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Category: Life Purpose

The secret to a fulfilling life.

My mission is to help people lead more fulfilling lives. What I call Jam. I’ve been doing this work long enough to see the paradox in seeking fulfillment. The idea that fulfillment is something to attain, a destination, something we can enter into google maps if create the right action plan and script the right moves. The paradox is this – how can something so inherently intrinsic as fulfillment be found outside of us?

I’ve recently moved to a new country. I’ve taken the change as an opportunity to slow down while we transition our boys. The time has allowed me to re-commit myself to some of the tools and resources that have always been helpful (but hard to sustain) in my spiritual and personal growth.

Jam isn’t linear…

In my coaching practice, the client creates goals and I support the client in achieving their goals. Goal setting can be a linear process, but as with most things in life, the circuitous journey (whatever we discover about ourselves along the way) is equally, if not more, valuable.

In coaching people to Live their Jam, the notion that there is a linear process for leading a fulfilling life is misleading. And most importantly, it places our attention in the wrong direction. As I stated, Jam isn’t something outside of ourselves that we have to go searching for, and even if we reach it, we don’t get a golden ticket to sustainment. This can only mean one thing.

Drum roll…

We can only live a fulfilled life by consciously choosing the present moment.

I think we have all heard this before. But, why is it so difficult to live in the present moment? You would think with all the advances in modern science, technology and mental health we could find fulfillment! Yet, it’s gotten more elusive. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting around 40 million adults — almost 1 in 5 people. Let’s take a look at what’s getting in our way of Living our Jam.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in the present moment; we live in the future.

Beware of Destination Addiction – A preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

Robert Holden, PhD.

It’s true we all think that wanting the next thing is the voice of our true self, but it’s not. As Eckhart Tolle says, “The ego is lacking. It’s in a constant state of always wanting more.” We have all experienced the insatiable wanting of the ego.  If we get that job, that car, that bonus, that vacation. If our child gets into that school or plays that sport. If that person thinks we are smart, or if we can prove how competent we are, THEN life will be (outstanding, awesome, perfect). That’s not living the present. It’s a never-ending cycle of, “I don’t have something and when I do have that something — my life will be amazeballs!” (Something = material thing, relationship, job, prestige, legitimacy.)

Living in the future-thought cycle ensures one thing – we will never be content.  

When we let the ego tell us what is important in our life, our life becomes driven by unexamined intentions and automatic reactions to the world. We get further and further away from ourselves. So far, in fact, that we can’t even create what we want any more — because we don’t really know what fulfills us. 

Our ego may even mislead us to what our Jam is! Many have pursued a dream that wasn’t our own! We love our parents and family and often confuse their wanting for our path. Or for some of us, our lack of fulfillment leads to a life where we become too involved, too enmeshed in the pursuits of our children.

Our ego weaves and holds the story we tell ourselves about our lives, so it’s understandable that many of us have pursued a path that was not of our own making. When we quiet the ego, Jam can be found as we sense what authentically lights us up. And, as we stay in the present moment, we can truly feel what appeals to us and what does not without the critique of the ego.

Many of us live in the past.

Another preoccupation of the ego is to live in the past. Those of us who live in the past either relish or regret what was. We prefer our identity back then or we return to the past because we don’t like what the future holds.  When we live in the past, our narrative is trapped in time and can be heard in our lack of acceptance and responsibility for our current situation.

The past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.

Eckhart Tolle

When we realize that lasting fulfillment isn’t “out there” or “back there” we are free to mindfully give our attention completely to what we are experiencing in the NOW. 

Let’s look at another way we stay out of the present moment and away from our Jam…

Most of us push away “challenging” feelings.

We spend so much of our time actively avoiding pain or disappointment that we forfeit now. Two ways we avoid challenging emotions are: 1) trivializing and, 2) moving into action.

For example, our neighbor gets a new car and remodels their home. We instantly feel mixed. We are happy for them but, we don’t like the ugly pangs of jealousy and inadequacy. So, we deny it! We make it “bad” rather than just is. Or perhaps we suppress the feeling and turn our minds to work on how we can afford to remodel our home!

Some of us make the mistake of equating painful feelings only to the “big things” like depression or the death of a loved one. We let go of these feelings that are part of human existence. Feelings of not belonging, not being good enough, not being liked. These feelings can come through even in the most common of situations! That’s why social media can be so unhealthy. The images and popularity can leave us feeling woefully inadequate. It’s okay to have these feelings – the key is to stay in the present moment and become skilled at noticing them from a distance. It is in this objective stand that they can exist but not have such a hold on us.

