Be Your Own Life Coach: 7 Techniques to Live Your Dreams.
By Hallie Levine | Jan 8, 2015
Discover your true purpose and find the courage to live your dream.
Five years of teaching in New York City public schools, Emily Hyland, 32, had a change of heart. It happened after trying to break up a fight between two teen students and then getting yelled at by one of their parents. “I realized this was not the type of environment I wanted to be in anymore. I wanted to follow a creative path, not one so rigidly confined to bureaucracy and protocols,” says Hyland. “I knew something was missing. But I wasn’t sure exactly what.”
Many of us have been there—we’ve reached a moment when we sense we have a purpose we haven’t yet found, or a gift we’re not sharing. But then comes the million-dollar question: What next? “When you hit that crossroads, you have to cultivate your vidya, or knowledge,” says Stephen Cope, PhD, psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of The Great Work of Your Life. This is where your yoga practice really comes into play. “The yoga view is that at the heart of our true nature lies an awake, illumined mind,” Cope explains. “This is the mind that knows directly, intuitively, our true nature, our true calling. All of the practices of yoga are about attuning to this already-awake mind.”
For Hyland, a devoted yogi, the first answer to “What next?” was to sign up for a yoga teacher training on the weekends. “There was such a sharp contrast between the yoga studio—a big, beautiful room with blue pastel walls and large wooden windows to let in light—and a dreary, harshly lit public-school classroom,” she recalls. “I had gone from an emotionally exhausting environment to one that was very focused and quiet and allowed my authentic experience of being to emerge.” Within a few weeks, she felt she had discovered her calling: “I was much more balanced. I became more mindful of taking care of my body. And that was something I wanted to give to other people.” She quit her job a few months later and started teaching yoga full-time.
A few years later, inspired by this fulfilling experience, Hyland and her husband took action on a cherished dream they’d both shared since falling in love over a slice of pizza in 2001: to open their own wood-oven pizza restaurant, called Emily. “Dining together has been one of the sweetest parts of our relationship,” Hyland says. “We love to have people over and to cook good food. We realized we wanted to re-create that with a restaurant, essentially an extension of our home, where we were inviting all sorts of people in to have a nice time.”
Taking such life-altering steps like Hyland did may seem daunting, but there’s clear evidence it can help you live a richer, more meaningful life. Researchers at the University of Rochester found that people who are intrinsically motivated—meaning they do something because they want to, not for external motivations like money or success—report more personal satisfaction. Yet most of us find that everyday realities (paying rent, putting food on the table) get in the way. Indeed, there’s a difference between a happy life and one filled with purpose. They may overlap, but they don’t always go hand in hand (think of a social activist jailed for expressing her beliefs, or a Doctors Without Borders volunteer who contracts Ebola). But even with its challenges, a meaningful life is satisfying and spiritually fulfilling.
“In the view of yoga, every human has a dharma, a sacred duty, a true calling,” says Cope. “All of life is a pilgrimage to understand and embrace this. Yoga calls us to action in the world. It calls us to contribute our gifts, to serve the good not only of our own souls, but for the good of the world.”