While this book is geared towards the spouses of entrepreneurs, these strategies can help anyone looking to find their purpose. The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose.
The Power of Purpose
A solo purpose divides; a shared purpose unites.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why ”. If you’ve found your purpose, you know how much truth this quote holds. Discovering our purpose answers many of life’s biggest questions: “What is the meaning of life?” “Why am I here?” “What is my genius?” And even, “Does my life matter?”
Colliding with purpose is one of the most exhilarating experiences we can have as a human being. Discovering our purpose not only changes the course of our lives, it also impacts the lives of everyone with whom we work. However, it can also come with a cost—particularly to a marriage. When we make the choice to turn our purpose into a profession, it can leave our spouse feeling like our work is more important than he or she is. If one spouse is purpose-driven and the other isn’t, it can be especially hard to understand this relentless pursuit. The commitment to developing a shared purpose as a couple will help bring harmony to these entrepreneurial relationships.
I believe our individual purpose comes “factory installed” in us. It’s an innate calling that, when tapped, becomes impossible to resist. As we pursue this purpose and the full expression of it, it can create a point of contention in our relationships. It can either leave our spouse feeling like our business gets the best of us while she gets the rest of us, or it can be a painful reminder that she has not connected with her own purpose yet. This chapter will serve as a guide for those couples experiencing the dark side of a purpose-driven life. We’ll discuss how discovering our individual and shared purpose introduces us to who we are as our best and highest self.
My client Julie said it best: “I hate watching Jim walk out the door each day because he goes out to change so many lives and make a difference—and it’s a daily reminder that I’m still searching.” Like Julie, many spouses can feel a certain degree of envy that their entrepreneurial spouse has a strong sense of calling and meaning—while they don’t. His sense of purpose, if not experienced by the spouse, can stir discontent or even resentment in a spouse. It can be difficult for a spouse to begin the pursuit of purpose in an entrepreneurial shadow.
It’s natural for an entrepreneur to equate purpose to a business opportunity, but for a spouse who’s not business-minded, that can be off-putting. The fact is, everyone has a purpose. It’s a bonus to be paid for your purpose, but definitely not a necessity. You may be a whiz in the kitchen, or maybe you’re made to be a parent or caretaker. Perhaps you’re the one all your friends call for fashion advice or investment strategies. Purpose doesn’t have to be translated into a business to make it valid. Purpose is anything that introduces us to our best selves. It’s what motivates us to become better and better at something. It’s what makes us stand up a little taller and hold our heads higher. It is the activity that helps us lose track of time and elicits that feeling of being delighted to be alive.
When Something is Missing, It’s Probably Buried
I wholeheartedly believe that your purpose is already in you; that we each came into this life with a unique mission to impact the lives of our fellow humans. I also believe that at a young age, we have a sense of what this purpose might be. As we begin to express this to our friends and family, we are often shut down. Out of protection (love), our family might attempt to inform us of all the tragedy that we’ll encounter if we journey into the pursuit of purpose. I sense this is changing as our human race evolves, but for Generation X and previous generations, there seems to be an experience of being told that we’ll never make it if we reach for the stars.
For me, this was quite literal. I vividly remember the day my fourth-grade teacher announced we’d be doing a report on what we wanted to be when we grew up. We had just returned from the playground where I had spent the entire recess being chased in flirtatious pursuit by my classmate, Brian. With my , thanks to this blossoming crush, I was quick to volunteer my answer. I eagerly raised my hand and confidently proclaimed, “Mrs. Egezio, I’m going to be an astronaut!!” Without missing a beat, my new crush—Brian—exclaimed “Kelly, you can’t be an astronaut; you have to be smart to be an astronaut!
The class erupted in laughter. And there it was. In that moment, I buried my dreams. In that moment, I chose to be the fun girl—the life of the party—so no one would laugh at my dreams again. As you’ll remember, I even went to college and got a degree in “play.” That provided me with even more fun as I landed jobs at Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, and Hilton Head Island. What a great life, right?