Here’s what works.

Accepting our feelings and reactions to situations is healthy. We can then move into conscious action. For example, limiting our exposure to social media would be conscious action after noticing and sitting with the anxiety we might feel after we peruse sites. Or, noticing we have personality traits that we don’t like, but accepting them nonetheless. Doing this allows us to be more whole – to experience all of ourselves and not just compartments.

Our impulse is usually either to try to deny our pain, by suppression or self-medication or to get caught up in dwelling on it through rumination and worry, allowing it to take charge of our lives.  How will you know the difficulties of being human, if you are always flying off to blue perfection? Where will you plant your grief seeds? We need ground to scrape and hoe, not the sky of unspecified desire.” 

Rumi

We are NOT our habitual thoughts and emotions

One of the most liberating and beautiful truths is that we are not that voice in our heads. When we give our thoughts and emotions too much power they can overcome us. Through meditation and other mindfulness practices, we can train ourselves to look at our thoughts and emotions and not necessarily silence them, but distance ourselves. Game Changer!

We can look at our emotions and thoughts objectively and do nothing but observe them! We can later decide how we want to think, feel, and react. And, even when our mind wanders as it will in meditation, we can learn not to judge it. As Dr. Herbert Benson,  founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital suggests, when our mind wanders we can simply say to ourselves, “Oh well.” And, put our attention right back on our meditation (our breath, our body, our visualization).

There is nothing more important to true growth than recognizing you are not the voice of the mind. You are the one that hears it.

Michael A. Singer author of “The Untethered Soul”

How do you know if you are living in the present moment?

If you are aware of your thoughts and emotions, then you are in the present moment. The mind has two areas. The thinking mind and the observing mind — both are extremely valuable. We tend to over-rely on the thinking mind in the Western hemisphere. But, the observing mind is what ancient traditions have taught to live in the present moment. Try to observe what you are thinking. Notice the voice, let the voice do all its talking and just observe. That’s the present moment. You don’t have to try too hard, the voice will talk and you just have to listen and know that the voice is not YOU.

Jam exists in the present moment!

No matter where I have lived, nature has been my portal to presence. Nature is central to the Swiss way of life. And once again, nature has gifted me with a clarity that is transformative. I will serve others to lead a fulfilling life through the present moment.

Jam exists in the present moment because when we are focused on what we are doing and enjoying it — we are at peace and in connection with our true self (God, the universe, our soul). And, when we face adversity in the present moment, we can just take that as information, too. Information not to be ignored or dramatized, but as information that is also a part of who we are. It’s so simple and yet our modern life has complicated what we know. That we each have our own access to Jam – Every. Day.

If you are interested in some practical tips on how to become more present every day, please make sure you are on my email list. I’m also still trying to build my audience, so if you know of anyone who would enjoy this content, please forward to them so they can sign up for my email list.

Love and light,

Ellen

PHOTO CRED: Rebekah Gates. Near Einsiedeln, Switzerland 2020

How we moved to Switzerland

Our move abroad wasn’t a fluke…

Our idea to move to Switzerland was put in motion in 2009, when my husband and I were deciding where to raise our sons.

Our first big move was intentional. Like most new parents (we had two boys under two), deciding where our sons would spend their formative years felt both weighty and exciting. Between two careers, two babies with colic, and two dogs in a 1200 square foot rental, Rob and I created our vision for what was next. We chose Pleasanton, CA — 30 miles east of Berkeley, CA — where we made our start as a couple. In retrospect, a winning factor for Pleasanton was its many lovely outdoor pools and parks with water features. After our first visit, I told Rob it felt like Club Med, or what I thought Club Med to be based on the New York Times Travel section ads. In the end, our fate was sealed with a lethal combo of new parent conscientiousness and all-inclusive vacation fantasy. 2009 was a very intentional year for our young family.

Switzerland wasn’t on the agenda at this point. In fact, it never really was, but I’ll get to that in a bit. At the same time we were moving our family to Pleasanton, Rob and I had the foresight to commit to creating the next 10 years. THE NEXT TEN. I am not much of a planner by nature, but I am a possibility person. Plus, I facilitated business meetings for a living, so I’m no stranger to visioning exercises. Luckily, Rob is always game. So, as we settled into our suburban environs — a pact was born. It looked like this, “No matter where we are in the next 10 years, we will be as intentional about creating those ensuing 10 years, as we are the current 10. Why 10? Our boys would be transitioning from primary school to middle school at that point. Plus, it makes for easy counting.

