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Finding Your Dharma



By Florence Rita Rickards 

Attempting to manifest that which we are not passionate about is like dressing up a corpse! 

If tomorrow you were diagnosed with terminal cancer and told you had only a few months to live, would the big house, the boat, the cottage at the lake, and the prestigious job title comfort you? Would you be wishing you had spent more time at the office? I think not. You might be wishing that you had dared to live your heart’s longing, your dream…what you ached for…your passion…your purpose in life! 

Doing what makes your heart sing, not what society says should make your heart sing, leads to a happy and fulfilling life. Why? Because when you are living from your heart and not on society’s prescriptions, you open the floodgate to energy, commitment, inspiration, perseverance, joy, and fulfillment. Living your passion heightens your performance and enables you to achieve things you never dreamed possible.

Some time ago, a random sample of fifteen hundred graduating college seniors were surveyed to find out what they would base their career choice on. Eighty-three percent said that financial gain was the first thing they would base their career choice on, and following their dream, their passion, would come second. Seven percent said that following their dream, their passion, would be first and financial gain second. In a follow-up study on actual networth twenty years later, they found that 101 of the 1500 students had become millionaires. But only one of those millionaires had come from the group who put financial gain first, while one hundred of them came from the group who put following their passion first. 

The point is that a path with heart, and a purpose with passion driving it, is incredibly powerful. People who do great things have, above all else, a purpose that stirs their soul. So follow your dreams. Do what you are passionate about, and do it with all your heart and soul, and you will be happy, fulfilled, and successful. 

Read on. Find out how to create a life, a real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay cheque, or the bigger house. Find out how to discover what makes your heart sing. It’s only too late if you don’t start now.

Finding Your Dharma


Barriers to Finding and Living Your Passion:

Why don’t more of us live our passion? One reason is that many of us are so busy with our careers and the business of survival that we don’t stop to think about what we are doing. We are living as human doings rather than human beings. Always busy, running here, running there, and not taking the time to be with ourselves. Think about it. When was the last time you spent an evening or an afternoon with yourself…just being?

Many individuals I coach tell me that they are not happy or fulfilled and that life has become dull. Still others comment, “There must be more to life than this”. These individuals have accomplished much in their lives, and yet, they are still looking for something; something that fulfills, excites, motivates; something that makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning; something that gives their life meaning and purpose. But when I ask them what their passion is, or what their dreams are, they say they don’t know. Not knowing what your purpose in life is, or what you are passionate about, can be a real barrier to living a life that makes your heart sing.

A number of individuals I have coached tell me they’re too old or it’s too late for them to find their passion. I’ve worked with people as young as 17 and as old as 64, and I have had people as young as 30 make the comment that “it’s too late”, or “I’m too old”. This indicates that it is a matter of perspective and perception. The following story illustrates this. Three stonecutters were working in a quarry near a half-completed church. A traveller approached the three men and asked the first one what he was doing. The man complained bitterly, “I hate this work. My hands hurt, the stone flies in my face, and the hours are long and hard. For years I’ve been trapped in this hellish job.” The traveller questioned the second man and he replied, “I work hard to support myself and my family. It’s true that the hours are long, but it could be worse. I have no complaints.” The third man was so intent upon his work that at first he did not even hear the traveller’s question. The traveller persisted, and finally, the third stonecutter looked up and answered. His face was luminous. In a clear, gentle voice he replied, “I am building a cathedral.” This story also shows that you can change the way you look at your situation, including your age, and the notion that it is too late. Thousands of individuals over the age of fifty find their passion in a new dream or a forgotten one. Our passions are intensely personal and change over time. What was important at age twenty-five may not be at age thirty-five; the empire building passion of thirty-five may give way to a search for something that will allow you to make a difference in the world at age forty-five or fifty. It is only too late if you don’t start now. So start now!

Another barrier to pursuing one’s passion is, “I can’t”. I recall a time in my life when there was a job I wanted, but it involved public speaking. I knew that I could not get up in front of a group and speak. As long as I believed that I could not do it, I couldn’t do it. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right”, and I was. It was only when I changed my mind, changed my belief, and started believing that I could get up in front of a group and speak, that I was actually able to do it. What I discovered is that to fulfill your dreams and live your passion, you must believe that you can.

