So often we go through life living the way other people tell us to.
Our parents. Our teachers. Our coaches. Our significant others. Our friends. Our bosses. Our colleagues.
Yet none of these people are us. Our purpose in life isn’t what other people tell us. Often times it’s not the things we tell ourselves.
Why? Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that what other people have told us is really us.
We’ve learned to listen to the buzz and the hype and not our hearts. We’ve lost touch with ourselves because we’ve blanketed ourselves in the myth of convention and expectation, in the wisdom of the masses.
So how do we find ourselves. How do we turn off the buzz and the hype and the voices in our heads.
You have to seclude yourself. Shut off the noise. Close the blinds. Throw the phone out the window. Throw what other people have to say out the window. Cut yourself loose and bury yourself in silence.
In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
Only in silence can we hear ourselves breathe. Only in silence can we hear ourselves sing.
So set yourself up without others. It may take a day, it may take a week of silence. Cause at first it’s never silent. At first our heads are filled with the clamor of other peoples voices, they are full of the voices we’ve listened to for years. Even our own.
Write down everything they say. Type it out. Make it into notes. Collage it. The goal is to purge them all. To do so you need to put them into the world. So they get out of your head.
Then answer this question: what is my purpose in life?
In cosmic terms, it doesn’t matter. We are small and insignificant in the universe.
In biological terms, it’s to procreate then die. It’s that simple.
Yet we don’t want it that simple. We want it to matter more than a simple biological imperative.
Life matters because we live it. What we do matters because it is all we have.
In perspective knowing that, knowing that you are going to die, that you are insignificant in the world helps to understand your purpose.
It gives you meaning because whether you make a million dollars in your lifetime, bereak a world record, or world work in a mail room it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
So you might as well do what you damn well love.
Now go back to that question. What’s your purpose in life.
Not your goals.
Not your career.
Here’s an exercise that I’ve taken from Steve Pavlina:
- Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
- Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
- Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
- Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.
You’ll most likely end up using lofty abstract language to describe this.
But that’s okay because:
Fulfilling your purpose is never possible.
It’s not about success in a yes or no check box.
It isn’t a wake-up one day and count to ten and poof you’ve got your purpose. Finding your purpose isn’t a ten step program, it’s an infinite step program.
Each step is often small. Minuscule even. The leaps and bounds that get touted as sparks of genius or inspiration are an accumulation of hours of minuscule steps both forwards and back. They’re the moment you can put what you’ve been feeling for years into words.
It’s about living as an experience, a process, which aligns with your very beliefs as a person. With your core self. With your soul. Or ego. Or heart or whatever word you choose to bandy about. But all the same it is what you would create a revolution about. It is your purpose.
What is your purpose? How did you go about finding it? How long did it take you?
Flickr Photo courtesy of M Kuhn.