top of page
Best Therapist in Portland

my musings

The Path to Purpose is Paved with Compassion

Most of us have heard of the stages of change. Most therapists, doctors, and coaches talk about it in some way or another. It starts with pre-contemplation (I’m not even thinking about it), then contemplation (I wonder…), planning (I will start next week) and finally action (It’s go time). This simple model can help us think about everything from career change to quitting drinking and it makes sense. The problem with it is that it is, in my opinion, pretty flat. It doesn’t really capture the emotional roller coaster that occurs with change. It doesn’t capture why we get stuck, why we regress, why we just don’t even bother to try. And so my little sweet brain caught on fire this past week when the amazing Annie Book–financial GODDESS–introduced me to a different framework. With her permission I want to introduce it to you. 

Instead of focusing on actions, this amazing model captures our feelings about change. And in that we can understand our thoughts, outlooks, sentiments, emotions, anxieties, fears, beliefs, truths, and powers. It’s not about going from precontemplation to action. It’s about going from IMPOSSIBLE to PURPOSE. Here’s the path: 








Can you feel it? Let’s explore. Imagine I want to turn right….

In Impossible, I don’t even imagine. This is a scary place. Full of terrible what-ifs where everything ends in the worst case scenario. It is a dark place. Full of dead ends. Never. Always. I often don’t even think or dream too much when in this place, because…well, why would I? It’s impossible. When I do venture to think about things in this place, I get immediate jolts of anxiety and my sweet self protective brain tells me to stop thinking about such silly things because, I.JUST.CANT.EVEN. It’s a full-stop kind of place. An argumentative, icky, trapped feeling kind of place. This is where sentences like “I can’t turn right and I can’t turn left” dance together to a sad, sad song on repeat. It’s a dark, windowless room. 

But if I take a deep breath, melt my body, and soothe my scared fight-or-flight brain I can step into Potential. In this space, I remember that I heard of someone else who turned right once. Or, I read a self-help book that tells me how to make a turn. I might remember that someone loves me, even if I fail. Or I might realize that failure doesn’t equal death. Okay, I won’t DIE if I turn right, and I know another person who turned and was fine, good even. But, that probably wouldn’t be me. This room doesn’t feel great. It’s still pretty hopeless. But it’s not death. My body melts a tiny bit. There is potential. Maybe. Kind of.  

If I find myself in Potential and I take a slow deep breath, melt into myself again, and get a warm hug from my bestie, I might just be able to see Possible. Possible feels like hope. Like a faraway bird song…but it’s coming closer. It feels okay to imagine that I could actually turn right. Or left. It’s tender and fragile but I kind of remember turning right once before. Maybe. I think I might be able to try again. Possible is wobbly. It’s easy to tip back into Potential or even fall all the way back to Impossible. My anxiety keeps trying to pull me back. I feel all the fear and need lots of encouragement. Lots of breath. But…it’s possible. I keep breathing. 

If, instead of tipping back to impossible, I slow down and I take a deep breath, I might move into Probable. I now remember that I have actually turned right many times and survived, I know lots of people who turn right. I have a very solid turning system in my body, I know my left from right and have proved it over and over again. I have been scared of other things and accomplished them. Actually, now that I come to think about it, I'm pretty sure that if I decided to turn right it would be totally fine. Worst case scenario is that I get a little dizzy, but even that I have gone through before, and it turns out I’m actually a bad-ass at dealing with dizziness so I’m feeling (almost) pretty darn good now. Just one more breath….

And now I’m in it. I’m feeling myself. I see clearly my future self turning right like a pro and Probably turns to Play. I imagine myself, I dream it up in the best way. I feel the surge of delightful anticipation pressing on the inside of my chest. A drumbeat heart telling me to GET.ON.IT.  I start experimenting. I look to the left. Flirt with it. Look to the right…ahhh, there it is. I wiggle and waggle and turn once, wobble. I turn twice. Now I’m turning and turning and turning and spinning and PLAYING!!! It feels risky, but the risk is worth it. I fall a bit, sure. But I’m finding my rhythm. I'm no expert (yet) and there is still some fear, but it feels more like excitement. I’m doing it…here we go! 

And with one more deep breath this play, this wonderful new experience, tips itself over into Passion. Into mastery. Now I’m breathing deep with a sense of “of course I can, because I am, and of course I am because I have been, and of course I have been because I want to and I believed and now it’s just true.” This IS in me. And I’m ready to tell everyone else that they can ALSO move from Impossible to Passion. I’m turning right like nobody’s business and spinning and twirling and backflipping my way into right turns that seem like I was just plain born to do it. I’m teaching others how to turn right. I’m a right-turning genius. Impossible? Never!  In fact, at this place the only thing that feels impossible is that I used to think this was impossible for me! HA! 

Phew! Feel excited? Me too! But there’s no stopping to catch our breath. Because now that I’m living my right-turn-dream of a life, I step into my Purpose. This is what we are all searching for after all isn't it? And it is here that my play and my passion and my dreams and my hard work turn into meaning. It’s here where my sense of self comes into focus and I know the way. It feels clear and obvious and good.  And from here, I just keep saying yes. 

So that’s the path from  Impossible to Purpose. It’s a path paved with compassion and deep breaths and self love. And the big secret is that it is within us all along.

Where are you at right now in your life? Are you hanging out in Impossible in terms of your relationship? Your money? Your kids? Your time? Your body? Your sport? Your school? (You get the point, I could go on and on.) 

Let’s experiment. Read through this list again and think about an area of your life. Feel what it feels like in each space. What do you notice about your thoughts and feelings? What do you feel in your chest? In your neck, in your hands? Where do you feel each one? What colors, feelings, memories, and thoughts are wrapped up in each one? Who do you know that lives in each one of these? 

Write a letter to yourself exploring how each of these places look and feel and sound and when you are ready, take a deep breath, melt into your body and take a step into the next place. You are on your way to Passion. Or feel free to find a cozy place, a blanket and settle down to try this meditation.

So are you ready to leave IMPOSSIBLE behind?


bottom of page