On Friday my positive passage ended with my daughter, Shauri, starting to write a life statement. By the end of the weekend she finished her effort and headed home. A few days later she sent me a copy of an amazing letter. She has given me permission to share it. I would like to present it in parts and make a few observations on each part.
She began it by describing her painful experience and her decision to fly home. This is what she said: “Dad picked me up from the airport and on the way home he started to ask me questions about what and how I was feeling about the situation with Matt. At first the focus was just on the pain I was feeling and self pity as I wondered what was wrong with me and if I would ever find anyone to love. I was just going over and over the problem. Dad turned the conversation from “solving my problem to finding my purpose.” My gut reaction initially was to bring it back to the problem. I wanted to wallow in the pain of the problem. I thought I was looking for a solution, but it wasn’t until I allowed the conversation to really change and turn to my purpose that I found the solution.”
Negative emotions pull us into the reactive mode. They drain us of energy and lead us to ruminate on the problem. We go around in circles. When she at last moved into finding her purpose, her entire outlook changed. She began to rise above her day to day problems and orient to higher purposes.
Shauri’s letter made a surprising turn. She shared an email message she sent to Matt. It turns out he had contacted her after she returned home, and indicated he missed hearing from her. In her response she wrote an unusually open, authentic and seemingly vulnerable letter. She opened her heart, but with no expectation or need for reciprocation or validation.
When her roommates saw the letter, they argued that the message was too honest! They could never imagine opening themselves up to someone who had just rejected them. I suspect that previous to this moment Shauri might have agreed. Yet something had changed. She was suddenly less normal then before. What Shauri next writes to me is of great consequence.
“The funny thing is I felt a huge sense of peace about it all. It was liberating… I was no longer worried about his response or reaction to me or to what I shared with him. I chose to act rather than react. Because I did, it freed me and empowered me. By giving up control in this situation I gained control of the situation. I wasn’t worried about his response. I had been completely honest with him and strangely, it gave me confidence. My purpose is to purify myself and serve others. Since I began working towards purpose I have been set free from my problems and they are resolving themselves. I feel filled with light and I know that as I continue in my purpose my light will grow brighter and brighter and I will lose myself in it.”
Shauri’s experience illustrates some important points. First, it is normal to be reactive and to have negative emotions. We are all pulled in this direction. While most of us would claim that we hate the negative emotions we are feeling, we do not behave as if we do. We in fact often choose to stay in our negative state. We seem to become addicted to the process of wallowing in “the problem.” It is natural and, in a strange way, it is “comfortable” to be in such pain. At such times this victim role is our path of least resistance and we willingly take it perhaps because it is a role we know how to play.
Second, our being state can be controlled. We do not have to stay in the victim role. We can choose our own response. We do this by leaving the “external world,” where it can seem to us the problem is located. We go “inside” ourselves, not to the problem but to our purpose. When we go inside to clarify our purpose, our perception is altered dramatically. The original problem does not necessarily go away but it becomes much less relevant. We outgrow the problem. It becomes much less important than it was.
Third our being state changes the world. As soon as Shauri started to clarify her purpose, she felt a sense of progress. Her negative emotions turned positive. She started to feel faith, hope, strength, confidence and love. The new positive emotions empowered her and made her empowering. She became inner-directed and other-focused. She started to create the relationships in her life. She became a leader. She had made a being change and now she was leading change. She was a model that others could look to for elevating their own lives.
Shortly after this episode there was a dramatic change in Shauri’s life. At the professional level, her career suddenly took off. She went from frustration and fear to a bold job change. Her performance on that job was full of creativity and she became a successful young professional. In her new job she began to love what she was doing. She presented herself in a much more potent yet peaceful and confident way. When Shauri made a change in her being state, her external world also changed.
This passage is adapted from material in Letters to Garrett by Robert E. Quinn, See Letter 2.
Why does the clarification of purpose empower a person?
Why would clarification of purpose cause one’s career to take off?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?