A Coaching Power Tool Created by Natalie Bane
(Executive Coach, GREECE)
This Power Tool “ Inner Purpose vs outer purpose” is inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s purpose”. In this book, the writer describes these two concepts that are seemingly opposite yet so strongly intertwined that one cannot speak of one without referring to the other. When I read this book I realized that my mission in life was to align my outer world with my inner experience.
So what do we mean by inner and outer purpose?
In his book, Eckhart Tolle defines inner purpose as our primary purpose in life and it is Who we are, that is our state of consciousness, our presence in this world.
Our outer purpose is secondary and is what we do. How we act and react, the decisions we make, the work we do, the life partner we choose, our friends.
The connection between the two is the fact that when we find our inner purpose, we are then able to fulfill our outer purpose differently. We can find true happiness and satisfaction in everything we do and live a happy and fulfilling life.
Let’s now have a closer look at the two concepts.
Our inner purpose is the essence of our being. Who we are if we take away our possessions, our work our physical appearance, everything related to our world. Many people are trapped in their image. They consider what they believe about themselves and what others believe about them as true and so they think that’s what makes them who they are whereas in reality their image is only something temporary that may change in time and may have many variations throughout their lives.
Our inner life, however, our spirit, is something completely different and entirely irrelevant to our worldly achievements.
Let me share my own experience here: A few years ago, I was driving myself to work one morning feeling miserable, without energy, and full of negativity. That was a common state of being for me back then. What is interesting though is that there was no actual reason for it. I was 42 years old, I was healthy, mother to a beautiful healthy daughter and wife to an amazing husband. I was a successful executive in the Airline Industry, a rewarding job and I was highly respected in my field.
So what was the problem? Why was I not happy?
That morning, all of a sudden and without any prior notice, I had a glimpse of my lost happiness… I had a small instant of a long lost feeling of pure happiness that I had felt only as a child. That feeling embraced my heart while I was driving.
And there came the questions:
- Where is that happiness?
- Why am I so unhappy now?
- What happened to me?
- How can I get back my happiness?
For me, that was a turning point. It was an instant that divided my l life in two: Before and after that holy moment. Since then, it was impossible to be the same person again. It was like having a wake -up call. I had to change.
My mission began:
I started looking for my happiness!
To some people, this awakening happens all of a sudden without prior notice and it’s a mind-blowing experience. To others, it is an experience that happens gradually and over time. Both are experiences that change the person forever and they signal the beginning of a process that cannot be reversed. When this happens, people feel lost and uncomfortable. They don’t recognize themselves anymore and don’t react to the world in the same way as before. Now, they are in search of a deeper meaning in their lives. They are looking for true happiness and fulfillment that is far beyond success and material wealth.
This is a state where awareness comes into play:
This is a state of being that brings absolute freedom in the sense that we are no longer hostages of our thoughts. We can let go of them any moment to turn them to our service and not the other way round.
So our primary purpose in life is to awaken to a new awareness that will shift our consciousness gradually into a new state of being:
Awareness is the space in which thoughts exist when that space has become conscious of itself. Eckhart Tolle
What this means is that we become aware of our thoughts and we no longer identify with them. We can recognize our consciousness over and beyond our thinking. When this happens, this new state of consciousness transforms every action and every thought we have. We are now the “thinker” behind the thought, not the thought itself.
Our outer purpose is really what we choose to do in our lives. Our work, our relationships, our hobbies. Everything related to the world we live in and the people that surround us. Most people find meaning in their lives through success in the area that is more appealing to them: career, marriage, family, fame, or physical appearance. However, true success can come to us only when our inner sense of happiness aligns with our achievements in the outer world. Only when we feel fulfilled and happy with who we are at the core of our existence, only then we can pursue our dreams with joy and peace. That is true success!
How to enhance the process of alignment between inner and outer purpose
The way to align our inner and outer purpose lies in our willingness to find true meaning in our lives. When we reach a point in life where seemingly we have achieved everything and still we’re not happy, this is a sign that we are not aligned with our true purpose. What we do with this feeling of misalignment is very personal. We can either ignore it and move on with our lives as if nothing ever happened or we can pay close attention to it and deal with it. In either case, when we have this experience, this awakening, we can never go back to our previous state of being. The question is: What to do with it now?
