A parent in a Foreign Service Facebook group recently shared this video that her daughter made about being a Third Culture Kid. It's so well done and does a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of this lifestyle. I even teared up a bit watching it with my oldest son.

Being able to name and identify our emotions is key to successfully navigating the expatriate lifestyle. If you're interested in learning how to better understand your own thought and emotional patterns, consider checking out this free downloadable exercise from my book - The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are. Or, click here to find out more about the book and purchase your copy.

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In the past two days I’ve had the incredible pleasure to conduct “get-to-know-you” sessions with the participants in the beta-test of my Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments program. This 12-week mindfulness skills program will support clients in learning the practical, accessible mindfulness skills offered through the Personal Leadership framework and provide coaching support as the participants implement these skills into their daily lives.

It has been so fun to engage in these conversations! Each of the participants is coming to the program from their own unique desire to live more engaged and more connected with the world around them. I have loved sharing with them the details of how we’re going to be talking about real world skills, actual day-to-day practices and ideas that they’ll be able to implement not just in times of balance, but in times of upheaval.

Please stay-tuned for updates (by liking the World Tree Coaching Facebook page or by joining my email mailing list if you haven't already). I’m hoping to have completed the beta phase and to begin accepting clients for the program in late-April 2018.

I’m also happy to announce that I’m now booking individual coaching clients for 2018. After some time off for the holidays (and to get my beta-testers moving through their program), I’ll begin seeing new individual coaching clients in mid-January.

If you’ve thought about coaching before, but aren’t sure it’s the right fit for you, please click here and schedule a time for us to talk more. This no-obligation session is a great way to see how coaching could support you in reaching your goals, managing transition, gaining clarity and maintaining (or regaining) balance as you enter a new year. Coaching is a true gift to yourself. There’s nothing quite like it!

As a special offer, all new clients who register between now and December 18, 2017, will receive a free copy of my book The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are (a $20 value) along with a voucher for $25 off the coaching program of her or his choice.

Click here to learn more about how we can work together to make 2018 the year you get moving where you want to go!

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After so many moves from country to country, my adventurous heart sometimes gets a little lost. Let’s face it – while I’d love to be traveling to new places each month – most of my days are like any other day. My husband and I get the kids off to school, we do laundry, we go to work, we help with homework, do dinner, bedtime, rinse, repeat. And on the weekends maybe we see a new part of town or go out to dinner.

But, every once in a while, I see the way in which my true spirit – one that needs newness, adventure and exploration – comes shining through. And I’m reminded that just because most of our days are like any other day, doesn’t mean that my adventurous side can’t be fulfilled. I just have to embrace it when it pops up in unlikely places.

Like last Friday – on an unanticipated adventure to find Tokyo’s best bagels.

We had heard about this bagel place before, but had never tried to find it because it’s pretty far from our house. My husband had the day off and we were at Tokyo Station buying shinkansen tickets for an upcoming trip. This put us closer to the bagel shop than we typically go. It was a completely last minute decision, but we decided it was worth trying to find it. As we came up the escalator, I noticed I felt this exciting sense of anticipation. I love the feeling of getting to the top of a train station escalator in a part of Tokyo I’ve never been to before. I’m moved by the sudden swish of air coming from above and the sense that I don’t know what we’ll find once we reach the top. It holds the same place in my heart as landing in a new country.

We had our phones, so this is completely unlike the old days when we’d tear the map page out of our Lonely Planet and meanderingly make our way to our destination. But – we still found ourselves twisting and turning around office buildings and corners. Where was this place!?

That sense of deciphering a puzzle is one of my favorite parts of international adventure. When we were younger (and without kids) I loved most of all the days when we just started walking in the direction of the site we wanted to see and figured we’d end up there eventually. It’s a strange mix of confidence that you'll succeed and acceptance of uncertainty. I love the balance between those two sensations.

And then, standing in the middle of the road, thinking the place must have closed down, we just had this gut feeling. There were some women dressed in matching striped shirts and white pants outside a small shop. They were laughing and had aprons on. The door to the shop was open. There was no sign and we couldn’t see through the front window because of the angle of the sun, but something told us this was the place – set back from the road, nothing to designate it Tokyo’s best bagels. We tentatively walked closer (something we’ve done for so many meals in so many countries). And there it was, written on a piece of 2-inch, white athletic tape stuck to the front window – Maruichi Bagels. We were there!