But something was still missing. As you now know, I was missing my calling. Thankfully, I eventually found it, and through discovering that purpose, I learned to recognize the lie that I had created to keep myself safe from the rejection I experienced that day in fourth grade. If you find that you are in purpose-seeking mode, I challenge you to find the moment you decided to keep yourself safe. When did you decide that it was unsafe to pursue your dream? Go back to that moment. Can you see the lie? It is only in discovering the lie that we can reveal the truth
When I realized I was basing my entire life around the faulty belief that my value as a person was to be fun, I was able to step more powerfully into my intelligence—and it changed everything.
Disparagement of our purpose is one of the harshest forms of criticism we can receive. In essence, we’re being told we’re not equipped to do what we are meant to do. Can you see how tempting it would be to shut down this pursuit altogether? The path of dogma can feel much safer than being told we’re wrong about our own dreams.
This is where the quiet desperation sets in and that feeling that something is missing begins to arise. The moment you accept this calling and start saying yes to it is the moment your purpose will begin to reveal itself.
Letting Your Purpose Find You
Generally, the people I work with fall into two categories: purpose-driven or purpose-seeking. The truth is, most purpose-driven people I know didn’t find their purpose; their purpose found them. And it happened by saying yes to something unexpected. This was true for me as well.
When I was twenty-five, I had just moved back to Chicago from Florida and I had no interest in finding my purpose because, quite frankly, I was still telling myself that I was supposed to be the fun one! I had big plans to get a job in special events because I figured that if I had to work, it might as well be at a party. So, I hired a headhunter to help me in my pursuit, and her first suggestion went over like a lead balloon. “I have a client called Strategic Coach. They set up workshops for entrepreneurs. I can get you an interview this week.”
My knee-jerk reaction was, “No, way!” I imagined myself assembling trade show booths in sterile convention halls. “That’s the last thing I want to do.” But I needed a practice interview, so I begrudgingly told the headhunter to go ahead and schedule it.
I did no research on this company prior to my interview. I had no idea that coaching was an industry, or that this type of work even existed. But when I showed up at the offices of Strategic Coach in Rosemont, Illinois, I was captivated. I call it my “mother ship” because the moment I walked in the door, I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization. The art on the wall, the books, and their mission (“Work Less. Make More.”) all spoke to me. I was home.
As my interview began, I learned more about the concept of coaching entrepreneurs. It was so intuitive to me that I found myself “talking the talk” right away. That was the day everything changed for me. It was the first time I wanted more for myself. The first time I saw a bigger future for myself. It was the first time I met my higher self.
At long last, I started taking myself more seriously. No longer was I interested in just going out on the weekends and drinking margaritas. I wanted more for myself; to be around more inspiring people. I had realized that I could make a difference in people’s lives, and that my own life— here—could actually matter. Before my interview, I hadn’t been concerned with finding my purpose; now, I couldn’t live without it. And it all started with an unexpected yes.
If you feel you are on the purpose-seeking end of the spectrum, congratulations! That tug is your indicator that you are on the brink. That void—or the feeling that there must be something more—is your calling to bigger things.
However, I find that spouses of entrepreneurs tend to dismiss this feeling more than any other group. I hear things like, “We have such a great life; who am I to ask for more?” And, “I feel bad about feeling unfulfilled; we have such an amazing life together. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
In my experience, I have found that spouses of entrepreneurs can get so caught up in the minutiae of everyone else’s dreams and goals, they neglect their own. In this state, they get carried so far away from their personal desires that they end up getting squeezed out of their own lives. They look around at all they have and still feel like something is missing. That “something” is often their sense of self.
Moving from purpose-seeking to purpose-driven starts with giving yourself permission to ask for more. Accept that it’s okay to seemingly have it all and still ask for more. That feeling only comes when there is more in store for you.
