TAKE THE FUTURE IN YOUR HANDS A Roadmap to Authentic Vocation for Social Transformation
Take the Future in Your Hands. A Roadmap to Authentic Vocation for Social Transformation Authors: Franziska Kohler, Réka Livits, Laura Balázs, Roberto Cardinale Consultant: Annette Loy Editors: Réka Livits, Franziska Kohler Layout and graphic design: Réka Livits Proofreading: Emma Fancett Translation of part of text from German to English: Jesslyn Becker Foreword by Christian Felber First printed: 2016 ISBN Number: 978-963-12-5235-4 Website: www.theheartofchange.eu Contact: email@example.com
The production of this book was part of the KA2 “proVOCAting innovaTION” strategic partnership project in the field of youth work. The project was funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The European Union is not responsible for the content of this book. This book does not reflect the official viewpoints of the European Union and the Erasmus+ Programme. This book is licenced under Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). You are free to share and distribute the content of this book for non-commercial purposes with the mention of the source proVOCAting innovaTION Strategic Partnership. You may not remix, alter or transform this work. You may not use or build upon this work for commercial purposes. The proVOCAting innovaTION project is a cooperation of the following organisations: - Pandora Association (Hungary) - Get Active! (Austria) - Paradiso Ritrovato (Italy) - oikos Lebenskunst e.V. (Germany) - With the collaboration of Pioneers of Change (Austria) Printed by Folprint/Hungary using environmentally friendly technology – www.folprint.hu
Foreword Let your heart be your guide Between “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” (Prayer of Saint Francis) and, “The purpose of life is to become who we are” (C.G. Jung) there may be a middle ground for the way we relate to our lives. This middle ground may represent the perfect balance between unique self-expression and service to the world. These are two dimensions of our identity: on the one hand, we are unique individuals; and on the other, fully interdependent social beings. This book addresses two potential life projects for everybody. Firstly, it encourages you to find out who you are as an individual with your own personal needs, feelings, thoughts, gifts, talents and competences; to get to know yourself a little better every day and progressively become who you really are. Secondly, it offers guidance and practical tools to unfold your broader self in a fulfilling relationship with society and the whole community of beings. It invites you to find out what your specific and authentic contribution to a peaceful, caring, cooperative, empathetic, sustainable and democratic culture and coexistence of human and other beings is. It encourages you to become a bright facet of the universal mosaic: an instrument of peace and love. This book’s mission is to overcome resignation, apathy, distraction, consumerism, self-surrender and loss of self in postmodern times and progressively virtual environments. One key strategy is connection: with yourself and the universe. This book’s strength is its unlimited scope to trace and find your personal calling and meaning in life; it provides a complete overview and set of skills to implement a calling and put it into practice. Just as the lecture which begins as a spiritual practice turns out to be radically concrete in the end. I am learning this life lesson with three “hardcore” projects: an ethical bank, a new way to run the economy and a deep reform of our democracy. These projects are the concrete outcome of my listening practice. They are now becoming part of our perceived “reality”. But at their root and source is a deep connection with the universe. I have been asking and re-asking for years and years what my 5
personal contribution to the beautiful concert should be. The interface in this conversation with the universe is my heart. I learned to listen to my heart thanks to diverse teachers: self-reflection and self-perception, immersion in wild nature, dance and arts, holistic books and inspiring fellows. My heart is my guide – in both projects: Getting to know myself ever better, listening ever deeper to what my body, my feelings, my intuitions, my inspirations draw my attention to. This has been quite a tough process of attitude awareness, attention training, taking what I observe seriously, and acting courageously according to these messages and inner voices – even if they do not match with what I am doing at that moment, with my current plans and ambitions or even, in some cases, with my own picture of own who I am. But I can honestly say that I never regret having listened to my inner voices and my heart; rather, in every single case I did not do so, I paid a high price and regretted it bitterly. Over time, I have become aware that these messages tend to emerge from ever deeper layers. They spring directly out of the big void. I have learned from many other humans that they experience and interpret the same. Some call it a spiritual practice; others describe it as an attitude of directing your ears and paying attention inwards. My heart is not only a guide, but also a messenger of the wholeness that I am part of. I nickname it the embassy of God. If you don’t know such experience and struggle with believing it, just try it out. Look for a place – or let a place find you, for instance in silent nature, where the universe feels comfortable enough to answer your most difficult, confusing or desperate questions. And give the universe a chance to talk to you: through silent voices, images, coincidences or sudden inspirations when you least expect them. Be ready for anything at any time. If not, the universe will be a master of surprise. This is your chance to change. Take it and become someone else. In the end, you will gradually become who you actually are. And probably, you will find a clear task. Maybe this task will be difficult or feel like mission impossible. Then, just reconnect to your heart and listen more deeply – and you will get all the wisdom and energy and resources you need to realise your personal life project and contribute to the great transformation that our society and the planet need now. 6
Another major insight has been that our contemporary society needs two things: role models and replicable prototypes in all areas and fields; on the other, legal rules that enhance sustainable, solidary, democratic and humane practices in all fields like ethical consumption, investment, businesses and banks. A lesson learned from capitalism is that individual ethics alone can never become a game changer. To change the game, it is necessary to change the rules of the game: an economy for the common good, an international fairtrade regime; the concept of money as a public good; a healthcare system that rewards health, not therapies, drugs and technical devices; an energy model that is based on sufficiency, regional circuits and renewable sources; an education system that focuses on human and sustainable development; or an international law that gives the power monopoly to the United Nations and forbids weapon production for all member states. Radical utopias? I bet that already today the majority of citizens in all countries would vote for these alternatives – if they had the chance to do so. If they had the power. A major problem is that they don’t have the power. Constitutions give currently almost all power to governments and parliaments – and little or almost no power to the people. That is more than weird as the people should actually be the sovereign body in a democracy. Sovereign comes from the Latin word superanus and means “to stand above all”. We all somehow know this, but: did we ever feel it? Once again, we repeat a classical cultural pattern in Occident: the separation of thinking and feeling. If we – the citizens in present democracies – felt that we are above everything: the constitution, the Parliament, the government and every single law, we would ask for the rights to change any of these other – lower – elements at any moment. We would define and exercise sovereign rights such as the right to establish and revoke a specific government; to stop a law initiative and pass our own alternative; the right to “coin” money or to protect fairtrade with policies against unethical and unfair competition; or we could decide that our country remains peaceful if the government wants to go to war. The first and foremost sovereign right is to write, adopt and change the Constitution in a participatory bottom-up-process. The Constitution is the highest document in a democracy and should be redacted by the “highest” power. If the people wrote the constitution, they could define the rules 7
of the game for the economy, for the monetary system, for the international trade regime, for the energy, health or education system. What our society needs today are more “dreamers” and visionaries that listen deeply and draft these game changers. And we need to take common action to strengthen the present democracies towards “sovereign democracies” so that the fundamental decisions can be taken by the citizens themselves. Our hearts already know of these better places of flourishing society on a healthy planet. It’s just that our minds store a thousand and one excuses as to why it doesn’t make sense to tackle them. If we talked a bit more with deeply connected hearts we would become courageous enough to tackle the “big issues”. So, if you wonder how to build an economy for the common good, money as a public good or a “sovereign” democracy: Listen to your heart – and read this book. Christian Felber Founder, Economy for the Common Good www.ecogood.org
O U R ROA D M A P
Stepping into action..... p. 170
WHAT am I creating?..... p. 174
HOW am I creating it?..... p. 182
WHY am I creating it?..... p. 177 FOR WHOM am I creating it?..... p. 190
WITH WHOM am I creating it?..... p. 198 WHICH RESOURCES do I need for my project?..... p. 205 Getting things done..... p. 208
Burning for, not burning out..... p. 212
Know thyself..... p. 24
X on the map: Start where you are..... p. 30 Exploring your path Exploring your self..... p. 33 Exploring your core qualities and gifts..... p. 41 I am also who I am not: Edges, flirts, envy and X-energy..... p. 46
Daring to dream..... p. 53
Developing a support network..... p. 162 Embracing failure..... p. 160
Crossing the threshold Dealing with resistance..... p. 143
Raising self-esteem..... p. 158
Fears..... p. 148 Experimenting, testing. experiencing..... p. 134
Overcoming core beliefs..... p. 155
Making decision. Committing..... p. 120 Finding forms, generating ideas..... p. 116 CHAPTER III
Essence and form..... p. 109
WEAVING THE THREADS TOGETHER..... p. 100
What is vocation?..... p. 101 CHAPTER II
Addressing the challenges of our times..... p. 57 Shifting perspective: Seeing crisis
Formulating a guiding vision..... p. 96 Embodying your values and taking a stand..... p. 88
as a window of opportunity.....p. 59 (Re)Connecting: Th e p ath to e mo tio n al emp ower m en t... . . p. 66 Exploring emerging alternatives..... p. 78
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
I N T RO D U C T I O N This book invites you to set off on a quest to discover your answer to Mary Oliver’s inspiring question. It invites you to ask yourself: What makes me fully alive? What is truly meaningful to me and the world around me? What are my gifts, and how can they be manifested for the greater good? What is worth my precious time? And what do I need in order to pursue my visions and dreams?
Orientation at the crossroads Many times in life we face a crossroads or a phase of transition: We finish school, university, complete a training course or quit a job. Or activities that we have engaged in so far just somehow start feeling less meaningful and don’t make us feel alive anymore. In these “in-between” states the old no longer serves us while the new is yet to arrive. Questions like: Who am I? What do I really want? How do I know where to go from here? start to come up. Whether we interpret such times in our lives as a crises or chances is up to us. This book wants to encourage you to take the latter perspective. It aims to support you to see and embrace the freedom inherent in such times of change, to find a new orientation during phases of professional transition, to discover your unique place in, and contribution to the world, and to walk your own path.
Your uniqueness is a gift to the world Life is too precious to be spent doing work that does not enrich us or the world, and to allow empty and soulless beliefs and societal norms to keep us from following our path and doing what is truly ours to do. We believe that every one of us is being called to something that wants to be lived and expressed through us. And that this, when acted upon, will not only be deeply fulfilling to us, but also of great service to the world; contributing to the positive, peaceful and just future that our hearts know is possible. 13
Every one of us carries a certain set of qualities; a distinct, unique mix of abilities, interests, values, and passions. Often these qualities are slumbering as unexplored potentials inside us, simply waiting to be awakened and lived. Have you ever asked yourself why you have the qualities you do? Is it pure coincidence or a luxury that you are able to use your qualities in the work you are engaged in? Or could it be that it is your purpose, and even your responsibility, to contribute something to the world that requires exactly those qualities? In this book, we want to invite you to fully embrace your qualities and see them as important and helpful signposts that can point the way to your place in the world. This book is meant to encourage a way of living that aligns with your deepest values and enables you to find work that allows you to fully develop and engage your interests, passions and talents. If you do this, we believe you will flourish and be joyfully engaged in what you do, while at the same time contribute meaningfully to a sustainable and vibrant future.
Navigating complexity The world is rapidly changing. Our daily lives are mirroring the acceleration of speed, the proliferation of material goods and the confusion caused by information about events happening everywhere. Peopleâ€™s entire lifestyles have fundamentally changed within a few generations. For the youth of today, the worldviews, values and points of reference of their parents and grandparents seem out of date. Where do you turn, when centuries-old religions, social conventions and cultural norms no longer serve to guide you? Young people are expected to make wise decisions concerning their studies, career and way of life â€“ but how do you make choices without a real compass? How do you know which path to take when money and economic status seem to be the only universal points of reference? All over the world there is a frightening phenomenon of relatively wealthy, educated young people turning towards extremist political ideas and religious fundamentalism. Their quest mirrors a desperate search for real values, for a belief system, for concrete guidelines to life and for someone, something finally telling them what is right and what is wrong, how 14
to live – and what is worth dying for. Less privileged people are even more exposed to such extremist ideologies. All of us are looking for orientation in life. A guiding compass to support our decisions and to ground our actions. When age-old, external points of orientation such as religion, social rules and cultural taboos fall away, we find ourselves in a vacuum, where everything is relative and where life is just a programmed pursuit of self-interest. Is there really nothing more to life on Earth than just “making a living” and getting along? Instead of offering another point of “external” orientation, a new ideology or philosophy, we suggest a shift of focus – and look inside for a compass in order to address this question.
A world where the needs of one don’t contradict the needs of many So many things reached, achieved, explored by human civilization have been mere fantasies before – some of them were even previously unthinkable. We have been reaching for the stars, walking on the moon, creating systems and gadgets to bridge great distances and to communicate from different sides of the planet, and producing more food than people a few generations ago could have ever imagined. The potential is there in each and every one of us to be creators, inventors, explorers... But what if we shifted our focus? If we didn’t reach even further, for something even bigger, didn’t thrive for achieving even more, but dedicated our attention to creating a world where the needs of one don’t contradict the needs of many? Where serving and sustaining life would be rewarded and where we would be able to live a joyful life of meaning and purpose, while providing nourishment for ourselves, as well as for our families and communities? Where doing something we love and are passionate about, that aligns with our values, would not be a luxury or a privilege but an everyday reality for many? Even though our rational minds would be doubting the possibility of such a world, deep inside our hearts we know it is possible. It is possible, because we have seen and experienced it. We have seen how after big storms people offer shelter, food and help to each other. We have seen civil society standing up and supporting refugees. We have seen communities joining together to prevent the exploitation of a local 15
landscape. And we also feel it within ourselves: the emergence of such a world is mirrored by our dreams, visions and deepest wishes. Moreover, we experience this emergence in moments when we act from our authentic sense of purpose and step into joyful service while activating our gifts and talents for a cause which deeply touches us. In moments, when we â€œfollow our blissâ€?, as mythologist Joseph Campbell would say.
Being part of the evolution Change and the emergence of newer and newer levels of complexity are essential to the evolution of life on Earth. The evolution of life forms, living systems and the human species are the clearest examples of that. At each stage, from single-celled organisms through to diverse bacteria, giant reptiles and the evolution of our species, life moves towards higher and higher levels of complexity. Accepting our place in the change process of the evolving of life on Earth is like a call to adventure. The call to participate in the immense theatre piece, a planetary work of art. Imagine that you are sitting in a river and instead of desperately trying to hold on to every little branch and stone, you let yourself be carried by the stream. The art is not only to move with the currents but to find your own, unique way of navigation in a way which makes you feel empowered, so that you can recognise your potential to shape the currents themselves.
Engaging for the world = sacrificing yourself Yet, how many of us still feel torn between longing to live a happy and carefree life, and the deep wish and sense of responsibility to contribute to a more just and peaceful world? How many of us are afraid that if we really went for what our heart tells us, if we dedicated our lives to making this planet a better place, we would have to sacrifice our own good lives, relinquish and abstain from many things that make our lives convenient and enjoyable. Due to this assumption, so many people put their sense of responsibility and their ideas about changing the world aside, in order to concentrate on finding and doing a job which provides the feeling of security and predictability. 16
But do we really have to choose between one or the other? Are living one’s own happy life and taking responsibility for this planet indeed contradictory? Or are they interconnected, one aspect interwoven with the other? We do believe that one’s own “good life” is deeply embedded in a planetary “good life”. That our own happiness is connected with the world we live in, and that if we are true to ourselves, we recognise how much we suffer when another person or being experiences pain. Helping others and caring for our planetary well-being are not just altruistic acts for those in need, but are at the same time filling us with feelings of connectedness, solidarity and sense – and is therefore enriching our own lives on a deeper level than most material things.
A good life for all Inspired by the Latin-American concept of Buen Vivir, we would like the concept of the “good life” to be our focus and aim. This means living in such a way that feels really good to us, without it being at the expense of others. Moreover, it is a way of life that, rather than just feeling good to us individually, contributes to a good way of life for as many people as possible. What a good life really is and how to achieve it has been the subject of debate for many philosophers around the globe for thousands of years. Those in the West in particular have focused their reflections on the question of how humans can live well and healthily with one another. The concept of Buen Vivir takes it a crucial step further, and describes a good life as the peaceful co-existence of all sentient beings. Nature is therefore not seen as something separate from us humans that can be used and exploited to give us what we need to live well, but as an entity in its own right. And this includes the right to a healthy, unharmed and unpolluted existence. So when we consider how we can lead a good life, the peaceful coexistence of all sentient beings should be our marker. When we follow this ideal, we will naturally live at that place where our own happiness and the needs of our environment come together. 17
This place â€“ where your own happiness and the needs of the world meet â€“ is essentially what this book is about. It wants to encourage and inspire you to find and explore your place in the world, and by inhabiting it, walk the path of your authentic vocation and bring your unique gifts to the fore.
Welcome to this exciting journey. A journey of personal and societal transformation The journey we want to take you on is twofold: On the one hand it is a journey inward, to the depths of your being. You will get to know and understand yourself better, identify your gifts, potentials and values and find the red thread in your biography. You will, step by step, get closer to your unique contribution in the world, understand what may be holding you back from really living your life and find what can support you in going for it anyway. On the other hand it is a journey outward: It takes you out into the world full of possibilities and challenges, into real hands-on doing and creating. It is our hope that on this journey you will look at the local and global challenges of our time in a way that will inspire you to become an active participant in this world. You will connect with others, develop prototypes, and ground your ideas and visions. Above all, this journey is meant to connect the inner and the outer. Why? Because there is hardly a better way to get to know yourself than through becoming active in the world. And because nothing empowers your actions and innovations more than a self-reflective, self-aware you. So the journey we are inviting you to take continuously builds bridges between your interior and exterior, and also weaves together the path of your personal development and the path of societal development as a whole. In other words, this journey will take you to a place where inner and outer growth occur simultaneously and become mutually enriching, and where your personal needs meet the needs of the world. 18
Connecting authentic vocation, societal engagement and entrepreneurial thinking and acting This book intends to bring three important fields together that are often seen and treated as separate from one another.
Finding your authentic vocation Often young people are faced with the question of what they really, truly want to do with their lives. Unfortunately, real guidance, support and empowerment are scarce. Many are left feeling alone, frustrated and overwhelmed by the big question of which field of work is really right for them. Consequently, they will choose a job, a university degree or training that doesnâ€™t reflect their true interests and skills, and that isnâ€™t really meaningful to them or to society. This results in unseen and unused potential, demotivated students and employees, frequent drop-out rates or job changes, and all of this at huge economic costs. We believe that the right job is not defined by economic gain, but by the meaning it brings to an individual and the world around them â€“ and that everyone can find a job that brings deep meaning into their life.
Societal engagement The global challenges we are faced with today call for people who are willing to strive for a better future. Though many people are aware of the state of the world, their commitment towards a more sustainable future often does not go beyond educating themselves about current affairs and consuming in a more or less conscious way. Societal engagement often seems to be viewed as a moral obligation, where those who are â€œbetter offâ€? feel obliged or reluctantly guilty to support those who are not so well off. It also feels like a luxury that is reserved for our free time, after the important work of earning money is done. We are convinced that societal engagement should not be restricted to being wellinformed or aware of how to consume better, and should not be based on feelings of obligation or guilt. Societal engagement can and should be fun. It should enrich our lives and even enable us to make a living. The prerequisite for this is that our commitment is inspired by our personal gifts, abilities, values and passions.
Entrepreneurial thinking and acting Often people who have great ideas for social impact do not know how to manifest these sustainably. They may be lacking the know-how and the right tools to transform their ideas into successful projects and businesses. In order for a great idea to be realised, certain competencies are required. These are concrete competencies in project management, strategy development and implementation, as well as certain personality traits, like inner strength, the ability to stay focused, and leadership. Finding your vocation may involve joining all the above areas together. This book wishes to encourage and inspire you to find work that is personally fulfilling and also contributes to a more peaceful, sustainable and life-affirming future. The process of finding this type of work involves an exploration of your unique contribution â€“ of that which makes you feel alive and happy, and simultaneously offers a meaningful contribution to the world. It will lead you to the place where you can really, truly be yourself, and where your authentic expression is exactly what is needed in order for you to take your place in the world. 20
A journey towards your authentic vocation: Where your deepest joy and the hunger of the world meet The exploration and birthing of your unique vocation is the central piece of this book. And this will be the place where your deepest joy and the hunger of the world meet. These two areas, your own qualities and gifts on the one hand and the hunger of the world on the other, are covered in the first two sections of this book. Section three is all about how you can really bring your unique contribution into manifestation. Before going more deeply into the process of exploring this, we want to explain in a bit more detail what we actually mean by “unique contribution”. We believe that everybody has a unique set of abilities, interests, values and passions that want to be developed and lived; gifts that are desperately needed right now in order for the challenges of the world to be faced constructively and that will help us co-create the future we know, deep down, is possible; uniqueness that wants to be expressed in all its beauty and that, in all its unique and beautiful ways, can contribute to a more peaceful and bright future. And we even take it a step further: We believe that we don’t just possess our qualities by chance, but that the unique concoction of our qualities is exactly what it takes to face certain challenges in life. Our qualities then become nothing less than vital signposts to the work we are meant to be doing in this world. This perspective drastically changes the process of finding the right job: Rather than trying to find ways in which you can fit into the existing job market, finding “your” job becomes a joyful and deep exploration of yourself, your qualities, passions and values, and of the ways you can express these in a meaningful way in a professional context. 21
A journey with head, heart and hands For a true exploration and manifestation of our contribution it is insufficient to merely reflect on or dream about it, just as “going for it” without reflecting on our behaviour and our underlying motives is also not the way forward. This is why we would like to introduce a holistic approach of exploration and manifestation that involves head, heart and hands. And this means engaging yourself wildly in this process – through wild thinking, wild feeling and wild acting.
With wild thinking we mean freeing your mind from the restricting tendencies of the inner critic and censor. Wild thinking means stepping out of the usual patterns of selfcensorship, judgment and constriction and asking yourself from the freest possible space: What do I really want? What is it that wants to come into the world through me? With wild feeling we mean connecting to your bodily intelligence and approaching your question not only with your mind, but also with your heart. That means paying close attention to your body-level responses that may often be unconscious, such as the contraction of certain muscles, tension or butterflies in your belly, observing feelings and emotions that arise, and whether there is an intuitive feeling of right or wrong. With wild acting we mean leaving your comfort zone and daring to step out into unknown territory; Often we can get a pretty clear sense of whether something is right for us or not by simply trying it out. So the third invitation is to answer questions not only with your head and heart, but also with your hands; Through concrete doing, exploring and experiencing. 22
If you include these three dimensions into your exploration of your unique contribution, it is our hope that a path will open up that is truly yours; a path that your mind can say yes to, that makes your body feel alive, happy and peaceful at the same time, and where your actions feel intuitively right.
A journey through six stations Through our personal journeys and our experiences of working as trainers, coaches and guides, we have identified six stations that are encountered on the path of exploring and manifesting your contribution, and that require careful navigation. These stations represent obstacles that can stop you on your path if you are not mindful of them. We have depicted each station and their main themes on a map, which serves as a point of reference and a tool for navigation. This book contains texts and exercises that are meant to encourage and inspire you to overcome these obstacles and keep walking.
Know thyself Exploring your path Exploring your self X on the map: Start where you are
Exploring your core qualities and gifts I am also who I am not: Edges, flirts, envy and X-energy
Daring to dream
You have a sense that more is possible, without knowing exactly what you can and want to do... Our journey begins, like most hero and heroine stories, in the ordinary, day-to-day life. In the life that you know so well, where everything feels familiar, perhaps even a bit mundane. Everything is like it always is... almost. You start hearing something knocking at your door, perhaps very quietly at first. Activities that used to be important and meaningful to you somehow no longer fill you with joy, and might even start feeling totally devoid of meaning. It is as if you have grown out of your own life. Like a piece of clothing that gets too small. You may ask yourself “is this all there is?”, while deep down inside you have the sense that, no – more is possible! It is as if something was calling you from the distance. An invitation. What exactly this invitation is and where it is calling you to is still unclear. But it can’t be ignored. It may be faint, but it is also clear. Its message is: It is time. Time to lead a bigger and more fulfilled life than your current one. Time to go deeper. Time to leave the comforts of your familiar life behind and embark on a journey towards your unique place in the world. Welcome to this journey. Hearing the calling is the beginning of a great adventure.
Perceiving the call The calling will not feel the same to everyone. It may feel exciting and tempting. It may also feel uncomfortable to hear it without knowing where it is calling you to. Perhaps it feels frustrating to be aware of the call without being able to put your finger on it. To some it may be challenging to experience a particular longing but not yet be able to put it into action. 25
And perhaps there is also fear. Finding and claiming our unique place in the world may be our greatest wish. But often there is also a large amount of fear attached to the idea of actually finding what we are looking for. This is because we are aware that it may turn our world upside down, and challenge the very way we have lived so far. It could require us to turn our back on people or things that we love or feel attached to. It could mean drawing peopleâ€™s attention to us and our actions, becoming more visible in our environment, and therefore also becoming more vulnerable and susceptible to criticism. And quite possibly the path that leads us to our calling will take us into unknown territory, asking us to leave the safety and comfort of our familiar life behind. When the fear becomes too strong, it is tempting to ignore the calling and pretend it is not there. If you feel that your fears and insecurities are dominating your experience right now, skip to Chapter 5 â€“ Fears. If you feel ready and able to stay on track, carry on reading here. For now, we want to invite you to simply acknowledge the calling. To take it seriously. To take your longing seriously. Your calling and your longing are your most reliable guides to your place in the world. So at this point in your journey, we ask you to simply stay in this state of notknowing, to observe it without analysing it or moving into action. This is the challenge of this point in the journey: To trust your longing. To live your question.
E X E R C I S E
Something might have moved you to open this book: What was it? Something seems to have awakened a longing inside you: A longing for what? What wants to become alive inside you? What wants to awaken and be filled with life? How do you perceive your call? What do you know about this calling? What is it enticing you away from? What is it enticing you into? What is still unclear? Which feelings arise? What would happen if you were following your calling? 26
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Donâ€˜t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
L OI VE
As children we used to ask a lot of questions. What happened? Why? Could it happen differently? Why is it this way and not the other? As years pass by, we tend to question less and less. Many things that mesmerised and made us wonder as children are now clear or obvious. We might think we have found answers to most of our questions and our curious search and spirit of investigation fades away. However, a sudden event, a surprising experience or a subtle feeling of discomfort can raise questions anew. We might question our personal lives, the status quo of society and the issues of the world. We might ask ourselves: Is this the only way to go? Could things work differently? Are there any alternatives? This can be rather unsettling. Doubts, feelings of uncertainty and insecurity may arise in us. At the same time, loosening the grip on our existing answers can open up new possibilities and unlock doors, which were thought to be closed before. Each “why...?”, “what if...?” and “what would it be like...” is a crack of light through an imposing wall of solidified replies, which seem scary at first. But as these gaps open up, they create space for the emergence of something new. They allow fresh air in and invite creative potential to evoke. If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. (Albert Einstein) Finding the right question is of enormous value, as Einstein’s quote demonstrates. Here is an exercise which helps you to find the question behind the question, and to explore an issue not through answers, but through questions: 28
E X E R C I S E
The wicked question
This exercise is best done together with two or three other people. It helps you to dive deeper into a specific question and to explore an issue from many different angles without answering it too quickly. Sit down together with your friends and find a question, which is currently on your mind. Formulate it in a clear way and speak it out loud. The others – instead of giving replies or advice – propose further questions connected to your issue. They ask one question at a time. Keep on with the process as long as there are questions coming. Afterwards, reflect on the process. Have you received any new insights through the exercise? Which new perspectives have you gained through other people’s questions?
X on the map: Start where you are Before we set out on our journey, it is worth shining a light on the here and now. Where do you start from? Where do you actually stand? Knowing your location on the map helps you to orientate, set sail and navigate. When you arrive fully where you are, and accept the questions you are currently holding, you allow answers to unfold. The following exercises might help you to find clarity.