Our family thrived in Pleasanton. It more than delivered on providing the community and educational experience we desired for our boys. At the 8-year mark, when our sons were entering grades 4 and 5, our task to consciously envision the next 10 years was upon us. Rob and I checked-in while hiking one Sunday morning. We both agreed that our family was thriving, but the frenetic pace of the Bay Area, while stimulating for our work life, put unnecessary strain on our family life. And, even more importantly, we agreed there was so much more “out there” and felt pulled to be “open” to something new. We didn’t have a solid plan or any answers. My work could take me almost anywhere; Rob’s work was not flexible. Being in technology, the Silicon Valley seemed hard to beat. We agreed to start small — pursue possibility with clear intention and minimal effort. We then took two very small but intentional steps:

Take these two simple steps to manifest what you want in your life…

  1. PUT INTENTION INTO ACTION: We began our intention of moving by looking at things differently. We committed to look at each place we visited for work or pleasure, with open minds and ask, “Could we live here?” We visited ten different cities in next two years. We took notes and discussed our findings so we could agree (or not) on the ingredients for our new vision. Through this process, we also created an option to stay in the Bay Area and make a few small, but powerful changes to the way we lived, so we could, in fact, slow our pace have more family-time. And, we also did something else….
  2. LET THE UNIVERSE DO THE WORK: I created a quick visioning exercise with a small process (or ritual) where each of us wrote the vision for our family for the next 10 years. The only instruction I gave was to put consideration into how it would “feel” and not worry about specific details. Our boys were 9 and 10 years old at the time, and I was amazed at what they wrote. I then read each of our visions aloud and circled the similar themes. Our themes were: more time together as a family, less time in the car, more time in nature, somewhere less crowded but still interesting, mountains, water, and somewhere that had a lot to offer, good schools and a sense of community. There were a few outliers like, more X-Box time or unlimited ice cream, but for the most part, I was amazed at how aligned we all were. And, then, I folded up the pieces of paper and put them on my office book shelf under a paperweight. And, left them there for the universe to do the rest. Tips:
    • The ACT of writing our ideas pen to paper is critical because it puts energy into the universe.
    • Reading intentions to another or in our case, sharing our visions was a critical step for our family because it symbolized what we together, wanted to create. Even if this is not empirically true – if you are reading this and want to create more possibility in your life – it can’t hurt to WRITE IT DOWN or SAY IT OUT LOUD in the presence of others. It’s powerful – try it.

There was a knock on the door…

Almost eighteen months later, we were on a family vacation in Williamsburg, VA. And, Rob stepped out of our hotel room for a work call. When he was done, he knocked on the door to our hotel room and as I opened it he said, “You aren’t going to believe it, but I got a job offer for a new role that’s very exciting and they want me to move to Europe.”

When I put our vision papers on that makeshift altar on the bookshelf in my home-office, I never considered Europe. Rob and I never discussed Switzerland. Not because it wouldn’t be desirable, but because it never occurred to us to dream that big. We jumped at the chance to move to realizing that we would never squander what the Universe offered. Tip: If the universe creates something bigger than you dreamed, don’t debate it. Just go for it.

I have a series of stories like this from my life. The story I just shared is very similar to how I met Rob, I wrote out a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner and put it in my underwear drawer! When we bought our first house in Pleasanton, there were a myriad of things that had to happen which we had no control over in critical window of time in the very competitive Bay Area. In both these instances, too, I had to let go to before anything “happened”.

Every time one of these inexplicable major events have happened in my life, it’s brought me to my knees. Literally. I’m humbled and reminded that I’m always being taken care of by something bigger than myself. I try to return the gifts I have received from the Universe to others; sometimes, by sharing my stories and inspiration, or listening to others pain and joys, or providing solid support and guidance when others need it. I try to remind others that living a life of intention isn’t easy, but the Universe (insert your word here) is always there to help us.

My intention is to spend more time now on Live Your Jam. I’ve let go of my consulting practice and will focus solely on coaching and helping others Live their Jam. I have some ideas. I’m not really sure where the Universe will take me, but I know from experience, I’ll be humbled. I invite you to follow me and also share your inexplicable stories and Jam lessons with me.

Love and light,

Ellen

8 Keys to Finding Your Life Purpose

Everyone has their own unique gifts to offer the world. We all want our lives to matter and leave the world better because we were in it. The 8 keys to finding your life purpose are listed below. But, there are two tricky aspects of Life Purpose that we should all be aware of.

1. Life Purpose isn’t singular; it’s collective.

Thinking we have one singular purpose is a fallacy. We can have many paths that we fully enjoy, give us meaning, fulfill us, and then, that path may lead to another. We have to be awake to what we are being called to next and have the courage to follow it. It’s the collective that embodies our purpose.

