Expoloring Your Life’s Purpose

Have you struggled to find your life purpose, why you are here? The idea that life has personally purpose is not dedicated to only a chosen few and it does not necessarily equate with your daily job. Everyone is special in some way or many ways, everyone has merit, and everyone has purpose – yes even and especially you. In the words of a dear friend, “the beautiful light inside of you is meant to be a beacon of hope to others. You are here for a very important reason.”

A study conducted among adults over the age of 50 living in the UK found that the factor most closely tied to authentic happiness is a person’s belief that their life has purpose. Living a life of purpose provides fundamental life presence and authenticity which leads to less anxiety about the direction of life. That feeling that your life has purpose has the ability to provide resilience and the motivation to move forward, because it’s a calling. Who can resist a calling?

Your life purpose may be simple or complex. It can be specific or broad. There are those that believe purpose is related passion, that thing that moves your heart strings. Here is an exercise that you might find helpful to determine your life purpose. The more open you are to this process, the more successful you will be at getting a result and the less time it will take to achieve that result. Pray for guidance before you begin.

Finding your life purpose in 20 minutes:

  1. Find a blank sheet of paper or open an electronic document where you can type.
  2. Write at the top: What is my true purpose in life?
  3. Then write an answer, any answer that pops into your head. It doesn’t even have to be a complete sentence, just write something. A short phrase is fine.
  4. Now simply continue repeating step 3, writing more things, until what you write makes you cry. It could take many pages to get there, yet continue to this end.

The idea is that when you are overcome with emotion, with passion, you’ve found it. To some people this exercise will make sense, to others it may appear trivial. Sometimes it’s best not to analyze too much and just go for it. If you persist, you will find an answer that moves your heart. As you progress, some answers may be similar seem repeated. That’s fine. After 50 or 100 answers, you may get distracted, want to give up, or may even get aggravated. Push past these feeling and continue on. You may feel emotion about certain answers, yet they may not bring tears. Keep track of those. Put a star by them because they may be a link to the final answer. Try to do this exercise alone and in a quiet environment. If you find that your mind is not in the right place to begin, put the paper away for a later time when your heart is open it.

A potential final answer might be, “to live consciously and courageously a life of compassion to awaken a great spirit within others, to leave the world a better place.” This could be considered a broad purpose. How might someone make this happen?

After about 20 minutes, this is what I arrived at: “to live authentically, capturing the essence and beauty of life, spreading the loveliest parts of it to those I encounter, thereby bringing to them peace, love, and understanding.” Sounds good right? I arrived at what seems a beautiful life mission, but even so, there were no tears. Is this my life purpose or what I want to be my life purpose?

The epiphany came a few weeks later when a major breakthrough occurred. As I sat with my coffee early one morning, I opened my laptop and read the introduction to a book I was writing. Upon reading the last sentence, not only were there tears, it made me sob. That was it. My purpose is to write for you. The exercise opened the door to the awakening. Thank you for taking part in my passion and life purpose. Now it’s your turn to give it a try, to explore your life purpose.

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” ~Bishop T.D. Jakes

Thought Awareness

Your thinking and how you analyze the world around you has evolved, mostly unconsciously, over your lifetime. Your training and experiences have shaped your worldview and because no two people experience the same life, how you think is distinct to you. This is a good reason not to be judgmental of others; you have not lived the same experiences as they have. Their belief system, and yours, will be unique to personal experience.

The average person has up to 60,000 thoughts per day and according to research conducted by the National Science Foundation, 80% of those thoughts could be negative and 95% repetitive. Most people don’t monitor their thoughts in an effort to improved them. If we are not diligent with our thinking, thoughts can easily run amuck, especially when they are habitual. It’s hard to stop a snowball rolling downhill and when you continue to think those habitually negative thoughts long enough, they become a belief.

In order to break the cycle of the negative monkey mind, you must be diligent with identifying those thoughts. You need to basically stalk yourself. Pay attention to the thoughts you think and begin to question the origin, i.e., “where did that thought come from?” Ask yourself if your beliefs are justified and valid. Keep a journal. I have a friend whose father has always been very consistent about telling her how stupid she is. As she began to accept it, the thought became part of her subconscious mind. It soon grew to become a belief, a very harmful belief that is absolutely not true. So every time she tells herself how stupid she is, she needs to correct herself saying something like, “that untrue thought came from my dad. I am smart about many things.” So keep in mind that the negative thoughts you think might not have originated from you but from someone else that has influenced you, and the sooner that you replace those thoughts with a positive thought, the better.

