“When you see what you’re here for, the world begins to mirror your purpose in a magical way. It’s almost as if you suddenly find yourself on a stage in a play that was written expressly for you.” – Betty Sue Flowers
The Tyranny of Time
In his book, The Power of Purpose, author Richard J. Leider offers readers an insightful story for finding one’s purpose through action:
“A young man who was searching for his life’s purpose wrote to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He said he had discussed the purpose question with every wise person he had come across, had read every book on purpose he could find and had travelled to faraway places to seek the guidance of some of the greatest spiritual teachers. However, no one had ever been able to tell him what his purpose was.
So he asked the rabbi, “Can you tell me what my purpose in life is?”
Rabbi Schneerson responded, “By the time you figure out what your mission is, you will have no time to fulfil it.”
This simple story demonstrates the growing plight of many to search for their purpose outside of themselves, while all along it remains within. It was Gandhi who reminded us that your purpose is defined by enhancing the lives of others, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
In a slightly different vein, author Steven Pressfield in his acclaimed book, The War of Art, offers us an alternative perspective on seeking purpose. He cleverly highlights the inherent struggle to break down the barriers of resistance, which is a common experience that accompanies the creative process, “Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts happening. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.”
Your life’s purpose is found through trial and effort. Purpose is found in action, not inaction. I intentionally titled this article ‘finding’ your life purpose, since I believe it to be an ongoing process throughout one’s life. Your purpose may vary and serve others in numerous ways as you evolve.
Be mindful of solely attaching your purpose to your career however, as evident when one is made redundant or the company downsizes. Many people describe feelings of emptiness following an unexpected change in their profession, since they have unwittingly connected their purpose to their career.
Moreover, the notion that you have ONE purpose in life remains a misconception undeserving of your attention. There are numerous stories of successful people who have found innumerable callings throughout their life.
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan
In Service to Others
In his book, The Undefeated Mind, Dr Alex Lickerman recounts the story of a woman, who after nursing her sick husband, succeeds in finding meaning and purpose by dedicating herself to the terminally ill, following his death. While suffering bouts of depression and guilt in the wake of his loss, the strain imposed upon her caring for him in the final moments of his life were too much to bear.
Upon Dr Lickerman’s advice to devote herself to the terminally ill, she eventually finds her way out of her depressive state. Similarly, she also reconciles her feelings of guilt at not having done enough for him while he was still alive.
It is never too late to uncover your purpose. Some people discover their purpose while young, as in Beethoven who was destined for musical greatness from a tender young age. Others mature into their purpose, like Gandhi who at the age of sixty one led a nation-wide protest against British imposed taxes. His stance against authority continued well into his late seventies prior to his assassination in 1948 at the age of seventy eight.
Find Your Calling
Equally, there are a number of people who have been called to their purpose, while others accidentally uncover their purpose when they least expect it. There is no prevailing formula for finding one’s purpose. The key factor lies in the commitment to action and perseverance.
One must remain open to inner guidance – by learning to trust your intuition. Seek the advice of those who have traversed the path before you by studying the steps they took to uncover their purpose. As well-intentioned as family members endeavour to be, soliciting their advice contrary to your views may work against you in time.
Family members who have not pursued their dreams may dissuade you from following yours. They’ll recite any number of reasons why earning an honest living is safe, since it delivers food on the table and money in the bank. Yet playing it safe does not award you a prize when you are not conforming to your highest values.
Consequently a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes reminds us that time is constantly against us, as the opening story to this article makes reference to, “Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out.”
Do not be lured into the premise that ‘someday’ you will take action, since that day may never come. I am drawn to the admonition by the late Randy Pausch whose famous YouTube video and same-titled book, The Last Lecture, captivated the hearts and minds of millions of people the world over.
In closing, I leave you with a quote from Randy Pausch’s book which underlines the battle to overcome time through inspired action, “I think the only advice I can give you on how to live your life well is, first off, remember… it’s not the things we do in life that we regret on our deathbed, it is the things we do not.”