Posted on

What gives me meaning and purpose is an important issue to address

What gives me meaning and purpose? I meet many who ask this and feel dissatisfied with what currently seems to be in their life or sense there’s something missing. Not everybody has this as a driver in their lives, but it is a significant factor.The absense of meaning can be a big cause of frustration and discontent.

Humans, it is said, are meaning-making beings. We make interpretations, we fit things into a scheme, we connect things to our beliefs and values, we link what happens to our likes and preferences, we look to get value from what we do, and in other ways make sense of what happens for us. For some of us a sense of meaning might be religious or spiritual. For others it might be doing something for our fellow humans. Others might want to be achieving something of value or what sits well with their values.

Many I work with have reached a point in their lives where what they’ve been doing is no longer “enough” and they want to “put something back”. Some find they have achieved a lot in their careers and but now they want something more “meaningful”. There might also be a young person who is inspired by making a difference and wants his or her life to be one about meaning, rather than say money, status or material possessions. Or some event has occurred that has led them to question the value of what they do, who they are and where they are going.

The classic way of looking at this is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, where he describes his experiences as a labour inmate of Auschwitz and what distinguished those who survived as opposed to those that died in the final winter before liberation. He considered that those that lived, despite the terrible privations, were those that continued to make meaning, “the hopelessness of our struggle,” he wrote, “does not detract from its dignity and its meaning…(his purpose was) to find a full meaning in our life, then and there, in that hut and in that practically hopeless situation.” Each needed to take personal responsibility to find that meaning for themselves.

For those for whom this is an important driver in their lives the question is no small matter. For such people, it inspires and motivates them. It illuminates their lives and enriches them. They feel the absence of it strongly. Knowing your purpose is uplifting. It sustains you even when things are difficult and challenging. When distracted, it serves to bring you back to focus on what matters. It is therefore an important area to explore, and it’s never to late to do it.

I give coaching to help people clarify their mission, vision, and purpose and get the meaning they want from their lives. To read more about my coaching, click here.

Posted on

How to have self confidence when you don’t know where you are going

Bit difficult, not knowing where you’re going, or what you are about, and still have confidence in your endeavours! It’s a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” question, which comes first? Yet the question of how to have self confidence when things aren’t clear offers important opportunities for insight into your creative potential.

When starting out on a new project, whatever that is, it’s well known that it helps to get clear what your vision and purpose is. Your vision would be some description of the end result and what it will feel and look like. The vision needs to match your inspiration, which inspired you in the first place, and has something powerfully motivating in it to encapsulate all the effort that will going into manifesting it. It needs to feel worth it. The purpose is linked to the vision in that it states what you are doing this for, which might be another way of stating the vision but then it might also state something of your values and what you are in this journey for, what lights you up. So my vision might be to be running x and y courses and my purpose might be to help people know more of who they really are. There’s no need to get too academic about it, but rather come up with something that reflects what drew you to the endeavour and states where you are going with it.

Self confidence then comes with the knowing of what you are about and where you are going. Of course there’s also the doing of it, and we’ll discuss that in other postings, but at least you are a step further towards where you need to be.

Today in Western society there’s a spiritual aridity underlying our culture and a cynicism about the ideal of what we’re about. Vision conjures up negative connotations even. People are struggling to get beyond ideas like “betterment”, and “growth” and lack something that really uplifts us as humans and as key members of the planet. The effects of the recession are to induce a certain hopelessness instead. So, thinking about personal vision is all the more important.

It is a vital activity and if you haven’t done it, and this resonates for you, then perhaps it’s time to take time out to allow your creative juices to flow about what you really want in your life and what it would look, sound and feel like when you’ve got it.

However, there’s also another angle on this, that of how to have self confidence in where you are going when you don’t know what that is. Many people say to me that they don’t know what they really want, again a reflection of this gap I am writing about, and life happens for them in the meantime. They say that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (John Lennon)!

So, it can also be a matter of trusting the process, which can take a learning about faith, since what is meant to happen will make itself apparent, but usually when we’ve let go of needing an answer in a negative sense. Which points up a vital point in the creation process, being willing to have an intention and then energetically let go of it and not be attached to the outcome. So arguably the real learning, the more powerful insight, can be to have trust and faith that what happens will be perfect. Maybe this is another step in self development, as many would argue.

