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Article for reprint:
“LIFE PURPOSE.” Do those two little words throw you into anxiety?
They upset me at one time. I felt frustrated and inadequate because I hadn’t figured it out for myself. I feared I was failing at life because I wasn’t doing ‘the right thing.’
The personal growth industry has created such a mystique around life purpose. Subconsciously, I think I expected to have a flash of insight that would reveal to me exactly what I’m here for. With the angels singing in celebration, I would clearly see my path in life. From then on, there would be no stopping me -- my life would be on purpose, powerful and perfect!
A fairy tale. But it’s one that brings people grief. So I’d like to share my current understanding of how life purpose expresses itself.
Perhaps the biggest fantasy is that life purpose means ‘work.’ I believed my life purpose would read like a job description. It would explain how I was to earn my living. Without doubt, some people’s careers reflect their life purpose. For most of us, though, it’s not that clearly defined.
After years of agonizing over what I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing, I whooped with joy the day I read Eckhart Tolle’s perspective. He says the purpose of everyone’s life is to raise consciousness. Okay! That’s clear enough to me – my purpose is to grow as a human being, to expand my understanding of myself and of life.
I personally believe that we grow in two very different ways. One, by pursuing what most excites us, what makes us happy. And two, by being willing to explore the situations that bring us pain. Both pathways – going deeper and reaching higher – lead us to be more authentic human beings. By more authentic, I mean more free of the masks we hide behind and more able to naturally express the unique essence of who we are.
If life purpose involves how I grow to be more authentic, it embraces every aspect of my life. It’s not just about work, about what I do. It’s just as much about how I am as a human being.
Furthermore, this suggests that our life purpose evolves as we do. We can’t ever expect to have a path clearly laid out for us. We’re being called to forge a new trail for ourselves every moment of every day. Our success in life depends on our willingness to allow life to unfold in its own magical way. As we open to receive what life brings, moment by moment, the possibilities are endless! Would I have it any other way? I don’t think so!
So I’ve stopped agonizing about defining any unique life purpose label. Instead, I now stop and reflect on where I find purpose (small ‘p’) in life right now. What brings me joy and meaning? What do I feel inspired to do now? Who do I feel inspired to be? What situation do I now want to heal? When I follow these signposts, I believe I’m naturally on purpose.
It may be that when I’m older, I’ll be able to look back at my life and identify a specific life lesson or gift that gave a unique theme to my existence. For now, it’s easier to stay focused on the moment and the opportunities that are now presenting themselves to me.
If you’re having challenges identifying what brings you meaning, then by all means, work through a life purpose process to begin to get clues. But I suggest that this is just the starting point. Your continued fulfilment in life will depend on you continually expanding your scope through natural expression, moment by moment.
Whenever I lose my sense of purpose, I can get back on track with these two questions:
As I am learning to be present and open to the yearnings of my heart, my purpose in life looks after itself.
John and Patrice Robson
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