What is your life’s purpose?
To be a self-aware person who gives back. To talk to people about self-awareness and giving back. To practice what I preach.
How are you living your purpose?
Every thought and decision involves self-awareness—especially when it comes to taking care of myself, my marriage, my three daughters. I talk about self-awareness on Zen Parenting Radio, I write books about it, I run classes and workshops about it, I teach college students about self-awareness, I work individually with women and girls, and my husband and I created a Zen Parenting Conference in Chicago—a live event focused on self-understanding and compassionate living.
How did you find your purpose?
As a kid, I was hyper-interested in people, emotions, and human behavior—so much so that I tended to absorb other people’s feelings and pain (commonly referred to as being an empath). In adulthood, I became an elementary school teacher, a clinical social worker, a parent coach, and a yoga instructor, and over time I learned to support others who were struggling rather than absorb their struggle. I tend to focus on emotional and spiritual awakening, but I love western theory and research, too.
I started listening to Wayne Dyer and Stephen Covey tapes in my late teens and I started reading Marianne Williamson’s books in my 20s. I’ve continued to incessantly read self-help and non-fiction, and I especially love books that challenge my thinking or describe something abstract in a new and more attainable way. I value different viewpoints, especially when the common threads are illuminated. These threads teach us the truth about humanity; they demonstrate that we are all in this together.
Books are great for stretching the mind, but it’s just information—true wisdom comes from inside of us. A-ha moments are just resonating moments, times when something we already know is validated. That’s why I know I’m not teaching anything new—it’s all been written, said, and done before—but I like to remind people of their innate wisdom, to remind them that they already know what’s right and true. This is the key to success. And when I say success, I don’t mean career or financial, but emotional success. Emotional intelligence is the key to a joyful and connected life. Great sleep, loving relationships, and a calm mind come from self-understanding and living with integrity.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
I teach in the Sociology Department at Dominican University and one of my favorite assignments is to have students write about their childhood joys. Our kid-selves offer us big clues to what we love most and what we are here to do. It may not be a perfect match, meaning every kid who sang into a brush while looking in the mirror may not be destined to be a rock star, but maybe it’s a clue to speak in front of people, entertain, or teach groups. And then we take this innate joy and channel it into helping others and becoming a force for good.
If we follow what we love it will lead to our deeper purpose. And it’s not always comfortable or convenient; following what I love has led to pain, depression, questioning outdated beliefs, and disappointing others. But it’s also led to emotional understanding, self-trust, freedom, and greater intimacy with myself and those I love.
What resources do you recommend?
If you are interested in self-awareness, empathy, or mindfulness, I definitely recommend our Zen Parenting Radio podcast. We’ve been around for almost 7 years and we have over 380 podcasts. We’ve discussed so much over the years, and we’ve grown up a lot, too. We use humor and pop culture to explain difficult concepts and we keep up with the latest research and social issues so we can apply self-awareness to real-life situations.
My most recent book, Living What You Want Your Kids to Learn: The Power of Self-Aware Parenting is a great resource for parents who are interested in connected and compassionate parenting—this doesn’t mean permissive parenting, it means living what we want them to learn. If we want our kids to be kind, they need to learn kind from us. If we want our kids to be confident, we need to demonstrate what confidence looks like. And it’s not perfect; we are humans having human experiences. We make mistakes, get angry, have bad days. All fine, all normal. And when we fall down or make poor choices, we get to show our kids how to stand up and start again.
Other book recommendations:
Gift from the Sea – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead – Tara Mohr
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
A Woman’s Worth – Marianne Williamson
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life – Thich Nhat Hanh
Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World – Mary Pipher
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brené Brown
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion – Elle Luna
The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children – Dr. Shefali Tsabary
Soul to Soul Parenting: A Guide to Raising a Spiritually Conscious Family – Annie Burnside
Cathy Cassani Adams, LCSW, CPC is a self-awareness expert focused on parenting and the personal empowerment of women and young girls. She’s a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Parent Coach, Certified Elementary School Teacher, Certified Yoga Teacher, and she’s a professor in the Sociology Department at Dominican University. Her most recent book, Living What You Want Your Kids to Learn: The Power of Self-Aware Parenting won a Nautilus Award, National Indie Excellence Award, and an International Book Award. For six years she and her husband have hosted Zen Parenting Radio, a top-ten kids and family podcast on iTunes. Cathy is a sought-after speaker and advocate for women and girls, she created/facilitated a self-awareness program for preadolescent girls called Be U, and she was a Child and Family Therapist/Clinical Educator at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. She is mom to three girls, ages 14, 12, and 9.