Our smiles could not be contained – we breathed in the fabulous smell, our eyes popping at rows and rows of crunchy, round crusts and containers of toppings and salads, a pile of paper bags just waiting to receive our selections. This is the heart of adventure! Arriving! Having made it!

Then we made our purchases. And doesn’t this always happen when you’re traveling – wanting to take it all with you? Don’t leave anything behind! You never know when you’ll be back. What’s a few extra yen? It’s worth it! Stock up! Don’t let the adventure die too soon. Not even for one moment did we consider we were buying too many. A dozen bagels later, we were on our way.

But - it gets better! As we were leaving one of the employees outside said that on the third floor they were doing a one-day chocolate mousse taste-test. How strange, we thought. Chocolate mousse, why? We made our way up a somewhat rickety, nondescript staircase (because on international adventures you ALWAYS make your way up the somewhat-rickety, nondescript staircase) and opened the door. There, in a big room was an older French couple - the woman, a dessert chef, and her husband had decided to try their hand at selling her chocolate mousse in Japan. Their son lives here. The wife spoke only French and what a wonderful nomad moment - the mix of languages and flavors and people trying new things! We sampled our mousse...and, sadly, in our excitement didn't buy any!

This is truly the heart of the international life - taking steps in directions you hadn't anticipated, only to find things there you never expected to see. The overlap of language and curiosity, food and strange twists in the road - it's what joins us to this life...even when we know most days just seem rather average.

And how inspiring it all is! When you see new things. When you travel and open your eyes to adventure – even in a place that has started to feel like you’ve figured it all out – you become more creative. You begin to realize that you can choose to do something different, or better, or more fully than you’ve been doing it for a while. Or you can stop all together with the things that don't work for you anymore. You realize there are so many options. And so that night we had a beautiful, bagel-inspired feast!

I tell people all the time that this life around the world is, most of the time, just normal life. And then I realize that that’s not really true. Our lives are lived from seeing adventure in the every day and I find that to be a truly unique gift of moving from place to place around the world. Even if we temporarily lose our sense of adventure – we find it again, just around the corner.

 

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I first started learning about mindfulness about 10 years ago when my oldest child was a toddler. My initial response was – “No way!” I couldn't imagine how slowing down and paying attention to what I was thinking and feeling would really make that much of a difference.

I kind of liked being a hotheaded, quick-thinker and gut-action sort of person. I wasn’t sure I wanted to change. And yet, I also had the nagging sense that I couldn’t continue along the path I was on…especially once I had children.

I found myself frequently overwhelmed and exhausted, playing the same stories and insecurities in my head over and over again. It just didn’t feel like that was sustainable either.

So, with the encouragement of a dear friend, I decided to take a mindfulness meditation class. It’s an understatement to say it changed my life. But, while I came to very much value the sense of calm and insight I gained from mindfulness meditation – it was the daily practice of mindfulness – of paying attention to what was real, of creating a less judgmental awareness to what was happening around me – that gave me the greatest sense of my ability to stay balanced and get through challenging situations, especially as we began living a life overseas.

A short, simple, frequently applied definition of mindfulness is: non-judgmental, in-the-moment awareness. The truth is though, I don't think that really helps most people gain that much understanding. If you’re considering working with me – either individually or in a group or workshop – reading these common questions and my responses can help you get a sense of my perspective on mindfulness.

Professionally, I find the greatest joy in supporting people in understanding how they can practice everyday mindfulness (what is often referred to as "informal practice"). I help people bring mindfulness out of the clouds and into their real lives. I'm not a meditation teacher or affiliated with a particular faith or religious practice.

Here are some of the most common things I hear about mindfulness:

“Mindfulness? I could never do that!”

I think what people are saying here is that it feels too overwhelming to learn another thing. And I get that – I was once there too. It can feel like there is no way we could possibly grasp what can seem like a pretty esoteric concept.