I give coaching for people setting out on a journey who need to develop their faith, vision and purpose. To learn more, click here.

Posted on

Are you not achieving what you really want?

The word “total success” produces all sorts of reactions in people. There are those for whom it is the sine qua non of their value system, for others the final fling of the capitalist system bankrupted by the recession desperately trying to cling to beliefs past their sell-by date.

Yet being successful has a much broader meaning than the money and career value usually given to it. To feel that sense of completion, that sense of fulfilment, that sense that I have got to where I want to get to, that all feels right in my life, as I perceive it, with regard to my most strongly held aspirations, this is a strong urge inside us.

In Gestalt we call it the “urge to complete”, to have satisfaction, to finish things off, to get closure, to make a whole. However much of human life can be incomplete, unfinished, without satisfaction. We have what I refer to as a sense of not having got what we want, a continuing sense that we still have something to do, something to accomplish.

Martin Seligman of Positive Psychology fame argues in his latest book, Flourish, that one of our key constituents of well-being is accomplishment, the need to achieve, to have got that result or results that we really want in our lives. It also involves the sense that we accomplish things for its own sake, that we do get results, and that we enjoy the process too.

Do you find you have a lingering feeling inside, lingering in that you are often aware of it and it keeps coming back, that you are not achieving what you really want? Do you even have the fear that it may never happen, and that that’s not OK?

We can have inside a feeling that we have something to accomplish in this world, although we may not know what that is. It is deeply felt, and arguably gets stronger as we get older. Some give up and get disillusioned and cynical. Others keep on at it, maybe even at the expense of real enjoyment of the moment and the company of others.

Depending on your beliefs, this inner sense can be what you signed up for when you came into this life, or it might be what you decided when you got to a point where thinking of these things became possible. Or you may never have consciously done it, but still have that lingering thought inside.

Something in your soul is calling to you. You might feel it as a passion needing expression, or a continued dissatisfaction or a longing for something.

You might be stuck on your next career move, or be “between jobs”, or under threat of redundancy (like so very many of us). You might be about to retire, and it’s scary. You might have just come out of an important relationship and need to re-construct your life. You might have recovered from a major accident or illness or a bereavement, and everything feels upside down and you need to really re-envision your life and find new meaning.

People need meaning and purpose. After these upheavals or change they often ask, “What’s the point of it all? Where am I going? What’s it all about?” And some live their lives without having an answer. It’s like there a question not yet asked and an answer not yet given.

But it’s there, under the surface, waiting for you. It’s about learning to tune in and be aware of and listen to what your inner self is telling you.


Posted on

Where are you going with your life that gives you meaning?

A theme that I hear a lot concerns the “prevailing gloom” in our society at present, ascribed as it is to the still-ongoing recession. Despite brief attempted “fixes” like the Olympics or the Jubilee here in the UK this undercurrent seems to run and run. We can get brief “fixes” from all sorts of directions, entertainment, eating and drinking among them, but when there’s an underlying malaise the problem doesn’t necessarily go away unless we deal with what’s causing it.

Not surprisingly with another economic downturn, there’s lots of change happening and motivation at work has fallen. A brief respite like the Olympics can still leave people with longer-term issues being put on one side, such as what to do about a career that has perhaps stalled with a succession of economic ups and downs and business restructurings. “Where am I going?” is an important question that many can find hard to resolve.

It can link in with other things that might be missing in your life. Maybe there’s an unresolved relationship issue, or there’s been a problem with your health, or you’ve been off work with stress, or your finances have been getting the better of you despite all your efforts, or what you’d expected would happen with your life hasn’t materialised.

We can get to points in our lives when the current dispensation is no longer working. It can even feel like it’s come to a standstill.

As regards work, you will probably know that familiar job interview question, “What are your career goals?” which you respond to with some plausible-sounding waffle that gets you the job, but you might not have any real goals beyond getting and holding down the job you’ve gone for. Those in work might be thinking, if anything, about lateral or promotional moves, but if asked about a longer-term strategy may struggle. It’s when people lose their jobs and realise their career isn’t going anywhere and that this is now an issue for them that they might start to look seriously at the question.

In general, those who find they’ve hit a real, big crisis in their lives can be hit with this dilemma. Some major accident or illness, a bereavement or some other upheaval can leave people wondering what is all about.

