3 Steps To Uncovering Meaning via the Purpose-Driven Life
March is almost upon us! Where are you in terms of accomplishing your 2022 goals? At this time of year, a whole lot of folks avoid thinking about goals. More solitary time has also prodded a lot of us to contemplate a more purpose-driven life. The question I have for you is: Are you on track? Or did you squander your January fresh start?
If you squandered it, I’d bet at some level, a part of you knows there’s a reason why you’ve been procrastinating on taking action. Two things I want to offer you.
Two perspectives for doubling down on your goals
You know this already, but the brain can get funky when left to its own devices. So I’ll say it anyway. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not lazy, unmotivated, or lacking willpower. Willpower, by the way, is a useless word, but that’s for another discussion if you care for my two cents.
Imperfection is normal
Despite what conventional wisdom often says, your mind is functioning the way it’s supposed to. The primitive part of your human brain defaults to keeping you alive. Since you’re already alive and well at this point, it’s programmed to treat your plans to thrive rather than just survive (or any other change you’re contemplating) as an existential threat!
No, I’m not kidding even you’re thinking that means no one is normal.
This programming shows up as an automatic shift of your energy at the moment of decision when you have to put the work in. If you’re not onto yourself, your amazing brain therefore efficiently shifts your attention to something it’s already used to doing. And I do mean efficient. It’s just one of the reasons our species is still around. Next thing you know, you could be on episode 5 of whatever Netflix series, wondering who’s mind-controlling you. Without a purpose-driven life, honestly, we don’t stand a chance.
Even if you’ve raised your level of consciousness, and you recognize when this happens within yourself, there’s still a problem. Without preparing beforehand with the necessary inner-work, delving into goal-oriented activities instead of your favorite procrastinating habit isn’t as simple as some people make it out to be.
Your starting point is arbitrary
The second thing I want to offer you is that March 1st is the beginning of the year that ends February 28th, 2023. Cut your lost time by re-starting in March. That’s way better than losing another 10 months! You may have noticed that my last post was related to this topic, but dated back in June 2021. I won’t bore you with the details. Stuff happens. So March 2022 it is!
But how do you safeguard against the same thing happening again? That’s what this and the next post are all about. Excuse my being a little meta here, but I just know I’m not the only one wading through this gunk. I’m recommending you start with a higher-level approach that can change everything. You’re going to start the process of aligning everyday activities with a purpose-driven life. Set the intention.
Importance of mindset
April of 2020 could have been called “The month from hell,” for me. One incident that stuck in my mind is this question from a friend.
“How can you be so upbeat when so many things around you are going wrong?” I had just brought him up to date with my Dad passing due to the virus. I didn’t expect he’d interpret my words this way. The very moment he posed the question, however, I recognized that without a curated growth mindset, most sane people would interpret what I had just told him pretty much the same way he did.
Time’s passed, and I’ve knocked out some goals, fell a bit short on others, and haven’t even started on the biggest one I regard as my life purpose. You can say I’ve got some work to do on myself, but the way I see it, you only suffer through all this mental anguish when you dare to chase after a dream you can only accomplish by being a way better version of yourself. We should give ourselves props for that alone.
Still, the purpose thing has been a big deal because it’s been the motivating factor for curating an indomitable growth mindset. Read on if you’re interested in a secular, practical approach to a purpose-driven life.
Mindset via purpose
Truth is, I was ecstatic about what I’d told my friend I’d been doing with my time. Dad passed at the onset of the pandemic, and no one was able to travel to NY for a proper burial. Still, I hadn’t even for a single minute seen it as something gone wrong. Sure we all grieved. It wasn’t a walk in the park. He’d been past his 94th birthday, with underlying health challenges. Everyone just assumed we needed to spend as much time as we could with him. And we all did our best during his last 10 years or so.
Knowing that Dad had been at peace with his own mortality was also comforting. Still, expecting my friend to magically understand all that… and that certain sacrifices I’d consciously made were just potholes on a road… was a bridge too far. That night, I made a journal entry about how thankful I was for my inner life. The intricacies of transforming your mindset may be deliberate, but it’s truly an amazing gift nevertheless.
What was the difference between my friend’s inner world and my purpose-driven life? There’s a whole list, but the one I want to talk about here has to do with life-purpose. I felt like I was on the cusp of making giant strides. Sure, I still have a long way to go, and it hasn’t been a straight line thus far. But I was making daily progress. In a word, I’d cultivated a sense of purpose that drove my thinking, my actions, and the energy I jumped out of bed with every morning.
Purpose by intuition
Have you given much thought to your purpose? Are you on that path? How do you even approach something that sounds so grand as a “purpose-driven life?”
Determining purpose can be one of the hardest questions we as humans try to answer. There are many ways to look at this, and they aren’t all useful to everyone. Let’s go through a step-by-step process, exploring your feelings and options, and by the end, you should have a fairly solid tool you can immediately employ to get you started.
