So often we live our lives drifting, getting by, trying to find comfort and pleasure, doing what we need to do, doing things out of habit, getting lost in the busywork, going through the motions, getting caught up in our thoughts, getting lost in distractions, trying to stick to something but then reverting to habitual patterns, dealing with one crisis after another, putting out fires and sweeping up messes, dealing tiredness and stress and depression and anxiety, trying to keep our heads above water, trying to make ends meet, falling behind and getting overwhelmed, struggling and not wanting to face our problems, getting mired in a pit of never-ending tasks, losing our days and weeks because they all blend together.
This is the human condition, and it is beautiful.
But what would it be like to live with purpose? To have meaning in the work that we do, and to structure our lives with that purpose in mind, and with the most meaningful relationships and activities?
What would it be like to live on purpose?
To have intention to our actions, have a purpose to drive us, to put everything we have into everything we do?
The more we live on purpose and do our best in every single thing we do, the more meaningful our lives will be.
Getting Clarity on Your PurposeNot everyone is walking around saying, “Yep, I know exactly what my purpose is in life!” In fact, most people don’t ask the question, and if they do, they might not believe there is such a thing as purpose.
So how do we figure out that purpose? It’s a matter of creating an inquiry, and then listening. Then putting it into action. This is worth doing, by the way, even if you feel you have some idea of your purpose.
- Start asking some questions (inquiry) that opens us to thinking about what is meaningful to us. See the next section. This is about opening to inquiry and seeing what comes up.
- Start listening. This is the part that many people skip — they might ask the questions but then not really feel they’re coming up with meaningful answers. That’s because we have to listen. In silence and solitude. So go out in nature, and walk in silence (no music or podcasts or audiobooks). Or sit in silence. Ask the questions below. Listen to what comes up. Listen some more. Ask some more. It’s like having a dialog with God — or the universe, or your inner consciousness. Ask and listen. Speak and see what comes out.
- Take action to get clarity. Many people make the mistake of thinking they need clarity before they can put it into action, but that’s actually the reverse of how it works. You get an idea but no real clarity — then you try it out and see how it works. Does it feel meaningful? Which parts of it scare you? What do you need to change in order to make it happen? You might find that it’s not for you and you need to try something else out. Or that something related to your original idea is actually closer to your purpose. It’s an exploration, and through this exploration you start to get some clarity.
The Purpose InquiryThere’s no right way to do this process of inquiry, except to turn toward the questions and the possibilities.
- What people have you helped in your work made the work feel more meaningful than usual?
- What people have problems that really speak to your heart, that move you to want to help?
- What have you done in your life that felt most meaningful? (It doesn’t have to be around work.)
- What books have you read, videos watched, courses taken … that really lit you up?
- When have you worked with people who really lit you up?
- Who has inspired you the most? Who have you inspired?
Living on PurposeOnce you have a little clarity (you don’t need very much), you can take some action.
Help one person.
Help another, then another.
Write about what you learned helping them.
Create something for someone.
Give that creation to a few others.
Be a part of something. Start something new.
Each day, ask what one thing you could do to live your purpose out.
Eventually, you start to have a bigger vision for what you can do with this purpose. Challenge yourself to make it even bigger.
- Bring your bigger vision into smaller steps until you have a purposeful task to do today.
- Structure your life so that you are creating the space for the purpose.
- Bring practices to your life that help you work with the habitual patterns that get in the way of purposeful work (patterns like procrastination, distraction, over-committing, etc.).
- Structure your life to support this purposeful work meditation, eating, fitness, reading to get you to the most clear, inspired place you can get to.
- Do every single activity the absolute best you can. This doesn’t mean exhausting yourself, but doing each thing with full intention and care, instead of “half” doing it as many of us are prone to doing.