Researchers like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross tell us that people who have a “near death experience” often describe seeing their whole life flash before their eyes. They realize that they had been chasing all the wrong dreams. Later, they stop pursuing money and fame and find that making the greatest contribution is the reward they were looking for, not the money that it brings. You can come to that same clarity without having to risk your life or to die temporarily. This means to question all the false identities that have been embossed into your soul by culture, family, and philosophies, both ancient and modern. It means to become aware of them and to let them go. Then your innocent face, your natural voice, emerges, and you know the Right Thing to Do.
A great way to get started with this is by keeping a journal. For example, you can write a list of all the people in the world who most inspire you. Take the time to really go into this deeply. Whose life story lights you up with a sense of energy and passion? Once you have collected some names like this, scan the list and think about the qualities that each person emanates rather than the specific activities they are involved in.
Leonard Cohen ~ Poetic visionary
Paul McCartney ~ Heartfelt creative genius
Eckhart Tolle ~ Natural authentic mystic
John Mackey ~ Conscious entrepreneur
Barbara Marx Hubbard ~ Energized aging
Oprah Winfrey ~ Generous change agent
Steve Jobs ~ Persistent innovator
Malala Yousafzai ~ Courageous rebel
Muhamed Yunus ~ Empowering leader
The next step is to envision a life for yourself that allows you to live these same qualities. Perhaps you can think of some activities that are available to you right away, today, that can allow you to explore these qualities more fully.
You can also ask twelve people for the qualities they most admire in you. Ask people who have known you for a long time like your brothers and sisters or childhood friends. If you ask twelve people to tell you twelve qualities they each admire and appreciate about you, you will get 144 qualities in all. You will find that many people will list qualities that are very similar, so you can group these together. This is probably the surest and most reliable way to get a sense of your “unique energetic blueprint.” For example, after doing such an exercise, you might have a list that includes insightful, humorous, articulate, focused, inspiring, and artful as a leader. Now, in the same way as above, you can journal about the kinds of activities that are immediately available to you to explore those qualities more. This can naturally lead to the next step: developing a vision of a way of life based around those qualities. Arjuna says: You can read more about this process, which we call “Midwifing the Unique Gift” in my book Better Than Sex.
Peer Support and Mentoring
The unconscious masculine, out of which we are all evolving, has had a tendency to isolate himself, to have the thought I have to do this all on my own. Another man, whether a professional coach or simply a close friend, can help you to create the much needed ingredient of accountability.
Here is how it works. Once you have a sense of the qualities that most inspire you, or indeed the qualities that other people most appreciate about you, carve out small periods every day that you can devote to developing these qualities. This process of carving out a little time each day takes discipline, and discipline is infinitely easier to find in collaboration with other men than it is on your own. An accountability partner is simply somebody you report to every day to say whether you did what you said you would do or not. A daily email will suffice quite well.
Break it down into tiny steps. For example, commit to working on your book (or whatever it is) for just ten minutes a day. Ten minutes is easy. After ten minutes, if you feel like continuing, great. But your commitment is actually only for ten minutes. Then send your accountability partner an email saying, “Yes I did it.” If you don’t trust yourself to tell the truth about this, which some people don’t, you could email proof of what you accomplished that day. You and your buddy will find between yourselves the best ways to hold each other accountable.
The Vision Quest
Here is a very powerful way (and you could say a foolproof way) to bring forth a sense of mission.
Arjuna says: As an Awakening Coach, whenever I work with a man who feels that he has lost his sense of mission and purpose, I do everything I can to support him to take a retreat alone. Five days is ideal, but take as long as you can manage. You need to minimize all distractions, so switch off the phone, leave the computer at home, no reading, and no writing. The key to a retreat like this is the quality of waiting. I have suggested such a retreat to dozens of men over the last 25 years of coaching. Some said that it felt like going crazy: every kind of weird, exaggerated fantasy floats before your eyes. But as each one floats in, you can have the intelligence to let it go and recognize that it is just the conditioned mind. Almost invariably, by the end, you find that your head is clear. All the fears and desires have dissipated and are recognized just as thoughts, and then you just know what to do. You absolutely know what was your distraction in your life, and you absolutely know what your true calling is.
I suggested this retreat to one man who was living in New York and working as a hedge fund manager. He was making a multiple six-figure income, and he was engaged to be married. By the end of the retreat, he just knew what to do. He drove back to New York and went almost directly to his fiancée’s house. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I know this is difficult and painful for both of us, but I’ve realized that I’m not the right man to make you happy. We really wouldn’t be right for each other. And also, I have realized that the work I’ve been doing is not really my passion at all; I was doing it just for the money.” Of course, they had to talk things through, but finally, he left New York and went back to his native Australia to do what really inspired him the most: surfing. He opened a shop on the beach selling surfboards and went on to found a very successful surfboard manufacturing company. If he hadn’t gone on that five-day retreat, his life would have taken a very different turn.
Celebrate Your Victories
Another important practice in bringing forth your true sense of purpose is to celebrate victories. When you have accomplished something great, create the time to be with your children or your partner to really enjoy the other aspects of your life that are not the primary expressions of your mission. A Conscious Man needs work time as well as cake time: Mission Time as well as Mission Accomplished Time.
John says: At the end of the day, I love to have dinner with Bonnie, my wife, and then we sit on the couch and watch television. After a day of giving everything I have to give, I feel like I’ve earned the right to sit here. I’ve done my duty. If I had not done all I could to serve people in the day, I would not be able to enjoy this downtime so much.