On your "Mark...ers"

The process of getting my passions down on paper was a great experience!  I remember feeling elated after reading Attwood’s “The Passion Test” – The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose.  At first, I wasn’t sure I could settle for just five passions after all that “dreaming” as the book instructed. Upon consolidating my long list of those things that bring me joy, passion & fulfillment, and then following the prioritization process, I did indeed manage to commit to my top five passions.  Equally important was having these passions printed and then placed in strategic places, so they are a constant reminder of what’s most important to me.

“Markers” are simply milestones to ensuring I’m on the right path towards keeping these passions a reality.  To me, that which gets measured - gets done!  When these passions / markers are aligned, it becomes almost effortless and that really energizes me!

For example, one of my passions is:  “Coaching enthusiastic clients in reaching their full potential both professionally and personally”.  At first, I always had to seek out potential clients.  Now, I enjoy the “pull” vs. the “push” of my coaching efforts given that these folks are on a journey to better realizing their full potential.  This is further marked by my enthusiasm and their receptivity to what we’re working towards … it’s a win-win!

Another marker is my making a difference in the lives I touch.  There is no better validation of this than when a client “graduates” from our leadership development program and a mention is made that they couldn’t have gotten there without the ongoing coaching and support in staying the course with them.  It takes time, energy, creativity and lots of patience to coach towards leadership excellence.  It reminds me of the saying:  “When the student is ready, the coach will appear”, and this is often the case in the work we do and with the people we serve!  No two coaching clients are ever the same, and that’s what makes our work so enjoyable!

My final marker is helping our children “find their way” in the business world!  As previously mentioned, each of our three children has been through our leadership development process during their senior year in college.  Each of them has managed to draw upon their own “Inner Guidance System”, which was clearly defined during their week-long leadership development retreat with us, in making their career moves.  While they are young and just starting out, we are blessed that they are grounded with their own values, unique abilities, missions and passions!  After all, our children are the future, and it’s up to them to pay-it-forward all that they have learned to the next generation!

Intention, Attention, No Tension!

If you’re suspicious that simply writing down your passions is going to make your wildest dreams come true, your skepticism is justified.  While it is essential to determine your passions, simply stating them is not enough.  You have stated your “intention,” but to live a passionate life, you must now put “attention” toward those passions.  That’s where markers come into play. First, creating markers helps you to crystalize the meaning of your passions.  A passion for living a healthy life or enjoying time with family could mean wildly different things to different people.  For me, “enjoying freedom” was a passion that could be ambiguous if I didn’t take the time to define exactly what freedom meant to me.  In my life, freedom means “defining my work by the outputs rather than the inputs.”  I already mentioned that the average American does 22 hours of productive work in a typical 40-hour work week, so why bother sitting at a desk trying to look busy for the other 18 hours?  For those of you familiar with DISC, this is where my low C shines through.  I feel that if I want to work for 4 hours one day and 12 hours the next, why should it matter to anyone else if I didn’t work the typical 8 hours each day?  Or what if I found a way to get my 8 hours of work done in 6 hours instead?  What can I do with my 2-hour windfall?  Maybe I would take on more work, or maybe I would go read a book…but if I’m going to have to spend those 2 hours at my computer looking busy anyways, then I don’t have much motivation to be more efficient.

Another important aspect of freedom is “working on what I’m passionate about.”  Like most people, trying to stay motivated doing something I don’t have a passion for drains me.  I can buckle down and do it if I have to, but over time my willpower will begin to dwindle.  In my new role at The XLR8 Team, I am fortunate that I am able to explore new business ideas or possible additions to our leadership development processes when I find something that inspires me.

Finally, it is difficult to enjoy freedom without “having enough money to cover the basics and travel.”  I don’t care to buy anything extravagant and don’t need much money.  However, to enjoy freedom it is important to me that I have enough money that it isn’t constantly on my mind.  The only time I like to splurge is on travel.  To live a life of adventure (my top passion) can sometimes be expensive, but by being frugal elsewhere I am able to spend on what is important to me.

Markers tend to be grand goals that may seem daunting.  To make them more manageable, I have found it helpful to include a few daily markers for each passion (that will eventually become part of a happiness list as briefly described in the previous post).  That way, if you follow these smaller markers each day, you will be making progress towards passionately pursuing your goals.  At the end of each day, I ask myself “Did I look forward to getting to work when I woke up this morning?”  Lately, the answer has been a resounding “yes!”  But when I realize that I’m having trouble jumping out of bed and starting my day or I’m dreading what I “have to” do that day (rather than “want to”), it’s a quick reminder that I need to step back and take a look at why I’m not making decisions in line with my passions.  Another daily marker is “Did I waste time trying to look busy?”  It’s a bad habit we all fall into trying to make ourselves look busier than we are.  I try to be grateful for every moment of my day by not wasting a second of it trying to look busy.  Even though I am an entrepreneur and don’t have a “boss” looking over my shoulder, I still find myself sometimes falling into the habit of doing work for the sake of being busy and when I reflect on the day, that’s another red flag for me.

