • To not being happy in your marriage.

  • To not being happy, period.

  • To not having deep enough relationships.

  • To not doing enough of something: exercise, praying, going to church, calling mom or dad, spending time with the kids.

You’re committed, and so am I.

The problem is, we’re not conscious about our commitments. We’re unconsciously committed. How do I know? Because whatever I’ve got [sic], is what I’m committed to. If you’re routinely late for meetings, or you, like average Americans watch 5 hours of TV a night, are on an anti-depressent (over 50% of our population) are divorced or on your way (again, over 50%), or are obese (75% of Men, 60% of women), then that’s what you’re committed to. Now, before you crucify me, I understand there are chemical reasons for needing antidepressants, or there are valid reasons for divorce, and perhaps medical resasons for being obese...but it’s the exception and not the rule.

Examine your life. If there are 2-3 things you want to change, what commitment do you need to change? If you want to be your ideal weight, are you willing to commit to doing what it takes? If you want more time to read, paint, or play the piano—are you willing to turn the TV off? Get off your phone? If you want to spend more time with the kids, are you willing to manage your work schedule so you have the time needed to engage?

The answer is in your hands. It’s about commitment, not wanting. Are you willing to be at the affect of your unconscious commitments or choose to live a life of conscious commitments?

The Power of Question

I’m embarrassed of who I used to be. I was that special guy, that me monster. The guy who did many things to the extreme to make himself feel special (and...I still do that to a degree). But to make matters worse, I had to tell you all about it. And then I had to tell you how, you too, could do that thing I was able to do that made me so special.

My sin: I gave unsolicited advice to the extreme. And before you judge me, I bet you do too. I bet you give unsolicited advice all of the time. Your advice giving may not be to the extreme specialness as mine was, but you do it.

How do I know? Because I’ve seen you do it. I’ve heard you do it. You can’t help yourself. Ok, maybe not specifically you, but what I notice is almost everyone does it. If you’re paying attention, here’s what you’ll notice about the person you’re giving unsolicited advice to (but since it’s really about you and not them, you probably haven’t noticed this):

  • Her energy will drop. What was an engaging conversation (because she was talking about herself), now shifted to you through a sneaky advice giving maneuver. She doesn’t care and if you were in touch with her energy, you’d notice it just dropped off of a cliff.

  • Her body language will change, detached.

  • Her voice inflection will go flat. She’ll give you flat affirmations like, Oh, Ok, Uh-huh. She’s checked out the minute you told her how she could better live her life [more like yours].

  • Her eyes will literally glaze over or go dim. This is another indication she doesn’t give a rip about your advice.

Painful to realize, right? I know, I’ve been there and I’m still on guard to make sure I don’t become the unsolicited advice giver. So what do you do to avoid this trap?

Ask questions. That’s right, but don’t only ask questions. Ask great questions. Empowering questions. I guarantee you will be amazed about the results. Here’s what you will most likely experience if you ask questions:

  • She will come up with her own solution, and it will probably be better than the advice you were going to give her.

  • She will most likely enact her solution, whereas there was about a 0% chance she would act on your unsolicited advice.

  • Her energy will rise during the conversation, it won’t drop, because you engaged her brain to think, and for her to think about herself, not you.

  • She will think more of you. She will think you are so smart, so caring, so charming because you cared enough to ask her interesting questions to help her get to a solution.

Now, I could simply violate my own advice and do just that, give you the advice to stop giving advice! But I won’t. I’ll leave you with a set of questions to let you ponder your next step, if any:

  • How do you feel when someone gives you unsolicited advice?

  • What is it that you get out of giving advice? No, really, what do you get out of it (you get something out of it or you wouldn’t do it)?

  • How much relational equity does it cost you to give your advice?

  • What is the worst thing that could happen if you stopped giving unsolicited advice?

  • What is the best thing that could happen if you stopped giving unsolicited advice?

  • How true could it be that you could be more helpful to people by not giving them advice?

