Summer is over, Autumn is back, and My Growth Café blog with it, warmly welcoming habitual and new visitors!
In opening the new season this article reconnects to what we talked about in July (retrieve July article here): envisioning, planning, and tuning into the pleasure of it,
but now going deeper with a full six steps guide to create and experience personal fulfillment as a new habit and way of living.
Ready to embrace a life you don't need to take a vacation from?
The arrival and the journey
What makes the difference between a traveller and a tourist? I guess you pondered this question already.
Paul Theroux, travel writer and novelist, put it this way: “tourists don't know where they've been, travellers don't know where they're going.” Simplistic? Maybe, yet think again😉
A tourist is generally aware of where she's going and will get there, even when having little or no clue about how she arrived. Possibly she will forget after some time many details of the places visited along the way. What matters to her is the destination.
Now, the traveller. She can leave even without a pre-defined destination, she's exploring. What she needs normally is a good compass, an intentional direction, and often a notebook; she will likely make stopovers, and often rethink her roadmap based on what she encounters on the way. Her notebook will help her remember the details of the journey, the discoveries, and the feelings and sensations along the way. What matters to her is the travel process and the direction.
Why bother? Well, because in our life experience we are in the end more travellers than tourists.
Whatever is in between the moment we are born and the one we leave this world, is rather uncertain, and subject to a number of changing conditions.
Our life is a journey, that we travel finding our best paths and making every day those choices that appear to us as the best ones, based on our compass (values, priorities, assumptions), direction (purpose, meaning, objectives), and our notebook (our experiences, emotions, lessons learned, mistakes).
THE JOURNEY NOT THE ARRIVAL MATTERS.” – T.S. ELIOT
Yet, raise your hand if nobody asked you when you were a young boy or girl the famous “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.
Family and social environment have likely pushed us, in direct or indirect manners, to think that we should kind of know what we want to become.
In other words, what our destination is.
The long term effect of this question (and the related expectation attitude) is that, if you are that young boy or girl, over the years you may lose your travel and explorer attitude in life without even noticing it, and the focus on your expected destination eats up those alternative paths which are not, plain and straight, leading you towards it.
Most likely, your studies, academic path, acquaintances, living place and habits, will consistently bring you someway closer to your destination.
Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not, if all these choices do nourish you and make you feel more alive.
If you enjoy them "per se", someway ignoring what you want to become "after", thanks to them; paradoxically, someway lowering the importance of your destination.
You may feel reward, pride or happiness for very different reasons,
and these reasons are what will make the difference between a nourished, fulfilled life and an unfulfilled one.
Fulfillment has nothing to do with what society standards define as success and which is generally based on apparent signs of status and wealth.
It is instead about the very experience of life itself, and because of this, it makes a huge difference if your feeling of satisfaction is because of what you are experiencing in the here and now or if it's linked to the expected effect of that experience in the more or less near future.
If you spend hours writing with the aim to become a best-selling author or if you spend the same amount of hours because it’s what brings you joy and satisfaction, you will presumably have a very different experience of your writing process (and the outcome, whether you will be one day a best selling author or not, is actually possible and yet unpredictable in both cases).
Changing your questions
Setting goals and defining plans are solid ways to stay motivated on your track but there are two main risks with them that we should be aware of, if we care enough about our personal fulfillment:
One, you risk becoming so focused on your target destination that you forget to enjoy the very activity and time that will bring you there (read my July post for more about this)
Two, you risk becoming attached to your goal, and lose flexibility or, worse, entertain a sense of guilt if you fail to achieve it.
But, there is an alternative.
And your alternative is digging, further.
Going beyond your goal and asking yourself a different question: not the WHAT (the goal) but the WHY.
Why did I define this goal? What’s the reason/the need I have behind my goal? What is it that I really, really desire?
If your goal is to regularly attend gym classes this year, ask yourself why.
You might want to do it because...you want a better body shape, or... you want to feel healthier and more energized, or...you want to meet new people…all of these are different drivers, and with potentially quite different solutions.
That WHY will give you golden information about your direction, and will widen, or funnel, your choices in the most effective way.
