The Paradox of Purpose #1: Finding Your Way Forward Even While Lost


This article is the first in a series in response to the current state of the world, in which many of us are feeling more lost than ever. And yet, the clarity we need to navigate wisely into the future is not only possible. It is also compelling and radically hopeful. Life itself is a series of (mis)adventures to help us become healed and whole, and thus live into our potential.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to become who you’re meant to be. On purpose.

I stared at the map, wishing I’d taken the Orienteering course more seriously.

I knew how to use a compass and read a topographic map. But now I realized I hadn’t pinpointed on the map where the snow-blanketed trailhead was, where I had begun this afternoon trek.

[carbon dating alert: this adventure took place before GPS, digital trail maps or dropped pins]

At this point, getting back to the trailhead was a guessing game. This valley? That slight contour?

I felt like the over-confident kid at a new job who knows everything about their work deliverables but who bobs aimlessly for the first few weeks because they didn’t pay attention to the HR Orientation.

And here I was. Lost. Not having paid attention to where I started.

Not just lost, but hungry. Cold. As early signs of hypothermia were setting in, my fingertips were numb and I became more confused by the minute as the temps plummeted and daylight receded behind the peaks.

I knew the sheer effort of slogging my way through a mile of deep snow to get to a heated car would require more mental stamina than physical. I needed to be CONVINCED that I could do this. That I’d get home. With all my fingers.

I had to know, without a doubt, that I was heading in the right direction. And that I could course-correct quickly to avoid wasting time or energy.

Gaining Clarity, Courage & Confidence to Head in the Right Direction


Orienteering is certainly a skillset that should be required for any mountaineer.

But a compass is only useful if you know how to read the map, both knowing where you came from and where you’re heading, but also how to course-correct.

It’s like the learned skill when you go slowly to the bathroom in the middle of the night, feeling your way, so you don’t knock things over when you bump into them. Which you have to relearn each time you spend the night somewhere else.

New room orientation. Doors. Hallways. Nightstands. Clothes on the floor.

Life throws us curveballs.

But we can learn how to navigate these curveballs, new circumstances or crises, no matter how tough or hopeless they seem, if we have the right tools.

This time of great uncertainty requires us to have a mindset of both clarity and possibility and tools to navigate our way into the unknown.

The Paradoxical Nature of Finding Your Way


Finding our way into the future at this point can feel more like a clusterf*ck each day. I know you don’t need me to rattle off the soul-curdling low probability of our survival on Mama Earth.

And yet, there are remarkable coincidences about the holofractal nature of the human experiment and each of our evolving journeys.

Some might even call it a magic time. The forces that are needed to turn this around, or at least help us individually and collectively evolve to another state and stage, are being awakened.

What if each of us was specifically designed to create greater and greater capacity, in order to fulfill our own mission… and in doing so become just the interconnected navigational system needed to save us all?

Might be worth learning how to use the compass and topo map for that.

And yet the romantic notion that “not all who wander are lost” doesn’t necessarily serve well when life’s pressures seem daunting.

In these tricky times, most of us need more sure-footing than the wanderlust of a gap year.

And certainly, getting lost in the snowy woods at twilight with already a hint of frostnip is not a good time to throw up your hands and “surrender” to the journey.

Yet getting lost and found are both essential skills.

Because we cannot yet see what is available to us, we need to embrace the unknown and claim radical hope so we can meet the magic that is returning among us. From within us.

Finding our way into the future requires both clarity and openness. Focus and expansion. Curiosity and knowing. Inspiration and humility.

We need Both/And tools for the journey into the unknown.

What’s In the Both/And Toolkit?


Getting lost can be a profound experience, and I had some really close calls.

For many of us, life’s curriculum is to be lost, in order to get found.

I’m sharing here a series of perspectives I’ve gained about the paradoxical nature of living your “one true life” while in the deep woods of my own life. So we can get reasonably lost, then found without getting stuck or dying. Consider it a travel guide for your soul.

I hope these polarities allow you to gain some both/and tools to navigate your journey more easily.

Paradox #1: Being Lost and Getting Found


Being lost has many negative connotations. So does being stuck. Yet they’re primarily indicators that your current identity and/or long-held belief systems no longer work.

When you allow yourself to be lost, to grapple with uncertainty, you’ve moved past the ideas about “what’s so” extracted from an earlier phase of life, and are ready to create new meaning and life structured around that.

Being lost can be a good thing. It leads to Expansion. It is an advancement in your own Evolution. You can’t become the next version of you without some level of getting lost and letting go.

HOW: The key is to get lost without giving up. Don’t fight the discomfort of not knowing. Lean into what is emerging within and alongside you. But also don’t lie down and expect the worst. One foot in front of the other ultimately gets you to the trailhead. Some resources include Pema Chodron’s Comfortable with Uncertainty, Spontaneous Evolution by Lipton & Bhaerman, Matt Kahn’s Whatever Arises, Love That and my writings What to Do when You’re Flying Blind, and Why Purpose is the Antidote to Being Lost.

Getting found, or finding your way, generally requires you to find yourself. Not just an assessment of your current patterns or habits or belief systems (though that’s a good start,) but also making sense of how you got here.

Getting found requires acceptance of childhood challenges or trauma, discovery of unconscious shadow, integration of the wounded parts and a reformation of identity. It leads to a Rootedness in your new way or identity, and allows Focus in a new direction.

This may sound like hard work. It can be uncomfortable to reveal hidden parts of yourself. Or to question childhood belief systems that no longer serve you. Or to identify habits and distractions that keep you living small.

But once you start to uncover your repressed parts, the burden of being someone else will be lifted from your shoulders. You’ll “find yourself” freer to live fully in your one wild and precious life.

HOW: Notice the stories you tell about your life. What led you to this place, and how can you reconstruct the stories you’ve told yourself so that you see the benefit of each experience? Until you do this, you’ll hang onto the old identity and its unresolved trauma. Resources include my writings When Childhood Message Keep You Playing Small and How I Broke Out of My MIA Rut, as well as The Golden Thread: Where to Find Purpose in the Stages of Your Life, and Richard Schwartz’ No Bad Parts, and A.H. Almaas Runaway Realization.

In the next article, we’ll explore the paradox of Clarity and Openness, as well as Curiosity and Awareness.

Other articles:

Why Paradox is Essential Now: How to Be Free at Last

The Paradox of Purpose #2: Loving the Questions, Living the Answers

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About The Author

Dr. Holly Woods is the Author of the #1 Bestseller, The Golden Thread: Where to Find Purpose in the Stages of Your Life. Read it, you’ll never again think your life doesn’t matter. Holly is a purpose activator. She believes that touching the spark of your soul lights you up so much that you alter the world just by being in it. Holly earned a PhD in Human & Organizational Development, is certified as an Integral Master Coach®, Purpose Guide®, Professional Mediator and Facilitator, Master Energy Practitioner, and is a Stages of Consciousness developmental practitioner. Learn about Holly’s work at Emergence Institute. You can schedule a 30 minute Strategy session with Holly.

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