I believe, however, that we are all born with the skills of mindfulness – to pay curious, deeply engaged attention to our experiences and to the world around us. Just look at babies! Our natural inclination is to look closer. By learning simple, accessible mindfulness skills to tune in to our emotions, thoughts, physical sensations and more – we’re simply reconnecting with abilities that have faded with time.

And sometimes what people are saying is that it seems impossible to find a way to fit this into their daily lives. I'll get to that in a minute...keep reading.

 “I can’t meditate.

I’ll be honest, anyone can meditate. But, let’s say you don’t want to, or it turns you off, or it feels somehow counter to your spiritual or religious views. That’s okay. Really. Meditation is an incredible tool for connecting in the moment and becoming more mindful. It’s a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. But, from my perspective, it’s not the only way. Meditation is about creating stillness in the mind (not completely clearing the mind) and there are certainly other ways to do that – running, yoga, knitting, cooking, even brushing your teeth(!) – can all be ways to practice becoming more mindful.

“I don’t think it’s normal to be happy all the time.”

This is such a common and unfortunate misconception about mindfulness. Mindfulness is not about being happy all the time. It’s about seeing all emotions as the come, being able to observe them for what they are. It’s true that the practice of mindfulness can help people become less bogged down in feelings like sadness, anger or envy, but that’s not really the goal. Learning everyday mindfulness skills can help you better connect to whatever it is you’re feeling.

“I really need that!”

I hear this a lot. So many people say that they’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, but they’re not sure where to start. Check out some of my favorite resources at the end of this blog post. Or join one of my upcoming workshops.

“I’ve been reading about mindfulness, but it’s hard for me to practice. I keep forgetting.”

This is so common! I’ve definitely had periods of time when I felt really distant from my mindfulness practice. This is why I am so passionate about teaching everyday mindfulness skills through the Personal Leadership model.

I fundamentally do not believe that mindfulness has to be an all or nothing experience or that it has to be something lofty or vague. I would like to see mindfulness become less about Instagram photos in Bali (#mindfulness) and more about “Shit! I just spilled coffee all over my shirt and my kid doesn’t have her shoes on and we’re going to miss the bus.”

To me – that’s what it’s really about and whether we sit down for 30 minutes on a cushion or practice taking 10 deep breaths through tears, mindfulness is something we all need more of. It doesn’t mean it’s easy…but it can be more simple.

I'd love to hear from you and learn how I can support you in bringing more mindfulness into your daily life. Please consider joining me in an upcoming workshop or click here to learn how we can work together one-on-one.

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Friends in EST and CST time zones - this message is for you! As part of my training to become a Senior Facilitator in the Personal Leadership program, I'm on a serious mission to iron out the kinks in my 12-week online Personal Leadership program - Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments.

Please consider joining my beta-testing group and help me get this up off the ground! You won't regret it. This program teaches easily accessible, simple mindfulness tools to support you in dealing with whatever life throws your way. I'm looking for 5 participants and while there is a fee it's a total steal! Click over here to read all about it and register to let me know you might be interested (Don't worry - you're not locked in. Dates are TBD). Please feel free to share with friends!

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I'm so pleased to be contributing to the I Am a Triangle website. It continues to bring me great joy to be a part of this incredible community of individuals living between cultures.

If you haven't already joined the conversation - you totally should! You can register on the community platform (like a better, more focused Facebook-type program) here or check out the website along with other third-culture-focused bloggers here.

Read my latest article in celebration of International Day of the Girl here.

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I was looking back at some past World Tree Coaching birthday posts and it turns out I write pretty much the same things every year! Seriously. Year one. Year two. Year three.

It's clearly a birthday blogging tradition and all of it's still true, so why change now?

Here's what I'm saying (again):

Yay! I made it!

I love this work!

I love my clients!

This year I'm doing super fun new things (read about some of them here and here and here).

Gush, gush, gush, gush, gush – this job makes me so happy and I’m gonna’ do it forever!

Work With Me! Working with a life coach is awesome! Don’t take my word for it though – check out what my clients are saying. Or read this recent post from another coach friend and learn a bit more about why working with a coach is absolutely something you should do.