  • When do you want to stop giving unsolicited advice and start asking questions instead?

You may be surprised in the power of your questions. You’ll often here, “That’s a great question….wow, you ask great questions!” After 500 hours of coaching training, it’s one of the best compliments to hear, and I simply smile.

Significance is Sitting Next to You

We all have a drive in us to be significant. To have a legacy, leave a mark, or as Steve Jobs was famously attributed with, “To dent the universe.”

David Ogilvy gives us similar advice, “Don’t bunt. Swing for the fences.”

And so we have a generation or two that now want to individually change the world. Additionally, we have a whole new business category called “social impact” that is reserved for businesses that, well, are going to change the world.

Except very few do in fact change the world.

For me, as both an entrepreneur and of course as an individual, significance can be daunting. What in the world am I going to do to change the world? What happens if I don’t change the world? Does that make my life not meaningful? Not worthy?

Hardly. I think we’ve got it all wrong, this idea of significance. 

What is significance anyway? It’s so sad to think that countless men and women are striving to live significantly, yet they are insignificant in their children's’ lives. 50% of those are divorced, becoming insignificant to their ex-spouses. 67% of employees are not engaged at work--either not significant to their company or not significant in their contribution to the company.

We so badly want significance, but it’s often on the other side of the proverbial fence. What if our world were to get smaller? What if we didn’t desire to be significant to strangers across the pond, or in another state or even to those in the city in which we live? What if, instead, we chose to be significant to those people that are in our lives?

What if I made my spouse the most significant person in my life? What if, as a father, I broke the status quo of spending less than 5 minutes a day with my kids, and instead chose to be very significant to them and them to me? What if I served my employer in a way that made me extremely significant? Or, lead my direct reports in such a manner that I was very significant in their lives or they were very significant to me?

A colleague shared a story with me about her going to dinner at a fancy restaurant. The room in which they were dining slowly started to clear out, and the staff began rearranging the tables for a large party. My friend was informed that Dabo Swinney, Clemson University’s head football coach, was hosting a birthday dinner for his then-18 year old son. Because Dabo is treated like a king in these parts, the wait staff chose to neglect the remaining couple by not servicing them and put their attention on Dabo. At one point, Dabo noticed this, and he asked the wait staff to not forget the couple. He then later came over to my colleague and her guest and apologized, asked how they were doing, etc. When the couple was done with their meal, they asked for the check. The waiter informed them their dinner had been paid for in full. Dabo picked up their check.

Dabo Swinney, now with two national championships under his belt is a king in South Carolina. He is the state’s highest paid employee, and he is VERY significant to many in these parts. Yet, he took the time to notice those around him. To show concern. To take care of their needs. To even go so far to treat and delight them. He was by far the most significant person in the restaurant by the world’s standards. Yet he chose to make two strangers significant to him.

If you want to be significant, you will make others significant. You may be one of the few that changes the world. Or, you can be significant in your world. Your family, your work, your church and maybe even your community. So many people are sitting on the sideline waiting for their “chance,” and oftentimes their chance is sitting right next to them.

Active Appreciation

Notice. Care. Thoughtfulness. Connect. Presence. Confidence. Lack of Fear. Love. Expression. Empathy. Value. Others. Selfless. Highlight. Elevate. Savor. Smile. Heart. Appreciation.

Recently I attended an event in which the group did an appreciation exercise. For 4 minutes, one of us sat in a chair while 20 peers lavished appreciation on them. Some of the appreciation was small (“you have beautiful hair”) and some of it was BIG (“I notice you are a man of integrity.”).

I was struck by one man in particular. His appreciation was different. The appreciation that came from him was genuine. His appreciation was authentic. I had the impression that the words he spoke weren’t just made up on the spot, it was an appreciation he had already formulated, his words came from a history of noticing. He was simply expressing what he had already appreciated.

