Personal iteration: a 4-step process to living on purpose

If we chat in person, you’ll hear me use the word “iterate” (or a variation of it) often. Are you in the midst of emotional muck, working your way through a low point? Or have you landed the new job of your dreams? Or maybe you have a feeling that a big change is needed in your life and you’re afraid to think or talk about it, let alone actually make it?

If you were sitting across from me at the café right now, or on the other end of a pair of earbuds, I’d smile and say: “Yay – you’re iterating.”

If you look up “iterate” in the dictionary, you’ll find a definition that reads something like this: to repeat a process. I know, it doesn’t sound particularly inspiring. It’s the “process” part that never ceases to fascinate me, though. To ask ourselves: what processes am I repeating every day? Or, put another way, how am I iterating?

The way we personally iterate (the processes we repeat every day) directly impact how we navigate life. How you choose to iterate can help you determine what matters most, and continually nudge you towards personal fulfillment and purpose. I believe whole-heartedly that committing to a personal iterative process that follows a path of learning, choice, action, and growth can transform the way you approach and perceive your journey in life.

For example, let’s look at the emotional muck. You know, when you’ve hit a low point and are feeling pretty lousy about things. We can hang out in that place for a while. Sometimes, a very long while.

Learning

What if at these times of emotional upheaval, you shifted your perspective, sat back and got curious. What if you chose to “learn” as part of your iteration and genuinely asked yourself: what is the muck telling me? What have I learned about myself? What feels really important to me right now? What do I know now that I didn’t know before?

From this place, truth emerges and options suddenly become clearer; choices present themselves. Granted, the options and choices may scare you, have your knees wobbling, and the butterflies moving from a flutter to a nose dive in your stomach. From here, though, you can continue the learning: What’s scaring me about the choices I’m facing? What’s exciting me? What does my gut have to say about this?

The learning here is about ourselves, to uncover what we really stand for, who we really are, and what we really want. When you get curious about yourself, what do you notice?

Choices

Let’s say the emotional muck is due to challenges you are facing at work. Your learning has helped you notice that you are feeling out of alignment with your organization. There are many choices before you: you could stay and work to change the corporate culture; you could explore other career opportunities; you could accept the status quo for now. It can be so tempting to write off choices immediately – labeling them unrealistic or impossible. In the “choosing” part of the iterative process, playing around with the choices is part of the fun. Let the options swim around in your mind; keep asking yourself: what other options are available to me here? Let the list of options and choices grow, and allow yourself the fun of imagining each scenario. What does it feel like to sit in each of the choices?

Action

With a list of choices and options before you, and having let yourself explore and sit with these options, which ones feel best to you? When you check in with your heart, your gut, what direction is it pointing you in? What feels right to you today, in this moment, in your particular circumstance? It may be a leap, it may be a baby step. The beauty of iterating is that you only need to answer these questions as they relate to you today. Let your answers nudge you in the direction that feels right and take action. In the example here, let’s say that exploring other opportunities and leaving the organization feels uncomfortable and too big of a leap; the action may be to commit to being a catalyst for change at your organization. Get specific with your action: what, exactly, will you do? And when will you do it?

Growing

You did it! You took action! Just simply by taking an action, you will have grown. You have iterated. You are a different version of yourself than you were when you started the process. Sometimes the action will be just right; other times it may feel like a giant mistake; or it may turn out better than you could have ever imagined. The key here is that you have nudged yourself forward, and tested out a choice that was calling to you. You didn’t wait to have it all figured out. Too many times, we remain stagnant because we don’t have a clear picture of what the end game looks like. When, maybe, simply nudging ourselves in a general direction prepares us for what comes next. And gently, over time, we move in the direction of what fulfills us.

And…repeat. Now that you’ve taken action, what have you learned about yourself? What’s clear now? What choices are you now facing? What action will you take?

Yay, you’re iterating. Let me know in the comments or through email how your iteration is going. Know somebody who may be in the midst of an iteration and could benefit from these words? Forward this over! And if you’d like to dig a little deeper, sign up for the Catalyst (top right corner), my monthly coaching newsletter designed to support you in living deliberately and on purpose.

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