This guest blog post comes from Lindsey Caplan, a consultant and organizational psychologist in San Francisco. Her work has been featured at Dreamworks Animation and McKinsey & Co. along with Salesforce. In other words, she’s pretty awesome. Join her on stage and read on as she shares her journey into purpose.
Once Upon a Time
There comes a moment when you may realize, as I did several years ago, that try as we might, we can’t script our lives.
As a former screenwriter, this realization came as a bit of a disappointment. I had been scripting my life since I was 12, and I thought I was pretty great at it. Dream after dream, goal after goal, lined up, knocked out one by one by one.
In my script, I’d be a successful comedy writer, staffed on a show by age 25 and successfully building my life in Los Angeles for years to come.
But 15 months into my tenure in Los Angeles I found myself sitting by the pool reading “What Should I Do With My Life”?. Turns out, you can’t script happiness.
The facade had melted away, and with that the singular dream I had worked towards for many years seemed more distant and not entirely purpose-ful. I had no idea what else I was good at, what skills I could bring somewhere else, and where I would live if not Los Angeles.
“What happens when your dreams change?”, I wondered. When you thought you had it all figured out – how do you turn the page?
Climb Every Mountain
Over the next several years I searched for a new dream. I tried different industries, careers, and types of companies. I talked to everyone, and everything. With each experience I took note of how I felt, what I liked, and what was rewarding. Each time I tried to script (read: control) things too tightly I was quickly reminded there was no such thing as a “life script”.
And so, instead of writing a new script, I slowly learned how to improvise instead.
At the urging of my boss and now mentor, I signed up for an Improv class at BATS Improv in San Francisco.
With this training comes a moment when you may realize, as I did several years ago, that as scary as we may believe it to be, we are all improvising all of the time. Some of us just enjoy it more, and eventually learn to throw away the script.
Dreams vs. Purpose
Leaning in to Improv and its lessons (saying “Yes, And”, for example) guided me towards a very clear understanding of my purpose and my story’s central theme. It helped me realize that my purpose is something I feel deep within my soul and isn’t attached to a specific outcome or attained goal. It was there all along. And, it’s something I get to live out every day in how I choose to interact with others.
Dreams change. Purpose is persistent – and in my case, was discovered by combining several traits and characteristics of dreams past, present, and future. It was found by paying attention, asking for help, and with the confidence that comes from knowing we can’t always script our experiences or circumstances, but we can choose how we tell our story.