If we choose to look closely to this new state of being and try to decode the messages we receive from within, we have several practices and tools that can help us in this process:
The emergence of awareness can be enhanced in our everyday life by practicing Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that exists in almost every religion and it is about living in the present moment. Whenever we are engaged in whichever mundane activity we must be fully present and give it our fullest attention. This is called mindful living. The great mindfulness master Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book
‘The miracle of mindfulness’ describes beautifully the reasons behind this concept. Let’s take an ordinary example:
Imagine that you are with a friend and have just finished dinner. Your job now is to go and wash the dishes so that you both then can have a cup of tea. If you go about washing the dishes quickly and without paying full attention to what you’re doing (because your mind is on the cup of tea and the joyful chat that you’ll have with your friend) then it’s probable that when you go to drink your tea, your mind will be also drifted elsewhere ( for example, that you’re tired and want to go to bed).
If we choose to live like this we are continuously sucked away into the future and we are not capable of living in the present where real life happens. Eckhart Tolle explains the importance of living in the present moment very beautifully in his book “A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s purpose”. He says:
The great arises out of small things that are honored and cared for. Everybody’s life really consists of small things. Greatness is a mental abstraction and a favorite fantasy of the ego. The paradox is that the foundation for greatness is honoring the small things of the present moment instead of pursuing the idea of greatness
Meditation can be a very helpful practice. It helps us quiet our mind, it strengthens our ability to focus and releases us from stress and anxiety. It gives us a safe space where we can sit in stillness and BE with our selves. That is a place where miracles happen!
Journaling is a practice that can help people better understand their feelings, thoughts, and behavior in general. By writing on a piece of paper whatever we need to resolve, we change the form of our concern. We force it to become clear and manageable and we clear the way to find the best possible solution. What is also of great importance is to go back to previous writings on our journal and review our issues from a new perspective after some time.
Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:
- How happy am I right now with my life on a scale of one to ten?
- What would I change in my life if I was not afraid?
- What brings me joy?
- If I could start my life all over again, what would I do differently?
What is important in this exercise is to be unapologetic about your answers and try not to edit them. Try to stick with whatever comes to your mind first. Then, review your answers and reflect on them.
How to help clients align their inner and outer purpose
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
When a client comes to a coach in search of a deeper meaning in life, it means that this person has had some kind of awakening and already has a certain level of awareness.
The job of the coach now is to facilitate this process and help the client achieve his/her goals quickly and effectively.
Clients usually know that something is not going well because there might be several feelings and thoughts at play:
- The feeling of being stuck
- No motivation
However, they don’t know how to deal with those emotions and thoughts.
Eckhart Tolle in his book “A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s purpose” says:
Awakened doing is the alignment of your outer purpose – what you do – with your inner purpose-awakening and staying awake. The modalities of awakened doing are:
When these feelings are the underlying power of whatever we set ourselves to do, then our actions become infused with consciousness and our life is meaningful and fulfilled.
There may be certain situations in life that we might not enjoy or be enthusiastic about. In that case, we can bring in a state of acceptance. This acceptance will bring to our lives the sense of peace that we need and so negativity will dissolve. If acceptance is not possible then we should stop the activity altogether.
On the other hand when we bring joy into all that we do, then we have this beautiful sense of aliveness that brings quality to the simplest of things. Even more, when we enjoy what we do and on top of that we bring a vision and a goal to work towards then we have the highest sensation of enthusiasm. The word ‘enthusiasm’ comes from the Greek word ‘theos’ which means ‘God’ and ‘en’ that means ‘in’. Enthusiastic action then is an action that is empowered by a divine force.
Some powerful questions a coach can ask a client are:
- What is important to you about finding your life’s purpose?
- What is keeping you back?
- What would you do if there were no obstacles?
- How would it feel if you have achieved your goal?
- Visualize yourself in the future when your goal has been achieved.
“A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s purpose”-Eckhart Tolle (2005).
“The miracle of mindfulness – An Introduction to the practice of meditation”- Thich Nhat Hanh (1975).