Go Straight for the Joy and Follow Your Purpose

Life Coach Martha Beck on trusting yourself, finding what makes you happy and going for it.

In 2004 I was enjoying the highest-paying, most respectable job I had ever worked. Everything from the title on my business card to the location of the building fed my notion of success.

Then a Cadillac Escalade sideswiped me on my way home one evening. After an ambulance ride and an MRI, I was told there was a problem with my spine. Over the course of the next few months, I waited to find out if I needed surgery. And everything changed.

“If you had asked me a week before that accident if I was happy, I would’ve said yes,” I told life coach Martha Beck over the phone. “I had this dream job, a nice car, and everybody thought I was hot stuff. But a week after the accident, I found myself saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m scared to death. I don’t belong at that job. I don’t think I like myself anymore. I’m not following my purpose, and I feel like I’m suffocating something inside of me.’ ”

Beck laughed. Not a malicious laugh, but a knowing one. She told me the car accident tore my blinders off so I could see the unhappiness I had been denying in favor of a shiny, socially acceptable image of a successful life.

Since then I’ve followed my purpose in a much more meaningful way, writing to help others while pursuing my dream of becoming a (one-day) published novelist.

But I asked her, “What about people like me who are still living in a state of denial, who are doing everything right on the outside, but somewhere, deep down, aren’t really happy? People can’t just wait to have a car wreck.”

“Oh, sure they can,” Beck said, laughing again. “That’s the thing about planet Earth. It’s just full of car wrecks.”

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