It’s time like these that some of us start to look for the meaning in it all, like what will give meaning to my life now, what’s it about, and what do I want it to be about?

This journey, if really addressed, can take us in new directions that can bring us far more satisfying results. But we need to address the issues that brought things to a crisis and find out what it’s got to teach us that is truly meaningful for our life path.

Those who might be serious at addressing the issue can benefit from thinking about what their purpose or “mission” is, what for example their chosen line of work is for, or what do they want in general from their life. For example it might be to serve some ultimate goal, such as a particular type of work for which you need to get the training and experience. Or you might have some higher goal, which your work is intended to serve, such as helping others in some way let say.

According to Martin Seligman, the proponent of Positive Psychology, a key determinant of well-being is meaning. According too to Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, humans need to derive meaning from their endeavours. I have over and over found in my work that those who struggle to find a way forward have difficulty answering the question, “What do you want?” with regard to their life. As many often say, they so often haven’t known the answer and life has just happened for them by default.

This is about taking control and making a conscious decision to move things on. While we’re all stuck in recession, this question is perhaps plaguing whole chunks of our society right now. No wonder people are depressed. Yet we all have the answers potentially within us, when we find a way to unlock them.

I help people do work on their meaning and purpose, in my coaching.

Posted on

Athletes too can lose their sense of purpose

It’s not just the spectators who feel a drop in spirits after the Olympics. Athletes do too. The post-games depression is a very real occurrence that many sports lovers will know well. There you are, for two weeks absorbed in what might be for you the best sporting event in ages, caught up in all the drama, sharing in the emotion, rejoicing when your stars win, it can become almost a life of its own. And it brings people together and we all feel the collective joy of a particular success by some sportsperson. Just think of the enormous cheering and applause that greeted particular successes. Then it’s over, and you need to get on with your life. Some have great difficulty coming to terms with the loss.

Equally the athletes can have trained for years for this event, and its become like an all-embracing obsession. They get through the heats and they have their victory, if they’re the lucky one, and then there’s the adulation, the praise, the interviews, the victory parades, those medals, and appearances on chat shows, conference key notes and other events. Then it all goes quiet. If you’re still continuing your career, then there’s training for the next event. But if not, there’s very often a loss of a sense of purpose and identity. Who you were was this very successful person, but who are you now? What are you going to do, what are you about, what will give meaning to your life now? For some it can be really serious, almost like a bereavement such can be the nature of change.

This is where people need skill in identifying a new sense of purpose and finding meaning once again in their lives. It’s a learning curve all of its own, a transition to a new life no longer defined by what is now past, and no longer therefore living in the past but creating something new. Thus it was interesting to learn the other day on TV how Dame Kelly Holmes after her retirement following her double Olympic golds in Athens had set up the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust to help disadvantaged young people (a great cause), gives sports training help to young people herself and is now planning to develop a business.

So, it’s not just people who get made redundant who go through this change process. Top performers, and not so top, do too. It happens too for media stars who are no longer in the public eye and are no longer working because they are no longer in demand. There’s an adjustment, a coming to therms with the loss of a role and a need to work out something new. We can go through a transition process that was well described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a grieving process that can be emotional, involve depression and if embraced and worked though lead to a new sense of purpose. For goal-focused, perhaps very driven people, who need to be motivated and in action, this shift into a new sense of direction is very important. As many say, they need to be doing something worthwhile for them.

I coach people who are going through a transition to work out a new sense of purpose and mission, often in their careers

Posted on

Adversity might be teaching you your true life purpose

When we’re faced with adversity, it can seem we’re really caught up in it and that is all there is, like that is how our life is. These are times when we can disconnect from our life purpose, or need to establish one, and thus have some focus in the background to return to.

The point here is that when we’re up against it, we think that that is all there is, when it is really just a perception, albeit a hard one. We think that what we’re absorbed with is our reality. Yet, when we let go of it, and shift our mood, or whatever, then it can seem quite different. This also can apply to long periods, even depression.

Getting clear on your vision and purpose and setting intentions however, is quite a different energy. This lives in the realm of positive creativity, when we’re focused on what we want, invested with positive feeling, and with a strong, clear intention behind it. Under the Law of Attraction, we are then drawing to us what we want.