His appreciation was beautiful. I wanted to be able to do that. How honoring the person feels with true, authentic and genuine appreciation. I know, I was one of the people receiving appreciation from him. I felt seen. I felt known. I felt appreciated. I felt valued, accepted. All of these things and more. Who wouldn’t want someone to feel that way?

My take away from that appreciation experience is:

  1. Be on the Lookout. Always be on the lookout for things to appreciate.

  2. Care, you appreciate what you value, care about others.

  3. Out it, don’t hold appreciation in, let the person know what you appreciate.

I’m paying attention more to see what others do. I’ve created an appreciation journal and jot down things that I appreciate. And then I find opportune times to share with them my appreciations. It’s a habit I desire to build.

Purpose > Significance

Significance is defined as the quality of being worthy of attention or importance. We all strive for it. Desire attention; crave importance. To leave a legacy, make a mark, or dent the universe.

Wanting or desiring significance isn’t inherently wrong and it seems quite natural. But I think our innate drive for significance gets perverted very quickly.

If significance is about attention and importance, then shouldn’t we be giving significance instead of seeking it? Shouldn’t our actions and the quality of who we are, create significance instead of our manufacturing or demanding significance?

Mother Theresa didn’t set out to be significant. She gave significance to Calcutta's poorest of the poor. She lived her purpose; Mother Theresa was her purpose. She saw everyone was worthy of attention and importance, and she, in turn, became one of the most significant people of our time.

We live in a world in which everyone wants to change the world. The underlying motive, I can only fathom, is this unquenchable thirst for significance. “I’m going to change the world; therefore I am worthy of your attention, and I am important!”

And oh so few actually change the world.

Purpose comes before significance. Purpose gives birth to significance. Without purpose, significance is very hard to come by.

To those close to me, hopefully, I am significant--but it will be because of two things: (1) Because I’m fulfilling my purpose and (2) I am making those around me significant first. As a loving husband, I must be thoughtful and give my wife significance. As a loving father, I carry out my purpose and responsibilities for my children. I show them they are extremely important to me and I give them attention, significance. The more on purpose I am, the more significance I can bring to those around me.

Significance is not to be sought. It’s to be earned from a job well done; a life well lived. Significance is gained through purpose. It is not meant to be achieved; significance is meant to be given.

Your life lived purposefully will earn you significance. But along the way, you must be a giver of significance. Who in your life are you giving worthy attention and importance to?

Do you want significance? Do you want to change the world? I’d suggest you start living your purpose and giving significance first to those in your world.

Daily Approval

Are you willing to source your approval from within instead of from the outside?

In my experience, this is the question most of us can’t answer in the affirmative. Unbeknownst to our conscious, we’re constantly jockeying our behavior to elicit the approval of others.

Recently I was coaching an executive. While he was traveling overseas, one of his direct reports sent out a company-wide email saying his operations had a major problem with their inventory.

For two weeks this executive’s wheels spun about how his teammate just threw him under the bus and how bad he must look to the rest of the team.

Here’s the important thing to remember: That’s completely understandable and normal. But what is key is to understand what is really troubling him: is that his peers don’t approve of him or his work.

So I asked him a simple question: How much do you approve of your work? There was silence on the other end of the phone.

Suddenly he had a realization -- he’d been doing this for over 5 years, and when he took over the operation, he had improved the business by leaps and bounds. Over those 5+ years, he’s very proud of the work he’s done. But in the day-to-day minutia, he second guesses his work because his default move is to outsource his approval to others.

The lightbulb went on for him: Why do I approve of myself over the long term, but not in the short term?

That was a key insight he had that day. It was a moment of waking up, and worthy of further exploration. He will likely find it has to do with him disregarding his successes (where there are many) and focusing on his failures (where there are very few). In the long term, it’s easier to see all of the success. In the now, it’s pretty darn easy to see where you could be doing better.

Where do you source your approval? From within, or from others? Is your view the long term and how friendly and accepting are you to yourself in the short term?

