In Every Thing, There’s Always Obstacles, Big or Small, And the Reaction One Shows to Such Obstacles Is What Counts, Not the Obstacle Itself
Then one morning it struck me like a lightning flash: I had no sense of purpose to what I was doing. Yes, I was doing all the things I loved, but I’d lost my sense of purpose as to my ‘what’ and my ‘why’.
But let’s back up a little, to understand how I found myself in this situation.
I’ve worked as a Work-Life practitioner since 2003, helping people manage, develop and transition their Work-Lives in good times and bad. I’ve done this through coaching, training, developing resources to include books and courses.
Over the last few years, I’ve gravitated more towards my writing work — working from home, sitting in my living room with my laptop writing, is my happy place. It’s what gets me out of bed every morning. It’s what I’m doing when I’m totally engaged when the time just passes by and I have to remind myself to stop and take a break to eat and get some fresh air; and before I know it the morning has turned into evening, and I can still continue writing right into the night.
So, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and we all had to isolate and work from home, I wasn’t at all fazed, because the Work-Life I’ve carved out for myself means I do that pretty much all of the time already. Now all that said, initially I did experience a sense of disappointment.
That was because, having recently launched my first book, Your WorkLife Your Way, I had developed a series of in-person workshops, and I was also planning an official book launch, book readings at bookshops, libraries and cafés, and a wider book tour of the UK and Ireland. I had to cancel all of these events and plans.
The feeling I had was more than disappointment. Underlying was a sense of deep concern. The fact of the matter was that in having to cancel the events, it meant I wouldn’t receive the much-needed income these would have brought in; and I had no way of knowing how long this would last and when I could expect to get back out into the world with my work.
Nevertheless, I decided to make the most of my isolation by reading, researching and learning as much as I could to help improve my writing, which in turn would allow me to continue to help other people in their learning and development.
This started off great; but as the weeks went by, I began to become really restless and listless, and I couldn’t figure out why. After all, I was spending my day doing what I love — reading and writing. I was making time to think, which I always did while taking a lovely long walk while exploring familiar and unfamiliar streets of London. I was living the Work-Life I love, but there was something wrong. I felt there was something missing, but I was really struggling to know what that was.
Then one morning it struck me like a lightning flash. I had no sense of purpose to what I was doing. Yes, I was doing all the things I loved, but I’d lost my sense of purpose as to my ‘what’ and my ‘why’.
What was I actually doing and why was I doing it? I had lost sight of the reason for my work. I had been wandering aimlessly for weeks, which had now turned into months. I had a sense of being busy, because, well I was busy; but busy doing what? Simply put, I just didn’t have a clear enough sense of purpose to my ‘what’ and ‘why’.
I picked up Be Water, My Friend: The True Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee. In the book, Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, illuminates her father’s most powerful life philosophies, and how we can apply his teachings to our daily lives. It’s a book from which I’ve always been able to glean wisdom.
I opened the book on the chapter ‘The Obstacle’, and read these:
Words of Wisdom
“Believe me that in every thing or achievement there are always obstacles, big or small, and the reaction one shows to such obstacles is what counts, not the obstacle itself.”
“In everyday life the mind is capable of moving from one thought to one object to another. However, when one is face-to-face with an opponent in a deadly contest, the mind tends to lose its mobility and get sticky and stopped. This is a problem that haunts everyone.”
“The opponent in this case is the obstacle. When we hit a big roadblock, it’s easy not only to get stuck, but to lose hope. It is not what happens that is success or failure, but what it does to the heart of man. What does it do to your heart? Will you let it defeat you? Or will you learn to use it to step into something new? Something unexpected? Perhaps even something better?
“Remember, my friend, it’s not what happens that counts; it is how you react. Your mental attitude determines what you make of it, either a stepping stone or a stumbling block.”
And that was it, that was the insight I needed in knowing what to do.
Now that I had this realisation, I knew how to go about figuring out the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of my purpose — what I was doing and why I was doing it. That’s because I had done this before in different areas of my work-life.
I knew I needed to ask myself the same question I asked myself in defining my purpose in my work as a WorkLife practitioner and also in defining the purpose of my first book:
How is my work going to help people? I then needed to reflect through self-feedback in knowing what to do, from whatever the answer to this question brought up.
In the past, this question had led me to writing a purpose statement for my work. For example, the statement I wrote for my work as a WorkLife Practitioner is:
“My purpose is to help people pursue their Work-Lives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride, by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.”
And the purpose statement I wrote for my book, Your WorkLife Your Way, is:
“My purpose is to create a resource that helps people live their best Work-Lives by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story.”
I knew I needed to write a purpose statement to give me the clarity I needed for what I had been doing over the last three months, and how this was going to help people.
I had been writing a weekly story, which I published as a blog post and recorded as a podcast episode. I had called it WorkLife Book Wisdom, and I had already written a purpose statement for this which is:
“My purpose is to help people by inspiring readers and listeners through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Stories that will allow them to learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.”
I was really enjoying this work, and I had already written a full year of stories, which I had scheduled to go out weekly on my blog and podcast. Although I sensed there was a way I could develop this further, I didn’t know what that was, and this is where I had been wandering aimlessly with no sense of purpose.
And so, I asked myself my favourite type of questions: ‘What If’ questions. What if this could be developed further? What if people who like to learn through reading, and who also like to discuss books and interesting stories, could come together to share their experiences?
These questions led me to the idea of WorkLife Book Club — a book, or rather a series of books, that I could develop from the weekly WorkLife Book Wisdom stories I write. The thinking behind this idea is that experiences that we have in our WorkLife shape our understanding of the world, and experiences we have through reading can also shape or change us. This provides an opportunity for change and growth, and can communicate truths about human psychology and relationships.
Books help to anchor WorkLife conversations through characters, plots and settings. This may allow people to work through sensitive and nuanced issues in an open and honest manner, because when people come together to discuss stories and engaging texts, they are often presented with characters with competing and often equally valid viewpoints.
That was it. That was my purpose. It was a bit long, though. I always start with the bigger vision and then I endeavour to write a purpose statement from that of one to three sentences, which I can write on a sticky note or two. I then place this close to where I’m working, so that it is always visible, and serves to remind me what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. This is my condensed version of my purpose statement for the book WorkLife Book Club:
My purpose is to write a series of short stories to help people who enjoy learning through reading. Each story presents a WorkLife challenge, a featured book that presents ideas for the protagonist of the story to resolve this, and a discussion between the WorkLife Book Club members, who share their points of view on the case, the book, along with the WorkLife lessons they took from this.
That was it in a nutshell; and now that I had the clarity I needed about what I was doing, and how this could help people (which is always my why), I began to work on the first book in the series of WorkLife Book Club.
Today’s featured book is Be Water, My Friend: The True Teachings of Bruce Lee, by Shannon Lee.
WorkLife Book Wisdom
The intention of this story is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.