I was out of town for a few days last week, even though I couldn’t really afford the time away. But that was the point. The trip was a 3-day Writers Retreat in Hinckley, with uninterrupted time for the kind of writing that most of us can’t find time to do in our regular and overly-busy lives. There were 15 women at the retreat, all with different types of businesses, and different types of projects they wanted to work on.

We spent most of each day hunched over our laptops in a large writing room that had enough electrical outlets, table space, and elbow room for all of us to work at once. The room was usually silent except for the sound of clicking keystrokes and an occasional sneeze or cell phone ringing.

It was a different story in the kitchen, which was just outside the writing room. That’s where everyone chatted and consulted with each other while preparing and sharing meals, or when we needed a break from our writing, and late in the evening as we were winding down and getting ready for bed.

As much as I treasured the writing time, I cherished even more the “kitchen time” and the discussions that took place there, as well as the connections I made with the other women at the retreat. Some of them I already knew, but most of them I was meeting for the first time. I enjoyed learning about their businesses and their projects, as well as hearing about their families and their other interests. What I enjoyed most, however, was watching and taking part in the informal and unplanned brainstorming sessions that took place in response to specific problems or challenges that some people were having, in their businesses and in their lives.

The part I found most intriguing and rewarding was how quickly and easily some people came up with solutions and suggestions for other people’s issues. At one point, someone drew a sketch on a piece of paper and said, “Here. This is what you need,” to someone who was struggling with a new logo concept (and who later told me it would have taken her two hours to do what this person did in a few minutes).

During another conversation, I watched a woman glow with confidence and enthusiasm as she talked about the part of her job that she loved, and I saw her shrink into herself as she talked about the part she dreaded. I could relate to both parts of what she was going through. I imagine most people could.

In my own business, I refer to gifts, skills, talents and strengths that people don’t even realize they have as buried treasure. In Dream Coaching, I help people find their purpose – not what they’re meant to do with their lives, but how they’re meant to live their lives. In this sense, purpose is something that’s already inside of you, and when you can identify it you can seek out ways to use more of it in different areas of your life. When you’re using it, you shine. And when you don’t, you struggle. It’s as simple as that.

Figuring it out, of course, is a little more complicated. But whether they knew it or not, over and over again the women at the retreat last week were offering glimpses of their buried treasure, their purpose, or whatever name you want to give it. I saw it in the straightforward business advice one woman gave to another, and in the compassionate shoulder another one provided for someone else. I saw it in the different personalities and backgrounds of each person, and in not only what they said to each other but the way they said it, and the way they responded to what others were saying.

All and all it was a fascinating, rewarding, and productive three days. I came home with a lot of new ideas to think about. To write about, too.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on October 6, 2011.
© Betty Liedtke, 2011