My Journey to Now

My wife said, “Why don’t you not think?”

That sounds like some snarky advice, but she meant it. I was actually packing my things to go on one of my few personal retreats I take each year to read, think, plan and strategize my next big steps in life. But I was worn out and my wife sensed it. She knew I needed this weekend, but more so, she knew I needed a different type of weekend: one in which I did nothing at all.

It took me an hour and a half drive to reach my friend’s mountain home, situated in the woods and on a large pond. His dock extended peacefully out into the cove of the pond. I plopped down in an adirondack chair and cracked a book my brother had recommended to me, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Little did I know this book would profoundly shape my life.

I ate the book up and I read for a solid hour. The sun was out, and its rays started warming my skin and I felt myself starting to get sleepy. I put the book down, let my eyes fall shut and drifted off in sleep, comfortably reclining in the adirondack. I woke up a couple hours later, and just sat there. I took in the pond, the birds, fish making ripples on the surface of the pond. The silence was powerful. I thought about nothing. I just sat there and was able to be. The experience is somewhat inexplicable, but my post-nap awakening was one of the most profound moments of my life.

The rest of the weekend I would read a little, but more or less I just soaked in the experience. I wasn’t trying to solve any world problems or create my next big move. I’d read and then sit. I wouldn’t even think much about what I read, instead, what I wanted to do was just to notice. Just sit. Just be. Just take in the sounds, the sites, the smells. Sometimes I’d be sitting in a chair and think to myself, I should probably get up. And then an hour would go by and I hadn’t moved nor did I feel like moving. I’d continue sitting there, noticing, being. Sometimes my mind would drift or latch on to some back-home thought, but I’d nudge it back to where I was: Now.

Ever since that weekend, I’ve been very purposeful about being in the now. I want to be where I am. Yeah, I know, that sounds really “profound.” But if you think about it, it is profound. I realized I spent much of my time in the future or in the past. Rarely in the now (mainly the future). There was always something better coming down the pike, so I liked to stay there, either worrying about something bad that was going to happen or about how to make things better.

Life happens, however, in the now. Right now. If this is a new concept to you, the idea is to just be. To witness your mind and all of its crazy talk. As Tolle said in The Power of Now, the mind is an organ that is made to think. And think it does. But we are not what our mind thinks, and I don’t know about you, but thank God, if I were all of the things my mind thought, then I’d be locked up by now.

So being present, being in the now, simply means just being. And when you start just being, you notice things you’ve never noticed before. You hear sounds you didn’t know where there, you see things that have always been there but haven’t noticed. In order to be, you must develop the ability to witness your thoughts and be okay with those thoughts sliding by. In short, you become free from the activity of your mind. And when you can do that, it frees you up to be present. To be 100%. Not to be thinking about something else when someone is talking, or instead of being present at the dinner table, thinking about the presentation you have to do tomorrow.

The benefits are incredible. By being more in the now, I can give someone my attention for what I would guess is a 100x improvement of what I was able to do previously. I also notice that when my mind starts to drift in a conversation, I can quickly get back into presence. Because I’m awake and notice more, my ability for appreciation is more and I make better decisions.

Overall, my mind’s state is now quiet. It’s calm. Before, if you walked into my mind it was probably like walking into a rowdy tavern with a circus act going on. Now if you walk into my mind, it’s probably the equivalent of walking into a spectacular library--with the circus act blazing through about every 10 minutes! In other words, my mind is still my mind, and I accept that. However, my mind is way more calm, but crazy thoughts (or perfectly good thoughts) still zip through the library of what my mind has become.

What I’m saying is that I’m not perfect. I haven’t arrived. Being in the now, being present, takes practice and it’s much more about the journey than it is the destination. In addition to practice, it takes discipline. For instance, to develop myself to be more in the now is I developed a meditation practice which I talk about in another blog. I meditate daily for 20 minutes a day. This has taught my mind to be still, relaxed and peaceful.