Although thoughts, as well as the stalking of thoughts, can be painful. The practice can teach you a great many things about yourself and those around you. Growth requires self-examination. “Even though you may not actually like the feelings of inner disturbance that may come from asking key questions, you must be able to sit quietly with yourself and face them if you want to see where they come from. Once you can face your disturbances, you will realize that there may be a layer of pain seated deep in the core of your heart. This pain is so uncomfortable, so challenging, and so destructive to the individual self, that your entire life has been spent trying to avoid it. Your entire personality is built upon ways of being, thinking, acting, and believing that were developed to avoid pain. Real growth takes place when you finally decide to deal with the pain.” From The Tethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.

Exercise: Bounce technique

When experiencing a negative thought, bounce it away with a positive thought instead. Simply replace the thought with a better feeling thought. Draw a line down the center of a tablet or piece of paper, creating two columns. When you catch yourself having a negative thought, write it in the left column. Then draw an arrow leading to the right column and re-write the statement in a positive version. This will assist you in shifting your thoughts. Whenever you catch yourself in the left column, replace the thought with the right column. For example:

Words are a byproduct of our thoughts, and words, in themselves, hold a great deal of power. Pay attention to the words you use and how you use them. Never allow yourself to speak unkindly to yourself or about yourself. You may think Self-deprecation to be funny, but is it really? In reality, it’s a way of reprimanding yourself by belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging your identity. Doing so does not honor you. As they say, to thine own self be true. There is nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts. To be in joy, you need to accept yourself in a loving manner. Choose your words carefully and not just when speaking about yourself, but also when speaking about others. It could be said that we receive in return that which we choose to put out into the world, so choose your words and thoughts wisely.

Even so, the seas of life will surely rock your boat at times, but you can choose your response to the storms. You are not the bad feelings nor thoughts that you get in your head. You are not the storms you walk through. You are the person experiencing the storm. The storm may knock you off your feet, but you are strong. You will rise again. Either the weather will change, you will find shelter, or you will look the storm in the eye with resilience and fortitude, because you know that storm cannot hold you back indefinitely. When you can keep a healthy perspective, your wrath exceeds that of any storm, so be mindful of your thoughts and choose wisely.

“No thought lives in your head rent-free. Each thought you have will either be an investment or a cost.” ~ T. Harv Eker

Embrace Gratitude

Embrace an attitude of Gratitude (Gratitude = Joy = More Gratitude).

Perhaps you’ve heard the famous Aesop’s tale, “Androcles and the Lion.” Androcles was a man who after escaping enslavement, stumbles upon a lion in the forest. With a thorn stuck in his paw, Androcles discovers the lion to be in great pain, so he removes it for him. Later, both he and the Lion are captured and Androcles is sentenced to be thrown into the lion’s den. Even though the lion was ravenous, he merely licked his friend’s hand in greeting. The emperor was so astonished by the action, he set them both free. Not only is gratitude high on the emotional scale, it seems it has the power to launch miracles

 According to Zig Ziglar, gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.  It’s simply impossible to have a negative thought while in gratitude. When you commit to appreciation, your life becomes richer and more satisfying. We can focus on the benefits of receiving gratitude from others, and/or we can focus on the significance of cultivating gratitude ourselves. Gratitude has the ability to increase our joy by pushing away those negative thoughts that can derail us.

Researchers have found that gratitude actually changes the neural structures of the brain, providing positive feelings of happiness and contentment. Oprah may have said it best when she said, “Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.

George Mason University’s Center for Advancement of Well-Being looked at joy over a period of time and found that gratitude predicted increased future joy. Somewhat surprisingly, joy also predicted increases in gratitude over time, suggesting an intriguing upward spiral between gratitude and joy. In other words, it looks like gratitude increases joy, but in turn joy also increases gratitude; and this “cycle of goodness” might be important to our happiness. Joy also predicted increases in happiness over time, supporting the idea that joy is important to subjective well-being.

According to Positive Psychology, the benefits of gratitude are endless. They encompass a 3-legged stool, so to speak. The psychological leg of gratitude includes positive emotions and thought, the physical leg provides a stronger immune system, better sleep, less pain, and optimum blood pressure. The Social leg of benefits include stronger interpersonal relationships, better communication, and increased likeability.

Gratitude can be easily practiced and can take on many forms including:

  • A Written note to another
  • A Vocal Expression to another
  •  A Prayer of thanksgiving
  • An Expression to self (thoughts & written word (journaling)) Those that keep a gratitude journal, experience deeper, more meaningful lives. Can you set time aside each day?

