The couch or the castle — which one are you reaching for? We think the goal in life is to make a comfortable nest, and at the center is our comfy couch where we can while away the hours with our many screens filled with entertainment and more comfort. Most of us are creatures of habit, and not all of them are good habits. We create a life that is comfortable, familiar, and maybe worn around the edges. It’s a lot like a comfy couch that we sink into, feeling safe from whatever might be “out there.” And this is the place where we can lose ourselves into mindless activities such as binge watching, social media black hole surfing and games that help us relax or escape. But what is it that we are escaping from?
And then, along comes a disruptor that jars our happy existence. This disruptor may toss us off the couch and demand more of us. It could be something like a pandemic, a divorce, a job loss, a major health crisis, or the loss of a loved one. In the case of COVID-19, some of us are finding our couch is on fire with our emotions about the pandemic bursting into flames right before our very eyes, and we cannot seem to move quickly enough to escape the flames.
Times like these can shake us to our core and make us question things we took for granted. It’s during these times when the castle comes into view. The “castle” is a metaphor for something bigger, our true calling or real purpose in life that perhaps we may have been ignoring as we lounged on our couch. We may try to ignore it, avoid it, or pretend that it’s not there, but the castle is calling, and the signs keep pointing in that direction, indicating that we know there is more to our life.
There are times when we see the castle most clearly. It may be far in the distance, indistinct, lacking the clarity of structure or details about design or purpose, but we see it. We feel the pull, even if just for that instant. To finally find that something “more,” you will need to get off the couch.
My First Castle Calling
I had my first castle calling around midlife when I was living in Belgium, working for Dow Corning. I traveled across Europe and Russia for my work but also for self-enrichment. That was a wonderfully comfortable couch. But I was tossed off it by the demands of a country that wanted me to leave so that a local could fill my job. This typically happens after about 4-5 years into an expatriate assignment. It was not personal or unexpected.
Somehow, I could not face returning to Midland, Michigan, so I struck out on a one-year adventure of a lifetime. I lived in an Ashram in Yogaville Virginia, studied with a Shaman and lived in Hawaii, and traveled to work in the gardens at Findhorn in Scotland. These were three spiritual experiences that called to me, and so I answered the call. This was a powerful journey that put me back on a path to embrace spirituality. It also surprisingly took me back to my father, from whom I had become estranged emotionally since I was a young child.
I had a lifetime of resentment toward my dad because he left me before my first birthday when he and my mother divorced. After embarking on my journey, I discovered that it was a trip back to my authentic self and to healing my relationship with my father. When I began, I had no idea where it would lead me, but lead me it did. During this time, I was asked to retell the story of my life 22 days in a row. Each time I had to keep the facts of the story constant, but my assignment was to tell it from a different perspective. One time my life was a tragedy, the next a drama. Another time, my life story was retold as a comedy and so on. After retelling my “story” 22 times, I realized that it was just a story and that I could decide what the outcome was by changing my perspective – my perception creates the narrative and is not necessarily reality.
All my life, the story I told myself, and anyone who would listen, was that my dad left me and my anger about that blocked me from giving and receiving his love. And during this storytelling, I was finally able to see that he always had love for me and had been sending it my way by spending every other weekend and special occasions with me without fail. It was my own wall of resentment that blocked me from seeing and feeling that love. In that moment of acknowledgement, I was flooded with a lifetime of love that literally changed my past. I’ve heard about changing your mind to change your future, but this was the first time that I experienced the ability to change my mind and change my past. I will be forever grateful that I was able to reconnect with him before he passed.
The change of heart about my dad became a building block to my current journey and castle. I believe everyone has a dream, either realized or not. It is majestic and aspirational and something that inspires us. For me, my castle is helping others find their true direction and sharing stories that make a difference in people’s lives.
It’s the Same for Celebrities, Real or Fictionalized
For Bill Gates, his journey is making the world a better place with the billions of dollars he earned from creating and selling computer software programs. If he had stayed at Microsoft, that would have been a comfy couch for him for the rest of his life. But he and his wife, Melinda, knew that the universe was asking more from them, and that their castle called them from every corner of the world. And they have done the soul searching to find exactly the right causes to champion for the greatest impact.
The analogy extends to fictional characters such as Bilbo, from the Hobbit, tucked away in his comfy hobbit hole, enjoying his second breakfasts and his life surrounded by friends. That was upended when a wizard came and told him about the castle that awaited him. His life would never be the same. Taking this adventure made his life fuller, longer and created connections deeper than any before he left. Just like Bilbo or any great fictional or real hero, your fears and doubts will surface when you realize the castle may be calling and you take your first step off the couch. Walk toward those fears, embrace them, and put them to work as you move toward the castle, which is where you will find your authentic happiness.
Taking the First Step
When you’re ready to strike out, let go of the “couch” and begin your journey toward your castle, find a mentor or coach who supports and encourages you to follow your true calling. My coaching mentor is responsible for moving me closer and more quickly than any other resource I have tapped. A coach will never tell you what to do; he or she will encourage you to find the answers within. You’ll be glad you did, and you, along with the world around you, will be a better place because of it.
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