Markers are an essential piece of the puzzle to live a passionate life.  In this instance, “enjoying freedom” was a new addition to my top passions, so creating markers helped me to illustrate exactly what a life of freedom means to me.  In other cases, markers can serve the purpose of getting you to dream bigger than you may have otherwise had the courage to do.  For example, “living a life of adventure” is my top passion.  In the two years since I returned from a three-week adventure backpacking through Europe I have struggled to find that same sense of exhilaration and wonder.  I set a marker “to travel to a new place every year.”  It’s an intimidating commitment to make given the inherent financial costs, but it is fiercely important to me and I know I will regret a life that isn’t filled with adventure.  Markers can also serve to reconnect you to passions you may have abandoned amid the stress of a hectic time in your life.  I enjoy spending time with family and friends and “surrounding myself with those that I love” is my second passion.  However, when I thought back to a recent family gathering, I found myself distracted…falling into the trap of zoning-out watching television or idly checking scores on my phone.  I created markers “to be fully present at all family functions” and “to have meaningful conversations with the people I care about.”  In the month since I set this passion, I had a great conversation with my uncle and learned more about him in an hour than I feel like I had learned my whole life.  I also realized that I had lost touch with many of my friends since graduating from college and set a goal for myself to reach out to a friend every day.  In time I hope that these small reminders will help me to more fully "surround myself with those that I love."  The markers you choose could serve any or all of these purposes.  The important thing is that the markers focus your “attention” on the “intentions” that you clarified.  When you live a life according to the passions that are most important to you, it will truly lead you to “no tension” and a fulfilling life.

Manifesting Your Passions

Over the last several blog entries we have all talked about the process for discovering our top 5 passions.  Now what?  There are a couple of immediate options.

  • Discover where you have been putting your attention up to now by rating each one on a scale of 0 – 10.  Zero means you are not living that passion in your life at all.  Pick at least one to focus on.
  • Make passion cards. (E-mail us and we’ll send you our template).  Simply put, list your passions on a card from 1 – 5; make 4 – 6 copies and post them in place you’ll see them several times a day.  I would suggest reading them to yourself at least twice a day at first.  Here are some typical places:
  1. Your bathroom mirror
  2. Your car dashboard or visor
  3. In your purse or wallet
  4. On your computer screen
  5. On the refrigerator
  • Create markers that will give you milestones or guideposts so that you will know if you are on the right path.  For some it’s an action or goal or feeling they may have when they are fully living their passion.

For me personally back in October 2006, I scored lowest on “being at peace with myself and those I love.”  I actually had one of my cards in the bathroom where I could see it when I brushed my teeth.  While brushing my teeth, I couldn’t help but look in the mirror and what I saw did not bring me peace!

Now I couldn’t do anything about the old guy staring back at me – I know there is a young guy trapped inside there!  But I was 30 pounds overweight AGAIN!!!  I had lost 40 pounds in 1999 - 2000, kept it off for a couple of years, a new record for me, but gained most of it back by 2006.  This has been a pattern since I was 20 years old!  I’ve probably lost the equivalent of 3 - 4 of me over my lifetime.

Well, if I wanted peace, I had to be able to feel good about how I looked in the mirror.  I made a marker of maintaining my weight at 165 – 169 pounds.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to break my pattern, but I knew it was important to me.

I started with the usual things I do to lose weight – that I know how to do.  But this time I did a couple of other things.  I started a vision board by finding a picture of how I wanted to be.  If you have ever flown on a plane there is a picture of a shirtless Dr. Jeff Life in the airline magazine.  Now over 70, he looks great.  So he became my after picture, I have my own now by the way – on my vision board too.

However one of the other new things I began came from a book entitled Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.  The basis of the book is that there are 3 – 4 critical behaviors that can be discovered in any successful change initiative.  For successful weight loss it was weigh yourself every day (I know weight watchers disagrees); eat a healthy breakfast (don’t skip meals); and do some exercise at home every day (even if you have a gym membership).

Now that I am clear about my intention, I need to be vigilant about paying attention to those critical behaviors as part of a comprehensive follow-up process.  For me this included telling people, asking for their ideas and ongoing feedback, my vision board, and creating a list of daily reminders which I call my happiness list.  My happiness list consists of 10 – 12 daily behaviors that focus on three general areas that I am focusing on.  By definition, these behaviors are totally up to me to perform, not dependent on anyone else’s actions or behaviors, and they create positive energy.  I actually write this list on the back of my passion cards and look at them at least twice a day.

It has been 5 years now that I have weighed below 170 pounds, blowing away my previous best.  Now that those behaviors have become habits I have replaced them with a couple of others on my happiness list.  Given my history, I might always have something on it related to maintaining my weight.

So as the Attwoods, authors of The Passion Test, would say, Intention (passions) – Attention (markers, vision board, happiness list) – No Tension (success!)