I’ve got a couple of clients wrapping up and that leaves 4 individual coaching spots open between now and the New Year. Wait! World Tree Coaching is turning 4 and I've got 4 spots open!? What are the chances!?

Seriously – what are you waiting for?

Wondering what exactly I do? Here's an excerpt from this recent blog post:

As a coach and expat support professional, I help people find home. I whole-heartedly believe that the answer to what home means to each of us is already with us. With age and time and conditioning, we lose our ability to get up close and personal with what we think and feel and that affects our ability to see clearly what home really means. We shy away from the messy parts, we hide the ups and downs and we downplay the things we’re totally rocking. My theory is – it’s all material! I help people learn to be okay with what’s working well. And, I support people as they honestly and gently, refocus towards their inner sense of home when they find what they’re currently doing has stopped serving them well.

How do I do all of that?

I bring optimism and compassion into the space in which we are working together. I believe in my clients – they are whole, capable, experienced and brilliant. Through a lens of love and curiosity, I invite them to step into the space where they can use those traits to get where they want to be.

That pretty much sums it up. Join me and help me celebrate yet another year of supporting people in finding home no matter where they are.

Read more about my one-on-one coaching programs here.

Click here to schedule a FREE, no obligation consult session to see what this coaching thing is all about.

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A couple of nights ago we faced a life-threatening health emergency with one of our children. Our middle son has Type 1 Diabetes. It’s well controlled and even though it’s a big part of our lives, it mostly now feels like a background fact. It’s been almost 4 years and, except for his initial diagnosis, he hasn’t faced a single emergency or hospitalization…until the other night.

One of the most upsetting things about what happened is that it was a simple mistake – picking up the wrong insulin and injecting him with fast-acting instead of short-acting insulin. He was fine in the end, but the whole thing was really scary. I won't mince words here - it was potentially fatal.

I hesitate in some ways to make this statement - it seems so cliché - but mindfulness totally saves me in moments like this. In looking back, I can see how having spent years practicing more mindful responses to stress (as opposed to my old way which was full-freak-out) has helped me even in the most critical of moments.

When things like this happen, the definition of mindfulness comes into vivid focus. And I'm reminded that this is why we practice, practice, practice at tuning in...even when we don't always feel like we're "succeeding."

I'm in no way different from anyone else. Next time I might lose it. But the practice comes to you when you need it. It's like running a marathon. Even if you haven't trained, you'll probably be more prepared if you're running a few miles every day than if you're sitting on the couch watching movies.

Everyday mindfulness is about seeing life as it is. It is about paying attention to what is really happening, taking in what we witness there and moving through that experience to the next place. It helps us to live more in tune with ourselves and with those around us. It helps us move closer to being the people we really want to be in the world and it supports us in getting back on track when we've lost our way.

It does not mean avoiding stress. It is not about pretending everything is okay when it’s not. It’s not about making yourself feel calm or relaxed all the time. It's not about being perfectly happy with every moment. It's about living fully aware of the way things really are and responding from that place so that we live more fully.

Mindfulness also helps me to recognize that my natural tendency is to chase worst-case scenarios, to imagine endless what-ifs. It helps me get up close and personal with that fact of my personality. There were certainly moments the other night when I thought - "What if...!". I know I'll mess up and fail and feel overwhelmed a million times in my life. Sometimes I worry that the next big "catastrophe" will be the final straw to stability. We all do...right...just me? When I'm mindful, I'm freed to see that that's only one part of the story.

When things are well, mindfulness helps me notice and be grateful. When things are tough, it provides the little bits of light in the woods.

The good news is, none of this is rocket science. We can all practice becoming more mindful. These are skills we all have – listening to what our bodies are telling us, naming and honoring all of the emotions we feel, seeing the ways in which our assumptions get in the way of more creative solutions to the problems we face each day.

Often, we’ve simply unlearned these abilities. Moments like this really remind me of why it’s important to keep relearning. It’s like going from black and white to full color again and again and again.

What if you could face all sorts of challenges and still hold yourself together enough to come out the other side wiser, stronger and still laughing? Maybe not every time, but at least some times...or even just a bit more than you are now.

