This morning I heard someone being interviewed on the topic of conscious business (on Waking Up in the Workplace) and they were asked, "What is the question that drives your work.?" I love that. It's aligned with the concept that we are all living our questions (whether we are conscious of it or not) so we need to choose them carefully. In that, we become conscious participants in the creation of our work.
I was thinking about how I would answer, and it led me create the venn diagram below. My driving question is actually the intersection of 3 foundational questions. - not in any order, just holding all 3 questions on my consciousness - that I engage when I'm feeling the call to "what's next" in my work. My business tagline for over the past decade has been Consciously Creating What's Next and this intersection is at the heart of how I navigate that (and how I work with my coaching clients to structure their aliveness into income-generating work). Here is my attempt at mapping it:
I'm numbering the questions here, but there is really no order to them. It depends on which needs asking when - situationally adaptive.
1. What is most alive for me? That is what is alive for me to engage and create right now? Not all that I can imagine or that can ever be, but where is the juice right now at this space in time? For me that is the ripe fruit, and if you engage that, you remain in life-giving energy in your work. Most significantly, it is not about asking what makes complete sense first. Ask what brings you to life first...then find ways to make it work later. So often people approach it backwards and then wonder why work feels lifeless - it was not based on the foundation of aliveness.
2. What is calling to emerge? That is, what is calling to emerge at this time, in this particular situation? It assumes that we each have a unique purpose in the world, and that we are invited into serving this purpose through whatever is calling us the "loudest" at any given time. Discernment may take some time, but if given space, time and attention to the listening, we can learn to hear what is authentically calling us. We often do not know the complete answer to what wants to emerge until is has emerged, but by just engaging the question, we are in the emergence process.
3. What is mine to do to serve this unfolding? That is, what is mine to do - no more, no less - to serve the highest unfolding of this particular emergence? It assumes that we are working in harmony with the larger unfolding - something greater than ourselves that is generative and already happening. It is fractal in nature...our micro-unfolding is is connected to the macro-unfolding that is happening in the world. For more on the "no more, no less" part, see this blog post. No more: not over-controlling and taking over what is not ours. No less - stepping up and owning what is.
It is from engaging the intersection of these 3 questions over the past decade that I've created programs, products, service offerings, a creativity network and conferences that feel alive and engaging for me...and that are business offerings, not just creative expression. The foundational questions have not changed, but the aliveness and the call is ever-evolving so the structures do change.
Once the energy has run it's course, as happens in natural systems, then it's time to create something new...otherwise it feels like trying to revive life into a tree that already fell over in the forest - futile. It is important to be able to discern what you spend time reviving, what you let go, and what you create. There's no short cut - it's trail and error...why it's good to get comfortable with making mistakes. :-)
I have to keep reminding myself that certain questions are not as much about getting answers as they are about living into them - and it can be a messy process. Creativity is awesomely messy! That is what aliveness is - messy, nonlinear, and not having everything answered and resolved in neat and timely packages. For years my daily mantra has been, "What's mine to do to serve the larger unfolding?" and I still sometimes do not hear/feel it, or hear it loud and clear, but don't act on it. Like anything, it is an ongoing intentional practice to really live into the questions. The point is to make sure we are asking the right qustions - the ones that lead us to more aliveness in our work and lives, not less.
In a world of work that has been dominated by goal setting and getting from A to B in a sequential step-by-step (yang), this approach offers a way to first cultivate the meaning and aliveness of what you want to do (yin)...and then go about the business of setting adaptive goals around that. Both-and, not either-or. There are all kinds of other questions that emerge in the process - these are just the 3 driving questions, for me, that (along with some other key things) form a foundation for making a living by structuring aliveness in a way that serves others.
What is your question - or the inspired intersection of questions - that drives your work?