An Intentional Pursuit of Purpose

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While I have always had a sense of purpose and have always been a bit goal oriented, I have not always lived out this sense of purpose.

Jeju Island, S. Korea, by Tasha M. Troy

Jeju Island, S. Korea, by Tasha M. Troy

When I was 29, I achieved my primary career goal, which was to live and work overseas.  Ok, I admit, looking back, that wasn’t overly ambitious, but at the time it was a big deal to me.

Unfortunately, achieving my goal created a void for me; I no longer had a clear goal to work towards, for the first time in many years.  I drifted between jobs, pursuing the opportunities that presented themselves without seeking specific opportunities.

Seeking for a Purpose

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

During this time, I was unconsciously looking for a new goal.  I talked with a coworker about writing a textbook, but then I changed jobs.  There I created a writing curriculum at my new school, but then I was assigned different classes.  Then I started studying measures of “individual differences” – how personality and learning styles impact how students learn new material and began applying for Ph.D. programs.  However, none of these were a worthy goal to energize me to invest my time and effort.

In all this time, I was fortunate that my wanderings took me in a direction of a niche student group I was well equipped to teach.  It was in working with this niche, working with mid-career professionals, that I discovered a new passion, a new purpose.

Pursuing a New Purpose

In the last several years, I have become more and more intentional in pursuing opportunities to realize this purpose – helping others develop stronger relationships through more effective communication skills.  As this has happened, new and bigger opportunities have presented themselves, and I’ve found myself in a good position to take advantage of those opportunities.

Preparation + Attitude + Opportunity + Action = Luck 

I have not yet arrived at my goal, but I am well on my way.  What’s more important is that I am feeling fulfilled and energized today, in the middle of the journey.  I also know that once I reach my goal, there will be still more distant horizons to pursue.

I have said before that I believe every person has a God-given purpose, a unique contribution that only he or she can make.  Are you actively pursuing that purpose?  Are you moving in a direction that will ultimately fulfill you?  Or are you living a comfortable, complacent, and ultimately dissatisfying life?

With a new year comes a new opportunity to reinvent ourselves!  I invite you to join me in living an intentional life!

What is holding you back from becoming more intentional about leading your own life today?

 

Resources:

In just a few weeks, I will start facilitating a Mastermind/ Book Study group based on the book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell.  If you would like more information, email me at tasham.troy@gmail.com or visit A New Year to Grow for details and a link to register.

Have You Evaluated Your Experience?

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On Black Friday, when millions were hunting and wrestling for the best “deals,” I was traipsing through a local forest.  It had been awhile since I’d been out to this forest, and I was so struck by the stillness that I sat and just listened to the wind in the trees for about 30 minutes.  IMG_8432

I always enjoy Thanksgiving weekend, even though I’ve only been able to go “home” once in the last 15 years.  For many years, I wasn’t able to travel home for the holiday, and even now it is difficult, so I simply spend the weekend alone.

If you’re an extrovert, that must sound like torture!  But for me, an introvert, it is heaven.  Whether I intend it or not, I find myself spending quite a bit of time in reflection, and I always come out with a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

Do you believe there is a purpose for your life?

The entire time I was growing up, my mother quoted Jeremiah 29:11 over me:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV).IMG_8436

It was particularly poignant because I had almost died as a newborn infant and was given slim odds to reach my second birthday.  Obviously, I beat the odds; even more, I’ve had an extraordinary life without the limitations my condition should have imposed.  Clearly, God had a purpose for my life if He healed me so completely.

As I’ve stepped into the field of professional development training and coaching, I’ve come to believe more and more strongly that each individual has a unique purpose.  It doesn’t require a miracle story to recognize your purpose.  It simply takes a stillness that leads to an awareness of the direction your life has taken.

Do you see the path set before you?

God is not trying to hide your purpose from you!  He has provided many signs for you, but you must be looking for them to find them.

I talk a lot about finding your SHAPE, a concept taken from Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life.  The E in SHAPE is your experiences.   If you take time to look at not only your work and educational experiences but also family and spiritual experiences, you will begin to find a common thread.

Jeff Goins, in his book The Art of Work, says, “If you pay attention to your life and the lessons it can teach you, you won’t feel so lost.  Your story will seem less like a series of disjointed events and more like a beautifully complex narrative unfolding before you” (p. 21-22).

For me that narrative has to do with establishing and losing relationships.  This thread runs through all areas of my life: the high points almost always relate to feeling connected to family, friends, classmates, and colleagues; the low points almost always relate to feeling rejected and abandoned by family, friends, classmates, and colleagues.  This really goes a long way to explain my personal mission to help people build stronger relationships through more effective communication skills.