Thus when you are in a negative state you then do have in the background another possibility that you can potentially turn your attention to. You just need to shift your state. That might be easier said than done and when things are going badly it can seem very hard to do. This then becomes the focus of the journey, learning ways to shift your state. It is an effort of will and takes practice.

However the role of purpose and intention is that there is a direction you are going in. You know what you are about and what is important to you. And at some level you keep on with it.This is the reality you are living to, what you are choosing to manifest.

The difficulty many are faced with at present is that the recession seems to limit their options, cause cut backs in their dreams and in what they are doing, such that it can seem like they are going nowhere. This is when we need to go back to our purpose and take a second look. Is this really what we’re about, or is there something much more powerful and deep, really aching to come out and be realised? Once we’ve clarified what it’s all about we then get back on with it. Then it’s our minds we’re working on and what limiting beliefs and decisions we need to get out of the way, so as to connect more purely with who we really are. Here can be the breakthrough we need. Maybe then the recession is there for us to finally get that, and find that life finally has meaning, a true life purpose.

Posted on

Create vision and purpose that empowers you

It’s a very important question, if you are serious about it, but one many duck away from.

Vision and purpose are usually topics left to corporate circles, except that they are also ones that concern people in their own lives too. Not everybody of course is turned on by such matters and there are those for example for whom life is more about who they are with and the lifestyle they lead, to give two contrasting examples. Yet today people are increasingly looking for meaning, what they want to get from their lives, living and fulfilling their dream, and accomplishing something which they regard as worthwhile.

When we speak of personal vision, we mean what is it that you wish to be doing further down the road, at some point in time? What would you like your life to look like? What would you be doing? Where would you be? Who would you be with? These and other questions need to be fleshed out and explored in relation to what you really want. Getting clear what you really want isn’t easy, which why coaching is so useful, to help you work it out. People very often don’t know what they want. If they are going through a transition then they may be feeling confused and the way forward seems obscured. Then they may have the thought that they might be going the wrong way.

Similarly mission and purpose is a very useful if not so obvious matter. This is about what you might be doing something for. What purpose does it serve? It might be to accomplish certain goals, which need to be worked out. But there might be some overarching mission. Why am I doing this, whatever it is or whatever I’m planning to do?

I remember after attending some seminar which involved among other things clarifying mission, sitting down one day with a blank sheet of paper and writing “from nothing”. This was when I had already got clear that I wanted to facilitate others in their personal and  professional development. Somehow I still needed a mission statement. I had not long previously left teaching and therefore it was important for me to make concrete my future plans. Writing “from nothing” is like writing when you’ve no idea what to put down but just letting things emerge and trusting the process.

So out came my mission statement, which included such things as “My life purpose is…to help others…to know and be who they really are”. That just came out of nowhere. Very powerful. It blew me away at the time, and it still has a very powerful resonance for me now, 20 years later.

This is how this stuff can get really powerful, in a positive way. This is when you get aligned with the universe and trust what’s in you to speak.

No doubt you’ll meet people who are cynical about this. People can over time get disillusioned by such things, that can be a result of not embracing the issue and really taking it where you want it to go. This is really about getting deeply in touch with your life force, which in times like this is wanting to speak to you.

Posted on

Mid life crisis is a very creative time

What is often referred to as a “mid life crisis”, usually in semi-mocking or apologetic terms, is actually a very real experience for very many people. How well the occurence is embraced and how well people work through it can have fundamental and long-lasting results.

There’s a tendency in people’s thinking that life will continue very much as it is at present. We tend to not pay attention to subtle changes that are going on, whereby life is actually changing over the long term. Thus we tend to think very much in terms of life being as we have experienced it over our younger adult years. Yet we gradually age, our physiology shifts, our careers develop, our families get older, our relationships change, and people come into our lives and they leave. As we get older, for example, our parents die, although today that is probably for most when we are much older. The point here is that we aren’t necessarily expecting what can occur around the age of 40.

In my case, at 37 my marriage broke up, I became a single parent, between 37 and 40 I had moved 3 times, at 39 my mother died and by 40 my life felt dead. No wonder when I came back from my summer holidays that year the shock of 2 of my colleagues dying of cancer finally pushed me into doing serious work on myself. The buck stops here, I concluded.