Another roadblock to pursuing our passion is the anxiety we feel when we are in the field of uncertainty. Having a job with a regular pay cheque provides the illusion of certainty and security, but this means that you have closed the door to other options, opportunities, and ideas. If, on the other hand, you decide to quit your job and start your own business, you would be choosing to live in the field of uncertainty and you would open the door to other options and opportunities. However, being in this field is extremely uncomfortable, if not downright scary, for most people. Living a life of purpose and passion means learning to live in the field of uncertainty. One way of doing this is to change your view of the field. Start looking at the field of uncertainty as the field of all possibilities. When you are in the field of all possibilities, you become excited about the other opportunities. Your mind is open and creative and you put the law of attraction to work for you. When you do this, you are in a position of self-power and this draws people and things that you want to you. It magnetizes people, situations, and circumstances to support your goals and desires.

Probably the most significant and pervasive barrier to living your passion is your gremlins - the critics, narrating in your head. Like most people, I have numerous gremlins running around in my mind. Whenever I try something new, or get excited, charged, motivated, and enthusiastic about some new idea, they come out in full force telling me all the reasons I should not go ahead with this great idea. They say things like, “you’ll fail, you’ll make a fool of yourself, everyone will laugh at you, they’ll think you’re stupid”, and on and on they go. For years, my gremlins had free reign in my mind because I was not aware of them.

You can identify your gremlins by the words they use when they speak to you. For example, they use words like: should, have to, and ought to. Gremlins squelch your essence and your enjoyment. They criticize and condemn. They make you spend your time thinking about the past and worrying about the future. And as long as you are living in the past or the future, you are not living in the present. You are not being a human being. This is what your gremlins want. They are intent on making you feel lousy. They lead you into periods of anxiety, worry, fear, sadness, anger, depression, and emptiness. They perpetuate myths about you, other people, places, and things. For example, they will tell you that your true self is unlovable, that fast is good and slow is bad, getting angry is bad, you are not entitled to an opinion, asking for what you want is selfish, and so on.

One of the toughest gremlins to address is the victim gremlin. This narrating critic says things like: “this always happens to me; it’s not my fault; if only my boss, my husband, my daughter would do such and such; or if only I had an education; more money…”, and on and on it goes. This gremlin allows you to blame and justify rather than take responsibility for your life and your choices. This gremlin makes you helpless, hopeless, and powerless, not because of some circumstance, institution, or person, but because you end up giving your power away. As long as you listen to this gremlin you will stay stuck and not live your passion. To break free and live your passion…your purpose in life, you must first become aware of the role this gremlin is playing. Then you must take responsibility for your life and your decisions. Only then can you break free and choose to live your passion.

One way of taming your gremlins is by simply becoming aware of them. Notice them. Don’t try to analyze or understand them. Simply notice them. This may sound simple, but just noticing, just becoming aware, is very powerful. When you do this, notice how you are, not why you are how you are. The reason this is so powerful is that you change not by trying to be something other than who you are, but by being fully aware of how you are.

Others know what their purpose in life is and are frozen in their tracks. Frozen with fear. Fear can cause us to feel pain, paralysis, and depression. Everyone experiences fear: fear of public speaking, of success, failure, asserting ourselves, intimacy, being alone, changing careers, ending a relationship, beginning a relationship, losing a loved one, leaving a job, or starting a business. One way of conquering your fear is to acknowledge it for what it is. But, what is fear? Fear is simply one of the ways that human beings interpret events. As the following story illustrates, fear can be a distorting lens. One afternoon, my neighbour was walking her German Shepherd, Sasha, down the street on a leash. Sasha has no interest in cats and usually leaves them alone. Crouching against a nearby building was a cat, keenly observing their approach. As they walked by the building, Sasha noticed the cat, but kept on walking. The cat, however, began arching his back, hissing and spitting. Suddenly, the cat launched himself at Sasha, all claws and teeth. In the brief, but violent, scuffle that ensued, Sasha was badly scratched, and the cat had his leg and ear bitten before my neighbour could separate them. The cat’s fear was not generated by this situation, but by the cat. The cat could have stayed where he was and calmly observed my neighbour and her dog, Sasha, walk by. However, the cat was not capable of choosing his response. You are. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, but going ahead in spite of your fear. When you realize that you are capable of choosing your response, you can overcome your fear. When you liberate yourself from your fears, the possibilities for building, shaping, and changing your life are endless.


