Four steps to extreme fulfillment

I want to be on the Amazing Race.

There are about a million reasons why, but as I come off my heavy travel season and reconnect with all my coaching clients, I think one of the most compelling reasons is that travel is a metaphor for life and the Amazing Race takes on the edge.

If my metaphor holds, I’m sure you see the appeal. Because when you’re at your best, life is an exhilarating challenge that surprises and delights you, one where reward is sweet because of the effort you’ve put in.

What are the keys to cranking mediocre up to magnificent? The same four things that turn an otherwise predictable trip into the stuff of reality TV.

You Remember How Lucky You Are

My most successful clients practice fierce gratitude. When things are really in sync, you recognize your fortunate position on a global scale and also the beauty in the mundane. You bask in progress made toward major life goals or personal growth, and also take a minute to be thankful for hot coffee or a parking spot in front of your kid’s daycare.

To revisit the metaphor, you know you’re privileged to be in a position where you can travel at all. If there are delays or frustrations, lost luggage or limited food options, you intentionally dwell in gratitude. Then when things go great, with all the serendipity you could hope for, you crank that gratitude up a notch.

And it’s not just for the big stuff.

Personally, I’ve reveled in good conversations with strangers on subways, being in the right place at the right time to catch an art installation coming down, having a woman at an over-priced hotel where I’d sought celebration be so rude as to spin me off in a different direction that led to better experiences.

At our best, we all feel thankful, we speak it aloud, and in doing so we honor it and thank the universe for sending it our way.

“I’m so glad we took that train.” “What if we hadn’t turned down that street?” “Thank you for being a jerk.”

Big and small, all the moments of wanderer magic merit recognition.

You Are Open to Possibility Welcome Cropped

Some people who do travel map it all out ahead of time. They pour over websites constructing the perfect itinerary from afar, and for many of them, that’s half the fun.

But for others of you, leaving space for the universe to bring forth opportunities is part of the plan. You recognize that circumstances are always changing – that you’re always changing – and you take the middle path between rigidity and haphazardness. Spontaneity with guardrails, one of my clients calls it.

So you make the best decision about your career with the information in front of you, knowing that there are a lot of unknowns that can only become clear with time. You choose a course of study or a new place to live knowing that it fits you now, and that you can reassess at the next bend in the road.

With twin toddlers and full time jobs, my husband Dan and I tend to be over scheduled at home. Tightly planning a trip feels constricting and burdensome – energy that flies in the face of how lucky, excited and grateful we feel for being able to travel. Leaving our plans loose not only saves our positive energy and mindset before we leave, but also provides spaciousness that in itself is a welcome break from our working lives.

Travel at its best should stir your soul, and your itinerary should allow you to see where those stirrings might take you.

You Push Yourself and Aren’t Afraid to Look Stupid Look Stupid cropped

Looking stupid is one of the fastest routes to human connection.

We all went to middle school, and a part of each of us still lives there, dwelling in fear that someone will discover that we’re not as cool as we’re pretending to be. When we lift that veil of feigning expertise – whether intentionally or by tripping face-first down a flight of stairs and spilling Coke all over our shirts while papers fly out of our open briefcases – we invite real conversation and genuine experience.

Again, you know this. That’s why you risk the stretch of pushing yourself past your comfort zone for maximum growth. You know you could get by with half the effort, but when your passions kick in, you choose the harder path. You want to prove to yourself that you can take on the harder challenge, traverse the greater expanse, that you can do something meaningful that resonates to your core.

And sometimes you look like an idiot. But people connect with you because of your willingness to try. They appreciate your choosing to wade into ineptitude with the desire of achieving competency. They respond to your humanity as you figure it out.

If they speak another language where you’re traveling, you give it a shot. Even if you do nothing more than learn a couple phrases while on the plane, you dive in, relying on hand gestures and sheepish smiles when you must. And suddenly people come out of the woodwork to help you and to recommend great stuff to do.

Dan and I once discovered a hidden biological reserve that lets you help the organic farming community care for goats and harvest mountain grasses amidst wild boars and poisonous snakes because we accidentally sat in the staff section of a hut in one of Costa Rica’s national parks.

Embarrassment often begets opportunity.

It’s amazing how the universe rises up to meet you when you risk your ego and take action with unguarded intention.

Trust Gut CroppedYou Trust Your Gut

You’re smart people.

You know that there are all sorts of intelligences waiting to be leveraged toward accomplishing your aims. And you realize when your brain is working overtime. It might be the sensation of rapidly spiraling thoughts, of mental fatigue or vertigo. Or it might be the slightest nudge from your heart or gut. The feeling that something’s just not right.

And while you might not know what it is right away, you know to pause, to get still, or to wait until that sensation turns to insight.

This is how you find the job you’re meant for, the home you want to live in, the person you want to share your life with. You do your research and think it through, and when all the stats come in you check your gut before moving forward.

About three hours into nailing down logistics on a recent trip, the rental car employee quoted us a completely reasonable price, but a wave of energy hit me with the undeniable feeling that we shouldn’t be leaving the town we were in. So we abandoned the detail, had an amazing meal and wound up listening to a live concert by a pianist who could arguably be the next Chick Corea for the price of a $5 ticket and a $10 bottle of Bordeaux.

Our bodies hold wisdom that science is just beginning to understand, and that knowledge is always accessible to us. With a bit of quiet and a bit of time we can train ourselves to hear the whisper of our intuition, to embody our own power and to trust both to lead us toward undiscovered possibility.