Another thing I work on is to try and minimize distractions. I used to have an Apple Watch for instance. I used to love that thing. But in my quest for presence, I realized the Apple Watch was a distraction machine. Seriously, I’d be talking to someone, totally in presence and connected to that person, and my watch buzzes with a text message from my wife asking me what I want for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, +1 for my wife! But man, I allowed myself to be buzzed out of presence. What a bummer. My Apple watch has since been retired.

As it goes for my mobile phone (iPhone), I minimize all distraction settings. I disable badges on apps, reduce app notifications if at all possible and my phone doesn’t vibrate or ring. My phone is a tool and is there for me to use it, not for it to use me.

“Why don’t you not think?” Was some of the best advice I’ve ever received. My wife’s intuitive advice, combined with a timely book recommendation from my brother launched me into a life of practicing presence. Although the benefits of a calmer mind, more peace, less stress, being able to fully listen to friends, family and coworkers, to be focused and fully be with whomever I’m with, etc. are all awesome benefits, the real gift of being present is presence itself. It’s as if God said, “I gave you this amazing life and this amazing world, and you spend 99% of it in the past or in the future. How about just enjoy what I gave you, now?”

Now. Be. Presence. All the same thing, and when you can consistently find yourself there, that in and of itself is the real reward.

Heroing Purpose

In a previous post, I covered the concept of Heroing, the act of saving something or someone from something. In the context of ourselves, we hero ourself to protect ourself from something, usually discomfort. Heroing is an unconscious move we make when we do not want to face something in our lives, whether it be stress, an uncomfortable situation, a chore that we just don’t want to do, etc.

We hero ourselves with our purpose too. The issue with purpose is that we’re scared to live it. The idea usually goes something like this: I can’t live a life of deep meaning because I couldn’t make a living doing my purpose! And if I couldn’t make a living doing my purpose, then I’d be bankrupt! And if I’m bankrupt I’ll lose my house; and if I lose my house, I’ll lose my spouse and my kids! Therefore, I can’t pursue meaning, and I must subject myself to some other mind-numbing occupation for the rest of my life!

But our soul is screaming at us to live our purpose, to live an abundant life full of meaning. But since we are scared where that may take us, we unconsciously hero ourselves by providing a little bit of short-term relief to satisfy and quiet our soul.

Sound familiar? Hold on, don’t leave just yet; bear with me.

The problem with that scenario is that our very soul won’t let our purpose go that easily. The soul is always knocking on the door, it’s always whispering, creating opportunities for purpose...whatever method your soul uses to get your attention, it’s persistently reminding you that your purpose is waiting for you to let it free.

Now, you may say, but I don’t even know what my purpose is! I disagree and would tell you that you actually do know what your purpose is. Now, it’s highly likely you haven’t articulated it yet or have gotten clarity around it, but you do know--and your soul definitely knows--what your purpose is. But that’s for another post.

For now, let’s get back to how we hero or create relief for ourselves when our soul is providing some purpose-driven pressure. We’ll use a little fiction to explore the topic:

Jack loves to paint. As a teenager, he discovered painting in high school. He loved it. When he would paint, he noticed he would come alive. He was extremely good at it. Some said he was even better than his teacher, but he was definitely better than any other student, hands down. He had a natural talent, and he had never connected with something like this before.

His teachers and counselors encouraged him to pursue his passion. He researched and found some good art schools in the region. One day, he finally mustered up the courage to tell his parents that he wanted to attend SCAD, an internationally recognized art and design school. Without looking up from his phone, his dad muttered, “How are you going to make a living with an art degree? I’m not paying for an art school.”

And right there on the spot, Jack’s dream was squashed. Over the next several months, he began to convince himself of the same, How would I make a living? I couldn’t make a living painting! So he got more practical and responsible. He applied to a public university and enrolled in their graphic design program. Close enough, he thought, and it appeased his parents as well. What he didn’t realize is he was trying to appease his soul at the same time.