One way to find your purpose in life is to examine your values. When you are honouring your values, you are happy and fulfilled. You feel good. Hence, living a life according to what is important to you – your values, will lead you to your destiny. Unfortunately, many people do not know what their values are. The problem is that many of your values are there because they were important to someone else, your parents, teachers, clergy, friends, employers, and so on. When you were growing up, your parents supported and applauded you if you did things that agreed with their values, and punished you verbally, physically, or emotionally if you did things that went against their values. The same was true of your teachers.

If you aren’t sure what your values are, you can begin clarifying them now. The following is a partial list of values. Number them from one to ten in order of importance to you. If you want to live a life of passion and purpose, decide what you value most and then commit to living those values every day.

           Family

           Success

           Freedom

           Adventure

           Recognition

           Integrity

           Creativity

           Authenticity

           Personal power

           Security

Your decisions are guided by your values, and as such, direct your life. Therefore, when you know what your values are, life’s choices and decisions become a lot easier. For example, when faced with a decision, you can ask yourself the following question: “Will this decision move me closer to honouring my values, or farther away?”

There are a number of ways to identify your values. One method is to think of a peak experience, a time when you felt happy, fulfilled, proud, energized, accomplished, and so on. Then search the experience for the values that were being honoured. A second technique for identifying your values, is to go to the opposite extreme and think of experiences when you were angry, upset, or frustrated. This will identify values that were being violated or suppressed. Often we don’t recognize values until something gets in the way of our honouring them.

A second way of finding your purpose in life is to use the no-fail/no-money fantasy exercise. For this technique, you simply write out your answer to the following question, being very specific and using as much detail as possible. If money was no object and you knew you could not fail, what would you do with your life? By examining your no-fail fantasy you will be able to identify some of your values and incorporate them into your life.

A third way of finding your purpose in life is to decide what you want your epitaph to say about you. For example, I want mine to say, “A trail blazer, she made a difference”. How do you want to be remembered?

A fourth way of determining your life’s purpose is to design a mission statement for yourself. Once you have done this, your mission statement will act like a huge neon sign, directing your life. To begin, start with an impact statement. What kind of impact do you want to have? For example, “I want people to be happy”, or “I want to help people”. Next, find a metaphor that captures the essence of your purpose. For example, “I am a lighthouse, or I am a trailblazer”. Creating your mission statement takes time, so be patient with yourself. But get started. Remember, it’s only too late if you don’t start now.

Lastly, how do you find your passion? One sure fire way of finding out what you are passionate about is to identify the things that make your heart sing. When you are doing what you are passionate about, you:

           lose all track of time

           become energized and motivated

           are in the moment, not the past or the future

           feel fully alive, complete

           break down the barriers and overcome the fears that would otherwise stop you


If you are confused about passion and purpose, join the club. In talking to people about the link between passion and purpose, it was difficult to separate the two. The relationship between passion and purpose seems equal to the chicken or the egg question - which one comes first? Another question that arises is, are they always linked? I don’t believe that they are. We have many passions in life, but they are not all linked to our purpose.

One thing is certain though, and that is that passion and purpose together create an incredibly powerful force! While watching a rerun of Martin Luther King’s Speech “I had a dream”, I was struck by the enormous amount of passion and conviction in his speech. It is no wonder that he moved a nation. On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., before a crowd of 250,000 people, Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaimed his dream to the world. Because this address was so powerful, it is still used today, almost thirty years later, in leadership programs throughout the world as an example of how leaders enlist others. This is a testimonial of the power of combining what you are passionate about with your purpose in life.