Where do you stand?
Where in your life do you stand right now? In which part of your life do you feel an urge for change? Which chapter is coming to an end? What is the title of this chapter? Which chapter is waiting just around the corner? What is its title? In which area of your life are you currently facing crisis? And what chance does it create? How can you make use of this chance and put it into effect?
Finding and living one’s authentic vocation is very often not just about jobs and projects – it is affected by and affects all other areas of life. Dissatisfaction in other areas might intensify the need to find fulfilling work – and living one’s vocation is often the best way to bring peace also to other areas of life. How do you currently feel about the different areas of your life? Colour each segment on the following page from the centre outwards to represent how fulfilling this aspect of your life currently is. The hub of the wheel represents 0, meaning that you are unsatisfied with this area of your life. The rim represents 10, meaning that you are completely satisfied. 30
Living & housing
Spir con ituality nec , inn tion er p to n eac atur e, e
The life-inventory chart
Partner & family
Finish unfinished business
What open threads are currently hanging loose in your life? What is unfinished? Go ahead and bring it to a close. Whether we are aware of it or not, unfinished matters weigh us down and drain our energy, so that less energy is available to us for our current work and projects. This might not be easy. There might be things you have been postponing repeatedly, issues you have been trying to ignore or push to one side. You might have been telling yourself: everything is fine, this job is not so bad, things are going OK with so-and-so… But this is the moment to look deep inside yourself, to be extremely honest and courageous. You can start with small acts of “cleaning-up”: unsubscribe from newsletters you never read, cancel memberships of clubs, groups and organisations you are not active in, where you feel you are neither contributing nor receiving. Wrap up unfinished projects, close open questions, make decisions. Write letters to people that you still have any form of unfinished business with. Say sorry to those you have hurt. Say goodbye to what you want to let go of. Change what you can change and accept what you cannot.
Determine your intention
Probably you bought and opened this book with an intention in mind. Maybe this intention is subconscious, maybe it is quite clear. The clearer it is, the better you can work towards it. State it:
My intention for the next 12 weeks while working with this book is…
In order to achieve this, I will…
My commitment is...
Exploring your path Exploring your self In order to know where we want to go, it is essential to know who we actually are. This may sound a bit odd at first: Don’t we know ourselves pretty well? After all, we have spent every single day since the day we were born with ourselves, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But it is worth taking a closer look. Because understanding how, what and who we are will help us discover our unique contribution and the ways we can bring this into the world. Therefore, the following chapter will focus on the process of getting to know yourself better – all your different facets.
Your biography: Finding the red thread When we ask ourselves the question of what we really want, we tend to think of the future: We have ideas and dreams about what could be, we start developing visions and making plans. Of course there is nothing wrong with this. However, taking a look into the opposite direction, to the path that has led up to where we currently stand can be worthwhile too. Why? Knowing where we have come from and who we are now is an important foundation for exploring where we want to go from here, and what we need in order to really get there. And when we recognise where we have come from and why we are the way we are, we have the ability to consciously choose whether we wish to continue on the same path or change directions in some way. So spending time with your own life story means taking responsibility for your life, and therefore laying the foundation for an autonomous and responsible way of operating in the world. At first glance your life story may seem confusing and perhaps even evoke feelings of shame, confusion or dissatisfaction. “What I have done in my life so far is totally random!” is an answer we frequently hear when asking people about their biography. No matter how random your life may seem at first, when you take a closer look you will find a red thread that was there all along. 33
Patterns, themes and roles It often takes a bird’s-eye view on our life to enable us to identify recurring patterns and central themes. Some patterns will tell us something about our individual gifts and talents, while others may seem like stumbling blocks in our path. In order not to stumble over the same issues over and over again it helps to take a closer look and enquire why, for example, certain projects or plans have repeatedly failed, friendships ended or arguments started. When we do this, we often find that one single pattern underlies many different situations. Becoming aware of our patterns is the first step towards learning from them. And the process of recognising unhelpful patterns can already be enough to stop them from hindering us again in the future. In every person’s life, certain topics stir up a lot of energy; topics that one feels particularly interested in, that evoke a lot of enthusiasm and joy or also strong feelings of sadness or anger. These are all indications that a topic is very relevant to us in some way. They mirror our core values – as described in Chapter 2. When we explore our biography, our core values become visible – and often we also understand how and why we have built our value system the way we have and why certain values have become so important to us: Through people and situations that have impacted us in certain ways and also through experiences in which our need for these values was not met. Besides recognising central values, we may also discover that we take on similar roles time and time again. These roles often tell us something about our unique place in the world, as the following examples of two of our seminar participants demonstrate: 34
Leader of her gang, class representative, and rebellious teenager: The roles that Frieda, an ambitious young woman, has taken on run like a red thread through her life and provide information about the positions that she feels most “at home” in. The moment Frieda identifies this, and recognises how much positions of leadership suit her, she smiles and says: “I guess it is not surprising that working under a boss does not really feel right to me.” Jonathan, the gentle older brother who cares affectionately for his younger siblings, who as a teenager preferred watching his friends play computer games rather than playing himself, and who always lets his fellow students copy his work – it is hardly surprising that he chooses to work as a business advisor rather than starting his own business.
Honouring wounds and recognising gifts Working with our biography can also help us identify our gifts, which in turn makes it possible to consciously develop them further. Often, our gifts seem like trees in the forest: we don’t really see them and often take them for granted because they just seem so normal to us. By taking a closer look at our story so far, we are able to find the special in the mundane: Where and when have we shown up with certain talents? What gift has made it possible for us to successfully deal with a particular situation? What did we learn from certain experiences that may be of great value to us today? Sometimes it is necessary to look back on life with a bird’s-eye view to bring awareness to those qualities that we have previously taken for granted. Only when we are fully aware of them, we can unfold them to their fullest. Working with our biography also means encountering our wounds and vulnerabilities. Most often that is neither pleasant nor easy. Wounds often want to be seen, honoured and also grieved for. Therefore, working with our biography also involves taking a closer look at areas of our life that may not feel so good to start with. However:
...only the process of really going there, allowing the experience of anger, disappointment, sadness and hope, can lead to reconciliation. It releases free, gives hope and new strength, and awakens potentials for personal growth. If this is not done, much of our energy will go into the suppression of these feelings. (Herbert Gudjons) So accepting and allowing your past to be as it is, is the foundation for opening up to new ways of being and acting in the world. A resource-oriented approach to working with your biography also identifies those gifts, abilities and unique strengths that you have developed through challenges and blows of fate. Working with our individual life stories is a twofold path: It is a learning process: by reflecting on our efforts and failures, our searching and finding in life, we come to understand and get to know ourselves better. This helps us to identify what we want, where we want to be, and what we need to get to that point. It is also resource work: honouring everything we have done, learnt and achieved so far. All these can empower us to master current or future challenges more skilfully. By remembering how we have responded to past situations of crisis and what has helped us to get through them, we expand our repertoire of inner resources and can draw on them whenever necessary. At the same time it is good to be aware that working with your biography is also always a snapshot of the current moment. Our life stories are never objective; they are the process of tying together certain points on the map of our life and making sense of the picture that emerges. How this is done, that is, which events we look at, how we put them in relation to one another and interpret them, is a very personal process (and says a lot about who we are). The story we tell about ourselves is like a personal myth. And the personal myth we tell today may be different to the one we tell in five years, or even tomorrow. What are the reasons for emphasising certain aspects of our story and not others, and what makes us interpret them the way we do? To understand this, the close observation of oneself done through biography work can be helpful. 36
Biography work is incredibly valuable to our path because the insights we generate through it are fundamental for the way we experience ourselves and step out into the world. Itâ€™s not only about learning to accept our past, but also about recognising how the past has shaped us and made us who we are today, and using this understanding to power visions and inspire personal growth. In this sense, working with your biography provides an overarching bridge between past, present and future.
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Working with your biography
Take a large piece of paper and draw a sketch of your life: What did you go through, what were highlights, lowlights, what were essential turning points? Those can be big events like a disease, a move, a break-up or starting a job or a course, but also seemingly minor events that felt important to you, for example a certain encounter, a conversation or an insight. Then write down all the things you learnt from each turning point. Observe your life line and see which red threads you can find in your own biography. Are there recurrent patterns? Are there topics, roles and actions which are related to one another? Look at your own biography and ask: If this whole life youâ€™ve lived so far was a training course, designed for you in order to learn specific things: What would they be? What would the title of the course be? Exchange your thoughts about this with a friend.
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Activities and their qualities
Create a table with three columns. In the left column, list all relevant activities you enjoyed doing in your life. These can be projects and jobs, but also studies, hobbies and certain activities like caring for an old or sick person, organising events like a friendâ€˜s birthday party, or repairing other peopleâ€™s bicycles. If an activity was not nice in general but there was one aspect in it which you enjoyed, list it too. In the next column, describe what exactly you enjoyed about doing this activity. In the third column, list how you could manifest those qualities in a different way. Example:
What are the things I really enjoy doing? Inviting friends for dinner and cooking for them
What are the aspects I particularly enjoy about these activities? Being a host
M anif es t at ion
What are different ways of manifesting these aspects/qualities? Hosting events
Childhood dreams When we look back at our childhood dreams, we may remember them as fun and adventurous, but they were probably too unrealistic and naĂŻve to be taken seriously. Spending some time reflecting on them can be really revealing, more than we may think: our childhood dreams carry the essence of our being already inside them, and can show us the qualities that are meant to unfold in our lifetime... So take some time travelling back to your childhood and teenage dreams with the following questions:
What did you enjoy doing as a child and teenager? What was your favourite hobby? Which games did you play, which books did you read? Which activities did you immerse yourself in fully? What were you particularly good at? What did you dream of as a child and teenager? What did you want to do and become in the future? How did you want to live? What seemed particularly important to you? What was your role as a child and teenager? Were you a leader, a supporter, or did you feel like you didnâ€™t fit in? Did you speak up to protect others, or were you more the quiet type? Were you around people a lot, or did you spend most of your time alone? How did you interact with other children?
Heroes, idols, role models Probably each of us had a hero or an idol when we were children and teenagers: a brave character from a cartoon or fairytale (a knight, pirate, king or adventurer), a person that we admired (an astronaut, a fireman, a popstar, an actorâ€Ś) or one of our friends and family (an uncle, mother or father, the big, strong kid in the neighbourhood). We looked up to them, we wanted to be like them. We might have collected gadgets, pictures and posters of our idols. And even as adults we might have role models: people that we admire, respect and look up to. This does not necessarily mean that we need to walk, talk, look and be like our idols or pursue the same profession. What can be enriching though, is to look into which qualities, values or characteristics these people embody, to discover how these qualities are present in us and/or how we can further integrate them into our own lives.
Recall your childhood heroes and your teenage idols. Who were they? Which characteristics of them did you admire? What are the qualities that still appeal to you? Do you have any role models? Who are the people you look up to? How are they role models for you? In which ways are the identified qualities present in you? How do you wish to embody them? How can you integrate them more?
Exploring your core qualities and gifts Every one of us has certain interests, passions, abilities and values that make us unique. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and the world to fully develop and bring these into manifestation. Acting in accordance with our deepest values, and simultaneously doing something in which we embody our interests, passions and talents, are key aspects to living our authentic vocation. We will not only do a better job, but we will also be fulfilled much more than if we do something that isn’t really ours to do. This is already incentive enough to know your own gifts and align your life with them. But let’s take it another step further: What if you didn’t have your gifts “just like that” and it wasn’t just a luxury or a lucky coincidence that those qualities match up with what you do? What if, instead, you had these qualities because you needed them to carry out your purpose? And what if your qualities were actually pointing the way to your unique vocation? The special thing about core qualities is that they do both: They show us the way to our purpose and they also enable us to carry it out. If we look at our unique qualities and our place in the world from this perspective, it appears to be our responsibility to find our vocation – the work that is tailored to our deepest values, abilities, interests and passions, and to engage with it fully. In order to do this, knowing your core qualities is essential.
Core passions There are certain activities for all of us that we enjoy doing so much that they are fulfilling in themselves. These are different for all of us: Some of us, for example, thrive when doing artistic work while others love intellectual debates. Some forget about time while gardening, others while playing with children. Certain activities get us into a state of flow, in which things seem to happen effortlessly; a state that is very pleasurable and that makes us feel alive. What if those activities, our greatest passions, are not only meant to be â€œluxury activitiesâ€? pursued in our free time, but are also part of our purpose in the world?
What do you really enjoy doing? What activities make you forget everything around you? What really makes your eyes shine? What really makes you feel alive?
Core abilities There are certain things that we are good at, that seem easy for us, that we can do effortlessly â€“ sometimes even without us knowing exactly why. Those can be practical, hands-on skills, but also communication abilities, such as expressing yourself or being an attentive listener. They can also be abilities like acting, networking or keeping cool under pressure. We define core abilities as all those abilities that we acquire without much effort, and that we are especially good at.
What are you really good at? (YES, dare to state it: Leave your humility aside!) Recall an occasion when you were proud of what you had done. What exactly had you done well? For which activities do others ask you for support? When did you do something you received compliments for? Which compliments did you receive? What kind of compliment would you like to receive?
Core interests While there are things we are especially good at doing, there are also topics we know a lot about. Someone is good at remembering historical details, another is able to quickly understand, remember and apply technological correlations, socio-political concepts or business strategies, while a third person might know everything about a musical instrument. What if we don’t only own these jewels of knowledge out of coincidence – what if they are an indication of our purpose – if exactly the facts we are interested in and the knowledge we can retain so well is what it takes to master our purpose?
Which facts do you remember easily? Which subjects were you really good at in school? If your friends and colleagues would sit in a quiz show and choose you as their phone-a-friend: What kind of topic would they call you for? What books are on your bookshelf, what magazines are on your desk, which films do you watch, which section of the newspaper do you read most carefully? Which interests become visible here?
Asking others about your gifts It is easy to see the special qualities and abilities of another person. However, identifying our own can be tricky. Looking at ourselves, we seem to be pretty “normal” – no particular talents, no special gifts... There are many of us that find it difficult to recognise and truly appreciate our own abilities and talents, while the virtues of someone else are much more obvious. For the following exercise this phenomenon can even be beneficial, since you are encouraged to get together with others and shed light on each other’s gifts and talents. Ask three people from your group of friends, your family or your working environment about your qualities, gifts and abilities. You can do this either in a personal conversation or in a letter. Here is some inspiration: Dear friend, As you know me well and have witnessed me in my life for a long time, I would like to ask you for your opinion of me, so I can learn more about myself. For this, I ask you to intentionally connect with my strengths and potentials, as it is these that I want to see and understand better. Please answer the following questions: What am I especially good at? What can I do well? What are my strengths? What are important values that you see shaping my life? In which situations or for which activities would you seek my help? What distinguishes me from others? What is your sense about where my journey should lead? (Please take my strengths and preferences into consideration) Do you have any suggestions that would help me go forward from here? Thank you very much! 45
I am also who I am not: Edges, flirts, envy and X-energy Discovering yourself, all your facets, does not only involve casting more light on those aspects of you that are already fairly evident. It also involves illuminating those that are hidden so deep that you believe they are not actually part of you. Setting out on a quest to integrate them is worth the journey: Here you can find treasures of hidden potential that are waiting to be awakened and expressed. This is also the place where we find our threshold guardians â€“ those parts of ourselves that stop us from really walking our path.
Working at the edge I Your edge marks the boundary between where you feel at ease and safe acting or being a certain way, and where you do not. The area within the boundary can be defined as your comfort zone. According to your self-image, this is where you feel confident about what you do. Further towards the edge of your comfort zone you begin feeling a little bit uneasy. The further away from your comfort zone something is, the more unsafe it feels. When you are aware of your comfort zone with its limitations you can begin playing with it: Do you dare doing things that lie outside of your comfort zone? Itâ€™s worth it, because this is where the magic happens!
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Draw a circle that depicts your comfort zone. Write or draw all the things into this circle that you can easily do, like calling your friends, writing letters, poems or stories that you donâ€™t show anyone, etc. Then write or draw all the things you do not dare to do in the space outside of your comfort zone, like calling a certain person, publishing a personal poem or story you have written, giving a speech, and so on. For the next step, identify all things that lie outside of your comfort zone that, if you enacted them, could be really valuable on your path, and draw a colourful circle around them. Choose one that you can carry out within the next 48 hours. Do it.
Leaving your comfort zone is like working a muscle; the more you do it the easier it becomes. Try doing something each day, which lies slightly outside of or on the edge of your comfort zone. See if you can make a game of it.
Working at the edge II This first exercise encouraged you to do things beyond your edge and comfort zone you normally do not dare to do. The next exercise might be even more tricky: It encourages you to look at aspects that you do not dare to be – but that you most likely actually are. Your comfort zone here contains all those qualities that you can easily identify with. Beyond the edge lie qualities which you think you are not: Either because you really dislike them, like being selfish, greedy or envious – or because they are qualities which seem to be too great to believe that you can incorporate them, like being powerful, attractive, or intellectually smart. The magic here is that many of the aspects that you believe to lie beyond your limit are also a part of you – whether you like it or not! The invitation is to play with them, to make them your own, rather than marginalising them. If you really open up to those qualities, you allow them to transition from being shadow aspects of your being, to becoming fully visible and conscious aspects that you can draw on and engage with responsibly. There are three important signposts that show us the way to the qualities that lie beyond our current limits; flirts, envy and X-energy. They all give us valuable clues about ways we can step into contact with those aspects of ourselves that want to be integrated and expressed. Flirts are all those encounters with people or objects that catch our attention in somewhat mysterious ways. There is a moment of awe, a spark of longing or desire; something in that object or person is “flirting” with us. We find ourselves wanting to have, be or live something that is represented by that person or object. People who catch our attention can tell us something important about our inner longings – about a part in us that is longing to be lived and expressed, too. For example, you might feel drawn to a street musician for a moment, and to a businesswoman shortly after. What do they represent for you? And what could the image you have of 48
them tell you about yourself? Freedom, autonomy, simplicity, joy of life in case of the musician? Structure, discipline, stability, assertiveness... or maybe even hardness, in the case of the businesswoman? Which aspects of them resonate most with you? Freedom? So maybe it wasn’t the musician himself who caught your attention, but more the quality of freedom you saw in him. Being able to differentiate between these might help to understand yourself more fully of what qualities you want more of in life. By recognising that it is freedom that you are flirting with, you can ask yourself: Where in my life could I do with more freedom? Which part of myself is longing for more freedom? And how can I incorporate and live it? Not only people can “flirt” with us. Any type of object can speak to us and the parts in us that want to be lived. Like the orange trainers that suddenly catch your eye as you leave the train. Before you carry on your way take a moment to ask yourself what those trainers represent for you: Being athletic, active, feeling at home in your body... And again, you get a bit closer to a part of you that wants to be lived.
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Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and settle within yourself. Then, very slowly, open them again while keeping a gentle gaze. Look around yourself until an object or person catches your eye. What exactly is it that is flirting with you? Which detail? What does it represent? Make a body gesture that expresses this. Repeat this body gesture. Really feel into the movement, make it bigger, exaggerate it, play with it. Be receptive to anything that comes up for you. What is its essence? Once you have found the essence, ask yourself: Where in my life could I do with more of this quality?
Parts of ourselves that are activated when we see them alive in others do not only show up in the form of flirts. Quite often envy, rejection or prejudice are helpful pointers to something in us that wants to be lived.
Envy Envy is one of the seven deadly sins â€“ although it can also be honoured more for the gifts it brings. It is a wonderful guide to our not yet lived potentials, as we can only be envious of people who are already living something that we are not yet embodying in the way we want to. People who are envious of the skills of a musician, for example, are either aspiring to be better musicians than they currently are, or ones who have not yet begun expressing themselves artistically. The same goes for professional athletes; people who envy them are either athletes motivated at improving their performance or people who feel the wish to be more athletic and active. So even though it might be terribly hard to acknowledge and accept, envy is experienced when we see another person living something that we also wish to live. Moreover, he or she is openly living a potential that is still hidden inside us â€“ and is waiting to be awakened and lived. So envy and flirts, albeit very different in tone, are both valuable guides to those parts that live inside us but have not yet been fully awakened.
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Make a list of all the people you feel envious of. Then write beside each name why you envy them. What is the essence of this? Which qualities do you wish to live and embody as well? As a second step, think about ways in which you can integrate this essence into your life. 50
X-Energy While we can be envious of some things, there are other things that we absolutely reject. Even these can show us what wants to be integrated and lived â€“ whether we like it or not. Have a little think: What do you have a really strong negative reaction to? Which behaviours do you absolutely condemn? These things may reveal a hidden treasure if you are willing to take a closer look.
I personally have condemned and turned my back on people who I perceived as being egomaniacs. This quality was absolutely unbearable to me. Whenever I spoke to someone who I experienced being an egomaniac, I felt an intense mix of disgust, anger and contempt. At some point I recognised that it was the strong love for themselves that I was often missing in my life, but that these people seemed to have. And so I began to explore my own self-love, to nurture and cultivate it. Interestingly, that was the end of my strong aversion to egoistic people.
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Which qualities or behaviours do you condemn or find off-putting? Embody them: Do a movement and repeat it. Make it bigger, slower, faster... play with it. Which associations come up as you are embodying this aspect? What is the positive quality that lies behind the condemned aspect? What is its essence? In which aspects of your life could you do with more of this essence?
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Draw a circle on a piece of paper that marks your limit. Write all the qualities into the circle that you can easily call your own: friendly, helpful, caring, sensitive, etc. Now, write all those qualities outside of the circle that you flirt with (but believe not to be), that you envy in other people (but believe not to own), and that you have a strong aversive reaction to (but believe not to be). Which of these qualities provokes a strong energetic response? Embody this quality for three hours. Act it out, dress up that way, go out and behave like it â€“ only for this time. What becomes possible when you integrate this quality?
Daring to dream Who we are is not only defined by our story, our qualities and our actions in the world, but also by our dreams; by what goes on in our imagination, who we secretly wish to be, and which heroic feats we achieve in our wildest dreams. In fact, our dreams can tell us just as much about who we are as our real-life actions. It is often in our night and day dreams that our slumbering potentials, which want to be fully awakened, reveal themselves. Through our wildest and most uncensored dreams essential aspects of our true nature and purpose are revealed. In the course of our life we assimilate all sorts of rules – conscious and unconscious – about what we can and should do (and what we cannot and should not do) and develop an idea of what is deemed to be “normal” according to societal conventions, parental rearing, and the experiences we have had in life. Whenever we dare to take a little step outside this box of normality, the inner censor immediately follows with all sorts of demotivating statements like: “nobody needs and wants that – better drop this idea”, or “if this would work, it would already exist”, or “who are you to believe you could do this?” Before you know it, you end up with a whole list of good reasons for why there is no point even beginning to believe in your dreams. In the end you end up doing nothing. In order to gain access to our wildest dreams, we might need to trick our inner censor. If we simply ask “what is it I want to do in the future?” we most likely will answer from a place that is controlled by the censoring mind and not in touch with our inner fire that makes our eyes shine and our heart and soul sing. In Process Work, we distinguish between “high dreams” and “low dreams”. In high dreams, we dream of the best possible scenario of a situation. In low dreams, on the other hand, the worst possible outcomes present themselves. And for some reason we often give our low dreams far more attention than our high dreams; it seems to be common for us to think about all the things that could go wrong, and allow horror-stories to scare us and keep us from pursuing what we want to do. The following exercises invite you to start giving your high dreams more attention and become open and attentive to the messages and gems that they offer. 53
E X E R C I S E
Take your notebook and answer the following questions without thinking too much. Answer all questions, even if they seem to repeat themselves. Often surprising answers that are underneath the surface of your everyday thinking will appear only after your regular responses have been given. What would you do if you knew that you could not fail? If you didnâ€™t care at all about what others thought of you: What would you do? What is your wildest dream? If you had three more lives to live: What would you become in these lives? If you had all the money you needed: What would you do (with it)? If you were certain that you can only make a right decision: What would you do? If you had the courage to do anything: What would it be? If you had no fear of the future: What would you do? What would you really regret not doing? After you have finished, take a look at the answers you have given. Can you identify recurring patterns or answers? Can you see a red thread revealed? Are there ideas, topics or projects which pop up several times? Is your heart beating slightly faster or a smile flashing briefly across your face when reading some ideas? Do a little harvesting: Which are the three themes, ideas, dreams or projects, which come up most often?
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The interview in the future
Imagine you are sitting in a waiting room seven years from now, and are casually browsing through the magazines. Suddenly you see a magazine with a photo of you on the front cover. The following article reports about your life and your contribution to the world. What type of magazine do you appear in? What exactly is portrayed on the cover page? What type of people is this magazine aimed at? The article also describes your home, which is where to interview took place. How is your home described? Where is it located? Who else lives there? Your outer appearance is also described. How is your style, your clothes, the way you move, and your gestures described? This article talks a lot about your contribution to the world – what is it? Your path to where you are now is also described – how was it? How did you deal with challenges? What helped you arrive where you are? You are asked in the interview what advice you can give younger readers. What do you recommend? For this exercise, you have two options: A: Write an article about yourself. Write it just for yourself – don’t show it to anyone. Keep it safe so you can read it again in seven years. B: Ask a friend to read the above questions out to you, and answer them. Ask your friend to take notes for you. After you have finished, read through the article or notes. What seems essential? Where do you feel your energy rise? Are there red threads, recurring topics? Make a note of them! What is your dream telling you? 55
Bibliography and further reading: Arnold Mindell, The leader as martial artist: An introduction to deep democracy (1992, Harper San Francisco) Herbert Gudjon, Auf meinen Spuren: Übungen zur Biographiearbeit (2008, Klinghardt, Julius) Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star (2002, Harmony) Robert Kötter, Marius Kursawe, Design Your Life: Dein ganz persönlicher Workshop für Leben und Traumjob (2015, Campus Verlag Gmbh) Pioneers of Change, Handbuch zum Lerngang (www.pioneersofchange.at)
Addressing the challenges of our times Shifting perspective: Seeing crisis as a window of opportunity (Re)Connecting: T h e p a t h to e m o t i o na l emp ower ment
Exploring emerging alternatives Embodying your values and taking a stand
Formulating a guiding vision
How can I engage in and contribute to a positive change in the world? Addressing global issues We all could write endless lists about things which are “not really right” in this world, from the pollution of air, water and soil, through to invisible domestic violence against women and children, to the droughts and starvation in many regions of Africa, floods in Asia and gang wars in suburban areas of our cities. You don’t even have to switch on the news, look at the situation in the Middle East or think about the rapid clear felling of rainforests to recognise the crisis that humanity is facing in the 21st century. We see it on our screens, we hear it from our colleagues and friends, we confront it on the streets, we feel it in our own bodies, we experience it ourselves. Engaging and “doing something” seems to be highly important in a world of growing social and ecological challenges. But where do we start and what do we do? And how can we engage with the challenges of our time in a way that is empowering, inspiring and even fun? Our experience is that it is difficult not to feel overwhelmed, frustrated or confused in the shadow of all these challenges. Being confronted with the immensity and complexity of these issues, we often feel small and powerless. “Who am I to even imagine that I could ignite any kind of change in the world? What could I do? Am I not too small and unimportant to really make a difference?” Asking these kind of questions and not finding satisfying answers makes us feel frustrated, and even paralysed. Looking away, therefore, often seems to be the more convenient solution. There are frightening, dreadful, shocking things happening in the world each day. “How terrible!” we exclaim when seeing the photos of starving children, bombed cities or polluted rivers in the news. But then it is so easy to switch off the TV or put the newspaper aside and go and have dinner. So how can we look into the face of the challenges of our times without being paralysed by fear, by feeling small and unimportant? How can we 58
overcome blame and shame? How can we step into our power, find our voice, take a stand? Which issue calls for our engagement? How is our personal path connected to what is going on in the world? How can we find a way to orientate ourselves in the labyrinth of global challenges and address the issues, with which we can authentically connect and that call for our engagement? In the following chapter, we will explore how we can engage with challenges in a way that does not leave us simply feeling depressed and discouraged. Rather, we look for ways of stepping into a joyful service to the world and ourselves. In order to do this, we invite you to shift your perspective and see the challenges of the 21st century not merely as a threat, but also as a chance, and explore how to use it.
