When he walks he casts a shadow of purpose. ~Terri Guillemets
I realised yesterday that I haven’t done a very good job of explaining what it means to lead a purpose driven life. This came about when someone asked me about it, and after repeating what I had said so far, I realised that he had not really grasped the concept. This is what I had said to date -
A purpose driven life revolves around a single purpose that encompasses all your goals in the various roles you fulfill. Now this might be a very accurate description, but even if I add; “you should take control of your life and live deliberately, rather than have life make your decisions for you”. It still leaves too much room for misunderstanding.
The human machine enters this world at birth
as a rather blank page
So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The human machine enters this world at birth as a rather blank page. I’ll explain in other articles how this happens, but as a self-organising system, it learns concepts from a constant barrage of experience. All experience is not weighted equally. Most of it is peripheral, and has little influence on the formation of the persona. However, some experiences stand out and are very significant.
You can imagine these pivotal experiences as legs of a table sticking out from the floor (which represents the sea of experience). On these legs we form a value system (note that the legs are only supports and do not have to underpin every single part of the table top/values). Although we hardly ever consciously consider our values (and even less the experiences on which they are based), this is the platform on which we live our lives and present who we are to the world. It is therefore useful to get to grips with our values and determine whether they are sound.
There is a purpose to our lives that each day tugs at our sleeve as an annoying distraction. ~Robert Brault
In order to do so, we can ask ourselves questions like, “when was I really happy?”, “what gets me upset?”, “what impresses me about other people?”, “what do I spend most time on?”, etc. Then ask yourself “why?” for every answer, and even for the answers to answers. This is a meditative process, and it helps having someone to guide you through it. The important thing about this is that, at the end you should have answers on your values in every role you fulfill. Also, you could go on with this process forever, and that is not the idea – avoid analysis paralysis! (For more on values, read this article by Sam Spurlin.)
At this point you’ll need to establish what your goals are in every role. This is a broad brush affair at this stage, so don’t get hung up on this either. Based on your value system, decide what you want to achieve in each area of your life. Important here is that you should consider what YOU really want. Do you really want that big house and a wife and 2.4 kids? Have you ever considered being a single drifter with only a backpack and a few tools of your trade? There are a lot more options than we are formally presented with, and be very clear about this, you have the right to making these legitimate choices. Do not let life, the presently marketed “ideal”, expectations or anything else bully you into a little square two-by-four box. You’ll only be truly fulfilled if you live your idiosyncratic dream.( Here are some links to alternative life choices - The Minimalists, Ev Bogue I am giving these as examples because they are exact opposites of what is normally espoused as ideal, but they are by no means the only examples of alternatives)
Begin each day as if it were on purpose.
By now you’re probably overwhelmed by the results and thinking, “where will I find the time to balance all these divergent goals, much less focus on any of them to achieve the level of excellence I crave?” The answer is simply to synergise your goals. That will mean that you are never working on only one area of your life or towards one goal. You should be achieving multiple goals with every action. An example would be if you go gyming as a family – you’ll spend quality time, focus on health and fitness, have fun and relax and if you’re clever about it, teach your children some of your values while building up with some foreplay for sexual activity with your wife later. Get the idea? (maybe I should have added some of this to the training and motivation article)
Now, if you’ve done that really well, every area of your life will come together in one mission statement, which would be underpinned by your highest value. If your whole family buys into this, all the better. This becomes your single minded purpose and everything you do adds up to achieving that one purpose. Because you have taken care to fully define your purpose, imagine how driven your life will be. That is, you at the steering wheel, driving towards your unique purpose. And voila, a purpose driven life!
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
But it is all rather theoretical isn’t it? Perhaps an example will help. Our present lives are terribly compartmentalized, we go to work and focus on that, we attend gym and focus on that, we socialize and exclude all else in an effort to relax. Is it any wonder that we feel run down when we get home and that our families complain that we hardly ever have time left for them?
Not too long ago life was very different. Mom stayed at home and baked and cooked and looked after kids and helped children with schoolwork. Dad plowed the fields and his son would get on the tractor with him after school and they would work together (physically, which kept them fit and healthy too). At lunch everyone would be at home and sit down and talk about the day’s events before returning to their tasks, and at night they would have supper together and read the Bible and pray together. The farm would be passed on from generation to generation as the family business – life was good!
The purpose of life is a life of purpose. ~Robert Byrne
See how these families lived a purpose driven life as opposed to our present day mad rush of very divergent activities? It may take more ingenuity to do the same thing in today’s world, but make no mistake, it is possible. It all starts with a decision. Every major change happens in the instant you make a commitment, what follows is just the manifestation thereof.