It sounds impossible and yet these skills exist. Mindfulness is not the cure-all for all of the things that we face in life and certainly, many life events are so painful we can’t even bear to consider them. Trust me, my brain has gone there.

But what if you have an entire toolbox of abilities that you’re not accessing? What if you could rediscover those tools, learn when and how to access them and put into place the habit of using them every day?

You know, it might even be simpler than you think.

Want to learn how you can bring more mindfulness into your life?

Join me for my upcoming Mindfulness Skills for Parenting Workshop. We’ll be using the very practical and totally accessible methods outlined in the Personal Leadership program. Read more about PL here and check out my reflections on becoming a PL facilitator here.

Or, check out these resources below. Note - this list is far from exhaustive. These are some of my favorites.

Websites/Apps

Headspace (website and app)

Insight Timer (app)

Soundstrue.com

UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center

University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness

Mindfulness/Meditation Teachers to trust:

Tara Brach

Jon Kabat-Zinn (Google him for more info)

Jonathan Froust

Jack Kornfield

Sharon Salzberg

Pema Chodron

Books

Making a World of Difference: Personal Leadership a Methodology of Two Principles and Six Practices - Schaetti, Ramsey and Watanabe

Wherever You Go There You Are and Full Catastrophe Living – both by Jon Kabat-Zinn

10% Happier – Dan Harris (This is a great, easy to read book for people who find themselves somewhat skeptical about how to go about living more mindfully.)

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (not specifically mindfulness, but still a good resource)

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Last week I tuned in to this exciting Facebook Live video with Amel Derragui of Tandem Nomads. I had the pleasure and honor of being interviewed by Amel almost two years ago (time flies!) when she was first starting her Tandem Nomads podcast.

Since then, she has brought together a great support community of expat spouses bringing their own individual passions, flare and dedication to fruition through a wide array of entrepreneurial endeavors. And – her work has paid off! Tandem Nomads has really made a name for itself and it continues to be a fun, supportive and educational place to connect over what can be a really unpredictable way of living all while shedding light on the unique position of being a “trailing spouse.”

In addition to some exciting news about Tandem Nomads (watch the video!), Amel shared the three words (The Three Cs) that have been the foundation of her success with Tandem Nomads. As I heard her talk about these key elements of her business success, I realized how applicable these key points are to anything we undertake.

The longer I’m in business (World Tree Coaching turns 4 next month!), the more I realize that the personal and the professional are intimately intertwined. Who we bring to our work is the person we are each day. And, as anyone who’s ever had to clean baby puke off of their work shirt before seeing a client will tell you, the personal always has an impact on how you show up each day for your clients and colleagues.

People will tell you not to combine work and life outside the “office.” I disagree – when you’re fortunate enough to do something you love, using work experiences to inform home life and personal lessons to guide work life can mean a deeper engagement all around.

So, I’ve decided today to get a little personal and share with you my own reflections on what Amel’s Three Cs – Clarity, Consistency and Conversion – mean for me professionally and personally.

Clarity

Get clear about what you’re all about! This one hasn’t changed for me since I started World Tree Coaching four years ago. In fact, it is the fundamental reason why I know I’ll do this forever.

As a coach and expat support professional, I help people find home. I whole-heartedly believe that the answer to what home means to each of us is already with us. With age and time and conditioning, we lose our ability to get up close and personal with what we think and feel and that affects our ability to see clearly what home really means. We shy away from the messy parts, we hide the ups and downs and we downplay the things we’re totally rocking. My theory is – it’s all material! I help people learn to be okay with what’s working well. And, I support people as they honestly and gently, refocus towards their inner sense of home when they find what they’re currently doing has stopped serving them well.

How do I do all of that?

For my individual coaching clients, I bring optimism and compassion into the space in which we are working together. I believe in my clients – they are whole, capable, experienced and brilliant. Through a lens of love and curiosity, I invite them to step into the space where they can use those traits to get where they want to be.

It is my goal that no person living this nomadic life ever feel like they cannot find home. It’s in there somewhere - for all of us.

How does this relate to my personal life?