If your WHY is related to “being healthy” you might end up with a set of potential choices which will possibly be quite different from the ones you would make having a WHY linked to “making new friends”.
You now have alternatives that maybe you could not clearly see before.
You can make new choices that answer even better to your root need.
Do yourself a favour: do not attach to any goal until you have reached clarity about the root of your intention, the WHY behind the HOW and the WHAT.
If you practice this, you will consistently notice that, differently from a goal, which is something we all frequently change and update (for good reasons as we are evolving beings), a direction belongs to the fundamentals of our being, the core of who we are.
It can also evolve, but it will likely be a part of our evolution as a human being or of important transformations in our life, and not a recurring (new) item on a bucket list.
6 steps to shift your perspective
Let me share with you a secret: perspective is ALL, and our mind is incredibly talented at creating, and changing, it.
In many cases this change can be as little as shifting the perspective on your goal from it being a target into it being a mean, “a way of” moving forward on your path, which then becomes "one" of all the possible ways.
Pause here and read it again, because this is a subtle yet crucial step in the process: It is a shift from a destination-focused perspective to a direction-centered one.
A shift from seeing yourself as a tourist to embracing the traveller within.
Ready for it? Here below my 6 steps for you to make it real!
1. Notice what really motivates you.
In whatever experience you are having, let go of your expectations/plans/best ways to. For a few moments, just connect to your sensations and be honest with yourself.
What in that experience makes your vibrant and alive? Jot down your thoughts and journal if you so feel, that's how you build your traveller notebook.
2. Distinguish the essential
Observe your sensations and go deeper.
Distinguish what is core and essential in your feeling of satisfaction/reward from what is accessory.
This is about the “why” behind the “what” we mentioned before.
It requires self-observation and time.
A question that can help you is: in what other situations do I experience the same? What is the common element?
If you can, break down your driver to its minimal components.
3. Explore opportunities
Look for opportunities where your drivers may be at work.
Working on your core drivers you might indeed end up discovering new territories where they apply, and be surprised at how you might enjoy something apparently distant from your pre-defined path.
Test your drivers, pay attention to your feelings of satisfaction with them, and refine them this way. Your feelings are the greenlights of your path. They tell you: yes, that's it! Go on!
4. Make mistakes
Make trials. And make mistakes.
Mistakes give us much more valuable lessons that any good achievement or success.
For two main reasons,
one, we remember them better (this is a human cognitive bias, we remember better what we perceive as "bad" compared to "good"),
two, only by having some form of experience of what is not-ok, we know that it’s, well, actually not-ok. We cannot have knowledge of what is to us unknown.
So don’t be afraid of mistakes. Be ready to grow with each one of them.
They are the red lights. They tell you: stop! Think again. Try this other thing.
They will help you identify your drivers, and will help you clarify your direction.
5. Create your own path
It is in this way that you create your own path in the direction you have chosen.
Call it the optimized path for yourself. Once you know your direction, nobody better than you can know what’s your optimal path, as you are the best placed to know what’s your pace, your drivers, your priorities, your fall-back positions and any other parameter which is relevant for your journey.
Actually, you don't have a user instruction leaflet for it. You learn and create your optimal path by just walking it, you learn by doing (and by living, to quote Eleanor Roosevelt).
6. Enjoy the process
This is the most important part (and the simplest one if you have gone through the previous steps, the discovery and exploration of your drivers): simply enjoy the awareness, the feelings, the experiences, the lessons, all that creates your own path.
If you can do this (and of course you have all the resources inside to do it), you will had shifted to the traveller's perspective and you will find one day that your moves and choices have become more aligned with your deeper drivers, with the natural curiosity of exploring and discovering, and with your aspiration to grow and become more, every day.
Take your first step
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
The traveller of life within you knows it well😉
Start with looking around yourself. Make your next best choice now.
And keep making it over and over again. One step at a time.
Life is experiencing. Life is exploring. Life is evolving and becoming.
Enjoy your journey.
I’m Alessia D’Acunto, Transformation, Self-Empowerment and Leadership Coach.
I help you connect to the power of your mind, body-intelligence and soul-purpose so to thrive in your personal and professional life with confidence, authenticity, and grace.
Ready for a deep dive into your powerful self?