 

Have you been paying attention to your life?  People say experience is the best teacher, but John Maxwell disagrees; he says evaluated experience is.  What have you learned from your experiences?

Resources

Video variation on my blog post, including a peek at my experience narrative!

Online resources to discover your SHAPE

One of the things I love the most about John Maxwell’s 7-Day Experiment in Intentional Living is how focused it is on creating stronger relationships with the people around you.  Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to start your 7-day experiment with John Maxwell!

 

Why’s and Wherefore’s

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I was talking to my roommate earlier today, and it occurred to me that I’ve never really had to “press through” to achieve a goal, like I am right now.  I’ve always worked hard and focused, but for the most part, success has come fairly readily.  I suspect this may be because I’ve chosen “safe” goals or goals within my “strength zone.”

IMG_7389However, today I’m pursing what Jim Collins calls a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – and it is proving MUCH more challenging than anything I’ve ever taken on before.  One thing that keeps me going whenever I quit (and I’ve quit several times) is remembering my “why.”

Purpose

I have just finished a re-read of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and I’ve been struck by how relevant it is to people at all stages of their journey.  Some of the reflection questions are best suited for people early in their journey, but the content challenged me in ways I didn’t quite anticipate.

I’ve written before about exploring your SHAPE, a concept described in The Purpose Driven Life, and I think understanding my SHAPE has helped me reach success so far.  It has helped me understand, in a personal sense, what God’s plan and design for me is.

In his new book Intentional Living, John Maxwell includes a chapter titled “Search Until You Find Your Why” – talking about understanding your purpose.  He says,

Every person was created to do his or her part to better mankind.  That includes you!

Every person has talents that will help him or her better mankind.  That includes you!

Every person is given an opportunity to better mankind.  That includes you!

Every person has a purpose for which he or she was created.  That includes you!

Every person must look within to discover his or her purpose.  That includes you!

While I believe this to be absolutely true, in the challenges I’m facing today, I’m finding that simply engaging my SHAPE is not quite enough.  I have to go deeper.

Why

A piece of the puzzle that has become more important to me in recent days is understanding my “why.”
The truth is that I could aim my SHAPE at any number of issues, projects, plans, and causes.  While your “why” does overlap with your “Heart” (the H in SHAPE), I am finding that how I’ve defined Heart doesn’t engage my own personal motivations.

IMG_8396I have always externalized my passions – what needs in the world tug at my heart?  This is definitely a place to start, but as I mentioned, it hasn’t provided the staying power I need when achieving a goal that is proving more difficult, and there really are many, many noble causes that tug at me.

In the same chapter, John Maxwell gives three clues to finding your why:

  • What do you cry about?  “What causes so much discomfort that you are motivated to take action and do something to bring healing to that situation?”
  • What do you sing about?  “What makes you jump for joy or spontaneously break into song?”
  • What do you dream about?  “What if you could do something significant, something that would impact others and outlast you?”

These are the questions I’m engaging with today, questions that take me inside, that challenge me to go deeper than I have before.  These are questions that can be very uncomfortable and cause me to be very discontented with where I am and what I am investing my efforts into.

What is your “why”?  What are you doing today to pursue your purpose?

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Resources:

Would you like to know what makes me cry or sing, or what I dream about?  Find My Answers to John Maxwell’s Three “Why” Questions here.

Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to start your 7-day experiment with John Maxwell!

Discovering Your SHAPE – links and resources for exploring the five elements of your SHAPE

A post I wrote about Finding Your Purpose

Authors quoted:

  • Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
  • John Maxwell – Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters
  • Jim Collins – Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

The Journey of Success – Know Yourself

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Everyone wants to be successful, but what is that separates the truly successful from the rest?  John Maxwell says that success is a journey, not a destination.  Over the next few months, I want to explore what that journey might entail.

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Huntley Meadows; Photo by Tasha M. Troy

I’ve identified four stages in the journey of success:

  1. Know Yourself
  2. Define Success
  3. Develop the Vision
  4. Pursue the Goal with Determination

 

Today I’ll start by describing the first stage, and in future posts I’ll describe the other stages.

Stage 1: Know Yourself

What does it mean to know yourself?  I mean, you spend 24/7 with yourself; if you don’t know yourself by now, when will you?