Three words are my compass of clarity – Peace. Love. Family. At each turn, whether it’s engaging with family from afar, cultivating relationships with friends, nurturing my marriage or supporting my children, I ask myself, “Does this bring peace? Are my actions undertaken in love? Does this strengthen my family/community?” Let’s be honest – sometimes I totally fail, but having clarity of vision on where I want to be is a lifesaver over and over again! When I get off track, I know exactly how to get back in the right direction.

Consistency

Be consistent with what strategies you’re implementing to get where you want to go. Yikes! On the professional front, this one is a bit harder and without a doubt something that’s a struggle for me.

I am a naturally high energy, optimistic person. I have so much fun with all aspects of my business. I’m a bit like a puppy dog with a new toy – easily distracted into doing something that looks fun! Today Facebook live videos, tomorrow Instagram, next week....who knows! What about groups…workshops…online courses! It all sounds like so much fun.

When I'm able to harness this energy, I can definitely say there are a few consistent strategies that rarely fail me and I am committed to following through with them. These are areas in which consistency has definitely paid off.

What are those?

First, I look for opportunities to talk one-on-one with people about what I do. Sometimes this means I have to go out on a limb and ask to share my work. Other times, people ask me questions that enable me to clarify how I can support them in their endeavors. Either way – I engage people directly as much as possible.

Second, writing. I love to write and it comes easily for me. I use my writing as a way to share my work and connect with others and I seek out opportunities to include my writing on platforms outside my own personal blog.

Finally, I engage on social media. This is one that I’ll admit is a bit of a love/hate for me. I absolutely love the way in which social media connects us to our larger community. At the same time, I find that sometimes it can become a stressful rabbit hole. Therefore, I allow myself to be flexible with my engagement. I interact in ways that feel natural by commenting, liking or sharing only the things that really speak to me and by doing my best to filter out the stuff that just feels like noise.

Interestingly, consistency in my personal life is a whole lot easier! But, it wasn’t always that way. I had to find myself feeling rather lost in our nomadic lifestyle. There was a time when I was over-worked, stressed-out and quite a bit lonely. It took that experience to remind me that consistency can be the key to getting out of a funk. So, in my daily life consistency looks like – going for a run most days, meditating most days, eating clean healthy food as much as possible, limiting (although not eliminating) my alcohol and caffeine consumption, date nights with my husband, and never missing a chance to talk with a friend. At first this was hard, now these things take a major place of priority in helping me feel capable of facing our adventures head-on.

Conversion

This is about turning what you do each day into real, meaningful work that affects the lives of the people you work with. Amel talked here about the difference between going “viral” and actually connecting with people and I whole-heartedly agree.

My business is small. I’ve had a few blog posts or articles that have had near a thousand readers and even when things are slow I have a steady stream of work with individual clients or groups, but for the most part, my community feels like a tight-knit group of people on a journey down the same path. And that’s the way I want to keep it.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there are times when I ask myself if I’m doing “enough” and sure, I want to be successful so that I can keep doing the work I love. But then I take a moment to remind myself that sitting across from someone, giving her space to explore and accompanying her as she finds home is where my heart lies. I know I'm headed in the best direction for me. The results might look different than what an outsider thinks they “should” look like, but that's okay. This feels right.

But how do you translate conversion into your personal life?

For me this is most apparent in my relationships, especially in my relationships with my children. Let’s be honest, parenting can be a big fat mystery. None of us really has much of an idea how it will all turn out. We do our best and hope they won’t hate us in the end. This is especially true for those of us living internationally – and even more so when we didn’t ourselves grow up living around the world. The balance can seem so much more precarious and we often find ourselves asking, "Will this (departure, move, tragedy, loss) end up being the final straw?"

When my kids were born, I decided to do my own personal work in hopes that I’d be as good a mom as they deserve. For me, that meant developing skills in mindfulness, setting boundaries, partnering continually with my husband, cultivating honest self-reflection and even going to therapy if it meant shedding some of the baggage of my own childhood.

The process of being honest about what I’m working on, letting them see me cry when things are tough, showing them the value of fun, reminding them that we're always here even if our house looks different and apologizing when I mess up is important. It reminds them that they're free to be whomever they find themselves to be (no matter where they call home). That’s conversion in my personal life – making the deep, consistent commitment for the long-term. It’s the slow, sometimes complicated process of trial and error that leads us to the most meaningful, messy, honest, love-filled and happy relationships.

