Posted by Lissa Carter, LPCA

I am SO EXCITED about this week's topic. It's very close to my heart because, as with most of us, the work I do emerged from my past suffering. This is the key that got me through some of the darkest times of my life.

Tonight, my dear friend Briana and I are offering a free workshop over at Homegrown Babies to honor the personhood of mothers. (If you read this in time, come on over and join us!)

The workshop will last one-and-a-half hours, and for many mamas, that will be the most time they have spent dedicated to their own pleasure in YEARS.

Because honestly, who has the time for delicately nibbling a strawberry; who has the luxury of a full hour and a half to focus on herself, to be supported as she discerns her way forward?

It is my sincere and heartfelt desire that every single soul reading this can say "of course I have the time!" But it is my belief that most of us are nodding our heads in agreement.

That's where this key comes in. The circumstances of our lives have conspired to put many of us in a place of overwhelm, scrambling every day just to meet basic obligations, feeling stretched thin and overcommitted. Let me tell you a story.

Seven years ago, I was a single mother with a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old. I biked 14 miles to work every day after spending close to 3 hours on the bus system getting my children to school and to daycare. The money I made at my job paid for the roof over our head and the daycare program, but in order to put food on the table and take care of all the other expenses of life I took on two other side-jobs. I fell into bed every night exhausted, covered in whatever we'd had for dinner, and woke three hours later to start the same cycle over again. 

I decided to go back to school for an advanced degree because even I, obstinate and thick-skulled as I can be at times, could see that this was just not a sustainable life.  The problem was, I had NO IDEA how to proceed. I had so many interests, so many ways branching out in front of me. And I had NO TIME and NO ENERGY for decision making.

So many things have changed in seven years. Counseling is exactly the right fit for me. I have found the job I was meant for, that makes my heart sing, that allows me to make a difference in the lives of people who want to be their best selves. But one thing hasn't changed: I still feel as though there is never enough time to pursue all of my interests, to dive deeply into the many ways that branch out in front of me.

So I use the same tool now that I discovered all those years ago, the tool that got me here:

Key #5, the sweet spot.

 I'll keep this one short and sweet.

You have close to infinite potential. You have extraordinarily nuanced dreams and desires. And you have limited time.

Finding your sweet spot is a tool that allows you to make the most of your limited time and energy, investing it in exactly what comes most effortlessly to you.

When you figure out your sweet spot, you are putting the full force of your talent, skill, and passion into alignment. This exponentially increases the impact of the time and energy you invest.

So how do you find your sweet spot?

Below is an elegant diagram that was distilled from the Japanese concept of Ikigai, or life purpose. This is a wonderful way to get started.

    Make four lists. Stream of consciousness, don't overthink it.

    List one: all the things you can do that you know you can get paid for.

    List two: all the things you are really good at.

    List three: all the things you love to do.

    List four: all of the things that you believe this world needs.

    Slot these lists into their corresponding circles, and start to notice the overlap. For example, if I love to garden, and the world needs food for the hungry, there's an overlap between those circles of growing food for the hungry.

    If I am really good at listening to people, and I can get paid for counseling, person-centered counseling goes in the overlap between those two circles.

    Now take a look at the very center of your diagram. That's the sweet spot. That's the small space where your passion, your skill, your training, and the world's needs intersect.

    There may be only one thing here in the center---it can be hard to find the overlap of all four circles.

    But there is something, and when you find it, you will know where to invest the 5 minutes or 5 dollars available to you.

    Write out the center of your diagram---your ikigai---into a 10-second pitch. Put it somewhere you can see it. Practice saying it out loud when a new friend asks you what you're all about.


    And if you ARE one of the magical people who has set aside time to explore and develop your own talents in a deep and nourishing way, SWEET RELIEF starts Monday, May 15th. If it's alignment with your sweet spot, I hope you will join us!

    Let me know any questions you have about this process in the comments below...and if you're feeling brave, post your Ikigai!