Actually, I have found that a lot of people are not particularly reflective and don’t take the time to understand who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and motivations.  A tool I found in Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life has been very helpful to me in organizing my view of myself.  He talks about being “Shaped for Service,” SHAPE being an acronym:

  • S – spiritual gifts: the innate gifts God has placed within each of us for the purpose of touching the lives of others
  • H – heart / passions: the key motivations that drive us
  • A – abilities: the skills we have acquired
  • P – personality: the way we interact with the world
  • E – experiences: the things we have gone through, both good and bad

Years ago I started a journal to track my SHAPE, and I revisit it whenever I am facing major life decisions or go through major life events.  It has been very helpful in making intentional choices that line up with how I believe God designed me.  For example, my decision to start writing this blog was in line with my SHAPE:

  • Photo by Tasha M. Troy

    Photo by Tasha M. Troy

    Spiritual gifts:  teaching, giving, encouraging – My goal in writing this blog is to encourage people to communicate more effectively and to teach them the strategies they need.

  • Heart: to be a bridge – The title of this blog reflects my passion to bring individuals and groups together that might not otherwise connect.
  • Abilities:  communicate in writing, build stronger relationships – I have been intentionally building my skills in the area of relationship development and connecting with others, and I am happy to share my learning experiences to help others.
  • Personality:  INFJ according to Myers-Briggs – Part of the description of my personality type is that we express ourselves more easily through writing.
  • Experience:  over 10 years teaching professional communication skills – I have spent more than half of my career developing and teaching the communication skills I write about in this blog, working with hundreds of adults to help them become more effective communicators.

More recently, I have begun discovering new tools for exploring the different elements of my SHAPE.  You will find some of them here:  Discovering Your SHAPE.

In my opinion, a major key to living an intentional life is understanding yourself.  You can not intentionally pursue a life of purpose if you won’t take the time to understand your strengths and weaknesses, your passions and motivations.  I challenge you to take some time today to explore your own SHAPE – I can promise you will find it a helpful exercise.

 

Resources:

If you are interested in working though and applying your SHAPE with me, I can offer you a free exploratory coaching session.  I have a few activities that are intended to help you identify different elements of your SHAPE.  Contact me at tasham.troy@gmail.com to schedule a free 30-minute session.

Discovering Your SHAPE

A Life of Purpose – A TED Talk by Pastor Rick Warren

 

An Intentional Pursuit

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I have always been a planner, and I’m usually pretty proactive in pursuing my plan.

By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to live in another country, so I pursued a major I believed would allow me to function in that country – a major in Spanish with a minor in French.  Before long I realized that I would be equipped to communicate but not to earn a living, so I continued my education with a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language; I would now be paid by organizations to live in other countries.

 

Pursuing a dream

together in subway

On the Seoul Metro; photo provided by Tasha M. Troy

Upon graduation, I eventually obtained a job in my field in my hometown, but I still had my sights on teaching abroad.  I explored a couple of different opportunities before I accepted a position teaching in South Korea.

By the age of 29, I had achieved my goal of living overseas!

But what was next?

A new direction

For a number of years in Korea, I drifted from one job to another, simply following the opportunities that presented themselves without any intention behind it.  I was fortunate that my drifting brought me to a job that introduced me to my teaching niche – helping professionals improve their communication skills in order to increase their effectiveness.

When I eventually left that position, I wondered how I could continue meeting the needs of international professionals.  I started thinking about teaching online, and this gave me a new sense of purpose, a new direction to travel in.

 

Pursuit of a new dream

I got to work immediately!  I obtained a teaching position that allowed me to continue working with the same demographic – adult professionals who want to improve their effectiveness in communicating in professional settings.

I next completed a certificate in online teaching and later enrolled in a graduate program that allowed me to learn both video production and designing an online learning environment.

I was building the skill-set I needed to accomplish my plan.

IMG_7447As I moved toward my goals, my vision expanded.  I observed that the communication skills I was honing in myself and teaching my classes were needed by a much larger audience.  Then I discovered the joy and power of blogging.

Today I am intentionally pursuing this larger goal, of helping the world communicate better, especially in situations where there is disagreement and conflict.  I continue to hone my own skills while sharing my experiences and my learnings.

C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “You are never to old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.”  What are you dreaming for your life today?  What intentional steps are you taking in the direction of your dreams?

 

 

 

 

 

More details about my early pursuit: What does it take to achieve a dream?

Great Outcomes and Shared Interests

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In 2004, I was living and working in S. Korea.  It was the first time I experienced a US presidential election while living overseas, and I was truly surprised by the interest my Korean friends and connections showed in the election.  In retrospect, it made sense; the policy decisions in the US have wide-sweeping impacts around the globe.  It was at that point that I started paying even more attention to US foreign policy.

