On Service, Sacrifice, and Self

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It is tempting to buy-into the notion that our purpose and calling is solely a product of our personal ambition. While our ambitions may well reflect our personal dreams and hopes for the future, often we discover that our true aim is found in service to others, rather than service solely to self. It’s found in those moments when we are invited to stretch beyond our present comfort; to step out of ourselves and into the world, recognizing that we each are part of a larger whole.

Calling and Purpose

Yet living and leading in service to others need not be a black and white proposition. It does not mean martyring ourselves to our causes or abandoning our own dreams in the process. Importantly, the inevitable sacrifice that comes with serving others is not synonymous with abdicating our sense of personal responsibility, whether to ourselves and/or our families.

Rather, it’s about carrying out our work, in whatever form it takes, from a mindset of noble purpose. It’s recognizing that we each have gifts and talents to offer the world that when combined with the gifts of others, can leave a lasting imprint and create a ripple effect far beyond our own personal vision or reach. It’s allowing ourselves to find meaning and glory in the mundane, not just the milestones of personal achievement.

I’m curious to know…

How do you define and distinguish between personal dreams, ambition and living a purpose-driven life? Are they all one and the same? How to you choose to live out your own sense of calling and purpose? For those who are driven by a deep sense of calling, have you ever martyred yourself to the call at the expense of self-care and personal responsibility? How do you navigate the tension between head and heart? How can we better learn to live and lead from a mindset of noble purpose and service to others, regardless of the work we do in the world?

The Essence of Purpose

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 9.15.00 AMIn a world that beckons us to find our purpose and pursue our passion, it’s easy to become self-centric in our pursuits. While there is nothing wrong with chasing dreams that align with our core passions, living with purpose is about so much more than the form our work takes. It’s about how we choose to show up, share our talents and serve others, regardless of where we are. It’s defined less by what we do, than the gifts we bring to our work and the spirit with which we do it.

I’m curious to know…

What does living on ‘purpose’ mean to you in your own life? How do you choose to show up for others and share your gifts with the world? What is the relationship between pursuing your personal passions and living out your purpose? 

Leaning Back

 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the pursuit of our dreams, we stop living life in the process. We become so focused on the what, where, how, and with whom, that if we’re not careful, we can lose our deeper sense of why. For those of us deeply committed to our causes or careers, sometimes, even when we’re clear, our sense of purpose can get buried when we fail to set boundaries in our lives and sacrifice self-care in the process.

I know this story well, for I’ve been there myself.

(More than I’m proud to admit.)

Regardless of our path or pursuits, we may justify our choices in any number of ways:

“I’m just doing what I have to do.”

“It’s only for a little while.”

“This is the price of success.”

“But I want to make a difference.”

Even when we defend our work for the love of what we do, if we’re not careful, we can lose perspective and potentially get lost along the way, believing that our purpose can only be lived by following a prescriptive path of achievement.

What happens, for example, when external achievement and what others think becomes more important than how we live, lead, love, and serve others in our everyday lives? At what point does a commitment to what we do become more important that who we are — whether as a colleague, parent or friend? What happens when our work, no matter how worthy the cause, actually becomes a way of avoiding responsibility in other areas of our lives? What happens when we fail to show up fully for those we love and/or abandon self-care in the process?

Recently I ran into a friend and former colleague who knew of my recent work and asked how it was going.

A childhood dream realized after years of effort and overcoming numerous obstacles along the way, it represented the crowning glory of what I had once hoped to achieve, but previously feared was forever out of reach. Without question, I loved my colleagues, expanded my skills, and furthered my knowledge of issues I care deeply about. I made deep and lasting friendships, while connecting with women and men around the world whose commitment to women’s empowerment reflect my own. Significantly, I was privileged to be a part of a collective body of work that continues to elevate women’s voices and generate positive ripples of change. For these gifts and so much more, I will always be grateful.

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But as my contract was nearing its end, I realized something else, too.

I realized fairly quickly that sustainable ‘success’ on that particular path required a degree of commitment beyond what I was willing or able to give in this season of my life and found myself re-examining my own sense of purpose, value, and vision for my life moving forward.

I recalled the wisdom of Secretary Albright whose path once serendipitously crossed mine. Sharing some of her own journey and the years of single motherhood that preceded much of her professional ascent, she emphasized the importance of staying clear on my priorities, true to my values, and patient with life itself.

In an honest moment of self-reflection, I also realized that at any given time and under almost any circumstance, each of us can live out our callings in any one of a number of ways — that the highest and best use of our gifts and talents need not be reflected in something extraordinary, but rather, in the ordinariness of our everyday lives; that the form of our work is less important than how we choose to show up, share our gifts, and serve others each and every day.

In that pause of self-reflection, I made a personal decision.