This period in people’s lives is very existential, in the sense that we become aware of our mortality, that we are actually getting older and the arrival of the number 40, traditionally for a middle class person half way through their life (though not actually now), tends to push the question of ageing into one’s mind, if not overtly then at least in the background. Then we start to ask ourselves what we really want from life, what it’s all about, who are we, what does it mean, and so on. These questions don’t necessarily arise when we’re younger, when we feel more immortal!

In my case, I had begun exploring religion and spirituality, being aware that something was missing for me at that level. Soon after I broke up with my wife and moved house I went into the UK’s St Albans Cathedral during a choral matins and joined the congregation. Hearing the music (it was Mozart), I burst into tears, something I hadn’t so far allowed myself to do. All that grief around the break up came out, big time, and it left me wanting to explore my spiritual side.

It is important to stress that this transition period, for that it what it is, is very important, and potentially a huge contribution to one’s growth and one’s experience of life. The journey can result in a whole new discovery about oneself, one’s vision and direction, about relationship, about people, love and life, and what it’s all about, the development of meaning. It’s almost like, what do I want for the rest of my life? What can emerge can be a powerful contribution to what we then do and to the realisation and fulfillment of our life purpose.

So when people joke about it, what they are probably acknowledging through the disguise of humour is an awareness of how important this phase is.

Posted on

Having courage to follow your passion

A guest blog by Robin Wyatt, humanitarian, environment and travel photographer

I often write in this blog about the courage it takes in personal development, especially when you choose to follow your passion. So I thought it might be useful to read this.

What follows was posted by Robin Wyatt, first for the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP)

I recently wrote a guest blog post for an organisation I’m a proud member of, the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP). Its title was ‘Reflections on following one’s passion: My first 15 months in humanitarian photography’. You can either read it in full on their site here, and then explore further to understand what this organisation is all about, or carry on reading below.

Robin Wyatt is a humanitarian, environment and travel photographer with a background in social research for international development and a PhD in Indian Law and Sociology to boot. Now that he’s left the academic world behind to follow his passion, he seeks to communicate the beauty he sees in the Earth and humanity to inspire hope and empower agents of change.

humanitarian photographer following passion kenya sunday school 15309 Guest blog for the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP)

After eight months in Africa, touching on this vast continent’s North (Egypt), East (Kenya) and West (Senegal), I’ve headed back to where it all began: India. When I tell people “I lived in India for six years”, the phrase almost always meets with wonderment. In that sense, it’s a bit like the phrase, “I’m a humanitarian and travel photographer”. Few people respond to either of these ideas with blank looks, and that’s not just a product of moving in circles of like-minded people. I often don’t. Their reaction to living in – not just visiting – India seems to be like, “is that even possible?” and “wow, what all you must have seen!” As for my occupation, they quickly conclude that I’m living the dream.

Actually, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Back in March 2011, I wrote a journal entry entitled “So I decided to become a photographer”. I was still just setting about it, and it was a useful exercise in taking time to appreciate the magnitude but also the richly rewarding nature of this decision for myself. At the beginning, I could not be sure how this apparently huge gamble would pay off. All I knew was that I was thoroughly dissatisfied with what I’d been doing before and that the time had come to do something radical. I was not willing to go further down the wrong road, no matter how many years and how much energy I had invested in getting to where I was. Life is too short for feeling unfulfilled, and I was determined not to let my qualifications and experience hem me in any longer.

humanitarian photographer on retreat kerala 20348 Guest blog for the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP)

As a new year begins, I’m taking the opportunity for some more navel gazing. I admit that I have not made a fortune this year. While my income level is something I intend to improve as I move forward, one thing I know for certain is that the decision to follow my passion has been the best one I’ve ever taken. The night before I flew out of Africa, I was at a gathering of social change-makers in Dakar. I could only stay for one drink as I had to get up very early the next morning. As I prepared to leave, I was told in cheerful tones by the woman to my left that I should not go without telling everybody what my passion was. I was struck by how easily the answer rolled off my tongue. It felt so empowering, not only to know that I recognized my passion, but that I was also following it with every ounce of energy I could muster.