Shifting perspective: Seeing crisis as a window of opportunity Understanding the roots and dynamics of global challenges is essential when we wish to ignite change. This involves recognising the interwoven nature of the different social, ecological and economic challenges we are facing. None of these challenges can be understood as separate from one another, nor can they be dealt with as such. Therefore any attempts to solve one crisis individually will only reduce its symptoms, while the actual cause remains untouched. And even worse: Selective treatment of a crisis can even worsen existing crises and create new crisis-like situations. For example, the attempt to solve the energy crisis through political substitutions of biofuel led to a substantial increase in the cultivation of plants used to produce it, which in turn contributed to the development of the food crisis and resulted in increased industrialisation of agriculture as well as the disappropriation of small-scale farmers. Another example is the widely promoted attempt to solve the financial crisis through encouraging consumption. This approach has neglected, and even added to the problem that we are already consuming 2.5 times more than the Earth can support in terms of its resources. Understanding such dynamics is of tremendous importance. But it is only the starting point for the next step. And this is to develop a constructive understanding of crisis and to acknowledge the window of opportunity opening up. If we donâ€˜t take this step, we remain in a state 59
of being informed and criticising what is happening “out there”, rather than becoming active and igniting change ourselves. In his book Future emerges from crisis, Geseko von Lüpke takes such a constructive approach and describes crisis as “an option, a playground for new inventions, a potential for innovation”, and emphasises: We must learn to understand crisis as an evolutionary dynamic force instead of trying to avoid and fight it with all means (...) Further, we must learn to not continue repairing the crumbling conditions of the status quo, but to understand crisis as a dynamic process of transformation that reveals appropriate options for its manipulation. According to this description, crisis is not a static, threatening problem, but a dynamic process of transition. This perspective emphasises the element of potential that is inherent in crises. Such an approach to crisis is not a new thing. For example in 2000, a group of hackers made it their mission to spread this idea by replacing the word “crisis” with “chance” on the internet. Hazel Henderson’s statement “It’s a crime to waste a crisis” brings one of the core messages of this book to the point: Crises should not be ignored, but seen and used constructively. The idea is not to allow threat to dominate a situation and evoke a paralysing fear response, but to recognise and make use of the potential, chances and opportunities it opens up. Thus, acknowledging that we are in the midst of a multifaceted manifold crisis does not mean only seeing the horror scenarios, but also recognising the multifaceted manifold chance inherent in the current situation. Recognising crisis as a process of change in which the old no longer works and the new is not yet visible has far reaching implications for our understanding of how societal change works and how we can contribute to it. This way of thinking and seeing the world is very different from encountering crisis with a rigid mindset that fights the status quo and desperately tries to hold on to the prevailing situation. In a state where current structures have renounced stability, social change movements and our action in the world can be seen as palliative carers of the old and midwives of the new. 60
Crisis as opportunity: How Cuba survived peak oil After the fall of the Soviet Union and due to the ongoing US embargo, Cuba lost more than half of its oil imports and 80% of its food imports. Without oil, it wasnâ€˜t able to continue its fossil fuel-based large-scale farming, and its agricultural production dropped drastically. This led to a severe food crisis and hunger, in which the average Cuban lost 30 pounds. This crisis stimulated creativity and cooperation on the island. Shifting from highly mechanised, industrial agriculture to small-scale organic farming, reinventing local economies and supply processes in ways less dependent on fossil fuels, the country has experienced a period of revival. Cubans started to grow organic fruits and vegetables, developed biopesticides and bio-fertilizers as petrochemical substitutes, replaced petroleum-fed machinery with oxen and produce locally instead of having long-distance food transports. Urban gardening and community gardening became standard. Today, in many Cuban towns and cities, 80-100% of the vegetables consumed come from local urban gardens. This inspiring story illustrates that even the threat of peak oil can be used as a chance.
Crisis as a chance
Which crisis in the world are you especially moved by? What exactly is it that moves you? What feelings come up when you think of them? What exactly makes you angry? What exactly are you afraid of? Which opportunities or chances can you see in this crisis? What are your ideas as to how the opportunities or chances of this crisis can be put into effect? What could you do to realise these? 61
The power of telling a new story In her books Joanna Macy describes a magnificent shift happening at the moment all around the planet. She and others, like author David Korten, call this process the Great Turning. It is a transition similar in scale and importance to the industrial revolution and to the shift to agriculture from being hunters and gatherers. Joanna Macy calls it the shift from an “industrial growth society” to a “life sustaining society”. This story and way of viewing the world aims to inspire and to give hope. It is a narrative far more empowering than stories of the coming end of the world or the passive resignation of “business as usual”. Stories are interweaving almost each moment and each act of our lives. They are not only appearing in books, films and fairy tales, since they are ways of making sense of the world around us, of the things we experience day by day. Through stories we answer the fundamental questions of life: Who am I? Where do I come from? What am I doing on this planet? Who are these others around me? Stories are shaping our notions of life, death and meaning. They form our value and belief systems. Stories are not emerging only through arts and culture: physics, biology, sociology and economics are also telling stories to and about us, stories about our place in the universe, about the nature and meaning of life. Stories about being human. For hundreds of years the stories told by the sciences, economics and the mainstream Western cultural paradigm about progress, growth, the mastery of nature and solving all problems with the help of new technological inventions have been setting the path for human lives and development. They were born from the Western cultural context and have became the “universal” and “objective” measures of reality. However, the contemporary crises on all areas of life show that many of the old paradigms, systems and stories we have been telling to ourselves and about ourselves as humans do not serve us any more. For example the story of humans as the masters and controllers of nature 62
brought us so far that we are destroying ancient forests, exploiting landscapes, extracting non-renewable resources for pursuing shortterm goals. The story of everlasting economic growth has been already questioned in the 70s through publications such as The Limits to Growth, which showed the exponential growth was only possible in mathematics and economic models but not in the natural world. The story which Cartesian philosophy, the heritage of Immanuel Kant and modern sciences tell us about ourselves is a story of separation: the mind being separated from the body, humans being separated from each other (each of them thriving for self-interest) and from the natural world (which has been described as a bunch of mechanistically operating, soulless material, unable to think or to feel). Stories come alive by being told, re-told and being lived. After ages of telling stories of competition, thriving for self-interest, separation and limitless growth, new stories are being born, told and lived. Stories of cooperation, interconnectedness, regeneration and empathy. Space was created for them by courageously asked questions, by not accepting the ready-made answers provided by mainstream culture. These new stories are being told and lived not only on the level of human interactions and of relating to the natural world. They are showing up in sciences, in the fields of physics, ecology and psychology. Through them we come to realise that the natural world is not a battle where â€œthe fittest and strongest surviveâ€? but a realm where each element, each being, has an important role to play in a system of profound interconnectedness. That we as humans are not separated from the natural world but connected to it with many threads, not only through the cycles of air, water and food but also on the level of our individual and collective psyche. The first picture of the Earth taken from space has played a tremendous role in shaping these new stories. Looking at this planet from the Moon, astronauts have seen with their own eyes that there are no such things as borders. They have been moved by the fragility of this small planet, which they call home, which all of us are sharing. These photos of the Earth might also help us to realise that our wellbeing cannot be dealt with separately from the wellbeing of our environment â€“ and on a larger scale, from the wellbeing of the whole planet. 63
Only when I saw the Earth from space, in all its ineffable beauty and fragility, did I realize that humankindâ€™s most urgent task is to cherish and preserve it for future generations. Sigmund Jahn, Astronaut
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Think of a story that you often encounter. Something, which you hear or see in your daily life. It may appear in the form of a regularly repeated phrase or sentence, an image or a type of media. What are the underlying assumptions behind the story? (Assumptions for example about how things should be, about what is valuable and what is not, about the purpose of life, the roles of men and women etc.) How does this story and the underlying assumptions make you feel? Think of a few stories, which make you feel empowered. They can also be tales, talks or films. What are the elements/assumptions in the stories, which make you feel good and powerful? What are the uplifting parts? Which one of the above stories is more present in your everyday life? Which stories and assumptions determine your steps and your choices? Which stories could serve you as a guiding compass?
Taking the chance Being able to see crisis as chance and as window of opportunity is a profound shift of perspective â€“ and still, the questions remain open: How can we take that chance? What can I myself do? What can help me in finding my unique place in all this? How could I take action? On the following pages we aim to give you some hints and inspiration for these questions.
( R e ) C o n n e c t i n g : The p a th to emot ion al emp owe r m e n t Coming from gratitude: Finding the want behind the should When considering how to engage, what to do and where to begin, a beautiful starting point is reconnecting with why we want to engage. It is this ‘why’ which gives us motivation, strength and direction. Many times, what drives us to engage for the wellbeing of our planet seem to be moral grounds, like the feeling that we should do something because our privilege brings along responsibility. Another factor that drives us might be our frustration and anger about what is going on in the world, or fear about recent developments and its future consequences. And there is one factor, which lies on the bottom of all these aspects: It is love for our planet. Feeling anger, sadness and fear about what is going on in the world expresses how deeply we care about this planet, its inhabitants, and their wellbeing. It is love that prompts us to ask the question of how to engage, and it’s love that empowers us to take action and make a difference. Gratitude is a powerful way to reconnect with that love – and to act out of that: To source our action not (just) out of a moral sense of “I should”, but of a loving attitude of “I want”.
Complete the following sentences: Things I love about our world include… Things I love about being alive are… A place that was magical to me as a child was… The world I would love my grandchildren to see is... (Source: Joanna Macy, Molly Young Brown, Coming Back To Life)
Compassion and emotional power You open a newspaper or scroll down on your Facebook feed. And then it hits you. Something, which just happened in the world, something far away or in your city. News about injustice, destruction, loss. Anger, sadness or fear arise in you. It might be a dull feeling of pain, buried somewhere deep inside, or a burning flame, making you want to scream and cry out loud. When you put the paper aside or shut down your computer, you feel desperate, frustrated, confused or anxious. How do you face this mess? How do you face the state of the world today without going crazy? Is this situation familiar to you? To finds answers to these deep questions, let‘s investigate the roots of the emotions triggered by reading about an issue or event in the world. The sadness, anger and grief evoked by something happening to another person or being is mirroring compassion, a genuine human ability (the word compassion literally means “to suffer with”). It motivates us to respond to the physical or emotional pain, suffering or loss of another. It enables us to address each other’s needs, to help one another and to support those in times of difficulty. But what to do with this compassion when it is felt over events that seem to be far beyond our power and reach? For more than five decades, ecophilosopher Joanna Macy has been examining how grief, anger and fear felt about the state of the world can be transformed into positive engagement. She has developed a framework for groups of people to get in touch with each other and with their feelings about the present condition of the world. Rooted in living systems theory and the philosophy of deep ecology, this open-source body of work called The Work That Reconnects provides a vessel for formulating meaningful and responsible actions to address the social and ecological challenges of our times. The following exercise was inspired by her work: 67
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Open sentences on what is going (wr)on(g) in the world
You can take a journal, invite a friend or a small group to share your thoughts and feelings. Create space for deep listening (relax your body, take a moment to be silent and focus on your breath, let one person express herself without being interrupted or commented on) and complete the following sentences: My concerns about the condition of our world includeâ€Ś Some feelings that come up when I think about these concerns are... What I do with these feelings isâ€Ś
Joanna Macy suggests that emotions labelled as negative (such as fear, sadness, anger) are healthy psychological reactions to horrible things happening all around us. Each of these emotions has two sides, like a coin. The other side of sadness is love: Feeling sad means that something for us is really precious, important and meaningful, and that we really do care about it in a loving way. Anger points to our passion and willingness to act for something which is deeply important to us. And courage to face the darkness and the unknown can be discovered when opening up for our own fear. The emptiness and hesitation in situations of not knowing gives space for the emergence of something new. To be able to see both sides of each coin can support us in transforming these emotions into constructive actions and to defeat feelings of disempowerment, which so often overwhelm us when hearing about destruction and disasters all over the world.
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T ransforming des pair into em pow er m ent For the exercise you will need: ● a big sheet of paper ● a few brushes ● different colours of paint ● a jar/pot with water ● old newspaper
Create a space on your desk or on the floor and put down a few sheets of old newspaper to protect the surface. Take some time by yourself, relax your body, calm your thoughts and recall a recent situation, when you were confronted with a shocking event, issue or phenomenon happening in the world or in your surroundings. Remember details such as: Where were you and what were you doing when you got to know about this issue? What did you see and hear? (If you were present, include other senses such as smelling, tasting or touching) How did you feel? How did your body react? What kind of emotions arose in you? After recalling these details, take the big piece of paper and paint and put your emotions into colours and shapes. Feel free to mess around, move your brush with big, rough movements. The point is not to create a masterpiece, picture the event or issue itself but rather to process your emotions through the act of painting and to express them in a visual way. As the next step, take a look at the other side of the coin. Feeling strong anger, sadness or fear about an issue shows that it is enormously important for you. What do you want to protect, to take care of? What do you stand for? Which values are reflected through your encounter with the event you recalled and through your compassion? (For example the anger evoked by getting to know about the exploitation of workers in Southeast Asia mirrors that social justice is something very important for you. The sadness felt upon the destruction of a forest reflects your love for the natural world and your drive to take care of it, to preserve it.) 69
Let everything happen to you Beauty and terror Just keep going No feeling is final. Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours
Being with fear, releasing fear You read a newspaper headline or a short article on the internet, hear distressing news from a friend or watch a report in TV about a shocking event happening somewhere in the world or closer to your home. You inevitably imagine that this could happen to you or to your loved ones. Fear is arising in you and blocks any further thought or action. It is the strongest when it is caused by the unknown: the dark shadow at the back of the room, the stranger crossing the street at night, an uncontrollable natural force, a disease, the scary and incomprehensible events in the world. Daring to look into the unknown and getting to know it are very important steps towards releasing the paralysis caused by fear. Examining the issue, which triggered your fear, researching it deeper, looking at it from different perspectives and finding accurate sources of information are all steps on this path. This process is like a reality check. Imagine a dark horse in a dark room. Everything is black, you do not know when you look at the horse or when you just stare into the darkness. You even cannot see your own hands. You are wrapped in the darkness: you do not know any more where you end and where the space around begins. Letâ€™s consider the horse as the thing which makes you feel afraid and all the darkness around it is your arising fear. So there are two things to find out about: the nature of the things causing your fearful reaction and the nature of your own fear. This query is not about eliminating any of them â€“ it is about getting to know both the world and yourself better. Fear can be a natural reaction or a mechanism of self-defence but it can also show you that you have reached a limit or edge or that there is a threshold you need to cross. It often does not operate on a rational level. In any case, it holds important information. Acknowledging it, seeing it as an indicator and learning to be with it in a way which does not paralyse you is a source of inner power.
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Take some time to yourself. Sit down, let your body relax and focus on your breath for a few moments. Take your journal or a sheet of paper and note down your answers to the following questions. You are also welcome to draw, doodle or mind-map. Alternatively you can invite a friend to do this exercise with you. Create a relaxed and safe space of attentive listening. Let each of you reply and share her or his answers to the questions. Make sure that you do not interrupt each other or give comments. What caused fear in you recently? How did your body feel? What were your physical reactions? What was in your head? Did you picture any images or scenarios? How can you find out more about the thing that caused this reaction? What could provide you grounding in a similar situation? What could make you feel confident and in power? How does grounded and confident feel for you? How does your body feel? Imagine you encounter the thing, which caused fear in you in such a grounded state. How would you react then?
Criticism, sarcasm and cynicism â€“ three shields of self-defence Truly opening up to what is going on in the world is not always an easy undertaking. Looking around and inside us, letting ourselves be moved and touched by what we see can easily be overwhelming. Being critical, sarcastic or cynical about what is going on in the world are certain forms of self-defence to avoid exposing oneself to oneâ€™s own vulnerability. Criticism, when it comes from analysing a situation, when it searches for roots and causes or highlights previously hidden aspects, contexts and connections, is an essential attitude for a profound engagement with the social and ecological challenges of our times. However, not all forms of criticism are deep and constructive. Nothing is easier than voicing a judgement about which things are wrong, how they actually should be and what others need to do in order to solve the problems. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion on an issue and having ideas for possible solutions. Nevertheless, as long as only others (governments, companies, leaders, scientists etc.) are responsible for addressing those issues and implementing the solutions, we sink deeper and deeper in the swamp of powerlessness. We know exactly what we would do if we were prime ministers, CEOs or world leaders (and passionately express it to friends and family by the dinner table or with a glass of beer in hand), but have very little clue about what we as ourselves are actually capable of. 73
This form of criticism and her stepsisters, sarcasm and cynicism are actually well-implemented strategies of self-defence. They create a wall between us and the world â€œout thereâ€?. They protect us by averting responsibility, and by using little but spiky weapons such as irony, stinginess and disdain to keep unwanted visitors such as the feelings of weakness, vulnerability and pain away. However, this well-adapted strategy has a little defect. If we look closer at these shields of self-defence, we can recognise that they are made up of the same material as the things they want to block out. The very source of stingy criticism, sarcasm and cynicism are our own wounds: all those emotions, weaknesses and pain, which we actually want to keep away. Since it was too hurtful, uncomfortable or demanding to tend to these wounds when they were fresh, a hard crust was forming on the surface, which with time turned into armour and grew spikes. To properly heal these wounds, it is inevitable at some point to drop the weapons and shields, to examine what caused the scars and what lies under the thick crust. Accepting our own vulnerability and exercising empathy towards ourselves opens up the doors towards more authenticity and honesty in our expression, communication and way of being.
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Dropping the shields
Take some time by yourself and recall a situation when you were overtaken by critical, sarcastic or cynical thoughts, attitude or behaviour. You can describe it in your journal, doodle on a sheet of paper, draw or picture the situation. Feel free to use abstract images and colours to illustrate your emotions. Then reply the following questions: What triggered you in that moment? What did you think? How did you feel? How did you behave? How did others react to your behaviour? Try to dig down to the roots of your attitude. What is the unmet need, the wish not fulfilled, the longing behind your cynicism/sarcasm/criticism? What would you really need, wish and long for? Acknowledging that wish, how could you relate to the same situation, how could you communicate and express yourself?
“I am part of something bigger” Deep ecology and the ecological self The philosophy and worldview of deep ecology states that we are all parts of the web of life. We are connected by a myriad of invisible threads to each other, to animals, plants and landscapes. We are not separate from nature but are part of it - part of this immense cycle of material, time and energy. Food, water and air are good examples to illustrate this concept. All particles, all atoms and molecules, which enter our bodies by eating, drinking and breathing have been part of other organisms, lifeforms and ecosystems before. The food we eat comes from animals and plants, the water we drink makes its endless cycles through rivers, oceans and sewage systems. The particles of air which just entered our lungs may have been just breathed out by our neighbour. We are part of this web not only through our bodies and the circulation of material. Our psyche, our thoughts, feelings and emotions are to a great extent influenced by others and by what is happening in our immediate surroundings and in the wider the world. This notion supports the emergence of a wider sense of self. In modern culture self is reduced to the physical body. It is a lonely island, separate from other islands in the middle of the hostile ocean. The psyche, the world of thoughts and emotions, is also considered and treated as a separate entity. In some cultures and traditions the self is not identified with the individual, but as part of a family, clan or nation. However, the realisations of breathing the same air, drinking the same water and inhabiting the same planet lead to a different way of seeing ourselves as human beings in the world. This is called the ecological self. The notion of the ecological self is based on realising the radical interconnectedness of all beings and acknowledges that even our deepest thoughts and emotions are shaped by many different factors outside of our body. According to this, what we do to the world (to other human beings, to plants, animals and landscapes) we do to ourselves. In this way the word “environment” loses its meaning. There is no sharp line or border between “in here” and “out there”, because the physiological and psychological processes of self and its immediate and wider surroundings are deeply interwoven.
Don‘t say that I will depart tomorrow – even today I am still arriving.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone. I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people, dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.
I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.
Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one. Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin a bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Please Call Me by My True Names
Exploring emerging alternatives All around the globe there are initiatives, networks, collaborations, businesses, organisations and projects not only telling but also living and embodying a new story. They are not only fighting for social and ecological justice but offering liveable and creative solutions to todayâ€™s problems. Paul Hawken, author of the book The Blessed Unrest pointed out at a conference that if the list of all organisations working for social and environmental justice all over the world would start to be screened on the starting day of the event, the audience would be still sitting there three days later on the night of the closing ceremony, viewing this list. Knowing and acknowledging how many people out there are actively engaging for social and ecological justice helps us to overcome the feeling of being too small to fight alone for igniting positive change. It helps us acknowledge that we are part of a larger movement, a component of a network. And honouring that other people take care of other issues helps to focus on what we are called to do, rather than trying to fix it all. This is the basis for finding our niche, to step into our place, and to connect our contribution with the larger picture. And still, orientation in the labyrinth of problems and solutions, of challenges and alternatives might be difficult. Which way do we go when we want to explore the existing solutions and alternatives to the problems, challenges and burning issues of our times? Where to search for them, how to identify them, when they are not represented in mainstream media, reported in the news, or capturing our attention as newspaper headlines? And how do we find out where our authentic place to engage is? To address these questions in this section you will get to know two maps, two ways of depicting these solutions and alternatives, which can support you in orientation as well as motivate and inspire you to explore this terrain yourself. 78
Three areas of societal transformation Joanna Macy describes three, simultaneously happening and mutually reinforcing fields, which support the shift from the so-called industrial growth society (based on the assumption of unlimited economic growth and of technological invention being the solution for all the problems) to a life-sustaining society (based on recognising the intrinsic value of each living being and element, respecting and appreciating the diversity of life and relationships on Earth). These fields are:
HOLDING ACTIONS in defence of life, social and ecological justice:
Handling problems directly, Raising awareness of burning issues, Campaigning, Lobbying, Direct action, Protesting, Researching and publishing the roots and causes of the issues, Protecting human and non-human lives.
CREATING life-sustaining systems and practices:
New solutions, Structures, Systems, Liveable alternatives on all areas of life, i. e. education, healthcare, housing, food production, economics, transportation, cooperation etc.
S H I F T in consciousness:
Change of perception, worldview, way of thinking and values, Paradigm shift in the fields of philosophy and science, Change in the way of seeing ourselves, shifting identity
in defence of life, social and ecological justice Three inspiring examples Civil cooperation and uprising against the gold mining project in Rosia Montana Since 1995, Europeâ€˜s largest open gold mining project was planned near Rosia Montana, a village located in the Apuseni Mountains of Western Transylvania, Romania. The campaign against the planned goldmine, which threatened to pollute the environment by the use of cyanide, destroy the landscape and displace the local community became one of the largest civil society movements since the change of the regime in Romania. Thanks to Alburnus Maior, the local community group and a series of protests, demonstrations and campaigns all over the country, in 2013 the Romanian government rejected the mining project.
The Occupy movement Growing out from the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York in 2011, the Occupy movement has been spreading all around the world. Raising a voice against the unjust economic and political distribution of power, the political influence of large corporations and the way the global financial system disproportionately benefits a minority, this global movement has been highlighting the great social and economic inequality of the current system.
Civil society supporting refugees In recent years, thousands of refugees have arrived to Europe from crisis areas on the Middle East and other parts of the world. Countless local people have been engaging to support them in one way or another. There have been organised as well as very personal, individual actions and acts of support happening for example at train stations, where people helped to distribute food, donated clothes, played with the children, or offered shelter and help on the overwhelming journey. 80
life-sustaining systems and practices Three inspiring examples Ecovillages Ecovillages are consciously designed settlements, considering all four areas of sustainability: the ecological aspect as well as the social, economic and cultural fields. They are living examples of communities walking their talk. They are not only decreasing their ecological footprint, striving for self-sufficiency and searching for practical, sustainable alternatives concerning housing, food and energy,but also implementing new social structures of cooperation and communication as well as revitalising local and regional economies.
Economy for the common good The Economy for the Common Good (ECG) is an alternative economic system built on values of social and ecological justice, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation and democratic participation. It aims to co-create economic and legislative systems that support those values, to support people and businesses living those values, and to introduce new ways of evaluating success based on the service of the common good. There are businesses and local groups implementing the model already amongst others in Austria, Germany, Greece, Argentina, Luxembourg, Spain and Honduras.
Food co-ops and Community Supported Agriculture All around the world people are getting more conscious about where their food comes from and how the process of food production, transportation and trade affects local environments and societies. They are joining together in groups, communities and cooperatives to support local small-scale, organic farming and the fair payment of producers. Consumer cooperatives, vegetable box systems and community supported agriculture are a few examples.
in consciousness Three inspiring examples Gaia theory Gaia theory, outlined and formulated by James Lovelock, describes the Earth as a self-regulating, complex living system, that provides the conditions for life and its evolution on the planet. Flora and fauna as well as temperature, atmosphere, water and soil are interconnected aspects, maintaining a dynamic balance. Seeing the whole Earth as an interconnected system, a great web of life (which we as humans are part of) profoundly shifts our perception of the world and ourselves in it and influences how we relate to and handle local and global challenges.
The image of the whole Earth The first picture taken of the Earth from outer space in the 60s had a tremendous effect on the self-perception of humanity. It has opened a new chapter, a view of the world and our place in it, which had not been recognised previously. Seeing these images, we might feel like weâ€™re travelling on a huge, blue and green spaceship in the vast universe. We realise the uniqueness and fragility of our planet â€“ and of our own lives.
Awareness and mindfulness integrated into daily practices More and more people are implementing a conscious lifestyle, not only be being aware and responsible about the food and resources they consume, the clothes and other products they buy, but also by integrating practices such as yoga, meditation and different mindfulness techniques in their daily lives - not only to reduce stress and to increase their wellbeing but to nurture a more profound connection to themselves and to the world.
The wheel of sustainable alternatives Gaia Education, a cutting-edge global educational platform for sustainable living and resilient communities, has defined five dimensions of emergent alternatives and solutions responding to the challenges of our times. These themes are also the main modules and focal areas of their holistic educational program, the Ecovillage Design Education. The five dimensions are: ● Social ● Ecological ● Economic ● Culture and worldview ● Integral design (a comprehensive synergy or the social, economic, ecological and cultural dimensions, a multifaceted, holistic design process a systemic perspective)
SOCIAL DIMENSION Building community and embracing diversity Communication skills: conflict resolution, facilitation, and decision making Leadership and empowerment Art, ritual and social transformation Education, personal networks and activism
INTEGRATED a comprehensive synergy or the social, economic, ecological and cultural dimensions ECONOMIC DIMENSION Shifting the global economy to sustainability Right livelihood Local economies Community banks and currencies Legal and financial issues 84
WORLDVIEW AND CULTURE DIMENSION Holistic worldview Reconnecting with nature Transformation of consciousness Personal health and planetary health Socially engaged spirituality
DESIGN a multifaceted, holistic design process, a systemic perspective ECOLOGICAL DIMENSION Green building and retrofitting Local food; nutrient cycles Water, energy and infrastructure Restoring nature, urban regeneration and rebuilding after disasters Whole systems approach to design 85
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Take some time by yourself or (even better) get together with some friends and take two big sheets of paper and use one or both of the above described formats (Three areas of social transformation / The wheel of sustainable alternatives) to map the alternatives and solutions you know on the named areas. You can choose to focus on your local environment or take a global perspective. Collect as many topics, initiatives, projects, organisations, movements and networks as you can. Then think or talk about which ones you find the most interesting and inspiring. Why do you find this particular project/initiative interesting? What is it that inspires you about it? In which field, in which project/initiative can you imagine engaging practically? Which are the nearest opportunities for you? How could you engage during the next year? Are there topics you find important but cannot find compelling initiatives working in that field? If so, how could you fill that gap?
