unpolished thoughts 1/4/19
What is my purpose?
It can be an intimidating question, but it’s essential.
My point isn’t that you should wake up every morning and ask yourself this question (although I know of people that do and they find it to be a valuable practice).
My point is simply what I already said: it’s an essential question.
It’s essential because we are asking ourselves that question all the time, whether we realize it or not. We just might not recognize the question as I’ve just stated it.
It may well be closer to a question that we sometimes throw at each other in a less than friendly way.
What are you DOING?!
There are other variations on the phrase, as well. But one way or another, we’re asking ourselves about purpose on a regular basis.
We may ask the question more or less directly, with or without strong emotional tone. But however the question comes, one of the most disheartening feelings is to continuously return to one particular answer.
I have no idea.
Perhaps even worse is to supply a more “meaningful” answer, but immediately feel inside that what we are saying doesn’t ring true. Then (often wordlessly) a little voice inside says something that does ring true.
I’m a fraud.
It can be hard not to find ourselves in that situation if, in fact, we really aren’t clear on “our purpose.”
Understanding that also makes it easy to see why the depressed person, whose life seems to have “no meaning,” finds it hard to get out of bed in the morning.
It makes sense that no one looks forward to a day of just “going about my business.”
Who honestly wants to live in a life that feels like endlessly bouncing between I don’t know and I’m a fraud?
That’s why making sense is essential.
That’s why so many of us employ “life coaches” who offer to help us find our “life purpose.” – because it feels good to do things that make sense. Then we don’t feel at odds with ourselves or with the world.
It’s the same reason why working on a project we care about feels better than mindlessly surfing the web.
Except it’s also true that we rarely do things that don’t make sense.
The trick is not to get stuck on the “logical” surface of what “making sense” means.
Many “well-meaning” people who try to “fix” your problems with quick “solutions” are making this mistake. You know, the kind of people who give you quick answers while you say to yourself “Wow, you really don’t get it!”
(Oops, don’t hire that life coach!)
Back to that example – mindlessly searching the web may well have a purpose.
It’s summed up by the word “mindlessly.”
There’s a lot of emphasis on mindfulness these days. That word has surely climbed the dictionary ranks over the past couple decades. But what about when your mind feels like a frightening place to be? What if it’s “full” already – with harsh or scary voices?
I’d say that in that situation, choosing mindlessness over mindfulness makes perfect sense.
While I don’t go around advocating mindlessness, when I talk to a person like this – someone who might choose marijuana over meditation, alcohol over confronting the person that hurts them, surfing the web instead of burning through their to-do list – one of the first things I tell them is the following:
I get it. What you are doing right now makes sense.
I wish someone had said that to me years ago!
I have only recently begun to learn how to say this to myself. I’m learning to listen to my internal voices with a little more compassion – even the harsh and scary ones. Even when their emotional tone is unpleasant, I’ve stopped treating these voices like an illogical nuisance.
Instead, I listen to try to understand why they are so upset.
When I find something, I discover that I’m a little less at war with myself because the contradictory things I do start to make a little more sense.
Maybe that’s why I finally feel like I’m making progress on one of my long-term goals.
The goal I’m talking about is hardly what you would call a “life purpose”, but it’s something that was at times nearly impossible for me in the past. Even recently it’s something I’ve often felt inconsistent about.
I do it every day, but it often requires too much effort. It’s frequently punctuated by hesitations.
Yet this morning I noticed it was a little easier.
Maybe that’s because I was a little clearer idea about why I was doing what I was doing. I could feel that my actions had meaning for me. I wasn’t just doing it to do it.
My actions made sense to me. I had a purpose.
(In case you hadn’t guessed yet, I’m only talking about getting out of bed.)
I get clearer every day on why I’m here, but it has taken me a long time. I know what it’s like for life to feel meaningless.
If this resonates with you and you’d like more clarity too, I would be happy to talk with you about the work I do.
I can work you with words and I can work with you wordlessly through touch.