For the first part of my career, I was in Finance. My oldest brother lost his life to cancer and my parents and family were shattered. When I graduated from college, as a healing homage to my parents, I decided to work really hard and succeed at whatever I put my mind to. Subconsciously, I thought if I were successful, it would bring my folks joy and perhaps alleviate some of their pain. No one asked me to do this, but, with the drive to heal them – I began a very successful career in Finance — something I had no deep interest in. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I realized that I was going down a path that felt empty inside.

I was able to take time after my Fiance career to discover that what I really wanted was quite simple- to help people lead more fulfilling lives. My soul’s destiny is to be an inspirer, mentor, teacher, and someone who helps others shine their own light.

I am now on my third big career shift helping others lead more fulfilling lives. I am now an expert at teaching others to shine their own lights. But, if I hadn’t had the Finance and Business background, I couldn’t have easily transitioned to my second shift as an Organization Development Consultant and Executive Coach. So, I see life purpose as our collective experience. All roads lead to the other and are intertwined and in each shift or stage, we are sharing and honing our unique gifts.

2. Life Purpose is not out there somewhere. It’s in the present moment.

This is such a hard CONCEPT! Eckhart Tolle helped me understand this fully for myself. He says that our outer purpose changes with circumstances and necessarily involves time. Which is what I’m describing above. We have more than one life purpose. It shifts, changes, grows as we grow. We need to stay open and listen to our deep desires in order to follow them to greater fulfillment and alignment with our true Self. Whereas our inner purpose always remains the same. Our inner purpose requires us to be absolutely present in whatever we do and so let our actions be guided and empowered by awareness, the awakened consciousness, rather than controlled by the egoic mind. We fulfill our destiny and realize our purpose when we awaken to who we are: conscious Presence. I highly recommend anyone who has not read Awakening to a New Earth by Eckhart Tolle to read it immediately.

How do you view your Life Purpose? Do you see it as something out in front of you? Or do you see it in your ability to stay present – truly present with what comes from inside of you. Not what your mind says, but that voice that we all have that represents our soul’s desire. Here are 8 Inspirational Truths to help you have the courage to design a life that can keep you aligned with your Soul’s calling.

8 Inspirational Truths to Help you Find Your Life Purpose

  1. You were born for a purpose.
  2. You have innate gifts that are meant to be share with the world.
  3. Your purpose is an energetic field just like you; it shifts. changes, and grows.
  4. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.
  5. Spend your time with people who inspire you and have done thing you aspire to.
  6. Participate more in your life and plan less.
  7. Place your attention on what you want; not what you don’t want.
  8. Know what gives you energy and fulfills you – when faced with decisions in your day, choose those things

Live Your Jam presents: Polly Doyle’s Inspiring Jam Story

My childhood friend Polly has been helping others for years and was ready for a change. Hear how Polly courageously closed the door on her career of 20 years and opened a new door to live her Jam.

 

VIKTOR FRANKL, LIFE PURPOSE and JAM

The notion that humans are intended for a certain purpose goes back many centuries. Rumi, a beloved 13th century Sufi poet, wrote extensively about life purpose. He wrote, “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart”.  The Christian tradition is rich with proverbs and passages from the Bible that discuss God’s calling people to a purpose. Apostle Paul says, “We are God’s handi­work, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

Mindfulness and Other Jam News

Happy February! Can you believe it? February! It’s unseasonably warm here in the Bay Area, which allows me to hike a lot, but we do need so much more rain.

I’ve been busy creating content for Live Your Jam’s methodologies – the very ones I’ve used to help me Discover, Live and Spread my Jam.

Here’s what’s I’ve been up to:

What To Do When Your Jam Won’t Spread

My Jam is to help people lead more fulfilling lives by finding their own Jam. Jam is a euphemism for applying our passions to our skills. I launched my site, liveyourjam.com, which is dedicated to helping others Live their Jam in August of this year. I set out with a business plan, key milestones, and heaps of enthusiasm.

Discover Your Jam

Discover Your Jam

How the Solar Eclipse Spread its Jam

The solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st, was a much-needed surprise for many of us. That morning, I facilitated a meeting with an executive team. We planned a morning break to view the eclipse. Our group walked nearby to the local library and stood among necks of all ages and colors, craned toward the sky. We shared protective glasses and helpful photography tips to capture one of nature’s most epic events.

How to find your Dream Job! – Interview with TOM MCGINNIS VOICE OF THE PHILADELPHIA 76ers

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