Diving into and (not) getting lost in a growing world of alternatives These maps of alternatives and solutions open up a field of probably endless explorations. You might be inspired to go deeper into researching a few topics, to visit interesting projects, to take courses or other educational opportunities, to volunteer, to connect with groups and people active on one or more of these areas. Once the magic box of alternatives has opened up, it might be difficult to hold yourself back: there are so many exciting initiatives to get to know, so many places to visit, people to meet and to learn from, things to explore... One project leads to the next, one possibility opens up the doors of ten others and after a while you might be struggling with the inability to make decisions about what to really focus on. How could you possibly decide on one, or even a few things, when everything seems to be so interesting and important, when all fields seem to be calling for your engagement? How do you set your priorities? If you have difficulty choosing your path and staying on track, Lost in the Labyrinth of Choices (in Chapter 3) and the connected exercise can be a helpful companion for you.
Embodying your values and taking a stand Values as points of orientation For each of us there are topics and issues, which strongly stir, agitate or move us in some way. Engaging with these topics and issues might trigger powerful emotions in us such as anger or sadness – or we might experience the awakening of enthusiasm and eagerness. Already when reflecting on your life path and biography you might have observed or discovered the emergence of your core values through reflecting on the things which have been of great importance for you. These values were formed by life experience, social and cultural settings, by encounters, relationships and events. Values are important signposts to your authentic vocation and serve as a compass when making a decision or choosing a path. They do not only give you ethical guidelines but rather determine your (inter)actions and ways of relating. They are therefore not concepts to be taught or preached about.
What is the first thing which comes to your mind when you hear the word “value“? Is it something rigid like a rule, something one should take into consideration even if one does not really feel like it? Is it something dusty, connected to “morals“, which shall be taught by elders to the younger generation as guidelines of behaviour? Or is a value something which evolves through time and experience? Something to act upon, something to stand for? Is it something which sets limits?
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Identifying and embodying your core values
On the next page you can find a collection of values (you can add to it if you feel like something is missing). With three different colours underline each that feel important for you concerning three areas in your life: the world, personal life (including relating to other people), and work. If you find it difficult to identify your values in such an abstract way, recall a few situations, decisions, interactions, activities, which outline the nature of them. For example: What does the subject you have studied, or would you like to study, reflect? If you have chosen arts for example, that might reflect that creativity, expression and freedom are some of your core values. Studying law could mirror your passion for justice, going for medicine â€“ your valuing of health and being service of life. Write the selected values in three columns on a piece of paper and take a look at your three lists. Are there any values which you wrote or you could write in more than one column? Consider the different ways this value is manifested on different areas of your life. For instance: What values concerning the world you live in and are a part of are important for you? How are these values manifested in your environment? (Recall situations, experiences or people embodying these values. e.g. examples of cooperation, connection and care you see around yourself) How do you wish to see the manifestation of these values in the world? (To reply to this question, invite your inner visionary. Imagine a world, where these values are fully embodied and respected.) What are the values you consider important with regards to yourself, your personal life and your way of relating to others? How are these values reflected in your daily life and activities? How do you wish them to be (more) present? What values are important to you when it comes to work, carrying out projects and working culture? Are these values reflected in your present occupation? What changes would be needed to make them more present? Imagine an ideal situation where you can live and manifest all of these values. 89
After taking some time for these questions, underline the five values in each column, which feel the most important for you. As a next step, make a new list of these five and consider which three you would not compromise in any event. When you have found the three most important values on each area of your life, write them with big letters on a sheet of paper and take a moment to be with them. Add a verb to each of them, which expresses how you wish this value to be manifested in your life. e.g. live authentically, act compassionately, feel motivated, be of service, cooperate with others etc. After the exercise reflect on your process. Have you gained any insight about the values important to you? Is there a difference between how these values are present in your life at the moment and how you wish them to be manifested? What would your life look like if you were to live fully in line with these values? What changes would be needed to embody these values in each area of your life? What steps can you take to foster these changes?
M Y P E RS ONA L LI F E
peace justice fairness tolerance acceptance equality authenticity creativity freedom expression community collaboration accountability dignity diversity integrity efficiency empowerment loyalty family friendship beauty harmony modesty courage sincerity
simplicity fidelity partnership compassion service care connection trust truthfulness health credibility humour hospitality vitality decisiveness wealth dedication commitment independence autonomy professionalism wisdom optimism humility empathy adventure
balance individuality love open-mindedness stability success uniqueness wellbeing curiosity inclusiveness nature motivation prosperity progress development precision playfulness perfection truth power fun understanding wonder correctness democracy cooperation
timeliness community originality mindfulness safety strength maturity sharing sincerity skillfulness spirituality order faith structure sustainability perfection Imagination tradition flexibility ... ... ... ... ...
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Taking a stand
Recall three situations in your life when any of the above identified values were confronted with another standpoint, opinion or force. Think about conflicts, heated discussions, confrontations with others or tense situations, when your values were challenged, opposed or questioned by different viewpoints or interests. How did you behave in this situation? How did you express yourself? Did you manage to take a stand for the things that are important to you? What kind of feelings arose through the confrontation? How do you wish to act in a similar situation? How do you wish to take a stand?
Finding your voice Even for those at ease with explaining, debating and arguing rationally, expressing important, deep and essential (and often emotional) topics such as what they really stand for and believe in can be challenging. Nevermind for those of us, who often struggle with finding their voice, speaking up and expressing themselves in front of others. Sometimes we feel the urge or consider it our mission to convince others about our truth, to express ourselves, so that they can also recognise the importance and validity of our values in their lives. When it comes to values, finding oneself confronted with others who have a different standpoint or worldview can be a source of conflict and tension. How to express ourselves, how to take a stand and find our voice about the things most important to us without wanting to convince or overpower others? Knowing our values, and expressing them honestly and authentically is key to taking a stand. This also includes acknowledging that your core values and the things you find important were formed throughout your lifetime through certain experiences, stories and events â€“ and since others might have walked a very different path, their values and beliefs would also be very different. Even though in this way everything seems to be relative and all viewpoints can be valid in one way or another, this does not mean that you need to become neutral or give up your own truth. On the contrary: it is important that you express yourself from the perspective of your own story and experiences in an honest, empowered but not overpowering way. Honestly expressing what you stand for, sharing your own truth (including your thoughts, feelings and personal story) without arguing or convincing others is the most powerful thing you can do.
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Expressing yourself through power poetry
Choose a topic, an issue, a value, which is very important to you, something, which you would not compromise on, something, which you stand for. Take a sheet of paper and write down everything, which comes into your mind in connection with that topic. Do not think too much, just note everything, which comes up â€“ uncensored and unanalysed. When you are finished, put down all feelings and emotions which arise in you. As a third step, put down all words, which intuitively (and seemingly without any logical reason) come up when you read through the previously written words. It might be images, colours, people, scenes, landscapes, atmospheres... Anything popping up in the moment. When you are ready with the collection of thoughts, emotions and association of ideas, weave them (or some of them) together into a poem. There is no specific technique to use or requirement to fulfil. It does not need to tell a story or follow a logical line. Rather, find a way to express yourself in an honest and authentic way by using emotions, images and metaphors. It does not have to have perfect form or be artistically polished. This process is about expressing and liberating yourself from daily forms of expression and debate. When you are finished with your piece, stand up and read your poem aloud a few times. Use your voice, play with the volume, intonation and speed, explore how the words can be combined with body language. You can do this exercise at home, behind closed doors, but as you gain confidence and gather courage, you might try sharing it with a friend or someone you trust.
we are in the wake of a great shifting AWAKEN you better free your mind before they illegalize thought there’s a war going on the first casualty was truth and it’s inside you the universe is counting on our belief that faith is more powerful than fear and in that the shifting moment we’ll all remember why we’re here in a world where you’re assassinated for having a dream and the rich spend 9 billion a year to control our ideas and visions are televised so things aren’t what they seem we gotta believe in a world where there’s room enough for everyone to breathe Naima Penniman, Awaken
Formulating a guiding vision Knowing what goes (wr)on(g) in the world is essential â€“ and is not enough in order to really ignite change. If we limit our actions to criticising the system and individual behaviours, if we are only against something but not for something, we will hardly ignite the impact and power needed to co-create a peaceful, more just world. Formulating a compelling vision is not about providing a blueprint to a better world, or a complete alternative model of society. Rather, itâ€™s about giving our efforts a common horizon. So our vision is our horizon, the highest future possibility that we can connect to. Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend it with our mind, but through questions, stories and glimpses of real-life events we can perceive its power and potential. With every step we take in its direction, this vision shows us what we havenâ€™t even been able to imagine before. By approaching it, new possibilities arise. It encourages us to move forward, to invite us to take steps and actions. Formulating a clear vision both for ourselves and for the world can therefore be a strong guiding compass throughout our journey of living our authentic vocation. All great inventions were once only dreams and ideas. Mere imagination. But humans are a restless species. We are passionate creators, inventors, explorers, entrepreneurs. If we have been reaching for the stars and walking on the Moon, why could not we create a more liveable life here and now on the Earth for ourselves, for our community, for other human and non-human beings? Imagination is the first step to building a bridge between dreams and reality. But how do we formulate a vision strong enough to guide us through the storms of life ,the darkness of doubts and confusion?
Ask yourself the questions: What is my vision for myself and for the world? What do I want to reach for and for what do I wish us to reach for collectively?
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Creating a vision poster
Guided by these two questions, create your own vision poster â€“ for yourself and for the world. Let your creativity flow freely: brainstorm, draw, mind-map, glue photos, pictures from magazines, include your favourite quotes, images, names of projects and people that inspire you. Imagine the highest possibility for yourself and for the world within a certain long-term but still comprehensible timeframe (5, 10 or 20 years). Take time to work on your vision poster. It does not have to be ready within a few hours. Work on it as long as it feels right for you but make sure that you finish it within a week, so that you can hang it on the wall of your room or put it somewhere where you can look at it regularly.
Utopia lies on the horizon. I walk two steps, she moves two steps away, and the horizon runs ten steps further. As much as I walk, I will never reach her. For what, then, does utopia serve? It serves for this, to walk. Eduardo Galeano, Window to Utopia
Bibliography and further reading Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman, Climbing Poetree (2014, Whit Press) Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible (2013, North Atlantic Books) David C. Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (2006, Kumarian Press) Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows and Jørgen Randers, The Limits to Growth (1972, Universe Books) Geseko von Lüpke, Zukunft entsteht aus Krise (2009, Riemann) Hazel Henderson, The Politics of Economics (2009, Hazel Henderson) Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy (2012, New World Library) Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (1998, New Society Publishers) Paul Hawken, The Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (2007, Viking Press)
Online resources Economy for the Common Good: www.ecogood.org Gaia Education: www.gaiaeducation.org Global Ecovillage Network: www.gen.ecovillage.org
Films Planetary: www.weareplanetary.com The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006, Faith Morgan and Pat Murphy) 99
WEAVING THE THREADS TOGETHER What is vocation? Essence and form
Finding forms, generating ideas
Making Decision. Committing. Experimenting, testing. experiencing
Where two become one: The place where your gifts meet the needs of the world After having become aware of who you are, what really matters to you and engaging with the world around you, the next step is to weave these threads together. How can you find and live a contribution through which your unique gifts and passions really meet a social or ecological need? What is your unique contribution? What is the world calling you to do? By truly following our authentic path, we do not only do good to ourselves. When uniting the path of our calling, gifts and passions with our deepest values and our inner power of taking a stand, our impact reaches far beyond our immediate circles of interest. It is a way of being of service – to ourselves and to the world. Weaving these threads together brings us back to the core intention of this book: Finding and living your authentic vocation.
What is vocation? The roots of the word vocation is the Latin vocatio, which means a call or summon. The term originates in the context of Christianity, referring to the calling from God to step into religious service as a priest. Nowadays, vocation is mostly understood as an occupation one is trained and qualified for. In some cases it also means a profession someone is particularly drawn to. Authentic vocation as we understand it connects back to “being called”, but without limiting it to a religious aspect. Where you think that call is coming from is a matter of belief. For some, this call seems to come from God. Others believe in the existence of soul and “soul task” we have to fulfil. Others take a more secular, rational point of view, believing that it’s intuitive knowledge or simply a common sense. And others, coming from 101
But yield who will to their separation, My object in living is to unite My avocation and my vocation As my two eyes make one in sight. Only where love and need are one, And the work is play for mortal stakes, Is the deed ever really done For Heaven and the futureâ€™s sakes.
Robert Frost, Two Tramps in a Mud Time
living systems theory, take an evolutionary perspective, assuming that this is the way how evolution happens through us, and that the impulses we recognise as â€œour callâ€? are in fact the evolutionary impulses coming from the living system planet Earth. Whatever feels appropriate for you to explain it. The fact is, that this sense of knowing, this feeling of being called to something, being drawn and driven happens way too often that it could only be a figment of your imagination. Vocation does not necessarily mean the same as work or job. Nowadays working, i.e. having a job, tends to refer to an occupation mostly pursued for paying the bills. It rarely provides fulfilment or the experience of a deeper sense. Even though sustaining oneself is a very important part of it, vocation is more than that. Our vocation is not something we only do 9 to 5, not a part of life, separated from and uninfluenced by all the others. In our interpretation vocation is part of a way of being in and relating to the world. It co-exists as a whole, woven together with our passions, relationships, emotions, traumas, hopes and fears. It is a path to walk, it is an art of being. Understanding vocation and discovering the purest, deepest, most positive essence of WORK can support you in finding answers that fit and feel meaningful for you on this field.
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Defining WORK Which of the following definitions of work resonate the most with you? Which WORKS for you?
WORK = A PROFESSION A clear and comprehensible answer in response to the question, “So what do you do?”. I am a baker. I am a doctor. I am a carpenter. I am a teacher. A profession refers to someone‘s occupation, daily engagement, skills, source of income and even identity. Traditionally it has been intertwined with social and economic status and has been an important part of one‘s self-definition. In order to master a certain craft or profession one needs to learn and develop a certain set of skills. Becoming a real professional requires years of education, training and gaining experience in the field. Have you been trained in a particular profession? Is there a profession, which particularly draws you? Name a few professions, which you consider especially worthwhile. Is there one specific field, where you would consider immersion in, learning about, taking further education on?
WORK = A JOB Having a job is often necessary to pay the bills and to sustain ourselves on a daily basis. Not every job requires a high level of professionalism in a certain field. Skills, abilities and attitudes are more important in this aspect. In some fields, one is able to operate successfully after short training and acquiring know-how concerning the daily tasks. A job might be exciting and fun when we feel that we contribute through our work, when our skills and potential are utilised, when we are challenged in a way which does not make us feel overwhelmed. Other jobs can be boring, monotonous, overwhelming and might provide little fulfilment or satisfaction. Having a certain job can feel limiting, too small for us, or it can open up gates of opportunities and possibilities to grow. How do you imagine an ideal job? What would it be? What would be your daily tasks? What would your working environment look like? What are important aspects for you concerning a job? What have been the aspects influencing your choices so far? 104
WORK = VOCATION The roots of the word vocation refers to “calling” or “being called” in the religious sense. A more technical interpretation of vocation refers to an occupation one is trained and qualified for (i.e. vocational education or training refers to the qualification process for a certain trade or craft, which is mostly technical, skills-based and/or manual). A wider interpretation of the word unites these two meanings: a vocation is something someone is especially drawn to, something one is called to do and also qualified (or getting qualified) for. It is an opportunity to follow our call and to utilise our core qualities. In this sense vocation can refer to a wide range of occupations: you might be pursuing a certain profession, you might be a freelancer or be operating within a certain organisational or corporate framework – the important thing is that your work fills with you with joy, satisfaction and a sense of purpose. What could be an appropriate framework be, for you to unite your sense of purpose with your core talents, competences and abilities?
WORK = CREATION Seeing work as a creative process can be immensely motivating and meaningful. Each human being has the potential to be a creator, may the creation be artwork, an event, a beautifully crafted object, a garden, a new relationship, a network, or a space where encounters and learning happen. Creating freely, expressing ourselves, experiencing the power of manifestation and seeing the results of our work are some of the most rewarding things. What is it what you want to create through your work? How do you want to create it? Which are your tools, what are your materials?
WORK = BEING OF SERVICE Being of service, serving something refers to a sense of purpose, the awareness of contributing to something bigger through our work, even beyond our immediate circles of interest. This might sound a bit old-fashioned or religious but actually can be an immense source of power and joy. It also includes the awareness and responsibility of the consequences of our actions. The path of service involves respect for other human beings and the natural world as well as making a living and sustaining ourselves in line with the common good of society and of the Earth. What do you, and what would you wish to serve through your work? What is the wider vision, the bigger purpose you would like to work for or to contribute to?
patchWORK Even though you have been trying to narrow down your list of all the things you are interested in, like to do, are talented in and passionate about, it just did not work out. You cannot possibly imagine to choosing only one profession, a certain specific path, job or project. What if you are called to do five different kinds of work and you are gifted to do all of them? When this is the case, you might be a really multitalented, modern renaissance soul. Nowadays it is more and more common for someone to have “more strings to their bow” concerning fields of engagement and sources of income. Being a “multipotential” is not necessarily a disadvantage. It also means that you are more creative, resilient and have multiple options when one thing does not work out any more. What could possible formats be to bring your different passions, talents and interests together? What fields do you feel drawn to professionally, in which can you image working, and which ones do you feel like pursuing as a passion?
WORK = ... What is your definition of work? Which of these definitions are the most meaningful for you when it comes to work? Which one of them do you most dislike? What would be the perfect combination for you?
Take a look at your present life and the idea, dream or project you want to carry out. Can you imagine this cherished idea of yours to be your work – in the best, most inspiring and resonating sense of the word? The reason we have been looking into and analysing different concepts and ways of understanding work is to outline the wide range of opportunities and options we have when it comes to manifest our dreams and ideas in the world. Maybe your dream involves becoming highly professional in one field and you wish to pursue further education in this area. Maybe you want to get a specific job to be able to carry out your dream. Maybe you would like to establish your own business or organisation. Or you wish to support an existing initiative by contributing with your talents, gifts and ideas. Alternatively, you might be considering a combination of all these, maybe taking a part-time job, while developing your own venture next to it. Keep in mind: even though choosing your direction is an important decision, it might not be forever. Maybe you indeed want to establish your life’s work through carrying out your dream, or you might be setting a direction for the next few years. This is a dynamic process. Maybe after a few months, what you thought was your life’s mission does not feel right anymore, or vice versa: something, which you thought to be a temporary project might open up long-term possibilities. In any case, taking the step to transform your dream or project idea into your work is a powerful commitment. Clearly stating this commitment sets you a direction and helps you in focusing your efforts, resources, time and energy. 107
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window toward the mountain presence of everything that can be what urgency calls you to your one love? What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky? David Whyte, What to Remember when Waking
Essence and form Your authentic vocation does not come as a job description – and once you have found it, you’ll do it for the rest of your life. Rather than a job title, authentic vocation as we understand it is more about the essence of what we are doing. The essence of your vocation is the red thread connecting and hiding behind all the things you do, the work you enjoy, the challenges you take. The form through which this essence manifests itself – which job you take, which project you engage in – might change throughout your lifetime. And yet, the essence remains. This essence is like a seed of a tree – holding all its potential inside, holding everything that this new tree is to become. And there will be influence from the soil and water, from animal bites and people peeing on that tree, which will influence the shape and the energy of it. And yet, what it is to become is there, is hold in that small seed. It’s “the one line which has always been written inside you”, to put it into Poet David Whyte’s words. Essence, in contrast to form, does not necessarily need to be concrete and rational. It might come as a metaphor, an image, a symbol, a sentence which only makes sense to you. It’s not important that anybody else really understands it – as long as you do.
I was once coaching a young woman who wanted to find out what to do, being torn between too many options. I asked her to write down every job she considers doing. When she showed me the list, with a little shame she said: “You see? It’s just random – I could imagine doing every job!”. Her job list ranged from being a game designer, working in a museum, being a university teacher to being a nature reserve ranger. Indeed: Upon the first glance it looked totally random. I could understand her feeling of being lost. But when we dived into it to find out what the essence of each potential job was, the particular interesting aspect behind each of them, the picture suddenly shifted from disorientation to clarity: It was almost the same essence for every single one of the 20-or-more jobs she has listed: To interpret information and present it in a way that people can learn from with joy and curiosity. As a nature park ranger, she would love to interpret information about the wildlife and create learning paths throughout the nature reserve so that people could understand wildlife deeper while hiking. As a game designer, her dream would be to interpret information in a way which is as attractive as video games, and invites school kids to explore the secrets of history, everyday life and science. When recognising this, her list wasn‘t random at all anymore. Rather, the essence of her vocation became clear – so it was only about finding the most appropriate form to manifest it.
In this story, it becomes obvious why it’s so imperative to detach essence from form. Only talking about the form, which would be the actual job titles, would be more confusing than clarifying. But when we focus on the qualities and essences that lie underneath, it soon becomes obvious that what we feel called to do isn’t as random as it might seem, but that maybe it’s very coherent. So one essence can be manifested in a wide range of forms. And forms, on the other hand, can provide possibilities for many different essences to be manifested. Being a teacher for example can for one person be so fulfilling because for her it’s the possibility to manifest her essence of 110
igniting curiosity in young people. For another person, it might be about creating atmospheres of trust and community. A third teacher might manifest her authentic vocation as a teacher because she really feels called that people learn from our history in order to not make the same mistakes again. Maybe being a wilderness guide, a mother, a community worker, or a book author might be other forms to manifest these essences, maybe even more appropriate ones than being a teacher. And maybe not. Which form is the right one to manifest your essence depends on the life stage you are at, on your character, your possibilities and preferences – and also the market and its possibilities. Maybe even more important than choosing the form is knowing how you can manifest your essence through the chosen form. Because there are so many teachers who forget why their profession once attracted them, and give up trying to use their chosen form to really live their purpose. This does not mean that you need to find your essence first and then start finding forms to manifest it. Rather, see it as a spiralling process: A profession calls your attention (or has called your attention already so you are already doing it) – then probably this points to an aspect of your essence, which you might unfold and hold once you have recognised it. And maybe you have already lived your essence for half of your life, without even recognising it. You have already started to explore a lot of your essence in the previous chapters. Now we go one step further, explore it deeper and try to crystallise it, and to find appropriate form(s) to manifest it. By manifesting our essence and living our authentic vocation, we become the creators of a “more beautiful world our hearts know is possible”. For this journey we invite you to liberate your imagination and your visionary capacities, to listen deeply, dream wildly and then decide bravely.
Scroll through the exercises of the previous chapters, through your answers and notes, with the question of “what is my essence” in mind: Can you identify a red thread? What has become visible already? What do the answers given there tell you about your essence?
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Your speech to the world
This exercise can help you to get closer to your essence. The speech you would (and hopefully will!) share with the world contains a lot of your essence. Imagine you are given two minutes to communicate your individual message to the rest of the world. What would you talk about? How would people receive your words? In what way would they be impacted and what would change inside them through listening to your speech? What message wants to be expressed through you? Be open to whatever comes up. Make a list of everything you wish to communicate to the world in your speech. Do not censor yourself – note everything down. Then take another look at your list and highlight the point that is most important to you to communicate. Once you have done this, pick another one that you feel would touch and wake people up most if they changed their lives according to your message. Now write your speech on these points. You might want to even record yourself reading that speech. As a next step, underline the key aspects of your speech. What becomes visible? What seems to be the core of your message to the world? How might this express the essence of your authentic vocation? 112
As we are trying to explore our authentic vocation not only with the rational mind, but also with our non-rational intelligence, the following exercise helps to access other levels of knowledge.
Nature Quest Vision quest, medicine walk, nature quest â€“ these are some of the names of spiritual traditions that have been practiced for millennia in countless traditional cultures around the world which involve leaving the usual environments behind and spending some time alone in nature. Nature provides a unique context for examining our lives and aspirations. Natural environments have long been known as a place of solitude, self-discovery, and renewal, where it is possible to slow down and gain insight on the most profound issues of our lives, and to find direction. In nature, far away from the distractions of everyday life, you can find opportunities for clarifying your values, abilities, desires and goals, to address some of the central issues in your lives. Being in a natural environment, away from the man-made, manufactured world, can create a heightened sense of awareness of your deepest desires and wishes, and facilitate an opportunity for self-discovery. Being outdoors helps you open up your senses, and it can put you in touch with your natural instincts. Standing in the presence of something majestic and timeless, we can also gain a certain distance and look at our individual lives from a bigger perspective. Outer nature can be a strong mirror for our inner nature.
E X E R C I S E
For preparation, try to quiet down the previous evening. Turn off the phone, the computer. Try to sense the question that needs clarification right now. This can be for example “What is calling me?” or “what wants to emerge through me?”, or “what is the essence of my work?”. Hold this question in your mind as you go to sleep. Get up early and go out into nature - the wilder the better. If you have access to a forest: Perfect. If it’s only a park within the city, it also works. Build yourself a threshold: This can be a branch, a line of stones, or a small stream. Pause for a moment standing in front of your threshold, take some deep breaths and connect to your question. With this question in mind, step over your threshold and open your senses. The invitation is to pretend that everything that happens behind this threshold only happens in order to give you answers to your question. Bring your question into the focus of your awareness and look at everything that you encounter as a possible “messenger”. Ask yourself: “How is this tree, this sky, this bird similar to the answer that I am looking for?” Don’t expect big, flashing neon signs on trees, pointing you in one direction. Nature usually speaks to us in signs, symbols and metaphors – and the interpretation of these is unique to each of us. Try to give your rational mind a break, and dare to follow your intuition: What calls your attention? Follow it! Leave the path, go where your feet lead you, explore what is around you. If something calls your attention, ask yourself: In which sense is this expressing my vocation? In which sense am I like this? Allow your associations to flow freely, don’t censor yourself no matter how weird or stupid the images popping up might seem. Be open to whatever comes to your way. You can choose to walk slowly around the area, or you can let your instincts guide you to a certain place where you sit down and spend some time. There is no right or wrong method here. Maybe you even find a symbol, representing an aspect of your vocation. When the time that you have allocated for this exercise is up, return to your threshold or build another one. Pause in front of it, take some deep breaths, say thank you for the answers you received and take a step back from the “threshold world” to the “normal world”. At home, sit down and journal about your experience. What images and insights came up? Capture the essence of what you have experienced – Draw an image, write the story down, tell it to a friend. The essence of this exercise often crystallises and unfolds only after quite some time. So be patient and hold your story dearly. 114
The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learnt to ask. Nancy Wynne Newhall
Finding forms, generating ideas After having explored your essence a bit more, it’s time to generate ideas on how to manifest it: Through what concrete projects, initiatives, jobs and businesses can you live your authentic vocation? How can the threads of “I” and “World” be woven together in a sense-making, fulfilling way? How can your core qualities and responding to the needs of the world come together practically? Before over thinking this question, give your inner censor a break again. Try to ignore the little voices, which remind you of the limits, borders and obstacles. Turn down the voice of reason, which tells you that something is simply not possible, because of this and that. Forget the things you have been told, taught or experienced yourself. And ask yourself from this free and empty space: How can my core qualities such as my gifts, talents, abilities, interests and values address issues in the world I am particularly moved by? How can they be part of creating solutions and alternatives?