One of the best times to practice gratitude is as soon as you wake from sleep. True love might just be the first thought you have in the morning, and the last thought you have before bed. In the first few minutes of the day, for example, the mind is very receptive to influence, with the least amount of resistance. So before you jump out of bed, consider a gratitude rant, either silent or aloud. Simply be mindful of the wonderful things and people in your life and savor the sweetness of as many things as you can muster. In doing so, you can yearn to experience the positive feelings that make you smile and expand the heart. Just a few minutes of thankful thinking can improve your mood for the entire day.

Other ways to embrace an attitude of gratitude include:

  • Showing more enthusiasm when communicating
  • Noticing the beauty in nature
  • Smiling often
  • Volunteering your time/skills
  • Leave someone a larger tip than usual
  • Making a gratitude collage of pictures

And just as we can be thankful for the ease of life, we can also be thankful for adversity, whether it is self-induced or dropped in our lap. Adversity can enlarge our world view and pull us into unknown territory. It’s much more difficult to learn, grow, and expand when we stay enchanted within our comfort zone. Challenges provide enormous opportunity for resilience, improved self-esteem, and fortitude. We don’t just go through the obstacles; we grow through them.

Although life can surely throw us a curve ball when we least expect it, shifting to a spirit of gratitude aligns us with the positive energy needed to bear any burden and persevere through any storm. Happiness and gratitude are closely linked. No matter where you might be on the emotional scale, gratitude will move you upwards towards joy and happiness.  Perhaps it’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, but rather, gratitude that brings us happiness.

What Is Love?

Do you recall the first time that you fell in love? How did it feel? Were you walking on clouds? The experience of falling in love can bring about a mixture of many emotions. You may have felt:

Butterflies dancing in your tummy

Anxiousness at seeing them again

A yearning to plan a future with them.

So is love a feeling, or is it a choice? If a choice, does choosing to love require action? Is love an action verb? Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “love is not enough.” How can love not be enough?

To love and be loved is precious, but if we do not show love, is it still love?

I heard a story recently, told by a man, we’ll call him Joe, who felt called to visit a guitar store while returning to his hotel room, after picking up some food. He didn’t need a guitar, yet he felt called to make the stop. Upon arrival he found a kid jamming on an electric guitar. Joe reached out to the boy and started a conversation with him. The kid opened up to Joe. He told him about his drug addiction and how his father had recently committed suicide. Joe displayed so much love for him that the kid wants him to meet his girlfriend and daughter who are shopping next door. They walk next door and Joe prays with the family, then he blesses them by paying for all the items purchased. They are blown away by Joe’s act of compassion. It was such a blessing to them and there seemed no strings attached. The family thought there surely must be a catch.

As they depart, the kid returns to the guitar store to play yet another guitar. It seemed a coping mechanism. Joe then learns from the family that this kid has not talked to any man since his father took his own life. And a year prior, the kid had sold his guitar to bail himself out of jail, due to a drug violation. The kid had stopped using drugs at that point, but now, no longer had an instrument to play. Joe was so moved by what he heard, that he then went back into the guitar store and bought the kid a guitar, replacing what was lost. There was no judgment, no negative opinion, and he didn’t simply hand him cash, he showed him love. Had this family ever felt such love?

In our society we tend to identify ourselves by what we do for a living.  Joe identifies himself as “a guy that loves people.” We should all aspire to such selfless action. What would our world be like with more Joes in it?  I encourage you, as you move through your day, to not just feel love for others, but to BE love. Perhaps we should not focus so much on our standard of living, but more on our standard of giving.

If you are old enough to remember Mister Rogers, you may recall this quote, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.

Genuine love should not be based on words alone or false deeds, but grounded on authentic actions. Love doesn’t just trust or hope, but it completes specific acts for the purpose of accomplishing those things for which that are trusted and hoped.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18-19

I would encourage you to look for ways to give the gift of love to someone over the coming week. Look for opportunities to give to someone in need.  It doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be a simple service. Here are some ideas:

  • Open/hold the door for someone
  • Be gracious: say thank you, look people in the eye, be sincere
  • Make something and give it away
  • To those that want to be seen, SEE THEM.
  • To those that want to be heard, HEAR THEM.
  • Run an errand for the elderly.

To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care. Surely we are capable of that. Happiness can be found when we take the opportunity to bless others.

