At this time of the year, when the American calendar has started the new year and the Chinese new year is imminent but not yet here, I am in a Yin-Yang state. Ready to run yet still in contemplation. The Chinese new year is not the Times Square drop-the-ball kind of celebration. It’s more akin to our Thanksgiving. A time of gathering with family, a thankfulness for the harvest that had come and sporting the newest clothing to celebrate the new year. The Chinese have a lot of superstitions to evade bad luck and welcome the good. Luckily, I grew up without too many of the negative associations and thus, I’ve chosen to focus on gratitude for all that I have, for my family and good health. Coupled with the US new year’s focus on goals, it’s a pensive time.
I’m turning 50 this year. Yes! At this age, I no longer hold the utopic view that “this” is the year that I’m going to be the greatest person ever in x, y, or z. I know that living my dream goes beyond a resolution. It requires dedication and courage; to keep at something even when we want to give up. At this age, I’ve had loved ones die. I have peers who are dying. The path forward, and the choice of the path forward, is no longer just “what”, but “how”. Not to worry, I am still a relentless dreamer. But unlike years before, I know my deepest dreams will become reality not because I’m going to pursue it at the expense of all else. It’s more that I have faith in something larger than myself and I know that through a mix of sweat, tears, trust, passion and perseverance the dream will come true.
As important to what I will achieve, is how I will achieve them. As someone who has chosen to become a mother, with great time, effort and faith, my daily choices are informed, first and foremost, by the wellness of my two children. Not just whether they have the creature comforts, but whether they feel the presence of love and acceptance from my husband and me. This non-negotiability has perplexed some who’ve known me from my previous life. I’ve been told by some, that my business can grow by leaps and bounds. The market my business focuses on is growing ever more. My fluency in Chinese and English, plus my Harvard undergraduate and business school can open so many doors. These well-intentioned individuals encourage me to push forward more with my business. I think some are confused by why I “hold back”. Why do I have my business in my home? Am I really serious? It may very well be that some think that it’s too bad this HBS graduate is treating her business as a hobby. As someone very wise has taught me, “it’s none of my business what other people think of me”.
Over the years, having lived life in the corporate fast track, having lost my father suddenly while I was at HBS, and knowing how I could have been childless, I’ve come to choose my path forward in a context much larger and broader than I did 15 years ago. I’m convinced the one true thing in life that is perishable is time with our loved ones. Watching my kids play in the snow storm the other day will never happen in quite the same way again. Sitting with my 80-year old mom may be more limited than one can imagine. The considerations of what I choose to include in my life’s path has actually become much richer with age.
Let’s not kid ourselves. I did graduate from Harvard Business School. So I am an achiever, I am competitive. I have lofty goals. Yes, I still plan to achieve my business dream. I plan to make a positive difference for others in this world on a large scale. But I’ve learned to not just focus on the straight shot to “that” destination. I’m fortunate to have the wisdom to choose to experience the beauty that life has bestowed upon me, right here, right now. For tomorrow, this moment would no longer be available.
Without exception, every coaching client I’ve had the pleasure to counsel, regardless of age, has had a core, soulful purpose. There has been no exception. How quickly it emerges varies. Yet, their song, their calling always beckons forth. When I ask them to tell their story, their passion and purpose always find a way to expression. They may not hear it or be ready to hear it. That’s ok. My job is not to demand a right way to go forward. My job is to offer what has been presented by them. It touches me to the core when a client goes silent for that moment when they recognize this calling that’s always been there. And simply comes in touch with it. They may at the next moment, ignore what just happened. But I’ve come to see that once their purpose has been reunited with their consciousness, the path forward shifts. It’s a magical moment. This integration of life and purpose seems to galvanize us to a place of action like no other. It’s as if the turbo engine of life has kicked into gear.
The considerations for the path forward, for a life that includes a cornucopia of options, can be overwhelming at times. Yet when the purpose is present, the sifting of choices simplifies. For me, I’m no longer seeking the fastest, straight shot to glory as I did in my corporate days. Today, I’m not the give-up-my-life-at-all-cost entrepreneur. I’m patient. My purview has widened. I’m looking around as much as I’m looking forward. I live a path with the joy of harvest in every footstep. In time, I know my dream will be fulfilled.
How you choose your path forward has to align with every fiber of who you are. For otherwise, whose life are you living? This is a question to be asked, especially by the overachievers. Life is not a marathon where you keep running by the guideposts toward a finish line defined by others. It’s a beautiful, meandering walk in the forest where your uniqueness and life purpose are explored, savored and revered. Take the time to smell the pine, hear the birds and feel the earth beneath you as you walk. Be here as you’re going there.