Write down what you explored so far as your essence. Then, try to write down as many ways as possible to manifest this essence. E X E R C I S E
Get your insights and answers about your core qualities from Chapter 1 and those on values and needs of the world from Chapter 2. Draw three columns on a large sheet of paper. Write your core qualities into the left column and the values and issues that you want to bring forth into the right column. Then, list all possible ways in which these two areas can be connected into the central column. 116
My core qualities
A practical way of addressing this issue through my core quality
An issue I am particularly moved by and/or values I want to act for
I am gifted in drawing and designing, I have a good eye and talent for visuals and images
Creating a map of local alternatives: small-scale, local The way food is produced: farmers, independent shops, pesticides, herbicides, GMO, organic shops and farms, exploitation of farmers, waslocal markets, consumer ting food cooperatives etc. or designing posters, flyers, or booklets for them
I am good with numbers, maths and statistics
researching and documenting I care for animals and plants, the diversity of ecosystems hearing about the extinction of species makes me feel terribly angry, I care for biodiversity
Go through the answers you gave in the middle column and ask yourself: In which of these answers is your essence embodied? 117
Imagine a fairy appeared and told you that you could realise one project. What would that be? Write it in your notebook, or tell it to a friend. Describe the project as precisely as possible. What would it be like? What would your role be? What would the impact on society be? Who would notice that this project was implemented? How would they notice?
E X E R C I S E
Imagine it is your 70th birthday and your friends and family have organised a party in your honour. Many people have come to congratulate you and celebrate with you. One after the other, your guests come up and congratulate you to what you created in your lifetime. Four guests praise you particularly highly. These guests are: ● A good friend ● A family member ● Someone from your working environment ● Someone from your home town or village, the mayor, for example Imagine these four people coming up to you and telling you how much they admire what you have created in your life. What would they exactly say? What would they congratulate you for? Write down what they would tell you.
After this idea-generating process, go through your answers again: Which three possible options resonate the most with you? Note them down!
Making decision. Committing. Throughout this book you have set on a journey – discovering your power and potential, your talents, gifts, dreams and visions. You have explored what is going on in the world, and for which of the challenges out there you would like to take action. You have been widening your horizons, broadening your perspectives, letting yourself imagine different future scenarios for yourself and for the world. You have been weaving together the threads of your own core qualities and your drive to be the creators of a world you wish to live in. Opening your mind, allowing yourself to dream and diving into the profound process of visioning have been bringing you further along the journey towards your authentic vocation. You could probably go on exploring forever, travel even deeper, higher, further on inner and outer landscapes. But the next phase of the journey is waiting for you. To really be able to engage, to create, to walk your talk and to live your authentic vocation, it needs to come to a halt at some point. Sooner or later the moment comes when you ask yourself: OK, but how can I get my ideas off the ground? How can I transform my dreams into reality? How can I practically manifest my visions? How can I have an impact? Where to start? How to begin? And how to then go on? Asking such questions taps into the essential topic of finding the right form and framework to manifest your authentic vocation in the world. Now it is about deciding where you would like to go with the help of this compass. It is about choosing a clear direction, setting a focus, clarifying a vision – and going for it! It’s time to weave together your own core qualities and your drive to be a creator of a world you wish to live in. It’s time to get your visions off the ground, decide on a direction and commit to it.
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back â€“ concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in oneâ€™s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.
Lost in a labyrinth of choices
It wasn’t such a long time ago when young people basically had their career path laid out before them. For the most part of human history, people had very limited choice about the jobs they ended up doing. Work was a matter of fate (were they born into a wealthy family? a carpenter’s or butcher’s family? in a small village or in a big city?) and a means to satisfy basic needs, rather than freedom and choice. A lot of times the decision was made by their parents, and they were typically expected to work in the family trade, no matter what other aspirations they harboured in their hearts. Women were expected to stay at home and raise a family. This is still true in many parts of the world. Nowadays, however, in our time of unprecedented freedom of choice, in Western societies we can be overwhelmed by the vast array of options available to us and paradoxically, the sheer number of choices can paralyse us into inaction. In his book The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz claims that we live in an era that offers us too much choice, and we have a hard time dealing with it. According to him, we can reach a point where having multitude of options becomes an overload. “At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.” “One effect of having so many options,” argues Schwartz, “is that it produces 122
paralysis rather than liberation – with so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.” Another possible effect is that “even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than we would be if we had fewer options”. As he explains, after we make our decision we can experience a nagging feeling, that we could have made an even better decision, so we end up regretting the decision we made in the first place and feel unsatisfied with it. This paradox of choice can make us feel stuck when it comes to making a career decision and we face dozens of possible pathways. Should we play it safe and apply for an entry level job at a multinational company, start working up the career ladder and worry about the future of the planet in our spare time? Should we get another degree (maybe this time in environmental policy or social work, even though our parents actively discourage us to take any route that might lead to a not-so-well-paid job)? Should we try to be our own bosses and establish our own company? There are a growing number of different ways of generating income streams that can be used to fund our lives and contribute to the cause that we deeply care about. Being presented with so many different options can be a bewildering experience, one that can make us so worried about making a bad choice that we end up making no decision at all. Committing to one option feels like forsaking all others and the stakes just feel too terribly high. So how can we find our way out of this labyrinth?
Narrow down the choices The hint is to narrow down your choices. While in the previous chapter it was all about daring to dream big and wild and brainstorming without limits, now it’s time to sort and to separate the wheat from the chaff. The following tools will help you limit your list to those ideas that really suit you.
Which option suits you? If you have several options at hand, scroll through the exercises given in the previous chapters and check which options really suit the answers you gave. Which option enables you to bring in your core qualities? Which option invites in a role which actually seems to fit you? Through which option would you best embody your values and go for those issues you are most drawn to?
Learn to read your inner compass
Thinking and musing over which path to choose is great â€“ and yet often limited. When we donâ€™t move any further with thinking even deeper, what helps is switching the channel and accessing body wisdom and deeper, non-cognitive levels of knowing. If you find yourself in a situation when you have a number of attractive choices and you cannot make up your mind, put your rational thinking away for a few minutes and let your inner guidance take over. To know how to choose a path with heart is to learn how to follow intuitive feeling. (Jean Shinoda Bolen)
Finding inner guidance The phone rings and even before you look at it you know who is calling. You step outside of your apartment and suddenly a vision of a long lost friend comes to your mind – and you bump into him on the bus. There are countless of occasions when you have a hunch that something will happen – and, unexplainably, it does. Intuition – whether we refer to it as inner guidance, inner voice, innate knowing, hunch, or gut feeling – is a mechanism of inner or instinctive knowing that does not require or rely on rational, logical thought processes. We can look at it as an alternative way of accessing information, a different source of knowledge, our connection to the subconscious mind, an essential and indispensable tool for developing a more complete perspective on issues and finding authentic answers to our questions. With no intention of diving deep into cognitive science here, we can still say that there are a number of studies that demonstrate that most of the time our bodies know the answer to our questions even before our mind does. Our intuition and instincts often talk to us first on a visceral level, signalling to us what we need to know well before our consciousness has time to catch up. Our inner wisdom uses a whole other language for communication. It rarely uses words. Yes, it could be that we hear an inner voice, but a lot of the time it involves feelings, a tingling sensation, hairs standing up on the back of our necks, butterflies or contraction in our stomach, sweaty palms, racing hearts, strong urge to act. Sometimes it is just the simple feeling of knowing something with all our heart. We simply know what to do without having figured it out. There is a sudden clarity that cannot be explained rationally. Wouldn’t it be great to arrive at the crossroads in our lives and always know without hesitation which way to go? Why do we still hesitate, feel confused or stuck or second-guess our choices if we have this great built-in system, an inner compass that could guide us?
There are several reasons why we might feel cut off from our intuitive powers. One explanation can be that we are conditioned to look to the outside world for guidance and direction. What is trendy this season? Where to go on holiday? What is the best diet? We browse through social media pages, Google our questions, leaf through magazines. We get easily influenced by other people’s opinion about what should we do with our lives and tend to forget that we already possess the answers. Another reason is that listening to inner guidance requires at least some degree of silence and solitude to be able to hear that small, inner voice or to feel what our bodies are signalling to us. Unfortunately, our hectic, daily lives, which are filled with noise and distractions, do not provide too many opportunities for quiet introspection. We are wrapped up in a culture of accelerated pace that emphasises “doing” instead of “being”. And not just doing one thing – maybe several things at the same time (multitasking, here I come!). As we are constantly bombarded by messages and different types of distractions from the media and advertising, by pressures of our society and culture, leading a hurried lifestyle, buried under unfinished projects and strict deadlines, most of us do not find the necessary time to quieten down and pose some meaningful questions about the directions of our lives. Moreover, in today’s world rational, logical thinking is valued above everything else. Through socialisation we are taught from an early age to override our gut feelings or instincts in favour of common sense, which leads to decreased sensitivity. Thus, we are more and more disconnected from our bodies and numbed to our feelings which could provide us with clues about what is really going on around us. A lot of times when our bodies try to draw our attention to something we take the easy way out. Our head hurts? We pop a pill. We feel tired? Let’s have another cup of coffee. Depressed by the news? How about a beer tonight? But without sensing our bodies, our feelings, we lose connection to not just the present moment, but to the individual and collective wisdom that can present itself as intuition. The good news is that our ability to “hear” the inner voice can be improved – and this chapter will provide some exercises that you can do to strengthen your intuition “muscle”. First of all, awareness and presence help cultivate our inner connection, so try to practice awareness in the 126
moment: pause, breathe, and sense what’s going on in your body and inner world, and also, around you. As Miranda Tufnell writes in A Widening Field: To move out of our heads and into the sensory world of the body awakens us not only to sensation but also to a deeper, slower landscape beneath the surface of everyday awareness, a landscape of feeling, memory, impulse and dream(…) We cannot reason our way towards happiness, or a sense of meaning or value, rather we may sense it in the instinctual and intuitive response of the heart. The heart is our compass, showing us the ways in which our lives may be nourished and renewed. So try to be “out of your mind” and feel what heartens you. Struggling and straining to find answers can hinder the process, so relax, play, immerse yourself in creative work or meditate. The first step is opening the mind and the heart up to receiving the messages. Our intuition, dreams, creative visions and inspirations can connect us to a universal wisdom that is far more expansive than our limited, everyday logical knowledge. Eric Schiffmann (yoga teacher and author of The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness) explains it this way: Imagine you are driving in your car. It is a clear day, you can see twothree kilometres ahead and the road looks clear. What you cannot see is that behind the curve there is a traffic jam where you will get stuck for a really long time. You have the ground level view so of course you cannot know about the situation ahead. That’s why traffic helicopters were invented – to give you the aerial perspective and help you avoid situations where you would be stuck. But to take advantage of the bigger perspective, first you have to realise there is a broadcast that provides you with this information. And even then, you still have to turn on your radio to hear the broadcast. And even then, you have to tune into the right station.
So, to translate the analogy, Schiffmann says that our minds are like the radio in our car, and the “cosmic broadcast” is continuously happening inside us. By that he means that there is a larger perspective available to all of us – the aerial perspective – about what is happening in our lives. When we only use the limited, ground-level perspective our outlook and understanding of our lives will be limited, regardless of our IQ or how many university degrees we have. We can only see to a certain distance. But with the help of our car radios (our quiet minds) we can have instant access to an aerial perspective – to expanded knowledge, to a larger perspective – and this information can help us navigate our way through life and provide guidance in making important decisions. His advice is to listen inwardly throughout the day as often as we can for our deepest impulses about what to say, think, do, or be. This can be applied to small, seemingly unimportant decisions, such as which type of apple to buy at the store. The red one, the green one, or the yellow one? Which line will move faster at the cashier? Pause and listen for the answer and then buy those that you are drawn to. Do it as often as you can. What is really important here is not just the listening, but daring to do what our deepest impulses encourage us to do. So the practice essentially consists of three steps: Ask, listen, and do. Be willing to ask for guidance, then listen inwardly for your deepest impulses, and dare to do what your inner guidance prompt you to do. Dare to go beyond your rational, logical answers. If you do this often, eventually you will get better and better at accessing inner guidance. It is better to start this practice with small and easy things, like what to buy at the store, or what clothes to put on in the morning, or whether to take an umbrella for a walk or not, so when we have to make a more important decision – like which job offer to take – our intuitive “muscles” will be in better shape. The following methods help you to connect to your inner guide:
Write it down: Intuition at your fingertips Writing is a powerful tool to get in touch with deeper levels of knowing. It helps to empty and order our minds, to find words to express vague feelings and sensations, and to surprise yourself with what flows out of you. Have you ever tried freewriting? This exercise basically allows you to brainstorm with yourself, to generate many sentences, paragraphs and ideas by continuously writing, without any editing or revising, for a set time, such as 10 or 30 minutes. Freewriting is powerful, because – as the name suggests – frees you from restrictions and thereby it can tap into your inner resources and intuition. To begin, first choose a set time for the activity – this could be as little as five minutes or as long as half an hour. Set a timer with an alarm. Gather your writing tools – have plenty of blank paper and a pen available or you can even write on your laptop or tablet. Keep it to yourself – it helps to be aware in advance that this is confidential writing, so that unconsciously you don’t alter what is trying to surface – just to avoid embarrassment. This way you feel free to write down any stupid, outrageously, wildly impossible things that later might send you in the right direction. Write a question or an open-ended sentence on the top of the page. Start writing and don’t stop. Continuous writing helps to create a receptive flow. Don’t judge or evaluate what you are writing as you write, and don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Don’t lift your hand, just write. Let yourself be a channel of the outpouring of ideas and jot them down as they come. If you feel that you have absolutely no more ideas, still keep on writing (even it is just “I have absolutely no clue what to write anymore!!!”). When you are finished, read the whole thing. You can highlight or circle ideas that seem interesting or useful. When you review what you have written, you may be in awe or surprised.
Freewriting is a powerful tool when done regularly. In her book The way of the artist, Julia Cameron recommends doing this practice every morning to empty our minds and let our creative juices flow. We highly recommend these morning pages, as she calls them. Many of us have had the experience of an intuitive flash as we are just about to fall asleep or just waking up. It is like a flash of understanding that cuts through our usual, daytime defence systems and allows a deeper truth to shine through. Has it ever happened to you that you were struggling with an issue all day long, and the next day, upon waking, you suddenly had the answer? Keep a journal and a pen on your bedside table to catch these insights. You might even pose a specific question before you go to bed – for example, “Should I quit my current office job and sign up for this dance course?” True, you might still dream of flying dolphins but who knows what that dream tells you... You can also keep an intuition journal where you note all the instances when you had a hunch about something and it turned out to be right. This can increase your confidence in your inner wisdom. Also, you can articulate here in writing the questions that you would like to get an answer to.
Let the creative juices flow. Be in the flow. Grab a pencil or a paintbrush and allow your hand to move freely on the paper. Let the images, words, poems flow through you. Or turn on your favourite music and dance. Or take pictures or play an instrument. It doesn’t really matter what the medium is, as long as you do the activity as a spontaneous expression. Whatever rocks your world, immerse yourself in it. Don’t think about the outcome or try to plan what your creation will look or sound like. Get out of your mind, let go of your habitual thoughts and find yourself in the present moment and see where it takes you.Since creativity and intuition are so intrinsically linked, the process works both ways – sparking up our intuition can increase our creativity also! 130
Intuition found in stillness
Throughout the day it is not just the external distractions that can keep us busy, our minds are usually filled with mental chatter too. Try to find a few minutes when you can be alone and quiet to clear your mind. Even if you have never done yoga or meditation in your life, you can still try this simple breathing exercise. You can sit in a traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable, even in a chair. Try to keep your back straight to stay alert. Close your eyes and turn your attention to your breathing. Breathe naturally. Donâ€™t try to alter your breathing, just become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Concentrate on this sensation. If it helps you to stay focused you can even count your breaths. Sit quietly for ten or fifteen minutes. If you discover that your mind has wandered off, just bring it back to the sensation of the breath. Try not to struggle and do not get frustrated if you notice that you are thinking about something else. Let go of striving to be perfect. With some practice, you will notice that gradually the distracting thoughts will subside and you will be filled with a sense of inner peace and calmness. When you finish, you might find some new insights or unexpected solutions emerging from this clear space. For increased body awareness lie down on the ground and get comfortable. Close your eyes and first focus on the sensations that the breathing offers. Notice how your belly and chest expand with each inhalation and gently contract with each exhalation. Then turn your attention to your feet. What do you feel? Slowly let your awareness spread upwards, towards your shins, your knees, thighs, pelvisâ€Ś and gently work your way through your whole body. Notice what you feel in each area. Is there a sense of aliveness or numbness? Warmth or cold? Do you feel tension, tightness 131
or pain anywhere? Breath into those parts and allow them to loosen a bit. Keep your awareness on the sensations of your body as you spend a few minutes in this position. When you are ready to come out, slowly start moving your toes and fingers, then stretch if it feels good and turn to your side and press up into a seated position. Donâ€™t rush, give yourself enough time to let all the sensations sink in. Of course, meditation does not have to mean sitting in lotus-pose for hours on end or lying on your back with your eyes closed (and maybe drifting off to sleep). Walking in nature can be very meditative in itself. So if you feel that your thought have become stagnant or repetitive, maybe it is a better idea to do a walking meditation, or go on a â€œMedicine Walkâ€? or Nature Quest.
Accessing body wisdom
Think of two or three different options that are available for you – for example, three different career pathways, jobs, etc. Write the names of each of them on a piece of paper. Lay the pieces of paper on the floor next to each other, then take your shoes off and step on the first piece. Try to imagine yourself in the situation that will unfold if you opt for this choice, see yourself doing the activities connected with this job, for example. Then hold the image of the activity in your mind and feel what happens in your body. Your body is your best barometer of what is right or wrong for you. Do you feel your shoulders relaxing – or tensing up? Do you feel a spontaneous smile developing on your face – or do you develop a lump or tightness in your throat? What is the feeling in your chest, around your heart? How is the energy in your body? Did you feel your energy levels sink or rise as you stepped on the sheet of paper? Is your heart pounding – with excitement or with terror? Have you started to sweat? Has your stomach tied itself in a knot or do you feel a warm glow in there? Just lean into these feelings, allow them to overtake you for a minute, then step off the first paper, relax for a while and repeat the same process with the other choices. In the end think about the different feelings that you have experienced as you imagined yourself in the situations. What was the most pleasant, most exciting one? Which one filled you with panic or uncomfortable feelings? Do you feel clearer now about the different options?
Experimenting Testing Experiencing The third approach to making choices and finding out what you really want to commit to is exploring the different options by putting them into action. Devise concrete ways of prototyping and testing which one of them best suits your personality, talents and aspirations. You can consider which path to take for ages – and most likely, you will know if it is the right one or not when you start walking it. Experiencing something is irreplaceable when standing at crossroads. So stop thinking and start prototyping.
Prototyping your dream: Dipping your toes in the cool water of choice Are you one of those people who, upon hiking for hours in the sweltering heat, will dive right into a cool lake without any hesitation? If yes, skip this chapter. If, on the other hand, you are one of those wobblers, standing on the shore, carefully calculating the temperature difference of the lake and the air while taking into consideration the relative humidity and several other factors – then definitely read on. Sometimes we can spend days, months, even years talking about the changes we want to make, the steps we want to take – without actually moving a single inch forward. The fear of the unknown, the complex issues surrounding our choices, our diverse interests, can all contribute to this stagnation. However, no amount of thinking can give us the final push that we need to leave our comfort zone. Cerebral processes have their limitations. You can read articles, books, other people’s accounts on their blogs about how to swim, you can watch videos or listen to expert advice – still, until you are not ready to get yourself wet in a body of water bigger than a puddle, you cannot be really sure that you can keep your head above the surface. Direct experience is the only way to figure out whether we are willing and able to do something, and whether we actually enjoy doing it. 134
Create experiences, therefore, where you can test the waters before you jump in head first. Even the best business ideas can fall short because of poor planning, inadequate timing and a lack of testing the commercial waters, so apply this principle to your own personal quest. The goal is not to avoid failures and difficulties, but to plan for them.
Fail early in order to learn fast Prototyping moves an idea into a concrete next step – and thereby moves you into doing and trying out your idea. It means creating a testing field in which you can try out the desired project, role or challenge – not yet large-scale “out there”, but in a small and safe environment. Your prototype does not have to be perfect – in fact it is about testing your idea before it is entirely planned. This allows you to get feedback at an early stage, which you might want to integrate in further planning and development of your project idea. Prototyping – and listening honestly to its feedback – helps to find balance between two extremes: Acting without reflecting (blind activism) and reflecting without acting (analysis paralysis). It enables reflecting upon acting and acting upon reflecting. It helps you to move into action, instead of being paralysed by the huge gap between the here and now and your big vision. Prototyping is all about experiencing, and learning from these experiences. You could consider for ages if you should be an author or a teacher – but you will probably not know if what feels right and what doesn’t until you experience it. Too often, project ideas are only planned through head and paper – And no matter how promising it might look on paper: Put into action, it might be totally different to what you imagined. During implementation we might finally find out that it feels totally different to what we expected, that our target group perceives it totally different to how we intended, or that we don’t flourish as much in our role as we imagined. Prototyping gives us the possibility to try out our fantasy early in the outer reality – and to learn from it, to then integrate these learnings in the further planning process.
Prototyping is not just about making experiences which confirm that you are on the right track – it’s also about recognising that you are not, and recognising this is better earlier than later. Being in a position or doing a job in which you feel enormously uncomfortable, ungifted and bored is a vastly important experience: Finding out that this is not “it” might save you years of trying to get there. The same for products or services you would like to launch: Recognising that your target group is not interested in it at all, that you do not seem to be the right person to deliver these products or services in a good and enjoyable way is sometimes hard to accept but an important lesson to learn. Also this might save you years and large sums you might have invested in developing these products or services without being able to sell them in the end. From this perspective, it unveils that prototyping is a great teacher in the beauty of failure. It is important to learn the beauty of failure, because nothing stops us more from bringing our ideas into the world than the fear of failure. Regarding failure as an opportunity for learning, understanding and developing helps to move beyond that fear, and dare to show up with a prototype of your idea.
Small steps, big learnings You do not necessarily have to implement huge changes – you can start with small steps, easy enough that you dare to take them but big enough that you leave your comfort zone and invite feedback. You can email or call individuals whose achievements you admire, and ask them if you can talk to them and find out more about how they got where they are in an informal interview. If it helps you to get in touch with people, start a blog on which you publish the interviews – this might help you to take yourself more seriously and to dare to ask even those people for an interview which you wouldn’t oterwise dare. You will be surprised by the percentage of positive responses. People like to talk about their passions, especially with others who are also drawn to the same interest. You might receive invaluable insights and tips about your chosen field before striking out on your own and as an added bonus you can also expand your network. 136
If you’re venturing out in a totally new field, try to look for short-term experiences in the form of internships, volunteer projects or freelance gigs that offer hands-on learning opportunities and mentorship from people with expertise. These short-term projects can be fun experiments that allow you to test your abilities and fulfilment levels in very different environments. Obviously, committing yourself to an unpaid or low-paid internship – even for a short time – only makes sense if you can actually learn something valuable during your time there and you are not treated as a coffee-making copy machine. Ideally, you should gain new knowledge by performing tasks, working on projects, and opportunities to build personal relationships and networks during the course of the internship. To make sure that this experience not only might help you on your way but actually does, make sure to design a learning journey: Make clear what it is that you want to learn through this experience, what your aims are and how you want to reach them, what your questions are and how you are scouting for answers, and who the people you want to connect with are, why and how. Having another person to check-in with regularly on your learning journey and your experiences of the internship helps to make the best out of it. Alternatively you might consider working for someone else in your chosen field before starting your own social enterprise. Learning the field from the inside out often helps prospective entrepreneurs determine the viability of their intended product or service. You will have greater insight about the field before starting out on your own. Testing your dream can also be achieved by pretending to work in the field. Dedicate some time to this process and live your dream for a few days or a week. Do everything what you would do when you were in that position. Get up at the time that you would need to get up, spend your hours doing things that you would have to do if you pursued this line of work with people who you would be associating with in this field. Let’s say you would like to work as a translator, translating relevant environmental books and articles into your native language. First, go and visit some online forums of translators – What kind of issues are they struggling with? What types of questions do they post? What are the main challenges they face? Then choose an interesting article or a chapter from book that is close to your heart and hasn’t been translated before. Sit down 137
with it, and start working on it. See how you feel after a few hours, after a few days. Is it still making your heart beat faster? Or do you feel like it is a monotonous, lonely work and you would not last a week? If you are harbouring a secret wish be an investigative journalist who writes about pressing social issues why not start a blog or post short articles on Facebook or LinkedIn or any other social media about all the things that you are interested in and have an opinion about? Look at the feedback that you are getting – can you find constructive ideas that will nudge you on? If you dream about giving inspiring speeches to thousands of people why not practice and fine-tune your public speaking skills in front of a group of youngsters at a workshop or talk that you help to organise? Have an idea for a great start-up? Mingle with successful start-up owners at a networking group and find out what they struggled with in the beginning. How did they overcome those challenges? Who and what helped them in the process? People usually love to share their own stories, even if those stories involve a few setbacks and failures. You want to become a trainer in non-violent communication? Invite 10 friends and have a 1-hour session with them. You are dreaming of creating a stylish eco-friendly label? Print an eco-friendly shirt and see how others like it before you start with your 100-piece collection. Or you might feel that the one thing that prevents you from founding your own company is fundraising, your inability to ask people for money – so why not try it on a small scale? Find a worthy cause, something that you believe in (so you do not have the feeling that you are asking for yourself, which can be quite difficult) – this could be a reconstruction or expansion of an animal shelter, collecting used toys or books for disadvantaged children or refugees etc., and ask your friends and family to contribute. You might be surprised by all the goodwill and generosity. Also, be aware that this in not so much about testing a “job” as testing yourself. Look at the process as a self-awareness course and an excellent way to find out more about yourself. What are your limits when it comes to committing yourself to a certain cause or a certain task, how well can you get along with other people working on the same issue? These insights are priceless, no matter how you rate the experience itself. Realising that a specific job, sector, or working environment is not the right fit for you can help you tremendously when planning your next move. 138
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Design and im plem ent y our protot y pe pr ojec t
A project can be any kind of activity carried out with a well-defined purpose within a specific time-frame. It can be organising an event, modelling a product or gathering people for an action such as planting a tree. Doing a project is a great way to prototype your idea and to see how it works in practice â€“ and to see if it is something you could imagine doing as a main occupation. Some examples: If your vision is to create a physical space (such as a learning centre, a cafĂŠ or a studio), try using an existing space to simulate the functions and activities taking place there. If it is a process involving a lot of people, try it with a small group. If you think about launching a service, create a test field with a few friends. If it is a new product what you are dreaming about, create a simple model and ask a few people to test it. In any case, when creating your own project there are a few simple but important questions you need to answer.
W hat am I c r e a t i n g ?
Do I wish to create a new product? An event? A service? A community or a network? A physical space or maybe an online platform? The clearer you can get about what you want to create, the closer you get to manifesting your idea.
W hy am I c r e a t i n g it ?
Gain clarity about your motivation, your core drive to carry out this project. What do you want to reach with it? What kind of impact do you wish to have? What do you want to gain yourself?
H ow am I c r e a t i n g it ?
Gather as many aspects of realising your project as you can. For example if you wish create an event in the neighbourhood to exchange homemade food and stories, then you might need to think about aspects such as: place, time, how to invite people, if you want to have a scheduled program, if you want to involve others in the organisation etc.
W i th whom a m I c r e a t i n g it ?
Who could you imagine cooperating with? Who could be a supporter of your project? Who could give you feedback? 139
For whom am I c r e a t in g it ?
