“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” Dostoyevsky
If I were to ask you to define your purpose in one sentence, could you?
Congratulations if you can. You are in the minority.
Most of us understand that living a fulfilled life requires this mysterious quality of having purpose.
I think the concept is confusing to most people. I never really understood it. I got it, but I didn’t.
I knew that it meant having a reason to live; something that drove me to live enthusiastically.
I knew that ‘purpose’ was a motivator that was supposed to go beyond life’s simple pleasures, like eating a cream-filled doughnut or a cheeky nap in the park.
Was that even true?
Being self-employed, staying driven is something I think about every day. It feels precarious to have no one tell me what to do next.
I could never figure out how to define what purpose is. If I captured the idea in a motivating sentence, this would be transient, as I would change it soon after.
As even the genius Dostoyevsky showed, finding a reason to live, beyond surviving, is not easy.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it” -Gautama Buddha
The concept of purpose sounds heavy. That’s why it’s so hard to define. It’s like the idea that we have a ‘calling’, and there is some greater, ethereal plan for us — that we are guided by fate.
But I don’t think we are.
There is one thing I think is more exciting than the idea of fate, which is that we design our own fates.
We can choose to live passively, or we can create something that makes us come alive.
We can allow life to choose what to do with us, or we can place a bet on ourselves. We can slip by unnoticed, or we can choose to exert our own unique energy.
We have the freedom to choose.
Nobody will notice the first time we make something and nervously hit send. But when we decide to create something, over and over again and we do it with dignity, eventually someone will turn their head.
In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a central idea in the book is this:
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
This is true. And I like to take the idea even further. When you choose to do something and you want it, and you commit to it and you own it like it’s already yours, the universe will respond.
Have you ever had a moment where you said something weird, but rather than apologise or hide in shame, you just owned it. You held your ground with a hidden grimace. You showed confidence, even if it was awkward.
Then what happened?
People laughed with you. People respected your ownership of what you said, even if it wasn’t ‘appropriate’.
The universe responds to boldness in your decisions like this, even if it feels weird.
You shape reality by deciding and being, not by trying and waiting.
“If you have a strong purpose in life, you don’t have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there.” Roy T. Bennett
Put out the crackling energy of creativity, and it will start knocking into other molecules. If you ignite enough of it, you will start heating up a scratch, which will open up into a stream, and then a river.
But you have to create that energy in the first place. You need to decide what you want and how you want your life to be.
This requires a vision as clear as you can make it. And the visions worth creating are never going to come easily.
You design this vision and then you start moving to bring it into existence.
The way I do this is by writing out the things I’m committed to every day.
I write everything in the present, as though I am already living those visions and I speak them after I physically write them.
5000 people buy and read my books each month who love them and share them with their friends.
By writing them on a notepad, I’m not just thinking, but committing physiologically. By saying them in the present, there is no disconnect between who I am now and who I want to become. I live it today.
Each day, I move closer to aligning more closely to those visions.
I re-write a list of about seven individual ‘visions’ twice a day if I can. I usually look forward to doing this, because I like to reinforce my desired vision daily.
I include visions for money, how many books I sell a month, what my dream house looks like, and the number of people that are helped by my art and writing.
I don’t go nuts because one vision will trickle down to improving other things, and fewer means focus. I also remind myself to have patience; to not get too attached to seeing results immediately. I have faith they will show up because I keep my visions front of mind.
By writing them down constantly, I absorb the ideas. It is the repetition that is most important here.
“What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.” — Margaret Atwood
Jim Carey became a famous actor not because he wrote that cheque to himself, but because he saw it every time he opened his wallet and used the reminder to take another step forward.
Each day I live those realities with a little more colour.
And this is what gives me purpose.
There is no single definition of purpose I am living for right now. I don’t doubt that some people have found that one thing that makes them unstoppable, but this is where it can start.
My visions generally stay constant but there is room for ideas to evolve, and new visions to be exchanged for old ones.
I sometimes change my mind, as is expected, but the general sense of purpose remains.
This is how I live with purpose, without really having a clue.