Once you have identified your passion and your purpose, the next step is staying on track and living your passion…your purpose. In this busy, hectic society of ours, it is easy to get side tracked, off balance. Think about it. Most of us are living life in the fast lane. It is difficult to find time for family, friends, health, career, finances, your spouse, personal growth, spirituality, fun, and recreation. One way of recognizing that you are off balance is when your narrator, your gremlin, starts saying things like, “I can’t, I have to, and I need to”. When you are off balance, choice is gone and you are allowing yourself to be dictated by circumstance. When balance is gone, the opportunity for fulfillment is gone.

Getting a personal coach is useful in maintaining balance. Anthony Robbins, Lee Iacocca, Dale Carnegie, Rick Hansen, Oprah Winfrey, and Ghandi all had a coach to mentor and guide them, to help them find their true potential, and to maintain balance in their lives. Behind every successful person there is someone who believes in them and challenges them to be all they can be! A coach will help you articulate your values, dreams, and purpose. They will also help you to realize when you are going against your values and assist you in maintaining your focus and life balance. Also, like athletes, we can all benefit from a cheering section in our lives. By cheering section, I mean people who nurture and support you, your passion, and your purpose. People who will cheer you on when the going gets tough. These could be friends, family, co-workers, your church, a group you belong to, and so on. You will know which people in your life are your cheerleaders - our balcony people, because they will not condemn or criticize and they will root you on when you feel like throwing in the towel.

One final thought on living your passion and life’s purpose is this - We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Getting in touch with your spirit self is critical to finding and living your life purpose. People find their spirit self in different ways. It doesn’t have to be through organized religion, or going to church; it’s what works for you; it’s what fills your heart. It could be a walk on the beach, a hike in the woods, prayer, a walk in a garden filled with beautiful flowers, listening to your favourite music, or meditation. Spend time with your spirit self, your true nature, every day, and as you do, your life’s purpose will become clearer and stronger. You will spontaneously receive creative thoughts. You will be unafraid, calm, and peaceful. You will know what your life purpose is, what your unique gift to the world is, and you will be able to offer it freely. When you do, you will be validated and fulfilled, because the giving of your gift reaffirms the meaning of life. Listen to your heart, pay whatever it costs, and don’t look back. My parting wish for you is that you find your dharma…your passion…your purpose in life, and like Martin Luther King Jr., live your dream!

God, give me the dream that you planned for my life.


1 Dharma is a Sanskrit Word that means purpose in life. 

Florence R. Rickards

Florence Rickards is a dynamic, energetic, speaker, facilitator, and coach. She has over twenty years of experience assisting individuals & organizations in achieving their maximum potential, finding their passion, and realizing their dreams. She is currently President of ACHIEVE Consulting Inc., an organization that provides services in Training and Development, Human Resources, and Organizational Development. Her previous experience includes being the Creator/Owner/Operator of a Private Training Institute, a Human Resources Generalist, Personnel Manager, Director of Employee Support and Development, and Director of Business Development. She has worked in both the public and private sector.

Florence has a Masters Degree in Business Administration (Simon Fraser University), is a Certified Human Resources Professional, a Certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, and a Registered Social Worker. She is also a professional coach having received her training from the highly recognized Coaches Training Institute. In addition, Florence was the first faculty hired by the first Canadian campus of the University of Phoenix and teaches in both the Bachelor and Master of Business Programs. She received the teaching excellence award in 1999. Florence is also a sought after guest speaker and has presented at a number of local and International Conferences.

Florence is the President of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Simon Fraser Branch, a Director of NETWERCC (Networking, Education and Training for Workers in Employment, Rehabilitation and Career Counselling) since 1997 and an editor for the British Columbia Human Resource Management Association’s PeopleTalk Magazine since 1997. She was recently awarded her own Small Business Solutions column for PeopleTalk. She is also the past Vice President of the Labor Market and Career Information Association of British Columbia.

Florence’s passion is facilitating, guiding, motivating, inspiring, and energizing people and organizations on their journey to success and fulfillment. Florence has synthesized the best from psychology, human development, business, communications, mentoring, counseling, spirituality and coaching to help individuals and organizations find and live their passion.

"FINDING YOUR DHARMA…YOUR PASSION…YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE" written by Florence Rita Rickards and first published by Lahaska Publishing in the book, "Living an Extraordinary Life", in 2001