“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” –Bill Copeland
How my purpose landed me in deep water
About a year ago I was asked if I would facilitate a conference for 60 people over two days. I had never spoken on a stage as an adult, and I had never run a conference, but… the topic of the conference played to every element of my purpose, using ‘real stories to inspire people’ to grow, to have fun, to enjoy life and work. To turn away from it would have been to turn away from my purpose…something I could NEVER have done.
Over the next two months, I planned 8 workshops, talks and activities.
I was terrified
Truth was, I was terrified, almost paralysed by the fear and there were countless times when I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. Part of me wanted to move out to a small cottage in the country and forget all about it. To some people, public speaking may not be such a frightening prospect, but I was terrified, there was a very real chance that I would be overtaken by uncontrollable shakes (it had happened to me before) and suddenly I was swimming in the deep end.
Enormous amounts of adrenalin cascaded through my body, triggering the fight or flight response. Or as my partner calls it, ‘the cowering in the corner, like a scared rabbit response’.
Adrenaline and the breath
However, I knew that it was something I just had to do, and so I ran regularly to burn off the excess adrenalin and I used breathing techniques to calm my thoughts. I use a technique where you breathe in for a count of one, out for one, then breathe in for 2, out for 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7. By the time I get to about 6 or 7 I usually have a handle on my fear.
With the adrenalin at a manageable level it became my greatest ally. With it, I had the focus to act. I spent hours in a state of flow writing scripts and learning them by heart. I employed a coach to help me with my delivery and I lined up my children’s teddy bears on the couch and practiced talking to them – for days.
Once I knew I was prepared, the anxiety turned to excitement and I was ready to go. I was following my purpose and I felt truly alive.
I did it!
It was an exhilarating and exhausting blur of activity over two days and I loved every minute of it.
However, while the conference was a success and the organisers were happy with the outcome, the real reward came not from learning how to fascilitate a conference. It came from what I learnt about achieving my vision. Things I would never have learnt had I not accepted the challenge.
People thought I was crazy to take on such a challenge with such little notice, but I took it on because I have a clearly defined purpose, and to turn the conference down would have been to turn away from that – something I just wouldn’t have been able to do.
I also learnt more about what my purpose is, how it can be achieved and what the challenges are that I will face to achieve it. I’ve done two more talks since and I have learnt even more from those, getting better with each one.
I learnt a lot about people, what they want to know, what makes them uncomfortable, what holds them back, what terrifies them…
But, you may be wondering, what’s the ‘moral’ of this story?
If I did not have a clearly defined purpose, I would never have been given the opportunity, never mind have accepted it. I would not have faced my fear and I would not have learned to speak on a stage. A purpose is like a compass pointing to ones ‘true north’.
Everybody – individuals, businesses and organisations – should have a purpose, a ‘reason why’ because without it there can be no authentic achievement and fewer significant learnings and experiences.
Live your life, do your business, on purpose – you’ll be surprised, delighted and enriched by the journey. Purpose makes us better swimmers.
Click here to download: “How to inspire your employees and get them excited by your company vision”.