The great Roman emperor and stoic Marcus Aurelius journaled in his Meditations how we might discover purpose. Aurelius life’s philosophies have influenced some of the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders, and inspired amazing feats of endurance and courage. We hear the term purpose mentioned every day in some capacity.
How is it that some people find and live their true meaning, while others see it as an ever-elusive search that can never be reached? What if I told you can find your purpose by answering these simple questions;
- What do you love to do?
- What inspires you to do these things you love?
- Do these things make any impact on others?
How easy was that exercise? The problem with finding your purpose is that most people don’t connect with why they’re here. The very question travels deep to your core. Where do you even begin to discover where the answer may be found? Let’s examine six of Aurelius’ insights on revealing purpose.
1. Your purpose is in front of you.
At this very moment. Not yesterday (it’s gone) not tomorrow (it’s yet to be) right now. Whatever moment you’re living today is your purpose. How? It’s the path you have chosen. You need to experience life as it happens for you with the decisions you made. Life is too short to live with regret. If you feel a burning desire to change your situation right now-take action and do it.
When you awake in the morning, do your thoughts wander that this is not your calling? How will you determine what your calling is? It’s time to start journaling. Take some time each day and write down three things that matter to you. Reflect on all your experiences, skills, learnings, teachings, and challenges you have faced over your life span.
Do you notice any patterns jumping off the page? Introspection requires honesty and willingness to make changes. No point in wishing for changes to happen. You need to create them. The first step is the most important. Add value to others.
2. Your purpose is to add value.
Aurelius states: “Men exist for the sake of one another”
How can you best utilize your passions in the service of others? Everyone has a unique story. All stories are not to same. However, there is real alignment when you start to share. How else could you find and connect with others? We all want to belong, find meaning and be happy. When you begin to show kindness, assist and help others reach their goals, you will be rewarded with the same. This is not some universal secret that no one can understand.
Why? You can be of assistance to someone every day through any of these simple actions:
- Make a phone call (yes we can still talk with our mouths).
- Cut your mother’s grass.
- Make your family dinner
- Show up for your kids
- Connect with friends via humor on WhatsApp
- Comment on people’s social media stories
- Hold the door for someone (who said chivalry was dead).
- Be present in conversations (listen).
- Volunteer at your kid’s sports team.
- Take part in challenges for good causes.
The list is endless and doesn’t require a huge amount of your time and energy. What it requires is a willingness to step out in the service of others. Now go lace those shoes up.
Wake yourself up to what’s important, to what actually matters in this life. Set aside your fears and failures, and stop obsessing over gaining success or avoiding pain, and finally show up as the human being you have always wanted to be. Not only to make a difference but to be that difference so that all people are impacted
~~ Gary John Bishop
3. Ask yourself-I’m I happy?
Now, this is deep. What are your thoughts telling you? Can you connect with your values, beliefs, and identity? These are the internal guides that leave you feeling fulfilled or uneasy when faced with decisions. You know when they’re not aligned as a deep feeling of nerves stirs in your stomach. Listen to what this is saying. Don’t fight against it. This is your center-point. Aligning with its message is crucial to your happiness.
What if the signals are saying things that don’t benefit me? You have just answered the question. Change them. Today. When you’re not happy you need to make adjustments to the daily routine. Why would you continue to fight what you know is not right for you? This is why making changes is so difficult for many.
Facing the dull pain that just won’t go away takes real self-awareness and determination. The result. Wander through the days finding encouragement in others who have yet to find their purpose. Or, get off your ass and take some action.
4. Just start.
What is it you want to do? Stop thinking about it and just go do it. It is that simple. Do you want to write? Write something. Paint? Do just that. Volunteer at an animal sanctuary? Give love to animals. Help the kid’s soccer team. Collect those cones. I could go on forever. The whole point is to move towards what makes you happy. When Covid-19 lay siege to the world in 2020 I started writing.
Not to become a columnist at Good Men Project I didn’t even know they existed. Sorry guys. I love all of you! But as a process of filling time. The rest of the journey is unfolding as you read this in April 2021. Now I get up every morning and write. What I write doesn’t matter. I just put a pen on paper. I don’t care if I write 5 words or 50. The fact is I do it consistently every morning. Small steps compound over time.
5. Purpose is meaningless without self-discipline.
Where the path is worth pursuing you need to take ownership. How? Let me give you a routine I use every morning starting at 5.01 am (non-conformist).
- Get up-Go downstairs
- Throw cold water on the face and drink one pint
- Do 2 minutes of breathing exercises
- State what I’m thankful for
- Listen to 5 minutes of positive music
- Write whatever is in my thoughts
- Read for 15 minutes
- Drink a cup of coffee
- Go out and walk 14 km
It doesn’t matter how I feel when I awake. As long as get downstairs the rest happens automatically. I devised this routine during Lockdown, and have yet to break it in one calendar year. Why? It means something to me. To find your purpose, you must find meaning. Some people call it you’re why. Not everyone has found their purpose. That’s why I’m here. Add value to one person every day.
He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures.
~~ Friedrich Nietzsche
6. Stop worrying about the outcome.
The death knell of all action is self-doubt and fear. What is your deepest fear? To stumble and fall while the whole world watches. You can’t fall if you don’t put yourself out there. That’s why I have so much respect for those that do. It’s all too easy to sit and pass judgment on others. Ignore negative people. They will find a problem in every solution. We can all do that. Pick your medium for communication. Falling is all part of learning.
How many times did you fall off your bike? It didn’t stop you from getting back on it. How about the driving test? Are you in your car now? What about the essay that was driving you insane? Well done on those marks you received. How about the second language you learned? I don’t speak French. I fear public speaking. Congratulations on the presentation you just gave.
Examine all those times when you defeated procrastination and achieved a result. An obstacle is a way to figure out another way. At the outset of this story, I used the words * Man’s search for meaning” Why is meaning so important? What are you here to do? We are all here for something.
The two most important days of your life-are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.
~~ Mark Twain
Your purpose changes as you move through life. There are many roles you will inhabit for specific periods;
Each one with its own set of rules, norms, and guiding principles aligned with your values and experiences at that given time. You cannot chase your purpose if you don’t know what it is. Focus on what makes you light up without even thinking about it. Here’s how you start. The rest is over to you. Time to create your legacy.
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