22. February 2023

Living a committed life

Original Book: Lynne Twist (2022): Living a committed life. Finding freedom and fulfillment in a purpose larger than yourself. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

The book at a glance. "Living a committed life - finding freedom and fulfillment in a purpose greater than yourself" is the latest book from bestselling author Lynne Twist. To be clear, if you are expecting a quick "self-help" step-by-step guide to finding your purpose in life, this book may not be the right choice. Instead, Lynne offers something much richer: the incredible, inspiring testimony of her own life spent over fifty years working to end world hunger, save the Amazon rainforest, change the dream of the modern world, transform people's relationship with money, and empower women to take their rightful place in what she calls the Sophia Century. Sharing openly and vulnerably how she discovered her purpose, how her commitment evolved into her various endeavors, and how she overcame doubts, struggles, and crises by respecting her limits, she offers us much more than a teachable guide - it's a heart-opening revelation and encouragement of what happens when we answer with a clear “yes” to a life trusting and following our inner voice, heart, and soul.

What were my three most inspiring insights?

1) Taking a stand versus taking a position. I learned that taking a stand is different to taking a position or fighting an opinion. Lynne reminds as that taking a position is like taking a "geographical" point of view that determines what we see, e.g. when we stand directly under the Eiffel Tower. To fight for this point of view by proving all the others wrong (for example, those standing 200 meters away from the Eiffel Tower) leads to endless debates because each point of view has of course its own validity. In contrast, when we take a stand, we release ourselves from any position. By literally stepping "above", we can see how valid all points of view are and how true they are for each person who holds them. Taking a stand means not being trapped in one's own position or ideology and instead being able to let go of it. Instead, we step into a space where we can listen to others rather than reject them, create a shared view and vision, and allow all positions to contribute.

2) How “taking a stand”, “commitment” and “purpose” relate. I love how she carefully frames the meaning of these three words, which we mostly are using interchangeably. Taking a stand, according to Lynn, is something that is uplifting and life-enhancing. We usually take a stand for something rather than against something and is usually something greater than we can do ourselves. For example, you might be against air pollution, but what you are standing for is the possibility that we can all live healthy human lives. A stand is not something you necessarily get credit for, or that makes your own life more joyful and fulfilling. It's something that's called for on the planet. To take a stand gives rise to making a commitment. For Lynne, a commitment is not just about giving your word and acting consistently with it. It's about embodying a 'yes' to something with your whole being, i.e., what you spend your free time or money on. And then, finally, it's the bundle of your commitments that result in the purpose of your life. In other words, finding your purpose is not the beginning, but rather the result of a committed life.

3) Why purposeful lives are possibilist lives. This is the part where the book has common traits with The Art of Possibility. Lynne reminds us that if we want to live a purposeful life and keep our commitments, we need to know how to create possibilities. For her, it's not just a set of options, it's a mindset. A possibilist is someone who looks at this world through the lens of 'what can and could be' rather than from only perceiving the status quo right now. It's not about ignoring reality, nor is it about positive thinking. It is about acknowledging what is, but not letting it paralyze or disempower us – instead, a possibilist can build on what is and free us from our unexamined assumptions about what can and cannot happen.

How does the content relate to today’s times?

The wisdom of the book is spot on for our modern times, where many people are yearning to find meaning and purpose in their lives. By looking over Lynne's shoulder as she shares her life story, we are inspired, encouraged, and challenged to reflect on this longing in a deeper and more nuanced way. I believe it's an important resource for anybody who strives to live a purposeful life. It allows overcoming a widespread 'consumerist' motivation to seek a purposeful life, simply hoping for providing us with more pleasure. Instead, Lynne invites us to be mindful about getting beyond and uncovering our deep-rooted heart-centered call to serve something greater than one's own life or benefit.

How did the book change my thinking?

I loved her outlining that purpose is not something outside of ourselves that we can grasp, but rather something inside ourselves that needs to be found and unleashed. In that, the purpose is rather a path, a flow, an energy that raises upon an inside commitment, an inside “yes” to something larger than ourselves that emerges over time by living up to these commitments. That sheds a slightly different light on the current purpose discussion in organizations. Providing people with a compelling, well-sounding purpose statement - like for a consumer good - might have limited effects. It might be more beneficial to reverse the process: Enabling people to find purpose together, inside themselves and while interacting to live up to their commitments.

What did I appreciate most reading?

Reading the book left me with a very hopeful and uplifting feeling. Lynne is a true master of using words and narratives in a very deliberate way that invites everyone in and embraces different perspectives. For example, while she admits to being a very spiritual person, she acknowledges that not everyone is spiritual, nor religious and makes it clear that what she proposes can be approached from other worldviews, too. It’s such a releasing and soothing contrast to our news world, where defending an argument by bashing those who see the world differently is mainstream. In this way, her book is using a language that does not divide but instead allows to bridge different views in integrative ways. without compromising on taking a stand and sharing what her truth is. That's the responsible use of a relational language and narratives that we urgently need to move this world forward toward social peace creating growing spaces of shared humanity.

My most inspiring quote

Wow, that wasn't easy! The book itself is a huge reservoir of insightful quotes. I found them on practically every page. I chose one that spoke to the overarching theme: “A commitment larger than your own wants and needs lifts you out of the landscape of your own circumstances and personal desires. It lifts you out of day-to-day moods, irritations , and upsets about things not going your way. It pulls you out of that smallness and elevates you to a place where you find the strength and courage to generation your life out of possibility and generosity.”

What wisdom in this book will I use in my daily life?

The honoring and embracing language that allows, and even invites different perspectives, to join in, and the definition of purpose, commitment, vision and taking a stand. Above, her idea to think back to our childhood to find our purpose, i.e. suggesting to ask ourselves what we were passionate about as a child. For example, if you were drawn to helping classmates who were in trouble, then taking a stand for social justice might fulfill you. If it was art, music, or painting that lit your heart, you might want every child to have access to that kind of education. Or if you were passionate about outdoors activities in nature, you might be drawn to help preserve our natural world.

Who should read this book?

Everyone who feels called – or would wish to feel called – to live a committed life, longs for a meaningful purpose in life.

Dr. Eva Bilhuber
Dr. Eva Bilhuber
Human Facts AG
Founder | Managing Partner
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