I traveled to San Francisco last weekend to begin training to become a certified executive coach. After 30 hours of training in three days, I visited a spa for a massage and for my first experience “floating.”
If you’ve never seen one, a float tank looks like a giant 1970’s-era refrigerator. It’s basically a lightproof, soundproof cube that’s nearly 10 feet to a side, filled with about 18 inches of body-temperature water and nearly 800 pounds of Epsom salt to ensure effortless floatation.
Spending an hour in the float tank was simultaneously one of the strangest, most challenging and enlightening experiences of my life. It’s sort of like forced meditation, but I suspect that if a person wasn’t ready (or willing) to experience it, it could be a form of torture. While inside, there were definitely moments where my mind chewed on itself.
I came away from the experience with a renewed desire to experience a true zero-gravity environment. Also, I’m more committed than ever to avoid any course of action that contains even a tiny chance of me spending any amount of time in solitary confinement.
Each morning and evening I review my goals. I carry a piece of paper with these 13 goals written on it, and I take it with me everywhere I go. I used my time in the float tank to mentally review these goals, to visualize their accomplishment, to think about the next steps for each one and to imagine how I will feel after they are achieved.
Immediately upon beginning to review my goals, a desire arose within me to invite Infinite Intelligence into the process. Mentally, I said something like, “I’m about to review the things that I’ve devoted my life to becoming and accomplishing. I have made this list of goals in the absence of knowing exactly what I should be doing with my time on Earth. If you want me to devote my life’s energy to anything other than the things on this list, I’m open to that. If so, please let me know.”
The hard part about talking to God (at least for me), is that it can be so hard to know when God’s talking back. I often find myself asking a question hoping for, or even expecting, a certain response, and it can be so challenging to know what the response is, or even if there is one.
As I lay there floating in darkness alone with my thoughts, hoping for some kind of answer, I felt a confirmation that the things on my list were good. I reflected that it’s not necessarily about the specific things we do anyway, it’s about how we do the things we do. That what really matters is that we act from a place of loving kindness, mindfulness, service, humility, integrity, gratitude and generosity.
I thought about the fact that each of us has unique gifts to give, and that one of the best ways to share these with others is by doing work that we truly enjoy. I’ve thought about this many times before, and I’m aware that this can sound simplistic, or even selfish. But as I explored this idea in the float tank, I had an insight that I’d never had before.
It’s that our passion and enthusiasm are gifts we can share with others over and above the objects that we’re passionate about or the results of the work we do. For example, if I love pinball, motorcycles or writing (which I do), and I share my excitement about those things with you, that excitement is distinct from and in addition to any enjoyment you might (or might) not derive from pinball or motorcycles or writing.
And if you love seventeenth century French literature or rock climbing or accounting and you share with me your passion and excitement about those things, your energy and enthusiasm will almost certainly inspire and uplift me, even if I don’t share your love for those things.
Enthusiasm makes us magnetic, especially when it’s derived from a sense of purpose— that’s often what draws us to leaders. If we aspire to lead, we might benefit from H. Jackson Brown’s advice, “Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.” And to remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Finding something we’re enthusiastic about and sharing that enthusiasm blesses and elevates everyone around us. It draws people to us.
As I concluded reviewing my goals and imagining how my life will look once I accomplish them, I felt enthusiasm naturally surge inside me. Jack Canfield once told me that if you don’t wake up every morning excited about the day you’re about to live, you either don’t have enough goals, big enough goals, or the right goals. Simply having the right goals, he says, creates a positive tension within us that pulls us toward the accomplishment of those goals and naturally stimulates enthusiasm.
As I reflected on all this, a thought from the coaching training I had just completed came to mind— the idea that when we set a goal, whatever we set as our goal is not actually our goal. Our true goal is to feel whatever it is we believe we’ll feel when we reach that goal. What we originally thought was our goal is merely our strategy to achieve a feeling.
In other words, if set a goal to become a certified coach because I think it will bring a sense of accomplishment and provide me with the satisfaction that comes from having served others, I would benefit from remembering that those feelings are available to me now. And the more I consciously endeavor to experience those feelings, the more they will show up in my life.
I emerged from the float tank, showered and left the spa, and stepped onto one of San Francisco’s sidewalks. The city’s colors were richer than they’d been just a couple hours before, the air was crisper and the sounds of traffic sound were sharp and clear. I had a deepened appreciation for the privilege that being alive is, and felt a greater purpose and enthusiasm for pursuing my goals while enjoying the journey along the way.
I wished I could hold onto that clarity, but I knew that life’s realities and responsibilities would inevitably wash it away. The struggle to hold onto, or at least periodically regain as much of that clarity as possible, is part of both life’s challenge and reward. I resolved to not allow it to simply float away.