Who knew when I listened to Amel’s podcast I would find so many lessons beyond the professional! Of course, if you’re a part of this lifestyle, it’s probably not all that surprising.

To me, here’s what’s so great about the amazing interconnectedness of an internationally nomadic lifestyle, from business to our personal lives, we get to learn all of these things together. We get to teach each other and share over our common place of strangeness in an unpredictable existence. There is a unique beauty, I think, in a community of people who support each other in finding their way. In the end, that’s what we all do – help each other find home, no matter where we go.

Be sure to check out Tandem Nomads here or on Facebook.

If you’re interested in working with a coach, I’d love to talk to you! Read more about my work here or jump straight to schedule a free consult session here.

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For most of us, it’s probably not too terribly difficult to consider and describe the ways in which our lives have meaning.

If we are a parent, a spouse, a partner, a child, a friend – then we can recognize that we offer love and comfort to someone. We mean something to the people we love and they in-turn mean something to us. That creates meaning.

If you care for plants or pets or you’re responsible for the upkeep of an organization or the day-to-day workings of a business – your life has meaning. If you weren’t there, the work wouldn’t get done. If you didn’t have the work or the responsibility you’d feel a lack of a sense of meaning.

Most of us can find that sense of meaning without too much searching.

Purpose, on the other hand, can be more difficult to nail down.

Purpose implies a larger reason for why we take time to do the things that create meaning in our lives. For some people, that reason is ascribed to a higher power. For others, it’s simply the awareness that we have a limited time on this sphere called Earth and there’s probably something we’re supposed to do with that time.

I had a client once describe it this way:

She loves her daughter and that is one of the many ways in which her life has meaning. Her daughter needs her and she feels a deep sense of love and connection in being her mother. However, while loving her creates meaning, it does not, in and of itself establish purpose.

My client feels that her life’s purpose is rooted in helping people, in making the world a better place, in teaching and supporting others. She feels as though, in her relationship with her daughter, she fulfills purpose by modeling opportunities for growth, for happiness, for compassion and for empathy. Loving her daughter would probably always be enough for her to feel meaning, but deepening that love through the conscious decision to model the above qualities enables this client to fulfill her life purpose each and every day.

I think this is a great illustration of the difference between the two and the way in which meaning and purpose support and reinforce each other.

It’s really quite a fascinating idea if you stop to think about it.

I find that separating the two enables us to see they ways in which meaning and purpose are and are not connected. The above description also helps us to see that meaning and purpose are related to each other. They don’t run parallel, they are interwoven – one supports the other and vice versa. They are different, but they matter so much to each other.

What I think is even more powerful about this is the way in which recognizing the difference between the two can teach us more ways in which we can consciously choose to live our life's purpose through the things that bring us meaning. This alignment means that each day really does matter just as much as the next.

Think about it this way - how many times have you gotten to the end the day and thought, “What did I really do today?”

If you could begin to see how meaning and purpose are different but related, would it create a greater sense of integrity in your life? Would you have fewer of those moments that seem to just slip away? If you were able to recognize your purpose, would it give meaning to things that have started to seem mundane? If you look at what brings you meaning, is it possible you would see a greater purpose?

I can’t claim to have the answers here, but I can’t help but think this is something we often overlook. It certainly gets me thinking!

What about you?

Are you inspired to delve deeper into this? Check out the questions below. They might shed some light on meaning and purpose in your own life.

Leave me a comment too! I’d love to hear how you see the intersection of meaning and purpose.

Some questions to help you consider meaning:

  • Who do I love?
  • Who loves me?
  • When do I feel joy?
  • When do I feel sadness?
  • What moments do I most look forward to?
  • In what moments do I feel a sense of flow – as though I am completely in the zone or totally in my element?

Questions that might help you look at purpose:

  • What do I want people to most remember about me when I’m gone?
  • If I were to find out today that I only had one year left to live, what would I want to do with that time?
  • What do people seek me out for? When the question arises, “Who can…?” when am I the answer to that question?
  • Complete this sentence, “I am here to…”

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