At its deepest and most profound level, coaching assists people to realize their destiny. It’s not just about solving obvious problems or changing bad habits. Coaching is about finding and aligning life with your higher purpose. We assume, on good authority, that our clients are alive and that they have a contribution to make to the healing of the planet. The challenge is to get into the flow of such life-affirming ways. If the daily grind has your destiny hidden from view, then read on. The spirit of this Provision may breathe life into your spirit.
Bob: Destiny is a powerful word. It is far more powerful than duty (what we have to do), suitability (what we like to do), responsibility (what we are able to do), or creativity (what we might do). Destiny implies doing what we are meant to do. At the deepest level, it connects with why we are here, alive, on this planet, at this time.
The question of destiny weaves its way through the Star Wars movies. You may remember these pieces of dialogue:
Yoda: A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the Dark Side. Anger, fear, aggression; the Dark Side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice!
Luke: Vader. … Is the Dark Side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know … when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
The Emperor: Come, boy, see for yourself. From here, you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance and the end of your insignificant rebellion.
[Luke’s eyes go to his lightsaber]
The Emperor: You want this, don’t you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.
The Emperor: It is unavoidable. It is your destiny. You, like your father, are now mine.
Luke: Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you, the conflict.
Darth Vader: There is no conflict.
Luke: You couldn’t bring yourself to kill me before and I don’t believe you’ll destroy me now.
Darth Vader: You underestimate the power of the Dark Side. If you will not fight, then you will meet your destiny.
That’s the stuff of destiny. It’s a matter of life and death, of fulfilling our purpose in the world. Yet that purpose is not always clear and it is certainly not predetermined. Neither Yoda nor The Emperor nor Darth Vader nor even Luke himself knew exactly how things would turn out. The Emperor thought he knew • “It is unavoidable.” • as did Darth Vader • “There is no conflict.” But they were wrong. In the end, Luke chose the path of redemptive suffering. He offered his life instead of taking Vader’s life, and that made all the difference.
Destiny is about making such huge, life-changing choices. Such defining moments don’t present themselves every day, but when they do the decisions we make impact not only our life but the lives of those we love and, on some level, of all the world. Destiny is that significant.
Lance Secretan, in his book Inspire!: What Great Leaders Do, writes often and eloquently about the power of destiny. “We must feel inspired before we can inspire. This singular inspiration comes from a clear knowing about our Destiny, the reason for being on this planet, the way we are connected on our journey with one another and the universe. Few of us know the reason we have been put on this planet • our Destiny • the uniqueness within us that calls to be lived. We cannot be great, nor will we earn the right to lead, until we understand our Destiny, our higher purpose.” That is the first step from which everything else follows.
“If we have no idea of what we are supposed to be doing while we are on this planet, we cannot know the practical purpose and sacred intent of our lives. Therefore, whatever form of relationship we have with others will have no spiritual brilliance to advance or justify it. Without a sense of connection to a divine purpose or higher power, we tend to slip into autopilot, practicing a way of motivating and relating with others that we may have learned by reading biographies or by watching movies and TV heroes. We need a deeper sense of who we are, to be fully present as conscious beings, before we can presume to inspire other beings.”
So how do we discover our destiny? Secretan writes that “letting go of our constant need for approval • projecting onto others what we feel they would like us to be • is a powerful beginning on this path, because with this new freedom, we can see with new eyes, and we can make choices that come from our hearts. Caroline Myss has written, ‘When you do not seek or need external approval, you are at your most powerful. Nobody can disempower you emotionally or psychologically…. You cannot live for prolonged periods of time within the polarity of being true to yourself and needing the approval of others.'”
Coaches often assist clients to achieve such freedom. But freedom alone does not lead to destiny. Coaches also assist clients to connect their freedom to the needs of the planet and the future of humanity. In his book, Secretan suggests a variety of visionary, imaginative, and meditative techniques to bring the needs of the planet and our relationship to those needs into focus. He aims to empower and encourage people to formulate a brief, present-tense statement of their reason for being. Examples include:
- To create a more sustainable and loving planet.
- To illuminate the sacredness in every soul.
- To help those whose voices are not heard.
- To make the world simpler.
- To eliminate poverty housing.
- To save the world’s children from ignorance and despair.
- To build a spiritual, just, and inclusive community.
- To inspire sacred passion.
It may not have been stated in so few words, but it was a destiny statement like that which enabled Luke Skywalker, the hero of the Star Wars movies, to lay down his weapon and to say, in effect, “The violence stops here.” It was redemptive then and it is redemptive now, whenever people come to and live out a positive sense of higher purpose.
That’s apparently what lies behind Bill Gates’ recently announced decision to step down from day-to-day work at Microsoft, effective July 2008, in order to focus his energy full time on the $29 billion dollar foundation that he started with his wife 12 years ago. In what may make him one of the most important philanthropists in U.S. history, Gates will pour himself into a variety of causes including improving global health and education • two issues that he identifies as being “at the crux of global needs.”
