Note: For ten weeks, I am using the Dream Coaching® program to work on my dream of finishing and publishing a book about my trip to Uganda, and I am reporting on my progress in my weekly column. As always, my column is posted on my blog every Friday. To read the series from the beginning, start with the introductory post, dated May 3, 2013.

The third session of the Dream Coaching program is the one in which people’s hidden traits and talents really start to come to the surface. It’s my absolute favorite out of all ten sessions – partly because I love helping people discover things in themselves they didn’t even know were there, and partly because of how much I enjoy seeing the transformation in them when they do.

Session 3 is a difficult one to explain or describe. It’s all about living on purpose, and by that I don’t mean living deliberately and intentionally – although that’s part of it, too. Instead, I mean living in alignment with your purpose. And before you can do that, you have to know what your purpose is.

I’m not talking here about what you’re meant to do with your life. It’s more like – what life is meant to do with you. There’s something you were born with that’s as much a part of you as your blood type or skin color, but not as easy to see or to test for. And it’s not based on your education, your job, your experience, or even your hopes and dreams, although it influences and affects all of them – even if you aren’t aware of it.

Your purpose is what motivates and inspires you, and what gives your life joy and satisfaction. It’s not identified by the things you do, but by your reasons for doing them. And when you stop to analyze and explore this, you may be surprised at what you discover.

One of this week’s exercises and activities is to write down three powerful memories from different times in your life, and then try to find common elements among them. Another is to spend the week paying attention to your interest and excitement levels in different things you do throughout the week, from various aspects of your job, to time you spend with family and friends, to what you read or watch on television. Eventually – and this sometimes takes longer than a week – you will come up with a purpose statement that helps you to better understand where you’ve been, and plan for where you’re going. It’s not the same as having a crystal ball that can predict the future or tell you what you should do with your life, but it’s a pretty powerful tool that you can use to help you make choices, and to evaluate how happy or successful or productive you’re likely to be as a result.

Anytime I’ve gone through this program while working on my dreams, my purpose statement has always included the issue of respect. The wording may be slightly different, reflecting different parts of my life or a different perspective or level of depth, but respect is always there. This week, the work I did led me to the statement that my purpose is to inspire respect and understanding.

Looking at that in relation to the dream I’m working on, which is to finish and publish the book I started writing during – and about – my first trip to Uganda, I can see how well-aligned my dream is with my purpose. Although I love to daydream about writing a runaway bestseller that makes me rich and famous, and inspires Oprah to re-launch her talk show just so she can have me on as a guest, the reality is that that’s not really my motivation. What excites me is the opportunity I have to introduce Americans to the people of Uganda, and vice versa. One of my concerns when I first went to Africa was about how well I’d be received or accepted by the people there. It was a joy to be welcomed with open arms by the warm and loving people in Uganda, and to hear them say how much they enjoyed learning about Americans through me.

So often, our opinions of people and cultures we don’t know about firsthand are shaped by things we read or see in the news or in movies. These can be stereotypes, or can show people at their best or their worst, or only in certain circumstances. Writing this book gives me a chance to correct that, and to connect real, everyday people with each other, by sharing my own story.

Seeing my purpose more clearly gives me even more of an incentive to get the book finished. It gives me a sense of responsibility, and of urgency. I see it now not only as something I want to do, but as something I need to do. And I know I will.

If you’re working on a dream of your own at the same time I’m working on mine, spend this week paying attention to the things you are doing, whether they are one-time events or part of your everyday routine. Determine which aspects or components of them excite or motivate you, and which ones drain you or bore you to tears. Also, think of three powerful memories from different times or events in your life, and see if you can come up with a common thread among them. Whatever you discover may lead you to your own personal purpose statement. If not, realize that even if you don’t have the exact words, you’ve still got a better idea of what pumps you up, and what drags you down. Just knowing which is which can lead you to a more rewarding and fulfilling life – one that you are living on purpose.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on May 23, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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