Who is the target group of your project? I.e. Who are you inviting to your event? Who will use your product or service? Who would be members of your community? After brainstorming about these questions and noting down some thoughts and ideas, take an A4 sheet of paper and divide it the following way.
Here note down the purpose of your project. Why do you want to carry out this project? What do you wish to reach through it? What are your guiding values, goals, dreams and passions that fuel this project? This section is the “WHY”, which can help you to orientate while carrying out your project. Reconnecting to your purpose can help you in times of confusion and busyness.
Write down all the activities you wish to carry out within the framework of your project. What will you actually do? Try to be as precise and tangible with your ideas as possible.
Who am I creating it for? This question has two levels: the level of your actual target group and the level of the “bigger picture”, which means the social and environmental impact of your project. Imagine what kind of impact you wish to have with your project on your human and natural environment.
How am I creating it? In this section you can include a little mind map of all aspects you have listed: place, time, recourses, communication channels, formats, timeline etc.
Who am I creating it with? An important aspect of creating a sustainable project is the richness and diversity of relationships around it. Who would be your partners for this project? Who are the people you would like to work together with? Who could you consult or ask for advice and feedback?
MY NEXT ELEGANT STEPS
List a few actions, which you can carry out already this week in order to realise your project. Below note down the steps you can take within a week or two and under it list all the things you will do during the following month. 140
You can use this map also for other, larger-scale projects you carry out in the future â€“ but make sure that carrying out your prototype project does not take more than a month. After realising your project it is very important to reflect on it, to harvest feedback and to integrate learnings. Take some time to answer the following questions: Were there some things, which turned out different to how you imagined? Why? How did you react? Was the project relevant for those involved? Was it addressing their needs? How did they react? How did you collaborate with your partners? Did any conflicts or tension arise? How did you address them? Was your implementation suitably timed? Were there things, which took more (or less) time, than you imagined? What have you gained and learnt through carrying out this project? What would you do differently next time?
Bibliography and further reading Anna Black, Living in the Moment: with Mindfulness Meditations (2014, CICO Books) Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It (2010, Dell) Eric Schiffmann, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness Publisher (1996, Pocket Books) Julia Cameron, The Artistâ€™s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self (1997, MacMillan) Margareth Lobenstein, The Renaissance Soul (2006, Harmony) Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star (2008, Harmony) Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, A Widening Field: Journeys in Body and Imagination (2003, Dance Books Ltd) Otto Scharmer, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges (2008, BerrettKoehler Publishers)
Online resources www.presencing.com www.puttylike.com
Crossing the threshold, dealing with resistance Fears
Overcoming core beliefs
Raising self-esteem Embracing failure
Developing a support network
You finally know what you want to do – But you don’t dare go for it
To know what you want doesn’t automatically lead into action. In fact, in between knowing what you’re called to do and actually doing it, there is often a big gap: On the one hand, we are dreaming of something and deeply longing for that dream to come true – but on the other, when it could actually happen, we escape and hide, finding a billion obstacles and reasons for not following our call: It’s not the right time, not the right money, not the right people, not the right me. It’s too big, too small, too early, too late, too risky, too squeezed-in, too whatever. Becoming visible with your own uniqueness and bringing your gifts to your community requires courage. On our path to living our vocation, we will have encounters with threshold guardians again and again. Standing in our way, with crossed arms and a critical glare, they ask: “Are you sure you really want to do THAT? Are you even capable of doing it? Don’t you want to just leave it before you make a fool of yourself and fail miserably?” Experiencing insecurities, self-criticism and self-doubt on one’s path is totally normal and part of the game, especially when faced with our inner critic, threshold guardians or any other obstacles that intimidate or scare us. Yet it is also absolutely possible to cultivate enough trust, courage and confidence in order to meet any challenges that may come our way and continue walking our path. The following chapter focuses on developing such skills.
A billion reasons not to follow your call What a paradox: It is one of our deepest longings to find our calling. And yet, when we hear our calling and our vision begins to take shape, we often don’t go ahead and manifest what we know we want. Instead, we develop all sorts of strategies that help us prevent ourselves from truly following our calling. Gregg Levoy describes this paradox in his book Callings. Finding and Following an Authentic Life. Below, we list some of the strategies that he identifies, that keep us from truly following our calling: ☐ Analysing a call to death: Doubting again and again whether this is really it, whether this is really what we should be going for and what would happen if we instead went for this other, slightly easier option. ☐ Waiting for the perfect moment: Waiting for the right combination of time, money, energy, education, freedom, and the right alignment of the planets. (Gregg Levoy) ☐ Making excuses, like “I cannot afford it”, or “I don’t have time for it”. Whereas the truth is that you just won’t reconsider your priorities and dare taking a risk, while deep down inside you know that you could, if you only dared to. ☐ Choosing a parallel path to the one you feel called to: Choosing work that is so close to your actual vocation that you can tell yourself that you are trying really hard to live your calling, while in fact you never take the risk to fully land in your true place. Examples of this are when a person becomes an art critic rather than an artist, a schoolteacher rather than a parent, or a reporter rather than a novelist. ☐ Turning the faintest calling into a huge project: dreaming so big that you can never live up to that dream. ☐ Distracting yourself with other activities: You know that in order to
make your dream come true, the only thing you need to do is to sit down and write that application, proposal or whatever. But instead, you decide to first clean the house, research something on the internet, and get involved in all those projects that your boss or your friend asks you to. ☐ Other forms of self-sabotage: For whatever reason, you “forget” to send the application in on time, you come too late to that meeting, you spend your evening on the phone or cooking an elaborate meal when you actually could spend that time speaking to the person who might co-fund your idea. ☐ Telling yourself that you don’t actually want it: “The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread”, as novelist Simone Weil puts it, “but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.” In other words, in order to not take that step towards your calling, you try convincing yourself that the job you’ve got is actually not that bad, that, really, you can be happy to have a job at all, and that that new job wouldn’t work out anyway. ☐ Making yourself unworthy of a calling: When you imagine yourself living your dream, you will sooner or later think of other people who would actually be better suited for it: Your colleague who is more educated, your friend who has more experience, your sister who is better at everything anyway. And to really convince yourself of this, you come up with a thousand reasons for why you, as you are, are not good enough (yet) to live your dream life.
Do any of these strategies seem familiar to you? What are your top three strategies that keep you from following your calling?
I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument. While the song I came to sing remains unsung. Rabindranath Tagore, Song Unsung
Fears So what is going on here? How come a part of us is so scared to really live our dream? Why do we have these dreams but then escape and hide away when they finally come into reach?
Fear about making the wrong decision Committing yourself to a professional path is a bit like entering a committed relationship; what if saying yes to this means missing out on the chance of meeting the person I am truly meant to be with? Perhaps only tomorrow the person of my dreams will cross my path… You may remember Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice from Chapter 3. It’s like the bigger the selection of yoghurts in the supermarket, the bigger your insecurity about choosing the right yoghurt – and the you are able to make a choice and stick with it. It’s the same with your choice to follow a certain professional path: What if the perfect job offer is waiting just around the corner? What if, five years down the line, you realise that the job you chose is actually not right for you? It can help to look at older people’s CVs and to recognise that their paths often have many twists and turns, branching off here and there into various activities and perhaps also some dead ends, rather than being straight lines. So, even if certain job choices seem big now: Nothing is set in stone, nothing has to be a decision for life.
Fear of stepping into the unknown Following one’s call means change, means stepping into the unknown, which is indeed pretty scary. When we recognise that something is calling us, fear often steps in like an unwanted visitor. The fear relates to the possibility of having to leave our familiar, comfy life behind and to step out into the unknown. 148
No matter if we liked how we lived our lives so far: The way we have lived up until a certain point is always familiar to us – and this gives us security. Change, in contrast, always brings about insecurity; it is impossible to know whether something will actually change for the better or the worse. So taking that first step towards our calling is like jumping into cold waters. And we all know the shaky knees feeling before jumping off a rock, don’t we?
The “What if…” blockage – painting future horror scenarios Some of us are masters at imagining all the things that could go wrong as a consequence of a step we take. Just think about all the things that could happen... We could make a mistake, others might react differently to what we expected, we might have an accident on the way, the train might be delayed, the sky might fall down... In some cases this ability can even prove useful in thinking about and preparing for different situations and scenarios but starting sentences with “but what if...” is also a good recipe for hindering constructive and effective actions and sinking us in the swamp of overthinking even the smallest step.
The vulnerability of exposing our dreams Only those who have something precious to share have stage-fright. (Unknown) This quote helps us to understand why we are so shy when it comes to showing up with something we deeply care about. Having a dream come true is an incredibly powerful experience, and at the same time something incredibly tender. It is a deeply precious, intimate and vulnerable act to show up and go for what you most deeply care about. Bringing a dream into a real-life project is like raising a young and tender plant: Harsh winds might blow it down. Being criticised for “your baby” might hurt much more than being criticised for something you do not care about so much. 149
So not stepping up to our dream gives us a feeling of security; if we don’t share our dream with others and expose ourselves with it, we won’t be criticised for it. Hiding our dreams and longings in a little box underneath our bed may feel safe, but of course it’s far from being satisfactory.
Fear of our own power It is not just our fear of exposing our vulnerability that often stops us from following our dream. Our fear can quite often also relate to the recognition of how precious, powerful, and even ingenious an idea of ours might be – and how powerful we actually are. Being powerful also means being dangerous. And yes, we are. Being harmless is a somewhat comfortable place to be. For as long as we are tame, perhaps even sweet and innocent, we aren’t really threatening to others – and in turn, we don’t feel threatened by anyone either. But feeling safe by hiding away is nothing compared to the experience of standing fully in our power, radiant and visible in all our glory. Pretending to be smaller than you are, is a lose-lose situation: it is not of service to yourself, nor does it serve the world in any way.
Courage, self-confidence and trust: Crossing that threshold anyway Waiting until we are totally fearless before following our calling would be fatal, as this day will likely never come. What is required is a constructive way of being with our fears as well as our inner strength, so that we can walk the path we know we are meant to. Courage, self-confidence, and trust are three abilities that require cultivation for this journey. And everyone can develop them. Courage does not mean fearlessness, but going into the unknown in spite of all the fears. (Osho) But what exactly brings courage? What is it that helps us walk into the unknown despite all fears? And how can we cultivate it? Read on for some tricks. 150
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There‘s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won‘t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It‘s not just in some of us; it‘s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.
Appreciating fear rather than fighting it While courage is often associated with great heroic deeds of strong and brave figures, Bené Brown gives a different perspective. She reminds us that the Latin root of courage is “cor”, which means “heart”. In its early definition, Brown says, courage means “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart”. Courage according to this definition definitely does not mean pushing away and denying fearful parts of oneself. It means fully seeing, accepting and appreciating anything you may feel in your heart. And that includes fear. Fears, worries and doubts can develop tremendous power. Interestingly, their powers become greater the more we try pushing them away or ignoring them. If we don’t allow ourselves to fully feel these often unwanted emotions, they will linger, diffuse and vague, beneath the surface, communicating a sense of threat without us being able to decipher when this feeling is appropriate and when it isn’t. If, however, we fully recognise and accept our fears, they become smaller and lose their strength and power. It is as if fear needs to be seen by us and receive our permission to exist in order for it to leave.
Give it a try: What are you afraid of right now? Be as precise as possible in your description. What would happen if this became reality? Feel into it and be as present as possible with this idea. When you have fully felt it, continue the experiment: If this, then, became reality, what would happen? And then? etc.
When working with our fears, it is good to recognise that they do not mean us any harm. Our fears are there to warn and protect us. By connecting with our fears and giving them space to be, we can work with, rather than against them. We can do this by asking: What does my fear want to tell me? What need is associated with it? 152
Connecting to the importance of taking the next step and developing willpower Here is another perspective on what courage means: If you stand at the edge of a cliff and look down onto a rushing river, you may not dare to jump. If, however, you see a child drowning in the river, it is quite likely that you will jump, in order to save the child. This example shows that whether our fears or our courage are stronger in any given situation depends on the perceived importance of our behaviour. As long as you give more attention to all the bad things that could happen if you did a certain thing than to your motivation for doing it, your fears will take the upper hand. If, however, you connect with the importance of your actions, and the relevance of their consequences, you may be surprised how much you are capable of.
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R econnect with y our intrins ic m ot iv at ion
In order to follow your call, you need to be intrinsically motivated and have the willpower to really go for it. Both motivation and willpower will arise when the reasons for doing something are really convincing: What is it you really want to do? Why do you want to do this? Where is it taking you? What would you regret if you allowed yourself to be stopped by your fears? What are the positive consequences of taking this step? How would it feel to actually go for it? Who and/or what might support you to take this step? Who and/or what would benefit from you taking this step? 153
Meeting fear with humour Hardly anything is as liberating and relieving as humour. Humour even has the ability to melt away fears like ice cream in the sun. Go ahead and try it out:
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Draw a comic of a situation or problem that you are experiencing. Make a caricature of your fear; express it in any humorous way you can think of. If you want, ask friends to describe what they see. Simply listen to their impressions. Observe how your perspective on your fear changes through this process.
Overcoming core beliefs On our journey through life we will, from time to time, encounter people who are critical of our ventures and might stand in our way, or challenges that need to be overcome. But hardly anyone or anything seems to stand in our way as much as we do ourselves. At least I have never encountered anyone in my life who has been as critical, strict and judgmental towards me as myself. Core beliefs play a big part here. Core beliefs are all those thoughts, convictions and images we have about ourselves; about what we can and cannot do, what makes us lovable and what doesn’t, what will happen if we try to manifest an idea, and so on. We think and tell ourselves these stories of who we are and how the world is over and over again, until they become our reality. And even worse: we start believing that this is “just how life is”. The stories become like a lens through which we see the world without being aware of its existence, and thus without realising the partiality of our perspective. So our core beliefs have a strong impact on our thoughts and behaviours, often without us being aware of the ways in which they steer us. And this is how we stand in our own way; by letting our core beliefs hinder the unfolding of our potential, and therefore the realisation of our dreams. We make ourselves smaller than we are, putting ourselves down for being a certain way, and thus keep ourselves from living what we really want to live. Rarely, however, we see or acknowledge this. Instead, we project the reasons for our inability to do something outwards: I am not keeping myself from doing all the things I really want to do – it’s the people around me! They would make fun of me, reject or leave me, judge me if I do this, that or the other. And of course I want to avoid this!
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Become aware of your core beliefs!
Only when we understand what our core beliefs are, will we become aware of just how much they have made us to stand in our own way, and thus hindered our development. The good news is that becoming aware of them gives us the chance to transform them. Read the following sentences and think about which of these you often tell yourself. Write these down. I cannot put my venture into action because... ☐ others will make fun of me and I will look like a complete fool ☐ others would turn their backs on me ☐ others would be jealous of me and not be nice to me anymore ☐ I would realise that my idea wasn’t so great after all ☐ It would mean that I had to leave my family and friends – or they would leave me ☐ I couldn‘t survive financially ☐ It’s too late Core beliefs don‘t even need to be attached to a certain desire or venture. They can be very generic, like the following: ☐ I am not good enough ☐ I need to work hard and be successful in order to be loved ☐ If I am successful, other people will be jealous of me and turn away from me ☐ Others think badly of me ☐ If I say (or even do) what I want, the others will think I am selfish ☐ If I don‘t earn much money, people will think I am a loser ☐ If I earn my money doing that, people will think I am greedy ☐ Others just take advantage of me ☐ I never do anything right anyway ☐ I need to please others ☐ I never have any time ☐ Life is a struggle 156
☐ I cannot trust anyone ☐ I need to do everything alone ☐ If it needs to be good I have to do it myself ☐ I am a loser ☐ I always need to be the best ☐ Others can do it much better than I can ☐ I won’t succeed in anything ☐ In order to be successful, I need to put myself before others
Take a big piece of paper and divide it into three columns. Write all core beliefs you have in the left column. Then think of a way of turning each one into a positive sentence and write them in the middle. And in the right column, write three things that confirm the positive alternative: When have you experienced that the sentence in the middle was true? Negative core beliefs
Three things that affirm the positive alternative
I do everything wrong anyway.
I do things well.
1. When I organised this event, everything went well and the people were happy. 2. I baked a wonderful cake yesterday for my brother‘s birthday and everyone loved it. 3. I was able to repair the kitchen shelf all by myself and it worked out really well.
When I do what I When I do what I want to do, others want to do, I will be will make fun of me supported by others. and I will look like a complete fool.
1. My colleagues were proud of me when I conducted my first seminar. 2. George told me that he supports me every time I have difficulties with the current project. 3. My partner is very supportive and he/she trusts my choices.
Raising self-esteem Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on. (Maxwell Maltz) Self-esteem basically answers the question, “How do I feel about myself?” We can differentiate between a quite constant, global self-esteem (generally how we feel about “who we are”) and a more fluctuating, situational self-esteem (about “what we do”) which depends on circumstances, events and the roles we play in them. Situational self-esteem can change with the circumstance – we might feel high self-esteem at work after completing a successful project and low self-esteem at home when we handled a dispute in an unsatisfactory way. Low self-esteem is basically a negative evaluation of ourselves. Since our self-esteem is not set in stone, it is possible – but not easy – to raise it. Our self-esteem grows when we face our fears, tackle new tasks and learn from our experiences. There is a Hungarian saying: “Don’t leave the beaten path for the unbeaten path”. It is used to encourage people to stay in the familiar situation, instead of risking something new. Which is exactly the way to lead a boring, unsatisfying life which does not do anything to raise your selfesteem. How could it? You are living on auto-pilot, not trying anything new – how could you feel that you have accomplished something, that you have overcome a challenge if you leave no room for experimenting and instead you stick to the well-tested methods and solutions? Self-esteem is something we can build up – by wandering off the beaten path, by taking on responsibilities, challenges and new tasks. Yes, sometimes we might fail, and make mistakes, and it all feels uncomfortable. But without it there is simply no room for growth. Staying in our comfort zone can be very cosy and comfortable, but the learning zone – and growth zone – lies outside this area.
Self-esteem cannot be acquired from books or from listening to motivational speakers. It generally does not increase just by staring into the mirror and repeating some positive affirmations, like “I am a good person” or “I am powerful”. That little voice inside you will sooner or later challenge it: “Really? Then prove it!” Genuine self-esteem stems from actions. Actions that take you out of your comfort zone. For example, whenever you try something new – let it be a new way of talking to your teammates or a new activity – when you challenge yourself in a small or bigger way – whatever the end result – your opinion of yourself will improve, because at least you tried something. So get outside of your comfort zone regularly. Don’t have huge expectations, because that might set another trap for you – the trap of perfectionism – so just take smaller steps into the unknown. No one else can take risks, or face our losses on our behalf, or give us self-esteem. (Martha Beck)
Forget perfectionism Perfectionism can not only decrease your self-esteem, but it can even hinder you from achieving your goals. First, it can paralyse you from taking action because you are afraid that your results will not live up to some mythical standard. Or you take action but are not satisfied with what you achieved or your own performance. Perfectionism’s most threatening aspect – as Elizabeth Gilbert points it out – is that it disguises itself as a virtue, something that we should strive for. However, don’t buy into it and let your maximalist tendencies fall away. Be satisfied with good enough. We have the tendency to forever correct and modify and correct and... and we never finish the task. There is a time when we have to let our high expectations fall away and release the end product into the world. Learn to be your own best friend. When something does not go according to plan, you made a mistake, or feel that you did not live up to your potential, instead of beating yourself up rather ask yourself: How would my best friend support me in this situation? What would she or he 159
say? And do what your friend would do to help you or say what she or he would say… It might be a good idea to give yourself a break and exercise some selfcompassion by looking at our failures, mistakes and shortcomings with understanding and kindness and without harsh judgement – which does not mean giving up responsibility for our actions.
Embracing failure I have not failed. I‘ve just found 10,000 ways that won‘t work. (Thomas A. Edison) It is only natural that we do not wish to dwell on mistakes, failures, breakdowns, or losses – they might evoke feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, incompetency. It is hard enough to recover from the emotional blow of a failure – why would we want to dwell on the painful memories? But if we had allowed the fear of failure to paralyse us when we were young (and by that I mean really young, like two years old) we would have never learned to walk. Or talk. Or put solid food in our mouth with a fork. Or basically to do anything. To learn a new skill means a long process of trial and error (we stand up, we fall, we stand up again, put one foot forward, we fall, we stand up again…and in the end we are not just walking, but running). As we keep trying and failing, in the end we will – generally – find the formula that works. We live in a world that clearly places a huge importance on and celebrates success. Young entrepreneurs who became billionaires before their 25th birthday, championship athletes, pop stars and actors are all admired (and envied) for their success stories. However, many successful people claim that the road to success wasn’t smooth and they have indeed failed many times. What might distinguish them from others is that they don’t internalise failure, they do not regard it as a reflection of their self; their own deficiency. The terms, Internal and External Locus of Control, refer to our beliefs about what influences the outcomes of our actions. Those, who have a 160
more Internal Locus of Control mindset tend to believe that they have control over the outcome of a situation. They strongly believe that they are the captain of their own ships and they can determine their own destiny. They are more likely to take responsibility for their actions and are less influenced by other people’s opinion. This mentality can lead to beliefs like “if you work hard and truly commit yourself to your goal, you can achieve anything”. On the contrary, those with an External Locus of Control mindset assume that they have only little control over the outcome of a situation. They typically blame external circumstances (the stock market, chance, fate, luck, weather conditions, other people etc.) for failed outcomes – and also credit them for successful results. They frequently feel powerless or hopeless in the face of challenging situations and believe that they have little influence over the events of the world. Of course nobody is 100% this or that – it is more of a continuum – and none is better than the other. Still, it is an interesting question that we can pose to ourselves when we experience some kind of failure. Are we blaming ourselves? (“I am bad at this, I can never learn this, I am such a loser,” etc.) Or the circumstances? (“The test was too hard, the teacher/my boss was having a bad day,” etc.) Just being aware of our tendencies can be a step closer to understanding our reactions to failed attempts. Avoiding looking at our failures prevents us from learning from our mistakes. In order to benefit from them, we need to examine them carefully – maybe even curiously – but without falling into the trap of obsessing over them. The wisdom gained from analysing our failures might prove to be more valuable than “success” itself. Of course, figuring out the lessons that failure teaches us is not an easy job when we are still wallowing in frustration. And, after all: Is failure really the worst that can happen? What about living with regret for never trying?
Developing a support network The deep inner journey of connecting to your core qualities, values and vision of life results in a powerful process of transformation. Courageously leaving the beaten path behind and starting to walk your own way, to live your authentic vocation is not an easy thing. It can feel like a pretty lonely journey. Profound personal transformation influences your relationships as well. When you really start to go your own way, you can feel that the friends and people you were close to for many years are left behind. That they cannot or do not want to come along with you. With each step you take on your own path the gap is opening between you and the people around you: family members, friends, partner... Old friendships might fade away and suddenly you don’t have anything to talk about with those you used to chat for hours, stay up late together – those who you used to call your best friends. Your choices and steps might seem weird, confusing or simply crazy for the people who knew you for a long time. If you are in a relationship, you might repeatedly ask yourself: “Is this the right person for me? Can I really be myself, walk my authentic path hand in hand with this person?” You might not find the answer satisfying. You might feel that your partner does not know or appreciate you really, even though the case might be that you just became a different person than in the beginning of your relationship. These questions and doubts can lead to a breakup or a divorce but they can also take your relationship to a new level. You can discover the opportunities opening up through crisis also in this area of life. Whichever scenario might happen to you, if your old relationships are fading, weakening or breaking – or they are transforming or deepening, it is important to know that...
...You are not alone!
There are plenty of people out there, asking themselves questions, doubting their current situation, caring about the state of the world and seeking their own path, their own authentic way of life. The idea of the Cultural Creatives or Paul Hawkenâ€˜s book The Blessed Unrest can serve as sources of inspiration. Knowing that you are not the only one on this quest and recognising that your individual process is part of a bigger, larger-scale change happening all around the globe is affirming and encouraging. And at the same time you might still ask: Yes, it is great to know that there others out there struggling with the same issues as I am but how do I connect to them? How could we find and mutually support each other?
Sharing your dream Have you ever found yourself thinking, wondering or dreaming about doing something, starting a project or undertaking a venture but got blocked because you thought it might sound too crazy, unrealistic or irrelevant for others? This idea might have kept you up at night and made your mind busy during the day but you never found enough courage to share it? And then slowly but surely the idea faded away and eventually did not feel so important any more. This situation might sound familiar but you can also be sure: this is not a unique case. It happens more often than not that ideas, dreams and vision silently die because of not being brought into daylight. Sharing makes things, which so far existed only in your head, more real and talking about them with someone is a step towards realisation.
Peers, allies and mentors When you dedicate yourself to live your authentic vocation and to transforming your dreams and visions to reality, finding supportive circles, people and networks is of key importance. Connecting to others on a similar path can encourage you, can be a recharge station and source of inspiration. New friendships and collaborations can grow.
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Creating spaces of trust, safety and support
When you do not find an existing circle or group of people with whom you could share about your process, you yourself can also create a space and invite others. Creating a circle of trust is a wonderful way to experience and nourish a support network. You can create any kind of circle based on a shared topics of interest: Womenâ€˜s Circle, Menâ€˜s Circle, Storytelling Circle, or a circle on a topic that moves you. The most important things about it is to create a safe space, where everyone can feel accepted and encouraged to be herself and express herself. Council, as an ancient circle practice teaches us how to connect with oneself and others through heart-centred speaking and listening. In the spirit of curiosity and enquiry we ask what serves the whole as we learn how to share our stories authentically in the truth of each moment.
Guidelines for creating a safe space of trust, safety and authentic connection ❦ Create a beautiful space. When you are indoors, clean up the room and put away all unnecessary objects. When you are outdoors, choose a place, where you feel comfortable and not disturbed. Put chairs, cushions, or anything to sit on, in a circle. You can put some flowers, a candle or some special objects in the middle to honour and beautify the space. ❦ Use a talking piece to focus the attention on the person who is speaking. When the circle is open, the talking piece is passed around and the person holding it has all the attention of the group. ❦ There is only one person speaking at a time. The others do not ask questions, do not give advice or comment in any ways. ❦ As a listener, try to silence your thoughts and dedicate your attention fully to the person who is speaking. ❦ When you speak, share the essence of what you want to say with the group. Try to keep brevity and get to the core of what you want to say.
Our allies: The Duplicate, The Opposite, The Skeptic When building up a network of your “allies” it is easy to surround yourself with people that are on your wavelength. It is indeed wonderful to meet someone and to realise: we are walking on the same path, having the same ideas, thinking about the same project! It is a great feeling to find resonance, to discover shared dreams and fields of interest. In some moments it can feel like meeting yourself – just in a different physical form. Having this shared resonance is great but in some moments this might not be what you need. If you tend to be a dreamer, with loads of ideas and visions, having a very practical, down-to-earth doer friend can be very beneficial. You can balance yourself out and complement each other. In the beginning of your journey, when your new path, idea and dream feel like a newborn baby, someone asking stingy and skeptical questions is the last thing you want around. However, later, when you grow stronger on your way and your vision stands firm, a person who asks hair-splitting questions can be a sometimes annoying but actually a beneficial and helpful companion. He or she might shed light on your blind spots, point out aspects you might not yet have considered.
