“My purpose is to spread my enthusiasm and passion for living to empower others.”
I uncovered this personal mission during a weeklong intensive seminar years ago. And I find that when I’m living my life “on purpose,” everything flows effortlessly for me!
If I’m able to empower others along these lines, it must mean I’m feeling this way. And when I’m feeling this way, I’m on top of my game – and making my greatest contribution.
Have you ever asked yourself, “What is the purpose of my life?” You don’t need to be a philosopher to ponder this age-old question. It comes up for each of us at different times in our lives.
This past week I spent a nostalgic day with my sister, brother and mother who had traveled from Montana and the Washington, DC areas. Well all met to close down an old family homestead – my grandparents’ house.
Our family went there every Sunday to visit while I was growing up, and all of the images came flooding back to me – the potted geraniums on the wraparound porch with their “fuzzy” leaves, the smell of fried apples wafting through the house and my grandfather’s chair – the site of many stories handed down through the generations.
I also visited the street I grew up on – where I learned to ride a bike, play hopscotch and drive a car. A wonderful treat was a long visit with our old neighbors and special family friends who still live there. These walks down memory lane gave me the opportunity to rewind the years.
As a general rule, our early years are spent going to school, working, establishing our independence, starting a job and, possibly, a family. Then the “school of hard knocks” presents us with some life challenges, and we may start to ask ourselves this question repeatedly. Unfortunately, life doesn’t slow down for us to stop and ponder this in isolation.
Busy, Busy, Busy
We’re so busy playing different roles (daughter, son, employee, mother, father, boss, friend) that it’s hard to discern our authentic selves.
When we’re faced with extremely difficult life challenges it’s hard to see the good. That’s why it’s helpful to start with the smallest of things and build from there
Discovering Your Life’s Purpose
So, how do you start to uncover your life’s purpose? Here are a few helpful hints.
Where do you excel? What do you love to do? What comes easily for you? Just examine these questions without attaching the need to make a living from doing such things.
You may be surprised at the nuggets you uncover. The classic book, “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow,” is a great testament to this.
We all have unique gifts to share. Something that comes so easily for you may be very difficult for someone else. We often discount such talents, although when we look closer we may find those qualities are exactly part of our purpose.
Another helpful resource is a book by Carol Adrienne, “The Purpose of Your Life Experiential Guide.” It’s a workbook of exercises and examples to help guide readers toward defining their mission in life and fulfilling it. If you’ll think back to earlier times in your life, you may find that you’ve gotten inklings along the way.
A Powerful Lens
Our purpose provides us with our general connection to the world around us. It establishes us as a part of the larger picture. Once we define our purpose, anything that happens to us is viewed from that lens and appears more meaningful, according to author Arnold Patent. It no longer occurs as an isolated event.
Benjamin Franklin developed 12 qualities in The Art of Virtue that spoke of the way he intended to live his life. And he advocated the use of two questions each day:
Morning question: “What good shall I do this day?”
Evening question: “What good have I done today?”
Ups and Downs
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we intend. If a day has been so rough that all you can do is give thanks that it’s over, then do that. I have a saying underneath the glass top on my nightstand that says, “Today was a good day.” It’s usually the last thing I see before I turn out the light, and it helps me to reflect on the positive things that did happen that day.
Rewriting Your Script
Even when we’ve been victims of unfortunate circumstances, we still have a choice of whether to stay in that role. It certainly may not be the script we would have written for ourselves.
The biggest life lessons, though, come from the hardest falls. Are there lessons you could apply to current life situations? Is there wisdom to share?
Flow Chart of Life
Our reality starts with our thoughts. When we think a thought over and over – especially if we attach strong emotion to it – it becomes a belief. Our beliefs drive our behaviors – which result in our circumstances.
So often we try to change the circumstances in our lives without first changing our thoughts. I’ve developed a “Flow Chart of Life” graphic that illustrates this process (and it’s suitable for refrigerator framing!) If you’d like a copy, just go to my website (www.lindaarnold.org) and download the chart from the “Freebies” section.
As psychologist James Hillman noted, “You are born with a character. It is given, a gift, as the old stories say, from the guardians upon your birth. Each person enters the world called.”
What is your calling? Are you living your life on purpose?