Review of The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope

I heard Cope give a short talk on a Sounds True YouTube video and there was something about his clarity and organization of his presentation that I had a strong intuition that he’d probably write a good book.  I looked him up and saw the title of this one and it fit what I was looking for at the time.

The basic structure of the book was divided into these sections of the 4 pillars of Dharma (life’s work):

  1. Look to your Dharma
  2. Do it full out
  3. Let go of the fruits
  4. Turn it over the God

Throughout the book Cope interweaves an exchange from the Bhagavad Gita between Krishna and Arjuna on the method of living a fulfilled life, and stories from various historical figures and famous artists who lived “lit up” lives, including Jane Goodall, Susan B Anthony, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Tubman, John Keats, Beethoven, Robert Frost, Gandi, and others.  He also includes some stories from his own life and lives of people he has known, and does a good job explaining and supporting his points, which include:

  1. You can’t, and shouldn’t try, to do whatever you want.  You should try to “bring forth” what is naturally in you.  Whether we can bring forth our purpose has a large bearing on our well-being and aliveness.
  2. Our trials, challenging situations (e.g. hardships, health, etc) and past wounds are often what lead to, or inform, what we are meant to do.
  3. Choosing and committing to a path is better than staying in limbo too long.
  4. Focusing on our purpose and dedicating ourselves to it with deliberate practice is necessary to really do our life’s work.
  5. Being attached to the outcome of our labors prevents excellence.
  6. Serving and bettering ourselves won’t lead to our life’s work, serving the world will.

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