He learned to run a printing press, and he got to dabble in design, but never painting, mind you. It sort of scratched the itch, but not really. After college, he got a job with an ad agency, where from time to time, he would get projects that stretched him creatively. That’s what kept him going, but such projects never reached the depth of his soul.

He got married, bought a house, and he jumped at the chance to paint the interior of his new home. He had almost forgotten how much he enjoyed painting, although this was a different type of painting. He sensed a kindling of a small spark, but he didn’t recognize it.

A few years later, his wife was expecting, she asked if he could paint a mural on their soon-to-be-daughter’s wall. He jumped at the chance. His job was getting really mundane, but painting the house and painting the mural satisfied him enough that he could keep going.

A couple of years later, he was really unfulfilled. He couldn’t put his finger on it. It didn’t feel right because he had the “perfect” life: A beautiful wife, two healthy kids, a great house in a great neighborhood. He worked for the most prestigious agency in town, and he was even on some of the best accounts. But his days were more about sale pitches and tracking his time. He was actually pretty miserable.

Then, out of the blue something came up! His church asked if he would paint the new theater set for the kids’ program. You would think that someone had commissioned him for a multi-year, multi-million dollar painting. He jumped at the chance and dove in. When he was done with the project, the jaw of the children's minister hit the floor. Who is this person? Who knew he was this talented? She had never seen such a theatrical set before!

Jack beamed at his work. It took him several weeks, and he knew he put more into it than asked. But Jack couldn’t help himself. He just got lost in the work, and he loved every moment of it. He basked in the glow of his creation for a short time, but reality soon crept back in. He had to go to work on Monday. He certainly couldn’t paint theater sets for a living. He had a family to support!

And on goes the story, of Jack’s soul knocking, whispering and manifesting opportunities for Jack to paint. But Jack paints more as a hobby. He scratches his itch of purpose, but then he goes back to reality. By doing his hobbies and pseudo-associated projects that are somewhere in the realm of his purpose, Jack provides some relief that his soul and purpose are thirsting. But he’s not living his purpose. Sure, it gives him a hit. His hobbies provide him just enough lift to keep him going.

Jack is heroing his purpose. He unconsciously finds outlets to scratch the itch of meaning his soul seeks, but he is not making any conscious commitment to live for that meaning.

And like Jack, we too have a deep-seated fear that keeps us from living or even discovering our purpose. We most likely have the experience of someone influential in our lives telling us we can’t live a life of meaning. The reasons vary from not being able to make a living, or we won’t be good enough or some other well-intentioned comment that we end up using to create a jail cell for our soul. Or it’s a variety of other factors, such as our environment, our baggage, limiting beliefs or inaccurate assumptions that keep us from what our soul is craving: purpose.

How are you heroing your purpose? What activities do you do that makes your soul feel good for a moment, but which you could certainly never do more of? What job do you have to go back to, and why is it you can’t go back to a vocation or a role that fulfills you? Are you settling for your station in life, intermittently getting small hits of fulfilling experiences to keep you going?

What would it look like for you to stop doing all the small heroing and let the pressure build up where you HAD to do your purpose, whatever it took?

For me, it’s getting up in the morning and writing. It’s reading books I know I want to read and making the time to do so. It’s creating plans and setting goals to increase the percentage of my day that I am living in purpose to the portion of time that I am not. What I am doing right now, writing this post, is 100% aligned with my purpose.

It starts as easy as that: consciously choosing to increase the percentage of purpose-driven activities for which your soul thirsts.

Heroing Change

In coaching, we have a phrase that goes something like this: “Did you just hero such-in-such?” Or “Did you just hero yourself or that situation?”

Heroing is the act of saving something or someone from something. Often, heroing is the act of providing relief, saving yourself or someone from discomfort.

We hero ourselves quite often throughout the day. For instance, I notice that I’ll do a hard task for 10-15 minutes and then I reward myself with checking my phone (gotta get that dopamine hit from some random notification)--I create relief to what was perhaps a stressful situation or a situation of intense thought. Not all that bad, but a hero move nonetheless.

