Discerning the Essence of One’s Life

Fearless Freedom

Barbara Herschel was a long time Orcas Islander. She was a big hearted activist and advocated for changes that made our community more viable in so many ways. She was a real gift.

Barbara hired me as her Life Coach at the age of 78. Her husband Bill passed away, and after a long time of caregiving for him, she was ready to return to those activities that made her heart soar. She wanted to paint again – something she was passionate about, yet she just couldn’t get around to it. My job was to get her on track with her painting.

It wasn’t uncommon for Barbara to be distracted with any number of issues that in the moment seemed critical, but were really not. One of those issue’s was her health. She was always running off the Island to see one doctor, or healer, or nutritionist. She had a heart problem, a hearing problem, and like most people in their late 70’s, she experienced those challenges that come with the deterioration of one’s physical being. Barbara spent a lot of time worrying about what frightened her most – having a heart attack and dying alone.

You wouldn’t think that pulling out a bunch of paints, a canvas and some brushes would warrant hiring a life coach, and the four years that Barbara and I spent together never did culminate in one single painting. Our work culminated in something far more exquisite and valuable, however, through the discernment of the essence of Barbara in the midst of her life, as it was, as it is, and as it would be.


The day before Barbara died, she had an experience of self-empowerment and self-reliance that she had been longing for all her life. She called me, leaving a message on my answering machine – I DID IT! I will never forget the joy in her voice as she shared with me that ecstatic moment. She was no longer afraid. She was free.

Barbara died the next day alone, of a heart attack. And I have no doubt she was at peace.

Fierce Love

My client Sarah is 62. She is a resident of the Bay Area, and is about to become the president of a highly renowned national organization for business women. Sarah hired me as a life coach to help her figure out what the heck her life was about, and what she really wanted to do with the rest of her life.

Like Barbara, Sarah gets distracted with stuff that keeps her from really discerning the essence of her life and her work. She gets mired in those assumed critical issues of her complex life. Fortunately, Sarah is committed enough to realizing her truth that she quit her work as a life coach, took a month away from her husband and home, and went on retreat at her family’s ranch in Idaho.

Sarah is stepping into the presidency role in June, and as much as she has resistance about taking this position, she knows there is something bigger than her that compels her to take the seat of leadership for this organization. In our most current session, we focused on what was at the heart and soul of the two years to come. By mining the truth of this, Sarah could lead in alignment with her highest desires, and make her greatest contribution to the members of the organization, and to the Country as well. If she didn’t discern the essence of this work for herself, she would flounder in disorganized, scattered factions of what she thought other people expected of her.

My primary question for Sarah was the same question that I had for Barbara Herschel: What is the culmination of your being in this life, in this position of leadership? When discerning the essence of one’s life and one’s life work, the answer is the same. For Barbara, the essence was Fearless Freedom. For Sarah, it is Fierce Love.

Regardless of where you are in the aging process, discerning the essence of one’s life, or the roles one plays within their life, helps tremendously to get a sense of trajectory of what this is all about, where this is all leading. When coming into that sweet spot of recognition and knowing without a doubt that this is the essence of me, this is the essence of my work, life feels easier, more relaxed, and allows in more openness, joy and fun.

I have no doubt that Barbara died in fearless freedom. And I have no doubt that Sarah’s leadership will culminate in women of the world growing themselves and their businesses from, and into Fierce Love. When the essence of one’s being is discerned and acted upon, how could it be any other way?

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