The Importance of a Shared Purpose
The power of purpose is more than an individual pursuit. It’s the defining quality that takes couples from ordinary to extraordinary. Couples can be at odds over many things, including finances and parenting, but when they have a shared sense of purpose, they establish longevity and unity that surpasses their unaligned counterparts. The reason is simple: Purpose is fuel. It’s the driving factor that allows us to plow through the obstacles to reach our goal.
One way to identify your purpose as a couple is to think about your life in five, ten, or fifty years. Whom have you helped? What is the difference you have made as a couple? With whom are you spending time each day? For what reasons are people seeking your company? Your answers to these questions will help set the course for your direction as a purpose-driven couple.
Both partners are working toward the same goal, whether that’s retiring on the beach, traveling 150 days a year, or starting a nonprofit. It can be to be totally focused on kids and grand kids, or to have the business carry on through future generations. The vision itself doesn’t matter; what matters is that both the entrepreneur and his spouse share a powerful vision of where they are going together.
If a spouse has not experienced a personal sense of purpose, and is living with a purpose-driven entrepreneur, the first step is not necessarily to find her own life’s
purpose right away. Instead, it is to get on board with a sense of shared purpose in her relationship with her spouse. Both members of the couple can ask, “Where are we going together?” This question clarifies their expectations of their roles within the marriage. For example, if they share a retirement goal, what is the spouse doing to preserve the wealth? If it’s a charity goal, which charity is it going to be and is the spouse contributing in other, non financial ways? The object is for the entrepreneur and spouse to have a shared purpose in the relationship. Establishing purpose in the relationship helps to bring greater harmony and fulfillment to both parties.
Owning Your Brilliance as the Gateway to Purpose
Jon Butcher, founder of Lifebook, and his wife, Missy, present a great example of how two extraordinary people can create that one extraordinary marriage through the power of purpose. After nearly thirty years together, they’re the most legendary couple I’ve met, and among entrepreneurs, they’re considered to be one of the most powerful couples in the community. It’s no secret how they came to possess the sultry romance that they have: they have created a shared purpose that requires both of them to consistently show up as their best self in twelve categories of life
Missy remembers how, when they first began dating, she held Jon in such high regard that she asked herself whom she had to be to become his partner. “I have to step up in every area of my life,” she concluded.
Similarly, Jon has spoken about Missy, saying, “My love for her transcends my love of all else—my businesses, my children, everything! If I have to choose between work or being with Missy, it will be Missy every time because she’s just such a magnificent creature.” Missy is captivating to Jon because she’s clear on her own purpose and has found the line between support and self-care.
Missy has owned her own brilliance. She felt that Jon was firing on all cylinders in so many areas of his life that she was inspired to elevate hers as well. She recognized that it takes two extraordinary people to create one extraordinary relationship. Looking at these two, they are an exact match (yet not a duplicate) in terms of how well they have elevated their respective games.
Entrepreneurs are wired to take extreme ownership over their lives. The spouse also needs to take ownership over her life, establish her own identity and activities, and pursue her own dreams and purpose. It is through this place of self-ownership and purpose that authentic growth will take the couple from ordinary to extraordinary.
Purpose in Action
Empowering the spouse to pursue her own goals and dreams, and to find a passion that revives her in her own unique way, renews the passion in a marriage. We focus on the spouse’s personal life or her unique traits and gifts. Because our purpose lives in us, we strip away all the external factors—career, money, kids, spouses, parents, and other people’s expectations. We focus on the six areas that make up her personal life and promote growth: energy, emotion, character, wellness and beauty, spirituality, and relationships. Understanding who she is at her best in these six categories is a powerful motivator for her to discover her greater purpose.
Energy. The most common objection I hear from spouses is there’s no time to explore new passions. That’s code for they are spending time (and energy) on all the wrong things. Before we can identify what we should start doing, we have to be clear on what to stop doing.
Everything in your life today served you at one point— that’s why you did it. But to step into higher purpose, we need to rid ourselves of everything that no longer serves us. When we honestly look at our habits and see how much time we’re spending on activities that add little value to our lives—like watching television or browsing social media—the results are shocking. There is especially enormous emotional baggage connected to social media; we see only the highlights of life, and that prompts us to compare ourselves to others. Managing or eliminating those habits creates more time and energy for bigger pursuits that are more aligned with where we want to go in life.
