GloForward Feature: Purpose Transition
Finding Your Path to Heart-Driven Purpose
by Lisa J. Gotto
October 30, 2020
Finding a sense of purpose, especially at midlife, may seem like an elusive exercise. In fact, there is no such thing as executing the flawless “purpose transition”. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology, think of it as “leaning in” on the rest of your life—the part that generally arrives after age 50.
While graceful transitions in purpose are easier for some, generally they come about in one of three ways: As part of the natural process or path that life takes us down, as a result of facing a significant challenge or life-altering event, or through a guided process of introspection such as coaching that enables the clarity necessary to hear what our heart wants.
We can look to the example of some pretty amazing women who we have already met and their personal stories of challenge, triumph, and resolve to know this is true. In our recent series, Women of Grace, we introduced you to two of them, Silver Kim and Tracy Quisenberry.
Silver’s story is indicative of life’s natural path to purpose. She faced challenges early in life which guided her from a career in fashion to her purpose as a yoga teacher and studio owner. When she opened Kula Heart Yoga in 2008, she created a safe environment for women to come together, explore themselves and flourish in community. When family concerns required her to release other time-consuming commitments at midlife, she sold her studio and dedicated herself to her new priorities. Her choice was to let go, to simplify her life and focus on the things that truly mattered to her now: nurturing her own innate joy and creativity, enjoying her beloved husband, treasuring her adult children, and supporting her elderly parents through their health challenges. Her spiritual practices keep her tuned into where her heart will lead her next.
Sometimes life leads us in ways most unexpected, so much so that it challenges and surprises us with our own strength. Such is the journey of Tracy Quisenberry, founder of Icing Smiles, a non-profit organization that creates dream cakes for children with critical illness.
While taking some family leave time to attend to her chronically ill child just over 10 years ago, Tracy felt the need to express herself creatively, especially after her son’s health started to improve. She gravitated to cake decorating as a way of bringing joy to other critically ill children, which was a true departure and a leap from her professional life in international tax.
Along the way Tracy realized that she didn’t need to actually make all the cakes herself to fulfill the purpose in her heart. Her new-found passion would inspire others and the creation of an international network of bakers, or Sugar Angels, now more than 12,000 strong, was born.
Tracy remarks that much like the stories in one of her favorite purpose-themed books, “Dig Where You Are,” Icing Smiles’ story was about using an ordinary skill and turning it into something extraordinary.
“The common theme was that not one of those people (in the book) set out to have an extraordinary impact, it just happened,” she says. “They noticed a need and they went to fulfill that need and then it became a habit…and they inspired somebody else to fulfill a need and it became a movement. So that’s what really happened with Icing Smiles. There was no ‘lightbulb moment’ that said I’m going to create an international non-profit.”
And yet she did.
“Your calling is where your own greatest joy intersects with the needs of the world.”
Along our journey we also met Dr. Kathleen Morgan, M.H., NDTR, the Chair of the Department of Family and Community Health Services at Rutgers University. She provided us with some very useful information about the role nutrition plays for women during menopause. Kathleen, is a highly personable and engaging individual who, at 72, told us that she still has many goals in life and being a strong advocate for women is one of them.
Kathleen recalled receiving some valuable advice from a friend early on in her life’s journey when she was faced with the reality of dissolving a difficult marriage. In her 30’s and a stay-at-home-mom at the time, Kathleen was advised that if she was going to be able to take care of herself and her kids she would need to adjust her path. Her friend, a psychologist, suggested Kathleen go back to school and pursue a degree. While she was proud when she completed an associates degree program in nutrition, her friend encouraged her to continue. That “nudge,” as Kathleen explains it, was essential to her journey in becoming a woman of note who went far beyond what was expected and found her greater purpose along the way.
Not only did Kathleen get her bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Rutgers, she also was able to secure a position there as a department administrator. Generally, a person who holds such a position also has a master’s degree in the field, so as a condition of acquiring the position, she would also pursue her master’s which she achieved. She was not done.
“In my 50’s I said to myself, ‘I’m going to turn 60 one way or another, so I can either turn 60 with my doctorate degree or not.’” Can you guess what her decision on that was?
Now she finds great purpose in encouraging other women. She says, you don’t necessarily have to walk the long road she did, just taking some small steps can actually get you moving in a new direction.
“Just think of something else you want to do, a small thing. Make a change. And that change as it is can encourage you to make another change that will enhance and improve your life.”
Today, Kathleen says she’s still learning and she’s still on her journey. She firmly believes that this theme of women finding their way is easier achieved when they have the support of other women. Her advice to others learning with her, “Start nudging women forward.”
"Clarity is available inside us all. It doesn’t have to be a struggle. We just need to get quiet enough
to recognize what our heart is saying."
Coaching & Guidance
How does one tap into their inner voice and choose the path most purposeful; especially when we are leading such complex lives filled with outside noise and overstimulation? Even if you already consider yourself to have a very full life with family and other activities that you enjoy, you may still feel there’s something special you would like to do, pursue, or learn more about. Studies have shown that specific purpose-driven activity can even heighten the enjoyment you already have in those areas, so you need not worry that your purpose will crowd those things out in your life.
The benefits of purpose transitions are clear and vary from longer and healthier life spans to an overall feeling of contentment with life, which is really the goal. It’s also important to keep in mind that you are a unique, wonderfully complex, and inquiring woman as you seek out a way to find your heart-driven purpose.
One way to get started on your own is to do some form of self-inquiry such as mindful journaling to gain clarity so you are able to better understand what sparks your passion at this point in life. The truth is the answers to your purpose are already inside you. It just takes your willingness and sometimes further guidance and direction, or coaching, to enable the quiet and clarity you need to hear the story your heart has to tell about purpose.
Perhaps it is time to ask yourself: Am I ready to hear what my heart has to say?
Looking for more meaning in your life? Want to encourage other women like you to be inspired and empowered? GloForward is looking for a clever & creative volunteer with social media experience to help empower more women to own the change. If you would like to gain valuable experience working with a start-up, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org & tell us why you are interested with a link to your Instagram / Facebook account. We look forward to hearing from you!