Photography! Humanitarian and environmental causes! Travel! People! Ok, that sounds like a lot of passions, not just one. But in my career, I’m clearly combining all of the above. Yes, I really am living the dream. And I’m increasingly taking moments out to recognize this, and be thankful for how lucky I am that I’m able to do this. Making a living from it is another matter, but I retain the intention that following my passion(s) in areas in which I have natural talent is bound to pay me rewards beyond mere fulfillment. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

humanitarian photographer senegal laamb wrestling making beautiful uplifting images 17354 Guest blog for the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP)

I’m struck by how many people I meet these days that are so clearly amazed by what I’m doing with my life now. I used to be more than a little upset at the age of 30 that although my CV suggested I had great clarity, I was actually wandering around in the wilderness with no clear sense of what I was doing in the world. I seemed to be meandering from post to post, with no idea of where this was taking me. It was ok when I was in my early 20s, but in my early 30s I looked around myself and saw most of my peers on career ladders, living in homes they’d arranged mortgages for, in (or on their way to) marriages and starting to have children. I have never wanted to get stuck in the nine-to-five rut, with 2.4 children (probably a dated statistic now), constantly battling to pay off loans and taking just two weeks holiday abroad each year, mostly spent recharging utterly spent batteries. Yet, while I was in the wilderness, it seemed that all these people at least knew what they wanted and were living their chosen lives. It’s only now that I’ve finally stepped onto my own ideal path that I see so clearly how utterly unfulfilled so many (most?) of these people actually are. It took a major personal crisis to set me straight. I’d like to think that it need not come so painfully.

So what’s new, a year (and a quarter, really) into this new career of mine? Is everything rosy now? Well, it’s very clearly a work in progress. When I started out, I wrote to many of the photographers I admired in my line of work for advice on treading this path. Perhaps I hoped there was a ready-made formula out there for me to follow. I was struck by how many took the time to write back, and by their encouraging words. I was warned that these people would see me as their competitor, and that they wouldn’t want to help me. Wrong. I felt welcomed into their community with open arms. To those of you who are reading this, a very warm thank you!

I did not always get the same advice from my brethren, especially on the matter of how to actually make a living from this ostensibly wonderful career. I was initially disheartened at the idea touted by several that owing to the changing nature of photography and its galloping competitiveness, I would surely have no choice but to earn most of my pennies shooting weddings, fashion, products, etc. Ugh. I’m not one of those photographers who derives great pleasure shooting just anything, as long as I have my hands on my gear. I need to feel the subject matter. Given that I don’t relate to the institution of marriage, I can’t say I really feel weddings. Given that I mostly live on the same constantly recycled set of five T-shirts that I squeeze into the rucksack I call ‘home’, I can’t really say I feel fashion. And given that I earnestly hope every Christmas and birthday that I’ll receive absolutely no presents (mostly because I’ll have to carry them in said home on my back!), I can’t claim to feel products.

humanitarian photographer egypt save the children tahrir square 2163 6960 Guest blog for the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP)

Each of these areas commands daily rates of, I don’t know, three or four times what I quote as a humanitarian photographer. Yet I’ve avoided each of them like the plague. People continue to tell me that I should box my passion into a limited number of hours each week and concentrate more on actually earning a meaningful salary. Yet I continue to resist, putting more and more hours into developing my vision and my craft and reaching out to potential (albeit less well-endowed) clients in my field to request a few minutes of my time to show them how what I’m lovingly cultivating can genuinely help them in their efforts to make a difference.

The other thing that many photographers suggested I do to ensure the coffers do not remain empty is teach. “I cannot teach” was something I would tell people time and again when they suggested that career path for me when I was stuck in my wilderness years. That’s what most people with PhDs do, right? I couldn’t think of anything worse. As a photographer now, I tend to ‘feel’ my way to good photographs; it’s not something I apply lots of rules and theories to. Seeing some of the preeminent travel, culture and ‘world’ photographers, as well as humanitarian photographers, leading photography workshops in some of the most beautiful and far-flung corners of the world, I felt somewhat envious of their (assumed) ability to teach and command the multi-thousand dollar fees that these courses entail. I continued to assume it was not for me.

Yet during the last few months, I have come to realize that I do in fact have something to offer to image-makers, and because it’s something I feel passionate about I’m sure I can impart it to others very effectively. I will therefore soon be starting to mentor on developing one’s vision in photography and using this to become a more effective visual communicator.

The first humanitarian photographer I met right after the Vipassana course in which I had the revelation that this was the career for me kept telling me, over and over, that “no matter what, never lose sight of your vision”. He didn’t really expand on what this meant, he just kept repeating it, earnestly. I knew I wanted to be a photographer, yet at that stage I didn’t even know what ‘vision’ meant!

