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“The Great Work of Your Life” – Figure Out Who You Want to Become, Then You’ll Know What To Do

As I was pondering what to do with “more-in-me” this past summer, I came across Stephen Cope’s book, “The Great Work of Your Life” in my unread books pile. As you might guess from the title, this book is about figuring out your vocation or true calling. Cope uses the story from the two thousand year old yogic text “The Bhagavad Gita” as a backdrop for the journey of discovering your life’s work. Regardless of whether you are a yoga practitioner or align with yoga philosophy, Cope’s book is a valuable read.

Part history, part philosophy, and part personal leadership, he takes the reader on an exploration of finding ‘the great work of your life’ or dharma as the yogis call it, by sharing stories of many familiar and accomplished people on their journey of finding their calling. Jane Goodall, Beethovan, Harriet Tubman and Gandhi, to name a few. Cope has done his research and each chapter is like a mini history lesson on an admired well-known person. He includes his own story along with stories of everyday people like us sprinkled throughout. Cope shares the yogic perspective of a person’s great work as:

“the idea of an inner possibility harbored within every human soul. Yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation. They call this dharma…vocation or sacred duty…Yogis believe that our greatest responsibility in life is to this inner possibility – this dharma – and they believe that every human being’s duty is to utterly, fully and completely embody [her]/his own idiosyncratic dharma.”

The idea of inner possibility and unique dharma appealed to the possibilitarian in me. Cope emphasizes paying attention to the fleeting moments of insight, trusting your instincts and being willing to go slow. “Once you do begin to get clarity, wait to act until you have at least a kernel of inner certitude.” And then move forward methodically, letting go of the outcome. You’ll only know how to proceed by taking action – suspending preconceived ideas about how it ‘should’ transpire and having faith in moment by moment guidance by being attentive to the signs and signals around you. While many of the concepts were not new to me, the way Cope presented them reassured me to be patient and accept that I would figure out what I was meant to be doing and how ‘more-in-me’ would fit in.

I picked up the book a few times over the summer, re-reading the sections I had marked that were particularly appealing. I had my head in this book just before I went for the pivotal run when The More-In-Me Movement came to me with that ‘kernel of inner certitude,’ lodging itself in my head and in my heart. Despite this sense of certainty, I paused. I knew that if I went forward with this project, I had to go full in! No dabbling or sporadic activity. Creating a movement would require me to ‘move’, regularly and consistently. Just like sports training, consistency is key. On this topic Cope says,

“The dharma is a strict taskmaster. It will require you to reach—to work at your maximum potential. In order to do this, you will have to learn to take better care of yourself. You will have to sleep and eat properly…And one day you’ll realize you’re in training like an Olympic athlete. But not any old training—a particular kind of training, the particular kind of training that will support your dharma and no one else’s…you have to bring yourself 100% to the task”

Training like an Olympic athlete. While nowhere close to that caliber, I can relate to the discipline necessary for significant sporting challenges such as marathons and triathlons. Using the term ‘unification’ Cope emphasizes that we have to streamline our lives and immerse ourselves in an environment that will support our ‘great work’. Everything clicked for me at the moment the idea of unification sunk in. All my passions and interests were encompassed by my intention for The More-In-Me Movement. How exciting that my ‘great work’ necessitates engaging in all the varied areas I love – from athletics to yoga, mentoring and coaching to nutrition and wellness, leadership and social change to research and learning. Ultimately, the great work of MY life means stepping into my leadership in order to live into MY more-in-me as I inspire others to do the same.

A process of becoming as much as doing.

What I’ve learned from this process so far, is that The Great Work of Your Life, and similarly, your ‘more-in-me’ is about who you want to be as much as what you do. We tend to focus on actions and activities – which are important – however taking time to discover more of you – who you are and want to become – is the path to more-in-me and possibly your great work. Also trust that whatever path you’ve travelled to where you are is the right path for you – in all its magnificence complete with backtracking and getting lost as well as successes and soaring ahead.

Like any creative endeavor such as the poets, musicians, and change-makers that Cope describes in the book, I don’t know precisely what the outcome of my great work – The More-In-Me Movement – will be…yet. Some aspects I know. Some are to be determined. What I can say is that knowing my path has energized me in a way nothing has before. Possibly in your journey of finding your ‘more-in-me’ you’ll uncover some tidbits of the great work of your life. Perhaps you already have! Please share in the comments below or by email or via my survey. I want to hear your story.

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We’ll move into possibility together!

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