So many people, and I surely used to be one of them, are struggling with finding their purpose these days. But what if they are trying too hard? Looking back, I certainly would overthink it to death before giving up to give into a life of routine, boredom and eventual frustration, only to start again. It was like trying to build a house that didn’t want to be built only to realize I already lived in it. So when it finally hit me, I realized that all along the answer was closer to me than the contents of my next inhale.
I will share with you how I discovered it, or rather what were the two breakthrough tools that “illuminated” my tired brain, but first I want to quote a remarkable statement. According to an American bestselling author, coach and healer, Carolyn Myss, there is no one in the world who doesn’t have a path or a purpose in life, both of which are essentially the same thing. “If you have life, you have purpose,” she says (and yes, as much as I don’t use it often, I Tweeted this a couple of days ago). She goes on to say that it is the same at all scales, every atom, every tree, every blade of grass has a purpose that arises from its essence. It cannot be otherwise.
So, before you go around scratching your head thinking about what to do with your life, change your question and ask yourself — what’s my essence? What am I about? The Greeks had it right when they carved the worlds in stone at the Temple of Delphi — KNOW THYSELF. It all starts there.
Now, onto the more pragmatic things. It took me over a decade and about a thousand exercises to hone my self-awareness. But most of the things I did to try to get there were offshoots that lead to nowhere. The best gems were these two: Tama Kieves’ millionaire exercise and Julia Cameron’s morning pages. What are they?
The first one is a bit of a genie-in-a-bottle I whip up when I meet strangers and the conversation flows. Once the exchange enters a deeper territory I ask them THE question. It goes like this — if you had a million, ten million, whatever the sum you desire that in your mind would free you from having to ever work another day in your life — what would you do with your time? There. Ask yourself that. Better, have a pen and paper ready and go to town.
I’ll tell you what my answer was and remains to this day — travel and write (the more selfish– nothing wrong with selfish, by the way — or as I prefer to say hermit-ish stuff) and then for the rest of my time hang out with the people I love. That’s it. Simple. Your purpose therefore is what you will do when you no longer need to do anything. It’s what remains when the demands are stripped and pure desire remains. Guess what I’ve been working on the last five years, since the day I figured it out? Ya. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work immediately. And even though at times the practice of writing a book would become daunting and would leave me exhausted, I persevered because it was the only thing I kept staying excited about for the long haul. So yes, I love the answers people give me when I ask them the millionaire question. Usually their answers are very simple and when they finally say it, something that is less threatening to tell a stranger, their face lights up. It’s an awesome sight to behold. It’s like they come alive. Most never before considered even imagining that possibly. But the possibility is real and it starts in your head. Plant the seed. Ask the question and have fun exploring the answers that arise.
The morning pages is a practice, a daily practice to unload your brain, which like a garbage container, please excuse the choice of analogy, but it gets darn close, gets filled with stuff, most of which is useless static and repetitive regurgitation of things past and mostly no longer relevant. If you have a regular meditation practice, you may skip this step. Or not because actually it can be really fun and reveal things to you that hours of stillness never will. You guessed it — morning pages are my form of mediation. But it has to be done longhand. No typing allowed!
Every morning, as I settle down with a steaming mug of brew cradled in one hand, the other one is busy scribbling all the nonsense that is on my mind right this very second. Try it; you will be amazed what goes on inside so automatically, you no longer even notice! The exercise accomplishes two things — it sheds that static and also slows down the thinking, as writing is slower than thinking. Watching as you write will reveal how chaotic thinking actually is, with fragmented thoughts like loose particles slamming into each other. When the thinking slows, something magical occurs — the thoughts start to arrange into novel strings and there are even pauses between them, like periods in a sentence. Sigh. Yes, it can be really refreshing, and even illuminating, like a ray of sunshine in foggy London. After you do this for some time, you will find clues to what it is you were born here to do. But this time you won’t have to read between the lines. It will be on a page, black on white, or blue on yellow, right in front of you.
Happy Purpose Hunting!