Here are three big-picture steps you can use to decide on your purpose:
- Appreciating the power of intention
- Clarifying your core values
Appreciating the Power of Intention
“The greatest power we have is the power of choice. It is an actual fact, that if you have been groping under unhappiness, you can choose to be joyous, instead. And, by effort, lift yourself into joy. If you tend to be fearful, you can overcome that misery by choosing to have courage. The whole trend and the quality of anyone’s life is determined by the choices that are made”.Norman vincent Peale
It’s not always that easy, but conscious intention may be the mind’s most impactful activity. The second you fully commit to a worthwhile goal, you literally start growing a different brain. Keep it up, and completing the transformation is just a matter of time. Neuroscience explains how a heartfelt proclamation to yourself does all that. By making a choice, the proclamation of your desires bumps your powerful subconscious into gear like a primed supercomputer.
I’m not saying it’s automatic after that point. You have to keep making that choice over and over again down the road. I’m also not saying that you can’t, or shouldn’t change your mind. Shifting course happens more often than not after you start taking consistent action.
But the act of choosing a purpose-driven life, even if that only entails identifying how you want to feel inside your body, is impactful. It gives your subconscious mind an upgraded operating system to construct on the fly, while simultaneously shifting to it. Isn’t that amazing? Nothing man-made even comes close.
Indecision vs purpose-driven living
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with NOT choosing a purpose. I’ve known folks who violently oppose the very concept of being “designed or specially gifted” for some purpose. For me, it just makes practical sense, if nothing else. Maybe that’s why I just get where Marcus Aurelius and a few of the other stoics were coming from. Most are content to live life without thinking about it too deeply. Just deal with whatever comes instead of making conscious choices around a truly purposeful life. Let’s call that “un-decision.”
Indecision, on the other hand, only creates frustration and anxiety while leaving you in a state of confusion about what it is you want. Often, the underlying fear is choosing the wrong purpose. Here’s the thing. It’s more common mistake is to waste time and energy in indecision, overthinking it, than in choosing one that doesn’t fit. Self-correcting a little further down the road is often the way to go. It’s only a little bit further because taking action will give you useful feedback. Trust that you’ll know what to do at that point.
What’s also important is the realization that quite likely, if you don’t decide on a purpose, you’ll be serving someone else’s by default. It’s just how the world works. Is it important to you that you’re the one making the choices that dictate how you spend your most productive and valuable hours? Is the allocation of those hours aligned with what your heart feels are your purest desires?
Write it all down
Grab a notebook and make a list of things that interest you; things you’ve always enjoyed, made you feel better, and inspired you to surge ahead even in the face of obstacles. Are you the artsy or ultra-creative type? Does being outdoors in nature refresh you? What about being near large bodies of water? Do you enjoy helping others? Is there inspiration and growth in making a direct positive impact on other people’s lives? Where do you fall within the two extremes of extroverted people-person, vs. introverted abstract-thinker?
Whatever it is that interests you, write it down and answer these questions:
- What thing do you love to do?
- What is it that you love in this thing, and why?
- How could you eventually do this for money, and make a living out of it?
Creating Your Underlying Principle
The next step is to examine the list you just made and be curious if there is any recurring theme. Maybe, it’s the contribution that keeps coming up, or an effect to seek or give love, or helping your parents cope with old age. Whatever it is, try to identify the central theme of the things you love to do, and try to put it in a short and precise statement. This will be your ‘Mission Statement’. It may even be a quote by a famous person, or a philosophy that has influenced you. Of course, as time passes, this statement will evolve, but its core will remain the same. Now, use this to draft out the Mission Statement for a purpose-driven life. Make it as brief as you possibly can… definitely not more than a short sentence.
The Passion vs Purpose Conundrum
“Follow your passion” is a common piece of advice I still hear folks advising others. Another you might have heard is “purpose is better than passion,” while others adjust with “purpose fuels passion.”
The underlying principle in your life passions
The final step in this journey is to map your path to your ultimate purpose and to begin implementing changes that help to align your daily life with your underlying purpose. By making these little changes in your lifestyle, you’ll start living this principle out each day. It might take a few days, weeks, or even a few months, but this underlying principle will level up your intentionality and awareness. At its essence, this is is the dynamo driving a purpose-driven life; you show up differently, with crazy energy and enthusiasm you only admired in others previously.
If you realize that you love being in nature, include that in planning your holidays and leisure time. Maybe an outing with the children could be enough to recoup your energy. If you discovered you enjoy helping those in need, start to look for opportunities to volunteer in your local or favorite online communities. On the other hand, you might even want to change your job or start a new business that’s more in line with your mission.
So there you have it! By following along with the steps outlined above, you’ll be on your way to living a purpose-driven life full of meaning. High productivity or peak performance becomes icing on the cake. There’s also a very good chance having your own heartfelt mission in life will eliminate the false starts with your resolutions and annual goals. Remember:
You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.sTEVE mARABOLI
For better or worse, one of the many things Covid’s done is to act as a soul-searching catalyst for many of us. I’ll be revisiting purpose in even further depth next week. How do you stay grounded in a world where humanity often seems to be in self-destruct mode? Hit me up in the comments below or social media with questions, suggestions, clarifications…or whatever.