Creating Energy for More Fulfilling Pursuit
The exercise I referenced in Chapter 4, The Power of Play, is a powerful approach to creating energy for more fulfilling pursuits. In business, entrepreneurs often have a great deal of delegation power and are trained to focus on things at which they excel. In the household, a lot of the tasks entrepreneurs don’t like to do get delegated to the spouse—but we want the spouse to adopt the same empowered mind-set of doing what energizes her and to delegate or eliminate the rest.
Of course, there are obligations we have to fulfill in our daily lives, like handling finances and feeding our kids. Outsourcing activities that drain you and adopting strategies to better utilize time will open up the space and energy you need for the life you do want to have.
Thoughts & Emotion
Thoughts & Emotion. If we aren’t intentional about our purpose, we are at the mercy of external circumstances. Either we control our thoughts or our emotions control us. Work to identify and actively create the emotions you want to experience in your life. Start with what you’re currently feeling. If your baseline emotional state is filled with anxiety, depression, or apathy, look at what’s causing this stress and ascertain how you do want to feel. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to create a space in which I am experiencing these positive emotions more often? With whom do I need to spend time? What places or activities will get me there? What thoughts and beliefs will create those emotions?”
Sometimes, it is only by becoming clear about your emotions that you can enact tangible change in your life. A client of mine, Gabrielle, had begun coaching while feeling unfulfilled, resentful, and uncertain. She often acted out in anger and was short-tempered and easily agitated. When issues arose in her life, she was apathetic and acted like they were everyone else’s problem. When I asked her how she wanted to feel, she answered, “Fulfilled, at ease, passionate, and happy.”
Through our sessions, we identified the source of her negativity: She believed everything in her life was falling short of her expectations. It was almost like she was hardwired to find fault; she lived in constant disappointment of her husband, her kids, her house, and her career. By simply choosing more empowering thoughts that reflected the way she DID want to feel, she was able to live in greater joy and abundance.
Character. Who do you need to be to get everything you want? I used to think this was a manipulative question until I got to the core of what it really means: If you want a different result in your life, you have to start doing things differently. If you want to see direct, positive, and permanent changes in your life, you have to implement different daily habits on a cellular level, because that will change your character.
For example, I used to say that I wasn’t an organized person; I just claimed it wasn’t a part of my personality. Then I realized that if I wanted to grow a successful business, not being organized was holding me back. To get the result I wanted, I needed to retrain myself to maintain consistent records and keep my calendar in order; when I did this, organization became a part of who I am.
Finding Your Courage
One character trait a lot of my clients work on is courage. This could mean the courage to get a babysitter and spend more time away from our kids, the courage to develop deeper intimacy with our spouse, the courage to go out and pursue that dream job, or even the courage to distance ourselves from friendships that are bringing us down.
Too often, we neglect our own wants and needs due to guilt narratives. We need to have the courage to believe that caring for and honoring ourselves first will produce positive results in every other aspect of our life. For instance, it is not easy for most women to be stay-at-home moms; I think women who can do that underestimate how important their work is. Women like Gabrielle and me—who love being moms but who are also driven to pursue dreams aside from motherhood—need to find the courage to release that guilt. Having a healthy attitude toward balancing family life with work life allows us to become happier and more fulfilled.
Wellness and Beauty
Wellness and Beauty. Our health is our first wealth. It is also the first data-point others use to determine how we expect to be treated. If we don’t treat ourselves well, why should they?
When we look good, we feel good! Confidence is the electricity of life, so we must actively transform our outward appearances to reflect how we feel on the inside. It can be easy to “let yourself go” after marriage, but that lackluster external appearance will always translate to a dull inner light as well.
Through our appearances, we are also actively creating our own personal brands. For instance, when you choose clothing and accessories, do you have a style preference? Do you like to look sophisticated, or timeless, or original? What’s the personal brand that resonates with you, that’s always going to remind you to step into your best self in your work and with others?