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Identify at least three people you know or would like to get to know, who can be your allies: as a “Duplicate“, an “Opposite“ and a “Skeptic“. “Duplicate”: A person who might as well be your twin sister or brother. You are burning for the same topics, occupied with the same questions. Every time you meet there is strong resonance and harmony. It is very enjoyable to spend time and to work together with a “duplicate”, since you might have the feeling of almost guessing each other’s thoughts. When you are nurturing a dream or an idea, in its very early, fragile state it is very beneficial to surround yourself and to meet people, with whom you share the same values, vision and dreams to get encouragement and affirmation. “Opposite”: Someone, who seems to be radically different from you. If you are a dreamer, than she is a doer, if you are a person of selfless charity, than she is the hardcore business-woman, if you tend to be a person of strategy and numbers, she is the absolute artistic and creative chaos. Even though the statement “opposites attract” might not in all cases be true, it definitely brings you new perspectives and highlights blind spots to spend some time with someone, who (upon first glance) is that different from you. “Skeptic”: “Yes, but…” starts the each of the Skeptic’s sentences. Don’t expect her to clap her hands and tap your shoulders upon sharing this great idea of yours with her. She always has an uncomfortable question to ask or goes into a detail, which you might not have thought about. In the first instance spending time with a “Skeptic” can be annoying or uncomfortable but on the long run considering her comments and point of view can help you to polish your idea and improve the quality of your project.
Finding a mentor A good mentor recognises what you need in the moment: someone to listen, encouragement, an impulse to go forward or a kick up the back side. Your mentor could be someone that has walked a very similar path to that which you are about to set off on, someone with a lot of experience and even wisdom â€“ or she might be someone with a totally different path behind her, but is still able to connect to the essence of your quest. A mentor is not someone who answers all your questions, who gives advice in every situation. She is instead the one who supports you finding the right questions and then encourages you to explore your own answers. Her supportive presence is like a catalyst: by merely sharing your issues or questions with her you tend to find the right answers all by yourself. Your mentor can be someone who accompanies you on a longer track of your journey but she can also be someone, who you regularly meet for a coffee and have motivating, encouraging and inspiring conversations with.
Who are the people whose presence make you feel motivated and empowered? Who are those the ones on a similar path and further ahead? Who could you ask for support? Who do you trust?
Bibliography and further reading Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life (1997, Harmony) Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle, The Way of Council (2009, Bramble Books) Paul H. Ray Ph.D. and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (2001, Broadway Books)
Stepping into action WHAT am I creating? WHY am I creating it? HOW am I creating it? FOR WHOM am I creating it? WITH WHOM am I creating it?
WHICH RESOURCES do I need for my project?
Getting things done
During the previous chapters you have been learning to navigate your way through the labyrinth of different choices, and have been looking into all the various shapes and forms your core qualities can take. After some orientation, you have been trying these out yourself, have been making your first steps and prototyped your idea. You have also been examining and deconstructing your obstacles, increasing your self-esteem, gathering allies for crossing the threshold in order to walk your own path â€“ to live your authentic vocation. And you have been developing your capacity to accept feedback, to see failures as teachers and to get up and try again. Even though this road may have been bumpy, even though you might still be struggling to gather your courage, even though there might be thousands of reasons to hold you back, deep inside you know:
YES, this is my dream that I wish to bring into the world. YES, this is the idea I am passionate about and that I am willing to carry out.. YES, I am ready to focus and engage full-time with my dream/idea/project. This dream, idea, project you want to carry out is a crystallisation of your gifts, talents, values and all the hidden aspects you carry inside you, which have been growing, unfolding and appearing throughout your life in many different forms. This is your unique contribution to the world, your way of taking a stand and claiming your place. Now this is the moment that all these essential qualities, intentions and visions come together to take a clear shape, to be manifested as a concrete and tangible form. Now it is the time to fully ...become visible, while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others. (David Whyte) This chapter is for you if and when you are ready to take that step. We aim to support you in the process of gaining clarity about how to get your dream off the ground, putting your plans into action and kick-starting your project. 171
Full-time, full power, full passion Engaging with your dream/idea/project full-time, with full power and full passion requires quite some commitment and courage. This means that your project is not a hobby, free-time activity, voluntary work or weekend program any more, but something that you dedicate most of your time, energy and focus to â€“ and which in the long run also sustains you materially and financially. There might be plenty of reasons why not to take this step: the precariousness of such a path, the safety and financial security your present occupation might provide you, a bunch of doubts and critical voices echoing in your head, or some strange, unidentifiable resistance you feel in your body. If you feel that these voices, doubts and inner resistance are overpowering you, you might consider engaging a bit more with Chapter 4. In Chapter 3, during the process of crystallising and prototyping your dream, you have already asked yourself: What is it that I want to create? Why do I want to create it? How am I creating it? For whom am I creating it? With whom am I creating it? Which resources do I need? These questions will be your guiding compass for this chapter to outline your idea, to make it clear, tangible and ready for implementation.
Choose a job you love and you never have to work a day in your life.
W H AT a m I c r e a t i n g ? The clearer you can outline your project idea, the closer you get to the realisation of your dream. Determining and clarifying the exact shape of what you want to create is of key importance. What is it you want to create and implement?
Is it a new product, a physical object?
Is it a n activity or an event?
Is it a service?
Is it a physical space?
Is it an online platform, service or resource?
Is it a network, a project based on community engagement and collaboration?
Is it a a mixture of some of these? (e.g. a product combined with a service, a physical space to host events and community activities etc.) 174
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Take time to define and describe what you want to create, offer, the activities you want to organise. Visualise, make notes, doodle and draw and be as concrete as possible in this. For example: “I would like to offer three yoga classes each week for pregnant women and young mothers.” Or: “I want to organise two camps each summer for young people from difficult social and economic backgrounds.” Another aspect to consider is finding the most fitting framework for your enterprise. Nowadays there are many different options and directions to take: becoming selfemployed as a freelancer, setting up your own business, company or organisation, joining an existing project or venture… Think about which form could fit you the best.
If you find it difficult to define what exactly you wish to create, or if you have a few ideas but do not really know how they could take shape, it might be worth returning to Chapter 3 and taking some more time to crystallise, test and prototype your idea. 175
During this process you might also want to contemplate and reflect on questions such as:
Is my offer filling a gap? Am I creating something, which fills a local niche, or responding to needs on a larger, regional, international or possibly global scale? Am I offering new solutions or alternatives?
Which similar offers exist already? In which ways is mine special, different or complementary?
What is the bigger picture? What social, economic and cultural factors might influence the nature of my offer?
Reaching the highest possible state of clarity in the beginning is of key importance. At the same time, however, it is important to stay open and flexible about it. The processes of the following sections (exploring and clarifying why, how, for whom etc. you want to carry out this project) will most likely influence, shape, have an impact on and fine-tune the exact form, nature and details of your offer. 176
WHY am I creating it? The â€œWHYâ€? is the driving force behind your project. It is your purpose behind the activities you want to carry out, the source of your motivation, the impact you wish to have. Becoming and staying clear about your reasons and purpose is your guiding compass: it helps you to stay focused, make decisions and communicate your project. At this point we would like to invite you to reconnect to the topics of the first and the second chapters: to your passions and gifts, your values, and the change you would like to ignite in the world.
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T he w heel of purpos e
Map the purpose and desired impact of your project on the following page. Note down your answers to the questions in each quadrant. Place the aspects which are the most important for you near the middle (the hub of the wheel) and the aspects less important gradually closer to the edge.
My personal (inner) driving force What are my passions, gifts and wild dreams that fuel this project? In which ways is realising this project enriching me? (think of inner aspects such as: sense of purpose and meaning, the joy of doing what I love, valuable learning and experience etc.)
My valuable contribution What do I want to bring into the world through this project? (which ideas, qualities, ways of thinking and being) Which values am I embodying through my project? Why is my contribution unique and valuable? In which ways is it special, different from the already existing offers?
My personal (external) driving force What do I gain through realising this project? (think of the external aspects, such as material or financial rewards, recognition, social connections and networks etc.)
My desired impact in the world What kind of social, ecological, economic or cultural impact do I wish to have? What kind of change do I want to ignite? Why is my project needed in the world? How is my project embedded in my bigger vision for the world? How does it contribute to move towards that vision? 179
U n i t i n g W H AT a n d W H Y communicating about your project and your purpose behind it
Gaining clarity and staying clear about your purpose are not only important as internal motivational factors and as driving forces, they also help you to talk about and to communicate your project effectively and charismatically. Expressing your passion and wish to contribute in an authentic way, naming the issues you aim to address and deeply care about, offering a vivid image of a constructive and unique solution naturally attracts people who are interested in and drawn to what you are offering.
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Formulate your vision and mission
To be able to clearly and authentically communicate your project, we invite you to formulate your vision and mission by distilling the essence of the previous exercise and by connecting it to the outcomes of the â€œWHAT am I offering?â€? section.
Your mission and your ways of contributing
Your vision and context Describing... … the bigger picture your project is embedded in. … your dream and vision for the world. … the impact you wish to have on the world. … the reasons why your project is needed.
Stating... … the way how, through your offer, you contribute to moving towards your vision. … the exact ways and activities through which you address the identified needs. … the output of those activities … the uniqueness of your contribution
Example: I envision a world, where… … people appreciate and value the things they use … they take care of their belongings, repair them and use them for longer My project is needed… … because of the socially and environmentally harmful effects of throw-away culture and fast fashion
I contribute to moving towards this vision by… … producing high-quality shoes in different styles and sizes for men, women and children in a socially and environmentally responsible ways … producing at a local level, by providing a fair salary for co-workers … using natural, environmentally friendly materials … implementing ethical and democratic business policies
My vision and context
My mission and my ways of contributing
HOW am I creating it? I Defining your direction
As a first step, gain clarity about the direction you want to head in, about the nature of your work. Answer the following questions:
Do you want to create your own venture/initiative/organisation?
Read further in this chapter.
Would you rather work within the framework of an existing company, organisation or project?
Do you feel that you need some more training, education, immersion in a specific area first?
How could you get that education? What could be the potential schools, universities, platforms of learning? Consider also options such as internships, job shadowing, volunteering and different forms of non-formal education as alternative and potentially more experiential, hands-on ways of learning. Make a list of all possible options. Than return to Chapter 3, Making decision. 182
Remember: â€œdream jobs are not found but createdâ€? How could you bring your talents, gifts, abilities into an existing framework? How could you contribute? How could you bring in what you wish to create and your sense of purpose to an existing venture?
How could you find one? Do a little research project, collect information, list all possible options, than return to Chapter 3, Making decision.
Is there a specific initiative, organisation or company you wish to join/work for?
Go back to Chapter 3, Finding forms, generating ideas and Lost in the labyrinth of choices.
HOW am I creating it? II Outlining your strategy
When you have your idea, your chosen framework, direction to head in and you feel connected to and strongly driven by your guiding purpose, you might already want to jump into action that very moment. There are so many things to do; gather information, share your idea, learn new things, acquire resources... It might be really difficult to hold yourself back when you are enthusiastic, full of ideas and finally feel on track. You might kick-start writing emails, meeting people, doing research, organising events – doing whatever needs to be done to make this dream come true. However, after a few days, weeks or months your energy might drop. You keep on doing all those things but begin feeling a bit unsure of where this is going to lead, whether you will ever succeed. Buried under the pile of things-to-do, you might ask yourself: “What am I actually doing? Where is it all taking me?” Is this a familiar situation? When we have a fresh idea, a plan or a dream we would really like to realise, or a project we are burning to implement, we just cannot wait to step into action. We start doing whatever just to have the feeling of progress, run around, accomplish tasks but at the end of the day we are not sure if all these things have brought us closer to our goal. If you have a tendency to get disorientated in the process of implementation or to get lost in small details, this section is written for you. Creating a strategic plan of your project is beneficial for different reasons:
It enlightens your path Thinking about and writing down how you want to reach your desired vision, collecting the different aspects, resources and setting stepping stones between where you stand and what you want to get to helps you to build a bridge between your dream and the current reality.
It helps you identify your stepping stones By determining short- and mid-term aims and objectives of your project, you will be able to define measurable, reachable, timely and qualitative as well as quantitative aspects, which ensure your progress towards your vision.
Receiving and integrating feedback Being open and integrating feedback from others can support you in monitoring our progress and to improve your offers/activities/products.
Sharing and communicating your project Having a clear and precise plan invites colleagues, customers and other stakeholders to identify with your project, to embrace your vision.
Defining means and resources A strategic plan can support you in getting a clear picture about what means and resources you need to acquire and invest in. For example, you will be able to gain clarity about financial aspects, timing, communication channels, potential collaborators etc.
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The ABCD backcasting process
As a tool, we will be using the ABCD backcasting process to guide you through the process of strategic planning. (The tool comes from the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development and The Natural Step approach â€“ for more info visit www.thenaturalstep.org) The core of the backcasting process is to visualise and develop a powerful vision of the future, to imagine how your project will look in 5 or 10 years and to use this image and vision as a compass and point of orientation during the whole process of implementation. You will take a look at where you stand at the moment in relation to that vision and will develop a strategy for building a bridge between the present situation and the desired future state. Here, we guide you through this process step by step. You can do these exercises by yourself, together with a partner or in a small group (it is also worth doing with your project team.)
A) Developing a powerful vision Imagine your project in 3, 5 or 10 years (pick a perspective, which feels long-term but still realistic for you). Take a big sheet of paper and draw an image â€“ feel free to add little notes, texts and comments. After finishing the picture, reflect on it using the following questions and add details which you have not included.
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... ... ...
How does this future scenario look? What can you see? If you look at the picture, where do you see yourself? What do you do? Who are the others on the picture? Where is their place? What are they doing? How do the people in the picture relate to each other? Where is your project located? What does the environment look like? How does it relate to the outside world? You can redraw this vision poster and beautify it anytime. You can hang it on your wall and look at it whenever you feel lost or confused about “where it is all heading“.
B) Looking at where you stand After gaining clarity about your vision, take a look at where you stand at the moment in relation to it. This is the step of backcasting (as opposed to forecasting, i.e. trying to predict the future from the present´s perspective; the process of backcasting focuses on desirable long-term future scenarios and connects them with the present situation. This approach holds a lot of creative power and aims to liberate human power and potential). Here are a few aspects to consider and note down: Which inner and outer resources do you have to realise your vision? (examples for inner resources: skills, experiences, knowledge, know-how, examples for outer resources: networks, connections, materials, money) What resources do you still need to acquire? Which are the biggest challenges/obstacles you are facing at the moment? What would you need to overcome them?
C) Bridge building – brainstorming The third step of this process is to creatively brainstorm how to build a bridge between where you stand at the moment and your future vision. The general rule of brainstorming is to put everything on paper which comes to your mind – without questioning, censoring or doubting. If you are doing this exercise with a group, try not to get into discussion about the ideas. If you do it by yourself, try to avoid inner discussion. Collect as many ideas as you can – they will be the building blocks of the bridge.
D) Prioritising and strategizing The last step before stepping into action is to develop a plan and a strategy. This includes examining the specific building blocks you came up with during the previous process and prioritising them. What are the most important steps to take? Which ones come first? Which require long-term planning? During this process it is important to stay flexible and open to feedback as well as to examine each of your steps in relation to your vision. Before taking each step you can ask yourself the question: “Is this action bringing me closer to my vision?“ If you find that it is not or it takes you in a different direction, you might need to re-examine that stepping stone and replace it with another one.
Cultural change and entrepreneurial engagement If you have decided to create you venture (whether it be starting a yoga school or opening a barber shop) there is a need to shift to an entrepreneurial attitude. This does not mean that we have to focus only on what brings money in. It is about a cultural change which requires organising our activities in order to make them viable in economic terms while being in accordance with our values. In this perspective work is more than a job, it‘s a lifestyle where we combine a comfortable environment in which to work with a learning and growing attitude. Innovation, creativity, empowered staff and calculated risk-taking are some of the ingredients which enrich the concept of entrepreneurship, turning it into a goal setting and problem solving attitude. Social entrepreneurship extends the definition of entrepreneurship by its emphasis on ethical integrity and maximising social value rather than private value or profit. Therefore, entrepreneurial culture does not exist “just because”. Entrepreneurial culture is a balancing act between many elements which need to be constantly nourished. Throughout the process it‘s important to determine if we are on the right track according to the set of values we have. At any stage we can run through our set of values and evaluate how our business is achieving that particular value and principle. This balance puts a new wave at the centre which pulls you off from your comfortable pier and brings you to the big ocean of possibilities, where the driver is your entrepreneurial engagement. The sails are the tools you need to run your activity and you want them to be strong and reliable. Your entrepreneurial culture is the wind blowing in them building your adventure bit by bit. Your crew is the skills you have and the team who shares your vision. The map is your business plan that you will follow, monitor and feed back on.
FOR WHOM am I creating it? Addressing needs, connecting interests
No project, organisation or business exists in an isolated bubble. If you are planning to design a product, provide a service, build a community or create a network which aims to ignite change in the world, your work will definitely impact others. You will connect, interact and cooperate with different stakeholders. A good first step of implementing your project is to think and enquire about the groups and individuals that you would like to reach and have an impact on, that you would like to help, serve or provide for through your activities. Even if you wish to work with plants, animals or landscapes in the first place, you will need to investigate the characteristics, needs and processes/behaviours of the certain species or ecosystems – and consider how your project is embedded in the human environment. Finding out about the profile, needs and preferences of the members of your target group might be key to success not only in a financial sense but also concerning social impact and the sustainability of your project. It is not only about adapting to the needs and trends of certain groups or the market to sell your product/service or to reach the highest sales. Target group thinking is greatly about creating connections, about exercising empathy and about the ability to put yourself in others’ shoes. It is a process of finding out about the real needs and desires of people beyond the facade of loud statements, daily routines and consumer habits. Additionally, the motivation “I want to help this person” is generally stronger than the intention of “I want to sell this product”. Connecting with what you want to change in someone’s life is a powerful catalyst for both your own motivation and also attracts other’s support and interest much more. However, this does not mean that you have to dismiss your intention to financially sustain yourself and your project in favour of only serving other people’s interests. Rather, we believe that these two aspects can go hand in hand.
In this section we aim to give you a helping hand to find out how you can approach the persons/groups you would like to impact, how you can communicate with them and how your product or service can truly support them, address their needs and help them to solve problems.
Who are your stakeholders? A stakeholder is any person or any organisation who can have a potential impact on or interest in your project. Identifying and inquiring about your stakeholder profile, their needs and behaviour can help you to map out your potential collaborators, supporters and also those who might be more challenging to interact with. This awareness will be very important when formulating your overall strategies. On the next page you can find an exercise to identify your stakeholders and to outline their profile and needs.
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1. Identify your stakeholders.
Possible stakeholders could be: customers, suppliers, partners, institutions, organisations, public authorities, foundations, opinion leaders etc.
2. Outline your stakeholder profile and ways of relating to your project. What motivates your stakeholders? What are their needs? Who or what influences their opinions? In which way would they be interested in your project? What kind of information would they need from you? How might they perceive your project?
3. Identify ways your stakeholders can influence and have an impact on your project.
Who could be potential supporters or collaborators? Which stakeholders do you find challenging to interact with? What could be possible obstacles?
4. Prioritise your stakeholders.
Who are the most important ones? Which interactions require the most focus and energy? Which can be maintained with the least effort? Who are the stakeholders you feel the need to be more attentive to?
5. How can you align your strategies with your stakeholder needs and interests? How could you aim for a win-win situation?
I. Stakeholder: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. II. Stakeholder: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. III. Stakeholder: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. IV. Stakeholder: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Identifying and understanding your target group At the core of your project lies your target group. Knowing and understanding your target group is key to being able to create and deliver something which meets real needs and can be valued financially. When planning to create something, having your target group in mind is maybe the most essential part of strategic planning. Having a great idea but having the impression that nobody is interested in it might result in the conclusion that there is no need or interest in your project – even though in reality, you may need to rethink and redesign your strategy and approach. Therefore try to make your description of your target group as specific as possible. And dare to draw the line between who you aim to target and who you don’t. Even though it is tempting to say that you aim to target “everybody” through your activities (because actually everyone would need to take yoga classes, enjoy healthy raw-vegan food or explore beautiful natural areas etc.), identifying your target group as specific as possible helps you to focus your energies, select your communication channels and build your overall strategy. If you recognise that you have several different target groups, then define them as customer segments – but make them precise. Different segments have different needs, are reached via different channels, speak different (visual) languages, and are able and willing to pay differently for what you offer – so it’s worthwhile defining and distinguishing them. The following questions might help:
Who is your offer valuable for? Who exactly suffers from the problem you are addressing? In which sense? What are the specific needs and challenges of my target group(s)? How is your offer meeting their needs and solving their problems? Why would your target group chose you?
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The empathy map
The empathy map is a tool to get an overview about the profiles, needs and requirements of your target group. Here is a step by step guide on how to implement it: 1. Create a few imaginary characters, who you think can be interested in the product/service/project you are providing (you can also pick real people). Draw them on a sheet of paper, give them a name and determine a few key aspects about them such as age, main occupation, marital, social and economic status. Let yourself brainstorm freely, give as many details and draw as many characters as you can, as long as it feels fun. 2. Pick three of your characters, those with the most different profile from each other. Put their name and a little figure that represents them in the middle of a sheet of paper (one on each paper) and divide the sheet into 6 parts as you can see on the illustration. Write your answers to the following questions to the relevant area of your map (read the elaboration of the questions on the following page). 1. What does she see? 3. What does she think and feel?
2. What does she hear?
JANE 4. What does she do? Pain
1. What does she see? How does her environment look? Who surrounds her? Who are her friends? What kinds of problems does she encounter? 2. What does she hear? Who influences her and how? Which communication channels are influential for her? What does she hear from her friends and family members? 3. What does she think and feel? What is really important to her? What moves and motivates her? What are her dreams, longings and aspirations? 4. What does she do? How does she behave in public? What is her opinion on certain issues and how does she express it? What does she tell others? (Pay attention to the possible discrepancies between the previous and this section, between thinking and feeling one way and acting differently.) On the bottom of your sheet address the following two topics: Pain – frustrations, unfulfilled dreams, fears, uncertainties, obstacles between her present situation and what she wants to achieve It is important to be aware of your target groups’ so called “pain points” and address them in an empathic way through your communication. How can your product, service or project offers solutions to her problems, how can it bring her closer to her aims, how can it support her to realise her dreams and plans? Gain – What does she really want to achieve? How does she measure success? What is she truly longing for? When communicating with your target group you not only need to address problems and outline how your project can offer solutions – you will also need to tap into the deeper longings, needs and aspirations of the individual persons. And consider how your product or service can contribute to fulfil these aspects. The empathy map encourages you to question your assumptions about your target group’s needs and to look at your offer from their perspective. This helps when answering questions like “does my offer actually solve real problems? Is what I want to offer really relevant? Is my target group willing to pay for it?” After having filled out the empathy map, try to look at your offer from your target group’s perspective: Why should they use it? What will change for them after they have used your offer? If this changes WHAT you are planning to offer, it might be worth jumping back to the beginning of this chapter and integrate your insights into your concept of what exactly you would like to offer.
Identifying your communication channels After identifying your target group, their profile and preferences, the next step is to ask: How can you reach them? How can they find out about you and your offers? How can you raise awareness about what you want to deliver? Through which channels can they be reached? Use the insights you have got through the empathy map and conduct a little more research in the field. Potential channels can be:
Physical spaces of meeting and socialising such as cafĂŠs, bars, cultural centres, universities etc.
Social media channels and other online platforms
More â€œclassicalâ€? media channels such as printed media (newspapers, magazines), radio or television
Potential means of communicating:
Online articles (via a website, blog, social media etc.) Events (e.g. an open night, attending a conference, networking event or organising a presentation yourself
Fliers, posters, stickers and other printed material
Advertisements on existing platforms (online or printed)
Videos, short films and other audiovisual media
... ... ...
Collect and list some more possibilities. 197
WITH WHOM am I creating it? Finding and building a team
Even at the early stage of your project/venture you might realise that this is something you will not be able to or want to do alone. One option you have in this case is to look around for similar initiatives or groups and join one. However, if you are motivated to build your own team, to invite others to collaborate and you feel dedicated to travel the bumpy road of working together, this chapter might give you some starting tips. For the content of this section we have been drawing input and inspiration from Dragon Dreaming project design as well as from our own experience in collaboration, teambuilding and working with diverse groups.
How to find a team? At first it might feel awkward to walk up to someone and say: “Hey, I have this great idea! Do you want to join me?” But this is basically it. The important thing at this stage is the way you communicate and share your vision.
The art of charismatic communication How can you invite someone in a way which awakens curiosity, inspires and motivates? Being able to do so is essential when you want to collaborate with others and invite them to join forces and work together. Nobody wants to be pushed, dragged or talked into things. But how do you invite them in a way which ignites their own intrinsic motivation and curiosity? A good way of invitating is to share your vision – the powerful image you have developed about what this project will look like. Keep this to the essence, describe the most important details and share why this whole thing is important for you. Why is your heart beating for this idea? What inspires and motivates you about it? Try not to go into too many details. Describing a big, elaborated and detailed plan might discourage your 198
potential collaborators: it sounds like the whole thing is already set up and then they might not understand why you would need them, where their place would be and how they could contribute. As the first step, talk personally to the people you would wish to work together with. Invite them for a coffee or tea, share your vision and tell them why you would like to collaborate with them. What kind of potential do you see in working together, what are the skills and experience you value in them and you think can also be valuable for the project. Keep in mind that this might not be yet the stage of committing and putting elaborate plans on paper. At this point it is about awakening interest and planting seeds of motivation.
From individual dream to shared vision The traditional interpretation of leadership supposes a strong character standing on the top of the pyramid of organisational or corporate hierarchy and giving instructions to people on the lower levels. In this sense, leaders are often assumed to be all-knowing, all-mighty entities in their fields, who keep an eye on all the processes, have everything under control, make the most important decisions and have a lot of power in their hands. However, nowadays the idea and interpretation of leadership is changing and instead of taking the path of centralised power and control, collective, empowering and process-oriented ways of leadership are emerging. Instead of relying on the abilities, capabilities and intelligence of one person, these approaches to leadership and organisation emphasise the power of cooperation and collective intelligence. They are based on the recognition that one single person can never hold as much experience, skills and wisdom as many. So here is one way of harvesting collective wisdom and potential for your project and turning it into collaborative action:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We are living in times when we need to go far and fast. Al Gore
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The Dream Circle
Many great projects have started as dreams of single individuals. They became global movements, successful enterprises or actions mobilising thousands of people because these individuals were able to share their dream, bring it into daylight and invite others to contribute to it, to be part of it. The beautiful thing about sharing dreams and visionary ideas is that it provides opportunity for others to connect to it, see their own longing mirrored in it – and to find out that they are actually having the very same dream. This is how charismatic communication, sharing and connecting ideas transforms individual dreams into collective visions. The Dream Circle is a process which facilitates the sharing and connecting of individual dreams. It starts by inviting people (that you have already talked to during the previous stage) to come together. The meeting can start with a short introduction in case the people don´t know each other and a check-in (i.e. hearing a few words from everyone), followed by you sharing your dream in a personal and inviting way. Then take a flipchart or a big sheet of paper and write the question on the top: What does this project need to be like to be the best project of my life? (If you are not a fan of superlatives, you can also use variations such as: What does this project need to be like so that afterwards I could say: … this has been really worth my time and effort?) Then the Dream Circle starts: a talking piece is passed around (an object, which focuses attention on the person who holds it in her hand) and each person in the group shares an answer to this question, which is then written down on the paper together with the name of the person. The note-taker tries to grab the essence of what each answer and repeats it before writing it down – this way he makes sure that he puts down what the person meant. The round is about sharing and listening to each other, therefore the individual answers are not discussed, questioned or debated. You can pass around the talking piece many times, each member of the group can share a different personal answer to the question in each round. If someone has nothing to add or if what he or she would say has been said before, the talking piece can be passed to the next person. The Dream Circle is over when no one has anything else to add. 201
The Dream Circle can be a good first step towards an empowered, community-based and sustainable way of working together. Even if there are people who might eventually not be part of the project, doing the process with them is still not a waste of time, since they might contribute with valuable input and viewpoints. There are loads of resources, courses and literature on how to run groups, organisations, businesses and projects in empowering, community-based and sustainable ways. At the end of this chapter we give you a list of resources if you feel like diving deeper into the topic.