“With the success of Microsoft,” Gates told reporters at the company’s headquarters, “I have also been given the gift of great wealth. And with the gift of great wealth, comes great responsibility. A responsibility to give back to society, to see that those resources are put to work in the best possible way to help those in need. This is not a retirement, but a reordering of my priorities. Obviously, this decision was a hard one for me to make. I’m very lucky to have two passions.”
That’s what destiny moments will do to a person: they send us off in new directions with new style, priorities, and passion. They often stand a crossroads where a choice has to be made. They close some doors even as they open others. And, if the choice is well made, they contribute to both our happiness and the happiness of the world. They are healing things, these destiny moments, and we do well to seize them when we can. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, poses the question this way in her 1990 poem, The Summer Day:
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
That is the question we assist our clients to answer at LifeTrek Coaching International. Whether or not, as with Bill Gates, the answer leads to a career change, destiny moments always provoke a sea change of aspirations, relationships, habits, patterns, priorities, and passions. By paying attention, we too will know what to do with our “one wild and precious life.”
Erika: I like to invite the concept of destiny early into coaching conversations. I have always been moved by Marianne Williams’ quote which speaks to the importance of living our lives fully:
“You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. You were born to manifest the glory of God that is within you. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
We are all capable of incredible greatness and it is an amazing honor to be a part of someone else’s journey toward their greater purpose. And, it is too often true that we don’t believe in our own beauty and potential enough to claim it.
One path to discovering one’s destiny is a wonderful guided meditation called “Meeting Your Future Self.” During this experience, client’s imagine themselves on a journey in which they are meeting themselves, their “Future Self,” 20 years into the future. Here they have the opportunity to imagine freely about what the future might look like for them. And, more specifically, they are enabled to dream of what they want for themselves.
For Dan, this experience was unexpectedly powerful and life-changing. Dan came to coaching with the goal of being more productive, looking for ways set bigger goals for the workplace. But, when imagining his future self, Dan heard a clear message about a deeper desire to be more present and attentive to his family. The Future Self was able to express a need that Dan had been unable to say. The meditation was a moving experience which reshaped how he wanted to proceeded with vision and goal setting, and ultimately, how he lived his life for the next many years.
Focus on my own destiny has many times been sharpened when recalling Dawna Markova’s poem, written on the night of her father’s death:
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Like Williamson, Markova speaks to the impact we can each have in the lives of others by embracing our gifts and honoring our potential.
Christina: I’m often reminded during my work with clients of how important it is to check in with myself on my own personal vision. To pause long enough to take a good look at where I am and what I’m moving toward. To carefully consider who I am and who it is I want to be. I need this, like everyone else, because seeing our vision, claiming our destiny, or discovering our purpose can so easily be missed as we move through the motions of our busy lives.
My work with Gil, a Vice President of Sales, provides a wealth of insight into what happens when for the first time clients truly see their destiny. Gil described the suffering he felt from his high-end lifestyle. He was known well in his community and well respected by many. But he did not like how people knew him for his money and success. He stated that even the people closest to him, his wife, best friend, and adult children, really didn’t know much about who he really was or what he really wanted out of life. They knew he was successful at his profession and had a lot of materialistically expensive possessions, but those things were not making Gil happy with his lifestyle or career.
Early in our work together I remember asking Gil to imagine that it is his 80th birthday and that he’s grown to be a very wise man who’s lived an amazingly fulfilled life. “Close your eyes,” I suggested, “and imagine that you have lived a life so internally rich, that you wake up each day with overwhelming excitement about your career and the life you’ve lived.” After a period of silence, I asked him to describe the career and life that complete that picture.
Gil shared with me, for the first time, that he felt as if he knew exactly what he was put on this earth to do and that it was to coach a young boy’s baseball’s team. His vision was so compelling that he immediately started to craft a plan to downsize his lifestyle. His plan included ways in which he would invite the people who loved him most to get to know him and this intimate dream of his. He knew his entire life would change as he moved toward his vision including possibly the people in his life, but the connection he had with his life purpose was powerful enough to carry him through the changes.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work with Gil because he shifted to knowing that it does not matter what kind of car we drive or what materialistic possessions we keep. All that matters in this one go around called life is that our heart is fulfilled, that we’re with people we love, that we do things we love, and that we spend as much time as possible filling the world with love.
Coaching Inquiries: What is your purpose in life? Does it contribute to the healing of the world? Does it make your heart sing? Are there things that you need to set down or to pick up in order to create a new destiny? Who can you talk with about these deep and profound things? How can you move forward in love?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
I have been reading your essays on the various styles of listening Click, and I just wanted you to know that they have been very important to me. I must admit, “I am changed.” I think we can go through a day and may not really listen to what anyone is saying not even listening to the voices in our heads or our gut. We live in a very self-centered world today. If we all aspire to be better listeners today…that could possibly change the world. No, it would change the world as is. I am simply expressing appreciation for your material. Thanks.
Thank you so much for turning me on to the “beta” version of Google Click • I LOVE IT!
I just wanted you to know that you and your son are in my prayers. I expect that he has improved much over the weekend. (Ed. Note: Indeed, he has! He is on the mend. Thanks for your concern.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
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Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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