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How Do I Find My Purpose[ Jul 17, 2014 ] [ by Wendy Dolber ]
If you are looking for your purpose, you’re in good company. I Googled the question: What is my purpose? - and came up with a whopping 1 billion 230 million responses. 1 billion 230 million. Wow. That’s almost 18% of the world’s population talking about how to find our life’s purpose. There’s no end of help with books, workshops, quizzes, tests, songs, worksheets, meditations and much more from a vast array of perspectives.
It’s not surprising that in the goal-oriented, purpose-driven world we live in, individuals would be searching for purpose. Purpose helps us find our place in the world. Purpose helps to order our thinking. When we are in touch with our purposes, large and small, we can create opportunities to immerse ourselves in activities that challenge and delight us.
Purpose is our own personal mission statement complete with a to do list that flows from our values and desires. Defining our purpose helps us to move ahead. It’s our compass if you will. At the very least, it gives us something to do. All those activities of daily living – getting out of bed, brushing our teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, eating and drinking, going to work, connecting with others, etc, etc – have a purpose beyond their narrow scope. We can get in touch with that instantly by simply asking ourselves, why am I getting up, why am I getting dressed, why am I eating breakfast? What motivates me? What am I really doing all this for?
Now, often when people talk about finding their purpose, they are talking about something beyond the everyday activities of daily life. They are talking about something that gives life meaning, which makes them feel that they matter, that engages them in a way that nothing else does. (Let’s just stop here to ponder – why is any of this a question in the first place?) Often they are really talking about something that inspires their own growth and development and connects them to the world. A calling if you will. Some may be on a grand scale. I want to save the planet. I want to save lives. I want to find a cure for cancer. I want to educate the world on global warming. I want to end poverty, abuse to women and children, war, you name it. Some may be on a smaller scale; I want to design beautiful affordable clothes, a better exercise program, the coolest computer on the shelf. Or it may be very personal – I want to be happy; I want to be at ease with myself; I want to be more loving. We may have multiple purposes, which shift and change as we allow it.
All well and good.
However, here’s another way to look at it --
I think the most important and liberating things to know about purpose, are first, that it is a concept that many, but not all, people agree is important – a shared belief if you will. The state of being in purpose is not a natural law. It is not a state of being that all people aspire to or care about. It is not necessary, natural or a sign of mental health, spiritual wholeness or intelligence. It is not something that exists outside of us, waiting to be discovered and acted upon. Rather, the expression of our purpose is a compilation of our desires, which well up from the mind spring of our happiest self. Or to put it even more simply. It is the answer to the question: What do I want to do? Or even more simply, what do I want?
That’s the way I love to think about it. And thinking about this way brings the question right back where it is most meaningful – to the heart of your own desires, instead of some societal construct that we are trying to fit into.
CHOOSING YOUR PURPOSE
Next, whatever you choose as your purpose, and you do ultimately choose it, it is what speaks to you – what awakens and energizes you – what you decide to care about. Just as only we can experience our own happiness – we are the only ones who can experience the energy of being in touch with purpose, also known as what you want.
How do you feel about knowing that you can choose any purpose you want? What questions does that bring up for you?
How do you feel about equating purpose with desires? What does that bring up?
Could it really be that simple?
Why not? And who says that the mystery and majesty of your own desires is simple?!
I have chosen the purpose, among other things, to help others to be happy by teaching people what I learned from Bruce Di Marsico, creator of the Option Method. I spend a lot of time and energy working from that purpose. It is very important to me, meaning I really like that I want that. I am very passionate about it. Also meaning I love that I have this purpose/desire. And it is important enough that I keep it alive year after year.
But I also know that I chose this purpose/or chose to act upon this desire (even though sometimes it feels as if it chose me) and that there may come a time when I choose otherwise. And that will be fine with me. Why? Because my happiness doesn’t depend on it. Because my desires are my guiding influence – desires which bubble up constantly from my happy state of being.
SO WHY IS PURPOSE SUCH A MYSTERY?
When I think about the idea of purpose, it reminds me a concept in U.S. Congress called a “Christmas tree bill.” Wikipedia explains it well: “The traditional Christmas tree bill begins as a minor bill that passes the House. Senators are not limited by the germaneness rule present in the House and are able to add unrelated amendments to the House bill to provide benefits to special interest groups and campaign contributors. Usually the amendments provide tax benefits or favorable trade treatments. Many Christmas tree bills are enacted in the crush of legislation as Congress prepares to adjourn for the Christmas holidays.”
When I think of these bills, I imagine a Christmas tree whose boughs are about to break from the weight of so many ornaments. Let’s just add one more thing and one more thing to make it better. To appeal to everyone’s needs. How does this relate to our idea of purpose? Just that we take a simple question like what do I want or what do I want to do? And load it up with so many shoulds, musts, obligations, rules, superstitions, fears, needs, - that the original question gets lost in the shuffle. We may even forget what we set out to do – simply decide what we want to do. Think about how you feel when you put this kind of pressure on yourself in any part of your life. Are you likely to go forward with enthusiasm or do you end up hanging back under the weight of self imposed pressure?
And like the folks in Congress, we do this because we think it is a good idea. Any idea what that might be?
Do you worry about purpose?