It’s something I see time and again as youngsters write to me, full of admiration for what I do, accompanied by requests for tips on how to get started in this career. One such guy recently sent me a batch of his images, and I told him how much I admired certain specific ones. “Why do you think I like this one so much, but find that one rather less inspiring?”, I asked him. He was at a loss for how to reply, and offered me something on how he’d applied the Rule of Thirds in one but not the other. He was an engineer by training, a profession that is defined by rules, or rather ‘laws’, so I was not surprised. I quickly realised I had something to offer this young man. I could help him develop, nurture and own a vision that’s uniquely his. He is in Assam in India and I’ve been in Africa since we started exchanging e-mails, but thanks to the wonders of modern means of communication, I’ve been able to set him small projects, critique his work and help him progress in his passion from afar.

humanitarian photographer vision storytelling abinash mazumdar Guest blog for the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP)

He and one other (in Nepal) are currently my guinea pigs. Soon, I will open this service up to other individuals and organisations for a reasonable fee. I never thought it possible that I might one day teach. Yet in this, I have found a niche. Moreover, it’s a niche that I believe is important to exploit because the Global South needs more home-grown visual communicators. This is a part of capacity building, which has become an integral part of the international development agenda.

humanitarian photographer happiness joy children dancing senegal beach 18160 Guest blog for the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP)

So that’s where I’m at, 15 months in. My desire for some time out to consider where I’m at once again and to chart an approximate way forward has brought me to Southern Kerala, where I am now ‘on retreat’. I’m taking time away from everything to just ‘be’. Space is so essential for me in mentally decongesting; the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and the breeze that rustles through the palm trees put me in a wonderful zone of peace that allows clarity and ideas to flow so freely. Very quickly, I’ve found myself filling my purple book (the successor to the blue book of Goa) with resolutions, action plans, further unique ideas for income-generation, revised vision and mission statements, etc. It’s just wonderful! I’ve even got a plan now for transitioning from living out of my rucksack to having (affording!) a proper ‘home’. I’m very sure that 2012 will not be the year of disaster predicted by so many doomsayers. It’s going to be my best year yet. Cheers to following one’s passion!

To follow Robin and learn more about his work go to

(Robin is my older son)

Posted on

Suddenly waking up to the fact that you’re getting older

People come to significant change points at different times in their lives. For some it is when they past 30, others it’s 40 and that can feel like a major milestone. However you hear less perhaps of those passing 50 or 60, or later. Issues can arise around these age-related milestones that for one reason or another tilt one to re-evaluating one’s life and perhaps to tackling what is getting in the way for them.

What can often drive concern over what one is doing and what one is achieving is a hidden sense that time is running out. It’s the realisation, for true or false, that “there’s not so much time left” to do whatever it is that one is driven by. With age milestones, we are often brought closer to our own mortality. It’s not a subject most of us like to think about and given the fear of dying and death, it’s not surprising we avoid it. So, something that gets us to think about an aspect of it can be chilling.

This can also come up with the loss of a loved one, as well as the grief around their loss. Or the death of others not so close to us. We might ask ourselves what’s it all about, or what does life mean for us. And if the answer’s a bit negative, we’re likely to go looking for things that provide a stronger sense of purpose. Or we might look anew at our careers, or whatever else is important for us.

Accomplishment and success is a major driver for many people, the sense that you’ve achieved what you set out to do, but also for many it’s what you are doing is in line with your goals in life. Are you, in other words, “on purpose”?

As people get older, along with the sense of “time running out” is the concern over their capabilities and the willingness of society to accept their contribution. In an ageist environment like the UK, where there’s still age discrimination despite legislation, there’s obviously concern over employment. But behind that can also lie a question linked with self-belief. “How much longer can I do this?” The likelihood is that it’s a lot longer, but it’s the limiting belief that needs looking at. Then there’s the recession, which is hitting those over 50 and those under 25, with a sense of reduced opportunity. So, one may feel constrained or limited.

From a self awareness perspective, the point is to look at what is driving the sense of crisis or challenge that people so often experience with age-related milestones, one that can set in some time after the birthday champagne has been drunk.

These are classic reasons which bring people into self development and I often hear them voiced in my seminars.