Building a diverse team Each of us holds different gifts and abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Some of us have great visionary capacities, creative powers and can imagine future scenarios in great detail. Others are the lovers of agendas, schedules, strategic planning meetings and to-do lists. In the meanwhile the “doers” just grab the tools and do not really get what all the dreaming and talking is about. And there are also the ones, who have an eye on the process, are careful to ensure that everyone feels good, bakes a cake and encourages the others to take a rest, to take care of themselves, to relax and celebrate. It is not so easy to find and build a team, where all these different types are present, even though these qualities (the qualities of dreaming, planning, doing and celebrating) are there is all of us, varyingly present in different situations and phases of our lives. There are phases of visioning, dreaming, of opening up horizons and perspectives. This is followed by getting things off the ground and narrowing down our focus, i.e. planning how we are going to carry out this idea. Then we do it! And when the work is done we would almost immerse in our next idea and think about how we would carry it out, if our (inner) celebrator wouldn‘t hold us back to take some time to look back, reflect and appreciate our efforts. In order to create a successful project, we need to unite and appreciate these powers within our team and also for our “inner team”, within ourselves.
Having clear roles What is crucial when working together is to be clear about the roles of each person within the team. “Just doing it” might not work in this case. When working together such an attitude can result in some people “just leaving it” when they feel unmotivated – and for others taking most of the tasks onto their shoulders. What helps is to have clear roles, with clear fields of responsibility. In Dragon Dreaming, there is a useful distinction of roles which helps to distribute them in a way most appropriate to individual motivation and capabilities (you can use the different colours of these roles when you collect tasks and prepare to-do lists with your team.)
Dragon dancer (red): You do not yet feel capable of doing this task, but you absolutely want to learn it. Being a dragon dancer means having a high amount of motivation, the willingness to learn, and at the same time, fear and uncertainty. This is the place to learn new skills, to grow, and to overcome fear. Mentor (blue): You can do this task easily because you have already done it many times before. Doing it is easy for you but not very interesting. You don’t want to take this task onto your shoulders, but you are happy to stand by as a mentor or consultant. Supporter (black): You don’t want to take over the responsibility, but you can support and help when someone delegates you concrete tasks. Coordinator (green): You take on the responsibility, and you are able and motivated to do the task. This might also mean focusing the process and the efforts of others and delegating tasks where necessary.
Addressing tension and solving conflicts A helpful thing to keep in mind when working together is to distinguish between personal tensions and those that come along with the roles you are holding within a specific project. Make sure to have separate spaces for sorting out both kind of conflicts. It is best to deal with these when not mixing them up. Distinguishing “relation” and “roleation” within organisations is a helpful thing to ensure both good working processes and good personal relationships. 203
Whenever a tension comes up, be clear whether this tension is arising from a personal issue, like being triggered by a bossy attitude, envy, or judgments, or whether it comes from someone not acting within the organisation’s purpose or ability to operate professionally. Give good “tribe space” where personal issues can be addressed, heard and solved, so that personal tensions don’t need to mess up your processes of working together. And at the same time, try to keep your “roleation”, your space of working together, free from personal issues. This does not mean pushing them away - it rather means acknowledging them, and agreeing that they will be addressed in the next “tribe space”.
WHICH RESOURCES do I need for my project? Identifying and acquiring resources is very much dependent on the nature of your project. For example, if you plan to ask a public institution or a foundation to finance your symposium on alternative economic models, you might not need an elaborate evaluation of the market â€“ however, you will need to have an overview of the overall budget. On the other hand, if you aim to kick-start a business or a company, your income will most likely be generated by commercial activities (i.e. your target group paying for your offers). Business planning and finances is a huge, elaborate topic. Here, rather than filling in complex and detailed forms. we try to have a brief overview of different sources and possibilities for funding and handling the finances of your project:
Public or private foundationsÂ´ grants through calls for proposals This usually means writing down your project proposal by filling in a specific application form. To receive funding, your application needs to fulfil the given requirements (for example concerning budget, timing, outputs, impact). Possible sources of funding can be local, regional, national or international (for instance, European).
Crowdfunding This is a very powerful tool and it works by convincing your stakeholders to donate a given amount of money on a specific project. The project must be of interest for your potential donors making them resonate with your intentions. You can even put a reward system corresponding to a gift, service or a product to a particular sum to which donors can subscribe. There are many websites which are of specific help to build your crowdfunding campaign, where you can add pictures and videos, you can advertise your campaign through a mailing system and you can gather the money with a credit card payment system. 205
Merchandising This is actually a commercial way of generating revenue, but it can be officially stated as a donation in exchange of any gadgets as a fair trade t-shirt, a water bottle or a pin badge.
Creative events A concert, a lottery in which you can win a private concert, a poem, a street performance or a theatre show. The limit of this is just your imagination!
Commercial income Commercial income comes from the selling of services and products you propose to the market or from other types of revenue streams such as usage fees, rent, subscriptions.
Private and bank loans Creating your own venture might need significant investment of capital in the beginning. Getting a loan is the very â€œclassicâ€? way of starting up your own business. Nowadays there are quite a few banks emphasising ethical and sustainable investment, supporting initiatives with social and ecological impact as priorities.
Dancing with the Dragon – making a living, bureaucracy and blockages around “the money issue” When it comes to making a living out of something which we feel called to do, which we most profoundly care about, which we are truly passionate about, we might have very contradictory feelings and voices in our head. Many of us might ask ourselves: Am I even allowed to earn money with something I so deeply care about? Isn’t it unethical to make money with something, which primarily aims to contribute to the common good of society and nature? Isn’t money something dirty? Do I deserve money at all, when doing this thing itself brings me so much joy and satisfaction? Each of us might have plenty of questions, blockages and fears around money and making a living. Even though the present economic and legal system is very far from perfect, even though one might deeply reject the capitalist status quo, this is the context within which we operate - and which we also wish to change in more direct and indirect ways! Of course there are ways to rebel, to reject, to refuse being part of the system in one way or another (and in some moments or points in history it was even necessary). But if we wish to ignite change, to have an impact reaching further than our immediate surroundings, we might need to engage within the existing context. The point is not about making compromises, about giving up values and principles or about “selling our soul” on the altar of having a comfortable life. It is more about dancing with the dragon of contradictions and (the sometimes pretty insane) beast of bureaucracy. It is about finding ways to joyfully sustain and nurture ourselves – while living our authentic vocation and taking a stand in the world.
G etting th in gs don e â€“ p r i o r i ti s i n g Walking the path of authentic vocation and the transformation of visions, ideas and dreams into reality can be a bumpy road. After painting a brave picture of the future (imagining, visualising, brainstorming) we are confronted with the challenges of daily life. There are many things to be done and tasks to attend to in our personal lives, work or studies. How do we organise ourselves, how to not get lost in details and to make sure that we keep our focus and direction on a daily basis? These questions are not only relevant to freelancers or to those developing a new social business. They concern all of us, independent of what kind of project we are working on or goals we pursue. Prioritising to-do lists and getting things done in a relaxed, joyful and creative way, does not only contribute to more efficiency but are important factors of general life-quality. Being under constant pressure, pushed by deadlines and being overwhelmed with tasks to accomplish can lead to frustration, burnout and decline in health. So how do we manage our tasks well and make sure that we keep on track towards the realisation of our vision?
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. Dwight D. Eisenhower
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The urgent-important matrix
This model became popular through the work of the author Steven Covey, though U.S. President Eisenhower had already been using the same principles when managing his workload and making decisions. The urgent-important matrix is an effective tool to visualise and prioritise your tasks. It is based on asking two simple questions concerning each task: Is this task important? Is this task urgent? Important activities are those, which help us reach our long-term goals, bring us closer to our vision and support us to live a healthy, creative and enriching life. Urgent tasks are the ones which require immediate attention from us and not attending to them has consequences, which quickly reach us. There are some tasks, which are important and urgent at the same time but probably each of us had situations in life, when confronted with the urgency of a bunch of unimportant tasks. For example we might spend hours replying to a bunch of emails, accomplish minor tasks, randomly browse on the internet or scroll down our Facebook newsfeed â€“ and at the end of the day ask ourselves how did all the time disappear and realise that we did not really get any closer to achieving our goals. Sorting your tasks according the following model can help you to stay focused, eliminate the pressuring feeling of urgency and spend minimal time on unimportant tasks.
Urgent and important tasks Activities in this quadrant have the highest priority. They need to be done now. Having too many tasks of this kind on the long run is stressful and demanding, and it can hinder you from reaching your long-term goals. Try to keep as few tasks in this quadrant as possible.
Urgent but not important Try to minimise tasks in this quadrant. There are many, which you cannot avoid, however, stay focused and conscious about how much time you are spending on them. Make sure that they are accomplished and experiment with ways to do it with the least effort and time.
Not urgent but important tasks These are the activities to spend most of your time with. Tending to important tasks without the feeling of urgency gives you the possibility to get deeper into the activities, discover different ways and possibilities to accomplish them. It also provides the most space for unfolding creativity.If you tend to get overflowed by urgent tasks, try to consciously plan for tending to the important ones. Focus on your vision, stay connected to your guiding (inner) compass.
Neither urgent, nor important Randomly browsing the net, scrolling down your Facebook timeline, checking out an interesting movie on YouTube... I just check this out, read this article, this is only two minutes long... And then you wonder how you have spent the last two hours. Sometimes these things can feel nice and relaxing â€“ they provide refuge and comfort after working so hard and spending time in quadrant one and three. The point is not to sacrifice or force yourself into tough selfdiscipline of completely eliminating them â€“ just be conscious about how much time you spend this way and try to minimise it. If you need a break or some time to relax, stretch, get some fresh air, make a tea, do some exercise. This way you can stay much more focused and energised.
Bibliography and further reading Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers (2010, John Wiley and Sons) Tim Clark, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, Business Model You: A OnePage Method For Reinventing Your Career (2012, Wiley) Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (2013, Simon & Schuster)
Online resources www.thenaturalstep.org www.xplane.com www. blog.sandglaz.com www.dragondreaming.org www.sociocracy30.org www.sociocracy.info
Burning for, not burning out
Deeply burning for something is amazing, beautiful and uplifting. Having found what you really want to go for, being inspired, full of creativity and zest for action. Knowing what you get up for in the morning, being driven and guided by what you are about to create: What bliss. However, working on issues you are deeply enthusiastic or concerned about, serving something bigger and creating your lifework also invites you to go over your own boundaries, to forget about all the other aspects life holds besides work, and to overwork yourself. Most of us have – at one point in our lives – taken on too many assignments just because we felt a deep urge to contribute and got swept away by our own enthusiasm or the pressing need that we attributed to the issue. It is hard to say no to a project that pulls on your heartstrings, or exemplifies the values you want to realise in the world. When you are filled – and fuelled – with inspiration and a strong sense of commitment you might feel like you can accomplish everything - and even some more. Working on making a real difference in the world, facing and trying to improve pressing environmental and social problems requires a huge amount of energy. While it could be uplifting to experience some minor victories, the struggle sometimes seems to be endless, the dimension and urgency of further crisis to be solved infinite. Being open and sensitive to the pressing issues of our world can fill us with a sense of pain, loss, anger, grief, despair, numbness that we might find difficult to cope with. Add to this our tendency to take on too many tasks to help the causes we care deeply about and we have a recipe for burnout. As we push ourselves to the limits, our steam will inevitably run out, and we start to feel overwhelmed, lethargic, stressed, drained, unmotivated and doubtful that we can continue with our work at all. What was inspiring before becomes dull and we find it increasingly difficult to keep our motivation high. We might lose our temper quicker, lash out at our colleagues, blame our teammates for lack of progress in our projects (“why can’t they just pull their own weight at least???”). Procrastination becomes our middle name and seeing another Doodle for yet another Skype meeting can send us over the edge.
A sense of hopelessness and despair sets in – Are we ever going to reach our goals? We even start to question these goals as confusion and doubts arise about our overall direction and strategy. So the question arises – how can we work on challenging issues that touch our heart and retain our inspiration and inner drive? How can we take time for ourselves and engage in activities that contribute to our wellbeing without feeling guilty, when even “taking a break” or slowing down might seem self-indulgent or like betraying the cause that we are fighting for? Sometimes we simply have to stop and allow ourselves enough space and time to reflect and regroup. What are the warning signs that we need to be aware of? And what are some of the tools and methods that enable us to create and maintain a balanced and sustainable work practice? How can we build up our resilience?
What is burnout? Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, a result of excessive and unrelenting stress. It is an experience of feeling empty, dried up, being frustrated, confused, devoid of motivation. You no longer feel effective in your work, do not receive any personal satisfaction or joy from continuing it. It can occur when you feel overwhelmed with constant demands and drowning in responsibilities that demand too much of you physically, mentally and emotionally. When you experience burnout, it saps your energy, and you start feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. In the end, you might feel like you have nothing more to give. Some symptoms of burnout to be aware of: Cognitive and emotional: Increased negative, cynical thoughts, mood swings, irritation, outbursts of anger, aggression, more conflict than usual, tears, withdrawal, anxiety, lack of interest, emotional emptiness, a sense of hopelessness and despair Physical: Lack of energy, exhaustion, feeling like you are trudging through mud, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, stomach trouble, frequent colds and flu, tense muscles in the jaws, neck, shoulders, back, or legs Spiritual: A missing sense of purpose and meaning in your day to day life
Care for yourself To be able to take care of the things that you deeply care about, first you should always start by taking care of yourself. There is a good reason that we are instructed before taking off on an aeroplane to take care of our own oxygen masks in case of emergency. If we are unconscious, how could we help others? No matter how pressing external events, deadlines or tasks are – never forget yourself. You, your wellbeing and your health are precious, and we can only serve others in a state of feeling nourished ourselves.
Slow down and set boundaries Allow yourself – and support others also in doing so – to take guilt-free time out regularly. Declare an internet-free, phone-free day for yourself at regular intervals (or if that sounds like an outrageously long time, then half a day… or three hours… or an hour). Give yourself ample time to rest, reflect, and heal. Do whatever is necessary not to overextend yourself. Learn how to politely say “no” to requests. And remember: Saying no means saying yes – yes to yourself. Drop those commitments and activities that are not nurturing you or bringing something positive into your life. 215
Do what is really yours to do Even though you might be capable of accomplishing all sorts of tasks related to your beloved project (from administration through web and flier design to implementing elaborated reach-out strategies), after a point you might want to ask yourself: What is really mine to do in this project? Which tasks really utilise my core gifts and talents? Which are the activities, that make me feel the “flow”? When you start your own project or venture, in the beginning it might be that the whole initiative turns into a one-(wo)man show, in which you aim to perfectly perform on all areas of the stage, fulfilling all roles and juggling with all possible tasks at the same time, all by yourself. You can do this for a while but not forever. If this is a pattern you recognise in your life, it might be time to separate the wheat from the chaff. In order to do that, ask yourself: Which are the activities, which I mostly enjoy in this project? When do I feel intrinsically motivated, in flow and in power? When are the moments, what are the activities, which give me more energy than I put in? This might not only mean tasks and activities you can perform easily and without breaking a sweat. Sometimes things need to be a bit challenging, sometimes they bring you out of your comfort zone, but not too much and not permanently, just so that you have room for growth and development. On the other hand, the tasks which you find really hard and time-consuming, where you constantly have the feeling of being inefficient, which you can somehow accomplish but do not feel 100% competent in – those might be the ones to delegate to others. Why should you do your whole website alone when others could do it 10 times better, in 1/10 of the time? In the beginning, when you do not generate much income, you might prefer to do everything by yourself rather than hiring someone – but also in this case you might be able to find ways of bartering, exchanging or cooperating without increasing your expenses.
Break monotony Sometimes, though, you have to perform tasks that you find repetitive, monotonous, boring. You can still try and transform them into a more flow-inducing activity, thereby making them more enjoyable. Get creative and make up some challenges for yourself that can help you get in the zone. For example, if you have to write a post for your organisation’s website, limit the number of words in the post and see if you can get creative with it. A more intense focus on any task can help you find that “sweet spot” between boredom and an unattainable goal. 216
Be aware, mindful and honest Use some practices (such as yoga or meditation) to increase your self-awareness so you can notice the first signs of mental or physical fatigue, irritation or frustration. Admit when you are feeling overwhelmed, and discuss this feeling honestly with others. You might have this notion that you always have to present a positive, can-do attitude – to inspire your workmates, to keep up the spirits – but we are all humans and it could be a helpful affirmation to others that it is only natural to feel overwhelmed or exhausted.
Make time for yourself Set aside each day sufficient “me-time” for relaxation and renewal – take a hot bath, do some yoga or stretches, go for a dance class or a jog in the park, read a good book… whatever rocks your world.
I have found that following a daily routine – starting the day with some stretching and yoga, having a proper breakfast, setting time aside for a walk, taking a hot bath every evening and writing in my journal before I go to bed – grounds me in even the most turbulent times.
Reconnect Reconnect with yourself by reconnecting with nature – take a walk in a park or forest, take some deep breath in the fresh air, soak up the sunshine. Reconnect with others – Always, always take time to cherish important relationships – make sure you keep in touch with those close to your heart even when it seems like that the project you undertook is going to bury you underneath it (especially then).
Honour your pain, vulnerability, anger, frustration Negative emotions can be a powerful driving force in your work, and it would be a mistake to suppress them. However, they can also take a huge emotional toll on us and drain our energy. Sometimes it is really helpful to discuss them with a professional (a psychologist, a therapist) or join a self-awareness group to increase clarity about your motivation of doing your line of work. One-on-one or group counselling can not only give you some perspective on what‘s going on in your life, but also provide increased self-awareness, support and new ideas.
Nourish your creative and silly side Have fun! No, seriously. Have fun. It is absolutely vital to have some fun “scheduled in” our daily lives. Play with a child, dog, cat or hamster, turn on the music really loud and dance until the neighbours knock on your wall, or invite friends for a games evening. Creativity can be also a powerful antidote to burnout and low motivation. Let the creative juices start flowing and you might find yourself again filled with inspiration and energy. Consciously try to find new sources of energy and drive – this could be a new hobby that takes your mind away from serious issues, or reading or watching inspirational stories about the “heroes” in your field of work.
Celebrate Value even the small victories. Much of the time it might seem that no progress was made at all, and we hardly made any difference to the issue that we are dealing with. Learn to see that each effort – no matter how small – can create powerful ripples that you might not even be conscious of. You can find plenty of creative and joyful ways to really celebrate and appreciate your efforts and achievements. Also, celebration and taking some time after smaller or bigger accomplishments can be a way of looking back, evaluating processes, harvesting your learning and reflecting on your experience. 219
Change-being and change-making “Be the change what you want to see in the world”, Gandhi said. Even though this phrase might sound boring, we might have heard it so many times, still it points out an important aspect: the dimension of “changebeing” next to change-making. Besides contributing to “creating the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” through our actions, the inner shift (in the Transition Town movement it is called the inner transition) is as important as actions on the outside. Being the change might not have spectacular outer effects or great, representative results. It might even mean non-action in some moments. Some examples of “change-being” can be slowing down or taking a break when you need it, even though everyone around you is busy and rushing, it can be subtle changes in your everyday life like spending more time in nature, taking time for cooking, caring for yourself or your loved ones. There are thousand ways of change-being and change-making. The compass of orientating in the labyrinth shows the way in a simple and, at the same time, difficult and challenging way: choose the path, which feels true, honest and authentic for you.
E X E R C I S E
Create your “Nature Reserve”
Based on the above, create a map of your Natural Reserve area. Your Nature Reserve includes activities and areas of life, which (no matter how busy you are, independent of how many things are on your to-do list) are “not to be compromised” in any event. Work out what those fields and activities are and map them. Is it time spent each day with your loved ones? Is it an hour of jogging or yoga in the morning? A weekly dance class or some minutes of mediation in the evening? After having collected all these ideas, think about how they are present in your life and how you can integrate them on a regular basis. Prepare a week’s agenda and plan for consciously spending time in your “Nature Reserve” regularly. 220
When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life. Jean Shinoda Bolen
ABOUT THE AUTHORS F RA NZIK SA K OHL ER Long journeys through Africa, Latin America and Asia opened my eyes to both the beauty of this planet and the global injustice going on – and grew my sense of responsibility and longing to contribute to a world which is more just, more peaceful, more beautiful. I started to study international development and dived deeply into learning and researching about all kinds of global challenges. Years passed and I began to understand deeper and deeper what was going (wr)on(g) in this world, including my own responsibility and involvment. Understanding structural conditions and consequences of capitalism, colonialism, climate change and wars was extremly interesting and important – While at the same time, I felt more and more overwhealmed, powerless and paralysed by the growing mountain of problems I saw. In my studies, I learnt to analyse, to criticise and to deconstruct – But what I barely learnt was how to engage with global challenges in a truly empowering way, which enables me to act wholly based on my vision and values, my passions and to find a form of work and activism which enables me to adress those challenges in a way which also helps me to flourish. It was at that time when I started to raise the question of what is really needed for people to find their authentic way to address global challenges – in a way which is fulfilling and makes sense both for themselves and for society. What supports us to find our place of contributing, to explore what we truly care about and then bring it into sustainable action? And what does it need to do this in a way which already reflects the values we care about and the culture we want to co-create? How can we combine our radicalness with joie de vivre, heart, mindfulness and authenticity? How can we bring our soul in our actions? I started to interview people about this issue, read tonnes of books about it, wrote my thesis on this topic, assisted workshops and began to offer workshops myself. Deeper and deeper I dived into the issue of finding and following one’s authentic vocation, of contributing to social change by listening to our purpose and manifesting our gifts and values, of bringing together the spheres of inner work and outer action, of living a fulfilling life while acting to make this world a better place. So here I am, writing this book and offering trainings about the insights that I and we found. I follow my passion and purpose working as a coach and facilitator, organising seminars for people on their quest to find and follow their authentic vocation, co-leading the year long training course Pioneers of Change and being a gardener, a lover and a friend in the beautiful village I call my home, St. Andrä-Wördern.
RÉK A LIVITS “So what do you do? Do you work or do you study?” This question sometimes drives me a little crazy. Like there were only these two options in life. In addition to that, one is mostly expected to give a one-word reply: a title, profession or occupation, which does not only describe what one is doing but also puts a label on ones‘ identity. I have never been satisfied with simple replies to these questions. Already during my university years, giving the answer “I study liberal arts with a media and communication specialization and a minor in Dutch” did not feel complete for me. So I immediately added: “but I do a lot of other things besides: I am volunteering in NGOs, organising youth projects, coordinating an environmental working group, playing samba on demonstrations, I like to paint and dance as well…” I was a bit desperate to explain that even though being a student was my main occupation, my identity and the things I was doing were not shaped merely by an institutional framework. After I graduated with a bachelor degree and with great disappointment in the higher educational system, replying to this question has become even more tricky. I have been living on a farm in the Hungarian countryside for a while, where I milked goats and went for long forest walks. I kept on organising projects about sustainability, community building and artistic expression, co-founded Pandora Association and tried to live with as little money as possible. This was followed by three dream-like months in a folk high school in Denmark where I spent my time carefree dancing, painting and cooking, and then moved to Berlin with my partner. So who am I? What am I? I still cannot reply these questions with one word or a couple of standard phrases. Each day I could give a different answer: I organise international projects, I am a trainer, facilitator, designer, author, storyteller, dancer, poet... I work on many projects, I re-create myself and my world every single day. I have been gathering diverse crumbs of experince, inspiration and knowledge in the past years and now I am kneading a dough (made out of highly unusual ingredients) and baking different cakes out of it. It is not an easy path to walk. It requires courage, motivation and immense responsibility. And the ability to be able to dance with the unknown. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better, easier, lighter just to take a “converntional job”, where I would be told what I have to do and would not need to invent myself each single day. But every time I ask myself this question, the answer from deep inside is pretty clear: that would not be my path. That would not be my life.
LA URA BA LÁ ZS So far I have worked as a yoga teacher, English teacher, recruitment and admissions coordinator. As a literary translator I have translated more than twenty books from English to Hungarian – among them Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which gave me the necessary push to fundamentally change my life. For me, successful life means that we are able to do what we love most of the time and to fight for a cause that we believe in wholeheartedly, and to use our talents to contribute to the creation of a life-sustaining society. During my volunteer trips to South-America I fell in love with the rainforests. As part of a nature photography project I was able to visit Peru, Ecuador, Madagascar and Borneo – to look for relatively untouched, primary forests. Spending time in nature is a source of inspiration and insight for me and my thesis work is based on this subject also – facilitating wilderness solo experiences for greater self-awareness, selfactualization, creativity and a sense of life-direction. In the future I would like to work as a “career” counsellor and by using methods from experiential learning, personal connection to nature and ecotherapy I would like to help others to live creative, authentic lives.
ROBERTO CA RDINAL E I am an adventure enthusiast and a strategist of new paths. I am interested in the social, economic and political dynamics that affect our lives and I believe in the potential of change making of our personal sphere to go towards a more resilient and authentic life. Working for 10 years as a consultant in a co-operative union in Italy taking care of start-ups, additional work in finance, social responsibility projects, food and wine and international markets gave me the opportunity to go deep into many aspects of entrepreneurship and into different areas of the economy. I balance these entrepreneurial skills with my passion for music, dance and art as I believe that it is essential to cultivate the body and soul to walk more gently, elegantly and respectfully on this planet.
O R G A N I S AT I O N S B E H I N D T H E P RO J E C T PANDORA ASSOCIATION (PANDORA EGYESÜLET) Hungary www.pandora.org.hu
GET ACTIVE! Austria www.getactive.org
oikos Lebenskunst e.V. Germany www.projectpeace.de
PARADISO RITROVATO Italy www. paradisoritrovato.wordpress.com With the collaboration of:
PIONEERS OF CHANGE Austria www. pioneersofchange.at The production of this book was part of the KA2 “proVOCAting innovaTION” strategic partnership project in the field of youth work. The project was funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.
Take t h e Fu t u re in Yo u r H a nd s Th e U n sticki n g Ga m e Throughout the process of “taking the future in our hands“ it quickly became clear that it’s common to get stuck when striving to follow one’s true calling, and was something for us to tackle. We all know these moments very well. This is why we decided to create this deck of cards, which functions as a little coaching toolkit to take away with you, whether you are on a trip, at home or at a workshop. It is a set of inspirational and insightful characters for moments when you seek advice while following your calling, whether you are out on your own or with friends and peers. It is a companion, an assistant – meant to help you get unstuck. The characters are all somewhat familiar fellows to all of us on our individual journeys: Inner aspects that we’ve encountered, shared and that sometimes appeared in each other when we have worked together. We have delved into them to find out about their messages, uniqueness and “medicines”; the gifts and insights they bring. Collating them in this deck feels like bringing a powerful inner team together. Prepare to be surprised. F i nd out more: w w w. theheartof cha nge .e u
The heAR T of Cha nge p ro j e c t www.theheartofchange.eu firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)
Many times in life we face a crossroads or a phase of transition: We finish school, university, complete a training course or quit a job. Or activities that we have engaged in so far just somehow start feeling less meaningful and donâ€™t make us feel alive anymore. In these â€œinbetween statesâ€? the old no longer serves us while the new is yet to arrive. Questions like: Who am I? What do I really want? How do I know where to go from here? start to come up. Whether we interpret such times in our lives as a crises or chances is up to us. This book wants to encourage you to take the latter perspective. It aims to support you to see and embrace the freedom inherent in such times of change, to find a new orientation during phases of professional transition, to discover your unique place in, and contribution to the world, and to walk your own path.