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Photo by Tasha M. Troy

In their book Real Influence, Mark Goulston and John Ullmen describe four steps in their “connected influence” model.  The first step is “go for great outcomes,” which they define as “standing for something noble and worthwhile, … about going beyond where people want to be and showing them where they could be” (p. 39).  This is what I hope to accomplish in this post.

Standing for Something Noble:  America was once considered a world leader, promoting democracy and human rights, resisting totalitarianism, fighting for freedom and liberty.  There is something inspiring in the images of Captain American and Superman, however unrealistic they may be.

However, that image was not entirely accurate.  We have not always used our power and influence wisely or ethically.  I was first made aware of the “dark side” of American exceptionalism when I was in high school and I learned about US intervention in other nations having catastrophic impacts on those nations.

As an example, I wrote a report for my history class my senior year in high school on the effects of US intervention in Nicaragua.  I discovered that by supporting a “right-wing dictator” in the first half of the 20th century, the US actually set the stage for the communist regime to gain power in the 1970s.

Strangely enough, we still haven’t learned our lesson; we are still supporting repressive regimes in other countries, leading to the loss of civil liberties and human rights in places such as Iraq and Ethiopia.

Closer to home, we hear in the news everyday of injustices being perpetrated on the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the different.  We tried to tell ourselves that prejudice was dead, but we see across the country that it is alive and well.  I know I am not exempt, though I strive to identify and eliminate judgmental attitudes in myself.

Where People Want to Be:  Clearly, these injustices can not be allowed to continue, either at home or abroad.  I believe people want to see economic inequality and racial prejudices not merely reduced but completely eliminated, personal freedoms ensured.  What I envision is a world where every person is enabled to reach their God-given potential.

Where I think we have trouble is that we disagree on precisely how to accomplish this.  Some may think it is impossible and have given up, but I still have hope.  A first step is “healing the timeline.”

Dutch Sheets, in his book An Appeal to Heaven, talks about “healing the timeline.”  By this, he means that we as a nation need to recognize the injustices in our own history (and present), not deny or ignore them, and actively and humbly seek reconciliation.

We humans engage in denial at times, because it seems to alleviate the pain, but God doesn’t.  His plan, as Isaiah said, is always to “rebuild … raise up … repair … restore” the broken timelines.  The mending of these breaks allows the pain of the past to heal, not be buried.  … Without true healing, this cycle of pain repeats itself generation after generation. …

Through humility, repentance, God’s love, and forgiveness, we can heal history’s timeline. (p. 22-24)

Showing Them Where They Could Be:  After World War 2, we were the thought leaders of the world.  We were respected even by those who disliked us.  Still today, for good or ill, the US holds great influence on nations and individuals near and far.  To deny that influence is to perpetuate injustice.  We have to get our own house in order so that we can once again be an influence for human rights, justice, and liberty.

 

Links and Resources:

An Invitation – Join me for a live Q&A call, Thursday, July 16, at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen

An Appeal to Heaven by Dutch Sheets

  • A short, quick, easy read, full of hope for the future of America.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

  • A systematic approach to difficult conversations that can make or break a relationship; more focused on specific types of conversations than Real Influence.

 

 

What Does It Take to Pursue a Dream? A Biblical Perspective (Part 2)

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How often do we limit God by boxing Him in with our expectations?

For four hundred years, the Israelites served the Egyptians, and all that time they cried out for God to rescue them. However, their deliverance didn’t look like what they expected. In Exodus 5, Moses and Aaron first asked Pharaoh to let the children of Israel to go offer sacrifices, and I am sure they expected Pharaoh to cooperate. However, Pharaoh not only refused to let them go but also made life more difficult for the Israelites. Even when God reaffirmed His plan to deliver His people, the Israelites couldn’t hear it; “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Ex. 6:9).

1341529_74842804 How often do we prefer a negative status quo to the adventure of stepping out in faith to pursue God’s plan and calling? In Exodus 14:12, the children of Israel, barely released from slavery in Egypt, see Pharaoh pursuing them and say to Moses that “it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  After spending 400 years asking God to deliver them from the Egyptians, the first time they face difficulty, they wish they were back in the familiar.

I truly believe God has great things in store for each person He has created.  If you are alive, there is a purpose for your life!  The question is whether we will be courageous enough to pursue those dreams God has placed in our hearts.

Read the other posts in this series:

A Personal Story

Consulting Experts

A Biblical Perspective (Part 1)

Attempt Great Things

For His Purpose

Do You Still Dream?