 If you feel troubled, instead of getting MAD about an event or circumstance, go MAD. Make A Difference for someone else. You will be amazed at how it makes you feel. We can serve others, not out of ego, but out of getting in touch with our true nature, which is love. You were made to love. Not only are you love, you are loved, loving, and lovable … always.

The giver is bigger than the receiver. If you want to be large, larger than life, learn to Give. Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.

The importance of giving, blessing others can never be over emphasized because there’s always joy in giving. Learn to make someone happy by acts of giving.”

~ Katharine Hepburn

(from Everything Good in the World)

Through the Eyes of Love

There is a saying, “Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up!” When I first heard this, it struck me very deeply. It was a reminder that no matter where you find someone, they are never beneath you. They are your fellow man and should be treated as such. No one was born any differently than any other person on this planet. The only difference between you and them is the circumstance. I bet if you asked any child what they want to be when they grow up, they probably didn’t answer, “I want to be homeless” or “I want to be addicted to drugs” Experiences and wounds have led people to where they are. When we think about our fellow human beings in this frame of mind, it’s easy to reach out and help them up. So do not look past an opportunity to help someone in need, because you never know when you might need help yourself. You’ll be glad you did it to the least of these. 

What Would You Do?

Sometimes life will present us with circumstances that require the use of contemplative discernment. In such a case, do we do what is easy and what seems to provide us with the greatest reward, or do we do what is right, knowing that the consequences may not be in our favor?

There is a video circulating of an interaction between a police officer and a suspect, as filmed from the officer’s vehicle webcam. The clip begins after the suspect has been placed in handcuffs with his arms behind his back. Shortly thereafter, the police officer begins to choke on his gum. His hand then moves to his throat and he begins to gasp for air. He backs away from the car, falls on his back, and continues gasping, with legs flailing about.

The suspect, seemingly uncomfortable, begins glancing about. There seems no one else in the vicinity. With the officer continuing to gasp for air, the suspect moves to his side and yells to the officer, “throw me your keys. (for handcuffs) I’ll help you.” Yet, the officer continues to flail about, both hands on his throat now, gasping in panic. The suspect again barks out, “throw me the keys and I will help you.”

Being in a vulnerable position, this is a decisive moment for the officer. If he does nothing, suffocation seems eminent. And yet, there are risks involved with taking action.

What could happen?

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could subsequently remove the cuffs and run away.

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could remove the cuffs and possibly proceed with acts of aggression. He could take the cops weapon, steal the officer’s car, and/or more.

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could remove the cuffs and potentially save his life.

In all these scenarios, the suspect removes the cuffs when keys are provided. What happens after that is a mystery at this point in the story. Some would say that the officer has no choice, he must attempt to save himself. Others might describe the latter action as selfish and not true to his duty. To take action will take trust, the officer needs to trust that the suspect will do the right thing.

So here is how it played out…

After the second request from the suspect, the officer managed to grab the keys and throw them at the suspect’s feet. The suspect then lowered himself down, while remaining on his feet, and picked up the keys from behind. After a return to standing, he used the keys to release the cuffs, then proceeded to throw the keys and cuffs to the ground. Without hesitation, he proceeded towards the head of the officer. He bent down, reaching his arms under the officer’s shoulders he managed to pull him to his feet. He then began the Heimlich manuver. With the first thrust, nothing happens. After the second, the officer is continuing to gasp and has difficulty trying to remain on his feet. With each thrust, they are moving closer to the car and camera. The suspect, now having to also hold the officer upright, continues using all his might to thrust a third time, fourth time, and a fifth. He is not giving up. Finally, after the fifth thrust, a wad of gum flies out of the officer’s mouth, landing on the hood of the car.

What happens next is also amazing. The officer leans on the car, coughing and gasping, trying to regain some level of composure. Meanwhile, the suspect walks back over to the handcuffs and picks them up. He returns to the officer, hands him the cuffs, then turns around, putting his hands behind his back.

 What do you do when you think no one is watching?

Although continuing to cough, the officer appears quite relieved that the ordeal is over. Making eye contact with the suspect he says, “man, you saved my life. You are free to go.”

This story has a happy ending. It turned out well because someone chose to do the right thing and in doing so, invoked a double blessing. He saved someone’s life and by this action, gained respect and freedom. So it is possible that doing the right thing can provide everyone with the best possible outcome, even when not seen initially.

What would you have done as the officer?

What would you have done as the suspect?

Would you call yourself a person of character? People of character do the right thing, not to boast, but to align with their true nature, for we are always called to authentically Love One Another. At the root of everything, Love is who we are. When provided with a challenge such as this, we must remember, the time is always right to do the right thing.