I chose to lean back, regroup, and realign.

I chose to step away from our culturally influenced narrative to relentlessly be more, do more and have more… to achieve, without regard for the cost, whether to ourselves or to those we love.

I chose to be still long enough to reflect on whether my outer choices truly reflect my inner values and priorities, and if not, to consider what needs to change, reminding myself that living an empowered life is as much about owning outcomes and accepting responsibility for my choices as it is about having the option to pursue them in the first place.

I’m curious to know…

In a culture that promotes ‘leaning-in’ — to our dreams, our callings, and our careers, often regardless of cost, what does it mean to ‘lean back’? What does that look like in your own life and career? Has there ever been a time when you stepped back or away from something in order to show up more fully in your own life, while holding yourself accountable for your life’s outcomes? Has there ever been a time when you realized that living on purpose is more than pursuing a singular passion; that it’s as much about how we show up and serve others as it is about what we do and the form that takes? Is your sense of personal success, identity and worth disproportionately defined by your achievements, or can they stand on their own?

 

 

 

 

 

The Meaning of Work

We can choose to focus on achievement, position, and power as an end game, or we can focus on how our work can inspire, influence and create value for others.

I’m curious to know…

What brings meaning and value to your own work? Are you influenced more by what you can get or what you can give? If you are being driven by, is there an end in sight…a point when you can say I’ve achieved ‘enough’? How might the relentless ‘chase’ rob you of the ability to create true meaning and value in your life and work?

Little Steps. Lasting Change.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Krebs, CC License

Often the first step in making a difference in this world begins with finding the courage to give life to a voice; to both hear and be heard.

Far too often, we sit idly on the sidelines of life, wishing for things to be ‘different’. Sometimes we buy into the belief that it’s someone else’s job to fix what’s broken or believe we are too small to make a difference. Yet nothing could be further from the truth! Each of us has within us a gift, talent, purpose or passion to share with the world. Each of us has within us a voice, that when raised in defense of what we believe in; when united with others who share our core values; can create a ripple effect far bigger that has the potential to create real and lasting change.

I’m curious to know…

What change do you wish to see in the world? What causes are you most passionate about? What small step can you take today to get involved? Remember: big change begins with little steps, and global impact starts with local engagement.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re passionate about women’s economic empowerment and the impact it has made in your own life, consider sharing your story with EmpowerWomen.org’s #iamwoman campaign or register on the platform to connect, engage and learn with others from around the world. There’s a plethora of resources and multiple ways to get involved! If you have a heart for the personal development side of women and girls’ empowerment and believe in the value of developing future leaders from the inside out, check out the Global Girls Project and consider lending your own voice and story to the project. Collectively, we believe in the power of stories to inspire, engage, educate and advance big ideas and we’d love to hear from you!]

Photo Credit: Rebbeca Krebs

Journeying Forward

Sometimes we have to take a step back to move forward. We have to disconnect from the busyness of our lives to reconnect with our deeper sense of purpose, before we are finally ready to journey forward to the place we call home.

This past December, I made a choice to disengage from this blog — to ‘wander in the wilderness’ of life for a while — always learning, growing and expanding my own thinking and perspective, while focusing on the most important priorities in my life. In the midst of personal loss, it has been an important season of rest, reflection and renewal, filled with equal parts joy, sorrow, hope, grief, peace and an ever-deepening sense of purpose.

Weaving together the old with the new, the original ‘heart path’ blog is now back — refined, refreshed and ready to relaunch! A little less ‘me’ and a little more ‘we’, the weekly posts, quotes, quips, and questions are intentionally designed to challenge you to reflect more deeply and deliberately on the course and purpose of your own life, while leaving you with bite-sized bits of wisdom (and the occasional dose of wit) on living and leading an authentic, heart-centered life.

Looking forward to journeying forward together!

Sharon

Achieving Together

‘Out to Life’

It’s that time of year when many of us take a time out to do our own post-mortem on the year behind, while drafting our resolutions for the year to come — those areas and elements of our life that we want to expand, enrich, shed or improve upon. And while statistics suggest that few of us actually stick with our resolutions, I think the act of drafting and writing them down is still a worthwhile endeavor — creating, in essence, our own accountability plan for living our best year yet.

Part of my own plan includes being more intentional with my writing — shifting from insight to action, and from random reflection to a more mindful way of sharing my own wisdom and learning with the world. It also includes prioritizing immediate needs and learning to say ‘no’ to some indulgences, so that I can say ‘yes’ to those people and purpose-driven projects that matter most.

With that in mind, I’m taking a break from blogging on this site — allowing myself to more fully engage in life itself and all that it holds in store. Until we meet again, I wish you a very happy new year — one filled with rich opportunities for learning and growth, and an abundance of peace, love, laughter and joy!