- Illustration by Annie Internicola
Beth Kempton wants you to love your life. She herself is very good at doing just that—at living her life like a great adventure. The British entrepreneur and mother of two has traveled from the Arctic to Antarctica to Africa, hosted her own TV show in Japan, and hobnobbed with international soccer stars. "Friends tell me, all these crazy things happen to you. You meet bizarre people, you've been to amazing places. They wonder where I get the money, but it's not about privilege. It's about my attitude to life. How one thing leads to another, making connections, being open, being brave," says Kempton, who has also climbed high up the corporate ladder—only to tear it all down and reinvent herself. It was during this particular transformation that she created Do What You Love (DWYL), the name of her company as well as her signature online course designed to nudge people out of ruts, incite self-exploration, and effect the changes necessary to realize their fully blossomed selves.
As a new year emerges and a blank calendar beckons with possibility and potential, this carpe diem approach to life catches the attention of the change-maker that lives within us all. Most of us have heard that New Year's resolutions never work, casting a shimmer of doubt and naïveté on our best efforts to blaze a new trail. Yet a host of resources exist to help us on our way, from live online courses like Kempton's that connect people around the world (many of her students live in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) to life coaches ready to be tapped for one-on-one sessions in person or by phone. They are available, they say, to help us listen deeply, to stir up our most secret desires and goals so we can perhaps make a shift in a fresh direction—hopefully, toward a truer version of ourselves.
Journeying Inward, with an Escort
Kempton knows how scary it can be to make an about-face with your life. "Just the words do what you love can sound intimidating," she says. So her five-week DWYL course, with its mix of practical and right-brain exercises, gets you there in circuitous ways. "People [taking the course] can expect to ask themselves all kinds of questions that they've never asked themselves before, sometimes thinking, where is this going? There are so many different points of interest, of experience, of knowledge—things that bring you alive. The tools in the course help you make those connections. Your brain then does the work, the synapses fire, and it's incredible the ideas that come up, that you'd never get to if you were thinking in a linear way." Some of it involves remembering the way we used to be—where the creative spark has lived for us, whether it was in the garden or by the sea, or on a canvas or a blank page. Adds Kempton, "The quest for the what is sometimes the most interesting thing. You don't know what your dream is? That's a reason to be curious. That's a reason to take yourself on adventures and go discover it."
The outcomes vary wildly: After the course, Kempton has seen students get divorced, propose marriage, change jobs, start their own businesses, move to a different continent, become teachers of whatever it is that they love, or turn their hobby into a full-blown mortgage-paying career. One student was an IT consultant who nursed a dream of being a musician. "Through a simple time-budgeting exercise, he realized that if he negotiated Fridays off he could use that time in his recording studio with no pressure, because he was still earning good money, and get back to his music 20 percent of the week," says Kempton. "He's recorded his first album. Really simple solution, but it's changed his life." Another student was so limited by chronic back pain that she hardly left her house; during the course she remembered the sense of adventure she'd once had and started taking baby steps toward that again, driving to a beautiful place and just being there, even if she couldn't walk very far. Now she's building an online business so that she can get off sick leave and work from home.
"Many people get a lot out of the psychological side of the courses, how to be more brave and bold," notes Kempton. That was the case for Ruth Husain, a stay-at-home mother from outside London who had taken five years away from the workforce to have children. "I had lost a lot of confidence since I stopped working, and lost my identity really, so I wanted to reconnect with myself and try to regain some courage and confidence," she says. "I'm not exaggerating when I say [DWYL] has been like intensive therapy. It has enabled me to change my whole outlook on life. I have a few ideas for the future now that I am genuinely excited about. Even if they don't take off, I'm not afraid of failing anymore."