The «purpose quest» Volume 2.4 ̶ Biography work, meditation, Ikigai and others

In this series of articles, I would like to shed some light on my personal pathway, acknowledging that yours may look very different. The objective is to give you ideas and spark your curiosity so you can start finding out for yourself where your own purpose quest could start. If you want to check on prior articles, you can find volume 1 here and work your way forward from there.

Understand your biography

Looking at your own life story so far, on who influenced you, which circumstances and events shaped your beliefs and convictions can be a very powerful tool. It can help understand why you do the things you do and then from there to question which of these patterns are serving you and which ones you want to let go because they are not helpful.

From a distance, it is much easier to see patterns, grooves and formations in the landscape. The same is true for your own life.

Sometimes through this we learn that the lives of our ancestors still echo inside us and the decisions we make in the here and now are still influenced by a world long gone. This is what inspired my blog post about ambition.
Biography work can be done with a coach or as part of counselling but it can also work fine if you do it alone depending on how comfortable you feel with what you may bring to the surface. Sometimes we learn that we still hold a grudge against someone and that in order to move on, we need to forgive and let go.
There are exercises like writing letters to people who have hurt you, reflecting on who your role models were and describing their qualities. My advice would be not to wrestle with your past too long and too much but to try and find your way back into the present soon and plan for the choices you can make today based on the insights from the past. A set of biographical questions to get going can be found here.

Meditate

There is a 21 day abundance meditation challenge by Deepak Chopra which I embarked on at the beginning of January along with many others (I think they had a snowball kind of system going), invited by a former co-worker and like-minded spirit. It comes with a meditation each day and also exercises that contain elements of self-reflection, self-love, imagining your future and making peace with the world. Although I did not keep up with the strict daily regimen, I found a lot of wisdom in both the assignments and the meditations and they brought me clarity, confidence and lightness.

In this context, I can also recommend the episode on the topic of discovering your purpose in the meditation podcast by Jesse and Jean Stern.

Work with the Ikigai diagram

When I was already a bit further advanced in my purpose quest, my coach Claudia encouraged me to have a look at the Ikigai Venn diagram and write down a couple of activities that fit into the different areas for me. I found that the lines are often blurred, especially with “what you can get paid for”; sometimes the only real way to know this would be to try it. In the “sweet spot” in the centre for me there was

– facilitating workshops to enable collaboration and learning

– public speaking on a topic I am passionate about

– having meaningful conversations with people and help them to grow

– writing (although writing has a question-mark because I am not sure if I could really make a living out of this – you tell me if you’d like to pay for this sort of thing :-))

I felt that in some instances I probably underestimated what I could be paid for and I did not stick to the structure filling out all 13 spaces, just jotted down here and there a couple of things that came to mind. More about Ikigai can be found here.

Feel your purpose through storytelling, the golden circle, and constellation work

At a meetup in Zurich organised by the group “New ways of working” that I participated in towards the end of this chapter of the purpose quest, we were asked to write down stories and anecdotes and share these. All anecdotes were about instances where we were proud that we stood up for what we believe in. With just 2-3 of these stories I found that this already gives a good impression of where you stand in terms of what you hold dear in life. We then took these anecdotes and applied the framework of the golden circle (To…. so that….) to distil out “the why”.

In a second step, we were introduced to the concept of constellation work as a method for getting in touch with your purpose and finding out what your purpose needs (from you) in order to be lived. This is a more spiritual route and similar to the tarot and sculpture building exercises it’s really as much in what you allow yourself to see and read into it. I got to represent another person’s purpose in the exercise and funnily enough, I really felt sensations that I normally don’t have. For instance, my hands felt unusually light. The facilitators told us that this is perfectly normal and guided us in a very kind way to try this approach which was new to most of the people in the room. If you think that sound exciting and you’re in the Zurich region make sure to check out their MeetUp site because they also organise full day workshops on the topic of purpose and other engaging events.

The grass will not grow faster if you pull it and neither will the little one here become a big eider duck any faster if you chase it around. Similarly, insights need time to mature. That’s not easy to accept for someone who is not exactly known for their patience, ahem 🙂

Let it marinate and mature

A frequently used term at Les Enfants Terribles has also found its way into my vocabulary and practice: “To let things marinate”, not jump to conclusions or answers immediately but letting questions sink in, being OK with ambiguity, let ideas and thoughts develop over time. Like marinating a steak or a chunk of tofu or whatever it is that you prefer to marinate. This image and exercise was particularly valuable for me because I have a natural tendency to want to progress, close matters and tick things off the list.

Next volume: 2.5 ̶ The answer (so far)

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