So perhaps the reason why purpose is even a question is that the whole idea of purpose is fraught with beliefs. For example -
We should have a purpose
We should know our purpose
If we don’t we are rudderless and adrift
If we are rudderless and adrift, we’ll be hopeless and insecure
If we don’t fulfill our purpose, our life has no meaning
And to put even more pressure on --
There are good purposes and bad purposes
And one I hear a lot with my clients and students: I should fulfill the purpose laid out for me by my parents.
These beliefs, which are often versions of the same fear, stunt our vision and limit our imagination. The fear is that if we don’t do what we should – we will be unhappy. That is what is meant by “should” – doing or not doing the thing that allows us to feel good. Doing what we should is not the same thing as doing what we want. It is what we say to ourselves when we don’t believe that doing what we want is enough. So when we are in the “should” state, we are not a champion of our desires. And when we are not a champion of our desires, it is very difficult to know or act upon what we want. It’s very hard to connect to what we want and to feel a sense of purpose.
LOVE YOUR DESIRES AND STOP WORRYING ABOUT PURPOSE
Think of it this way – The more we love our desires, the less we worry about purpose.
This is so important; I’m going to say it again. The more we love our desires, the less we worry about purpose. So again, for me, what I experience is that in loving my desires, purpose is really not a question. I never ask myself what my purpose is. I always ask myself, what do I want? And remember what I said before. There’s a key to why this works. I know that everything I want comes from my happiness and that happiness is my guiding influence. We could call that a purpose but that really wouldn’t be true. Because happiness is who I am. Why do I need a purpose to be who I am? I don’t and neither do you. Now, understand that I am absolutely not saying that when I get what I want, I am happy. I am saying that I am already happy and my desires all flow from that.
So, my purpose comes to me through the desires that bubble up within me every day, but I choose what to act upon and what to table. Not being attached to the outcome, I know I make it up as I go along. Everything that I am so passionate about today may change tomorrow. I love being passionate and working towards goals. It’s fun. It gives me something to do. It pays the bills. I’m good at it, by the way. But I am not married to my chosen purposes, even though they fill me with excitement and contentment. Now, there’s a trick to this way of thinking. You have to love your desires. Because connecting desires to values to action is where the sense of purpose comes from. And guess what? As you let go of unhappiness and allow yourself to experience more and more happiness, you will be more in touch with what you want and don’t want. Loving our desires is the natural consequence of being a happy person and we must love our desires to be happy. How’s that for circular logic?! As Bruce Di Marsico, creator of The Option Method, put it –
“Happiness is loving that we love what we love.”
Do you love what you love? If not, why not?
And, “Happiness is loving that we don’t love what we don’t love.”
How about that? Do you give yourself the freedom to not be attracted to who and what you are not attracted to?
If you believe you are stuck in a purposeless state. If you are searching for your purpose. If you have lost your purpose. If you are pursuing a purpose that doesn’t resonate with you. Repeat after me: Happiness first. Attend to your happiness first and the question of purpose will resolve itself. As will every other question that confounds you.
So, if purpose is an issue for you, look at all the unhappiness in your life and change the way you think about it. For me, I learned the use the Option Method to eliminate unhappiness in my life by examining my beliefs and judgments about what I need to be happy. Anyone can do this if they are willing to take responsibility for their own unhappiness and embrace the idea that happiness is who we are. Of course, working with an Option Method teacher/student is the perfect way to get started.
Here are some questions to get you started. The purpose of these questions to help you free yourself of worry, concern, anxiety or any other bad feeling related to the question of purpose. These are 4 simple Option Method questions which are designed to help you get down to the beliefs behind your feelings. Take your time with this. Use “What do you mean?” often and frequently to further clarify what you are saying. Be curious as you listen. Use whatever questions naturally pop into your mind to understand more and more about your beliefs.
It is helpful to write down your answers or record it aloud. Get together with a friend and ask them to ask you the questions. Try it with each other.
How do you feel when you think about purpose?
What do you mean?
If you don’t feel good, how do you feel?
What do you mean?
What is there about thinking about purpose that doesn’t feel good to you?
What do you mean?
What would you be afraid would happen if you didn’t feel bad [use your own word]?
What do you mean?
What did asking these questions bring up for you? Can you identify beliefs you have connected to feeling bad? When these beliefs are revealed, it is a perfect opportunity to stop and focus on the belief. Allow yourself to know that you have been believing it and feel what that feels like. Then, question whether you still believe it right now. In the moment. As who you are, not who you were or who you will be.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE BIRDS
Consider this. We don’t have to find our purpose any more than the birds do. Ever watch a bird for a few minutes? They are constant motion machines of perching, pecking, flying, ruffling feathers, chirping, hopping, protecting, building nests, feeding their young, and on and on. Do you think they spend a moment wondering what they should be doing? What direction they should be flying in? Which birdbath to splash around in? Birds just do what they do, in the moment. Now, obviously this analogy will break down very quickly if you start talking about survival instinct, so let’s not go there. My point is this: Don’t allow the quest for purpose to take you out of the moment and out of touch with your simple desires, which drive you forth in life as inexorably as our friend, the robin’s, blueprint for life. Our purpose – in the form of desires – is within us every minute of our lives. The more you love your desires, the happier you will be. The happier you are, the more your desires reflect your happiness. The more your desires reflect your happiness, the more your life will be an effortless flow of being in tune with yourself.
How’s that for purpose?!
To hear more about the quest for purpose, including a sample Option Method dialogue, listen to thepodcast version of this article.