Or, after a hard day’s work that has some element of stress to it, I may hero myself with a beer or a glass of wine. You know, just to take the edge off the day. A hero move.

Another hero move may be vegging out in front of the TV for a couple of hours so I don’t have to think about that awful phone call I need to make….I put it off. I give myself some relief.

Hero moves relieve pressure, but pressure is our friend. Pressure helps us deal with what needs to be dealt with. If we relieve the pressure then we don’t need to deal with the issue at hand. We simply delay the issue, sometimes so successfully heroing the situation that we never deal with it!

At the end of the day, the month, the year or *gasp* a decade, I could have set out with the best of intentions, but I could easily look back, see little or no change, and understand how I heroed myself through an entire period.

For example, I have noticed a pattern that it takes me two years to accomplish a goal. In year one, I set the goal with the intention to attain it. This year, I set the goal of living my Perfect Day once a week. Living a Perfect Day on a routine basis is not easy! It can actually create a little discomfort in one’s life. And guess what? I heroed myself out of that goal consistently. I found things to do, reasons why I couldn’t create time and space for myself and appointments that went on the calendar to keep me from living that perfect day. Spppfffffffff! Like a fresh can of tennis balls opening, I can hear the pressure being released now even as I write this! I’m too busy, I’m so important, other people need me that I can’t possibly take that much time for myself on a routine basis! Hero, Hero, Hero! I’m now heading into year two of this goal, and I’m going to leverage pressure to change.

If you want to change, stop relieving the pressure. Ghandi is attributed with the quote: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Likewise, you must be the change you wish to see in yourself. Be aware of how you hero yourself to keep you from changing, and choose to not hero yourself so you can change.

The Stream of Purpose

In my experience, I’ve noticed people tend to live a relatively binary approach to life. Either we are happy, or we are sad. We’re having fun, or we’re bored. We’re right, or we’re wrong.

We view purpose much the same. Either we are living a life full of purpose, or we are not.

In a recent post, I wrote about purpose as a theme. Purpose is not a vocation; rather, your vocation could be the mission of living what is the theme of your purpose. For instance, if the theme of your overarching purpose is to serve women to live extraordinary lives, you will potentially express your theme through various missions in your life. You will go through seasons of your life (like raising a young family) where the theme of your purpose is still alive and well, but your missions are few and far between. In other words, just because your job isn’t satisfying your purpose, doesn’t mean you still can’t live out your purpose.

Living your purpose is not a binary event. I offer you to view your purpose as a stream--your stream of purpose. Some days, you dip your toe in your purpose. Other days you’re fully immersed. Yes, you can treat the stream of purpose as binary: either you get in, or you don’t get in. That’s still your choice, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can decide to walk in the stream of your purpose for an hour a day. For me, that means getting up in the morning, setting aside an hour to write as I am doing now. As I write, I’m in the stream of my purpose.

You can dip your toe in the stream every day by taking in content that is related to your purpose, such as, reading a blog in the morning. You can walk across its rocky river bed to the other side as you go to work while listening to a podcast that relates to your purpose. Or, you can get in and float for an hour every day as you take one of your direct reports to lunch and pour into them.

Living your purpose isn’t binary. You don’t have to quit your day job to live your purpose. You can choose to dip your toe, wade across, or even get in and float for an hour or two every day. For the mom who wants to serve other women, she leads a women’s bible study, she is in a women’s book club, and she meets with women for lunch throughout the week. She may not be in her stream of purpose all day long (though that’s possible too!), but she is in the stream of her purpose often throughout her week and her day.

For the woman above, her purpose theme is serving women. My purpose theme is connecting people to their True North. What is your purpose theme? And what would it look like for you to dip your toe in, wade across or float in your stream of purpose? What would it look like for you to commit to increasing the amount of time you spend in the stream of your purpose?