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I’m in the middle of reading life coach guru Martha Beck’s latest book, “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.” If you’re not familiar with her work, check out “Finding Your Own North Star” and her regular columns in O Magazine.
Though I’m halfway through the book, I keep thinking back to the opening chapter where she crystallizes the era we are living through in a way that makes sense to me.
Here’s how Martha Beck sums up several key trends for the future:
- Individuals like you and me now have the power to do things, such as getting information to billions of people, that only large organizations, like governments and corporations, could do at any earlier point in human history.
- Knowledge is no longer power, because knowledge is no longer scarce. What is scarce is human attention. Directing human attention is the way people trade goods and services – thus how they survive financially – in the wild new world.
- The qualities that capture positive attention these days aren’t slickness, blandness, and mass consensus (boring), but authenticity, inventiveness, humor, beauty, uniqueness, playfulness, empathy, and meaning (interesting.)
- The scarcest, most coveted resources aren’t high-tech machines or highly developed cities, but “unspoiled” places, people, animals, objects, and experiences.
What rings true for me is a greater value on beauty, play, authenticity and meaning. Companies and organizations that share these values (think Google, Apple and TED) capture our attention and imagination more readily and tend to be highly coveted workplaces. Seeing friends and colleagues raise thousands of dollars in a matter of days with Kickstarter campaigns and the like, it also rings true that the average individual has much more power to reach people today through technology than we even realize.
How can you use this information to shape your career, passions and mark on the world? It’s a big question which may not result in an immediate answer but is, nevertheless, worth asking.
I had the good fortune of hearing life coach and Finding Your Own North Star author Martha Beck speak recently. Her framework for thinking about where our sense of purpose is derived from stayed with me and rings true so I wanted to share it here. She said you can find your purpose in one of two ways:
1. Where your gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
2. From your own life experiences: Think of the worst thing that has happened to you. Then go help people with that thing.
Beck qualified the latter by saying you can help people if you’ve “been to hell and back.” If you’ve overcome major obstacles in your life, you have something to teach. Every self-help book I’ve ever read is along these lines with the great teachers having experienced suffering they overcame, learned from, and could go on to teach others. My own work is informed by mistakes I’ve made and difficult periods I’ve come out on the other side of. It’s also informed by the joy and gladness Beck refers to above.
If you’re not sure what your larger purpose is, or if it’s vague and unclear, sometimes just asking the question is enough with the understanding and trust that the answer will come perhaps using this framework or another that makes sense for you.
Along the lines of my last post, I’m in the middle of a 30-day challenge of “Treasuring the Future Now”, an exercise proposed by Martha Beck in her book Steering by Starlight. I’m finding it to be quite relaxing and peaceful to sit in a space of meditative visualization. She talks about getting in touch with the “feeling state” you imagine you will have when your heart’s desire is achieved (that new job, relationship, etc.) Why wait to feel that feeling? This tool can help transform you from, for example, the “desperate” jobseeker to a more relaxed, trusting one.
Treasuring the Future Now
From Martha Beck, Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life, No Matter What:
To do this exercise, take a 10-minute break from the rest of your life and sit in a quiet place. Alternately, you can do it while driving (alone, without the radio on), walking or jogging. A bit of solitude and quiet is all you need.
At the beginning of this 10 minutes, choose one item from your list of heart’s desires and once more vividly imagine that you’ve already got it. Create a detailed fulfilled-desire scenario in your mind and preview the way that scene will affect each of your senses. Feel the warmth of your soulmate’s arms around you. Taste the fresh trout you’ll catch and cook when you’re living in your Rocky Mountain log cabin. Smell the downy head of your longed-for baby. Go through it methodically, by sense: How does this scene sound, look, smell, feel, taste?
Once you’ve created a vivid image of your dream come true, simply continue to experience it for 10 minutes. And I mean at least 10 minutes – by the clock. You’ll find that your mind skitters out of its treasuring mode and into your usual fears and stressors almost immediately. Gently notice this and re-create the experience of a fulfilled desire by tapping back into your fantasy scenario with all five senses, one at a time. Focus on “treasuring” your heart’s desire 10 minutes per day for a full month.
I can always tell which of my clients are actually doing this exercise because their appearance changes. The radiance of their skin, the good posture that comes from improved muscle tone, the general vigor of having a strong immune system begins to transform their bodies, as well as their brains, even when they aren’t doing their “treasuring” exercise. (It’s also true that magic starts to happen to them – but we’ll get to that later.)
Ever since I renewed my Brooklyn library card I’ve been ordering tons of books delivered straight to my local library branch. It means I’m reading 5 books at once!
Here’s the latest:
Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern – This book is helping me to see all of the areas I can improve upon the way I organize my day and is getting me excited about purchasing a new daily planner. She has another book which I have out from the library called Never Check E-mail in the Morning though so far I prefer the other.
Live It, Love It, Earn It by Marianna Olszewski – A friend of mine gave this to me as a gift and I’ve started the beginning and am very excited to read it all the way through. LYJ friend Manisha Thakor did a wonderful interview with the author this week on the Huffington Post.
Today I am picking up from the library Martha Beck’s Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life, No Matter What! which I remembered I wanted to read after seeing it on the Obligation Nation Essential Reading list and Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay.
I recently read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks about the limits we have on our own capacity to take in success and how to get around this, and Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar which has inspired me to see how important finances are to relationships. More to come on this book.
What books are you reading?
WIGs or Wildly Improbable Goals* is the name of a concept by Martha Beck, author of Finding Your Own North Star. As the name implies, they are goals we set that seem so outlandish and improbable, yet somehow come true. Beck writes, “Whether our WIGs are the cause or the effect of our actions, they have a peculiar power to lift us beyond what we thought to be our limitations.” Beck talks more about WIGs and provides helpful exercises to find them in a past Oprah Magazine article.
On the last day of my career development class in May, I asked my students to consider an exercise from the article, one where your wise, happy future self comes back to mentor you on whatever questions you are facing in the present.
It turns out one of my students had an amazing WIG experience. Earlier in the semester, this student had written a paper about why pop star Ciara was a role model to him. When we did the WIG exercise on the last day of class, he volunteered that his present self was uncertain about his ability to achieve his dreams but his future self reassured him that he was on the right path. This is when he revealed that a WIG had actually come true. At Ciara’s concert in NYC, a week before our last class, he had the opportunity to interview her on stage, live, before hundreds of fans! (He had been with other fans backstage when he was asked to do the interview. Realizing if he didn’t do it someone else would, he made a split second decision and said YES.)
This student’s experience is a great reminder that Wildly Improbable Goals are achieved, and probably more often than we realize. It also reminded me that we can’t always predict what we or others are capable of. I never would have guessed this student could have created the circumstances to make this happen so quickly. But he did.
So, is it time to start dreaming up some WIGs and believing in them? Why not?
*Thanks to Jennifer Macaluso-Gilmore and her Something Different for Women classes for first introducing me to WIGs.