Best Beauty Strategy
The best beauty strategy is taking a proactive approach to maintaining your health—not waiting until you’re sick to go to the doctor, but rather, preserving the state of well-being you already have. For me, that means chiropractic care, a balanced diet, massage, and enjoyable exercise. For you, it can include whichever healthcare and self-care rituals you maintain to preserve your well-being. It might involve practicing conscious eating—that is, slowing down to give your full attention to what and how much you’re consuming. You might also want to stay active with exercise that you look forward to, like yoga, rowing, hiking, or running.
It’s important to maintain our wellness and personal brand because this area touches every other area of our lives. When we start to neglect this area, it affects other areas of our lives, such as our self-esteem, our relationships, and even our finances. The maintenance of our health and appearance tends to be the last thing we let go of, and when we stop caring for ourselves, it’s a primary indicator that we’re near our rock bottom. It’s also the first area we should focus on as we resume our climb back upward. It’s THAT foundational.
Spirituality. We connect to spirituality when we ask the big questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” It’s independent from religion, although for some people, spirituality and religion are entwined. Spirituality is connecting to our higher power, so for some people, that’s God, or the Universe, or Source; others regard it as their own intuition. Spirituality is whatever life force guides you. It’s where we can be still and hear that small voice inside us that helps us tap into our inherent knowledge
To connect with your spirituality, the first thing to do is to clarify what this looks like for you. For some people, it means going to church, while for others, it’s spending time in nature, or being by the water, or reading, or meditating. The important thing is to identify the rituals that will bring you closest to love and remind you of how you are part of a bigger picture. Connecting with your personal spirituality should inspire you to commit more energy to your exterior life by providing you a time of rest and reprieve.
Spirituality is the underlying connection between the six areas of growth. It’s what gives us courage to go from being without purpose to purpose-seeking by saying yes to things we normally wouldn’t say yes to. It’s what helps us understand which negative activities and influences in life we can relinquish. So as we identify our sacred rituals, we also understand what we must say no to in order to prioritize the practices that will most fully serve our life.
Relationships. It’s important to surround yourself with people who challenge you to improve and who support your goals and dreams. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Therefore, you want to have relationships with people who are working to better themselves. When the sky’s the limit, everyone elevates one another.
Our identities are often fed by the people with whom we spend the most time. If your social network is mostly made up of negative people, it will be much harder for you to keep up your motivation and grow. Often, when people begin the pursuit of purpose, the people around them begin to feel threatened. Their friends may think, Wait a minute; if she starts to grow, she may outgrow me. They may work to keep you in their comfort zone by projecting fear and negativity. They may be unsupportive or show signs of jealousy or that oh-so-supportive pretense of protection: urging you to “just be happy with what you’ve got.
The Art of Letting Go
The art of letting go is useful here. There is a common, emotionally charged perception that women have a fixed group of friends they are supposed to maintain relationships with throughout their lives. But the truth is that our social circles are always evolving. Our connections are transient. If you look at your current social circle, you’ll notice that it includes people from every phase of your life, from your work friends to your church friends to your old college friends to the friends you see at your kids’ sports games. You’re already connected with many different groups, and social circles change and evolve quickly these days. If you are spending a lot of time with old childhood friends and are looking for a more encouraging group, you can start to shift more of your attention to your friends from the gym, work, or school. Give yourself permission to move on and find a more positive social network; it might be easier than you think.
Focusing on these six areas of personal development will empower you to see yourself in your highest light and break the chains of an unfulfilling life. Who are you as your highest self in each of these categories? More important, what becomes possible for you when you are clear and confident in each of these areas? All the things you desire in life—deeper relationships, wealth generation and preservation, having a legacy, making a difference, serving others, purchasing your dream home, maintaining solid business growth—are the result of the work you will do in these six crucial areas. Once you are clear on that, you can change the game for yourself and your family.