I used to think our greatest goal in life was to find happiness. Then I realized: happiness is fickle. It flutters into life only when all things go right, and leaves just as quickly. There’s absolutely nothing sustainable about it. Like a blooming flower, it is temporary. One day, the flower will wilt; its beauty can only be appreciated in the moment. If we were just constantly happy, we would never appreciate how beautiful and special the transient moments are. We would always be naive.
That being said, who would want to be happy all the time? We’re not supposed to be! We grow SO much through our periods of sadness, anger, depression, frustration, motivation, despair, and more.
I believe that there is more to life than pursuing happiness and that the greatest goal is to pursue purpose. The journey to how I came to this belief deserves an entry of its own. I can say, though, that just because I can’t see or feel or touch something to prove its existence doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
What are life purposes?
Deep inside each person there is someone whose wisdom knows no bound. Before they were born, they decided where they would live, how they would look, their sex, and their family. They arranged to put themselves into an environment that would emphasize their strengths and exacerbate their weaknesses. They decided upon goals, known as life purposes, to pursue during their lifetimes on earth.
There was once a time I climbed this tremendous mountain-of-stress known as grad school. Every week, I read three books, wrote three papers, graded 100 student papers, attended classes, mentored undergrad students, and prepared for my final exams. In addition to that, I lived off a very small stipend. On top of the rigours of school work, the subject of money (or the lack thereof) occupied my mind at all times. Naturally, anyone walking off the streets would think I was miserable. Truthfully, it was the most intellectually- and financially-exhausting time of my life, but something felt right. With every passing day I believed I was walking on a path towards my purpose. I couldn’t tell you what my purpose was at the time, but I knew I was on my way to it, and that was what mattered.
Regardless, I still got burnt out. After finishing college, I was so fatigued that I wanted to take a long hiatus from producing, whether that be through music or writing or art. All I wanted to do was consume, and consume I did. I watched good TV, spent time with friends, ate delicious food, and purchased clothes. For once, I was free from thoughts of looming homework assignments or ominous bills. In fact, I lived a perfectly content life. I had a cool apartment in a cool neighborhood in a cool city. I had good health, a job I loved with coworkers who respected me, supportive friends, a happy family, and good health. There was no apparent reason I shouldn’t have been inexorably happy. However, while all of those things fulfilled me on many levels, after a few months, I found myself to be very, very bored.
That boredom, as I called it, was a form of depression. I believe, with no other evidence than my own life experience, that if you’re not pursuing your life’s purpose, or at least on the path to pursuing it, you will be depressed. That depression is your soul’s way of telling you that you are not advancing on your path and that something needs to change. You are either at the wrong place at the wrong time, or you’ve stalled on the journey. The boredom and depression will never go away until you take the next step.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Each and every one of us is born with strengths and weaknesses, and our duty is to embrace them both. Your strengths will shed light on your life’s purpose. Your weaknesses are clues to that which your soul contracted to learn in this lifetime.
It’s best to embrace your strengths, because all the energy you put towards them will yield the greatest results. You may be relatively talented at something, but the potential for growth just isn’t there. For instance, I love to sing… but I’ve reached a plateau. I probably won’t get much better, regardless of lots of practice. All the energy I’d put into it would swirl around in a sink and down the drain. On the other hand, I’ve always excelled at academic research. I loved to study and present my work on social justice. No matter how exhausted I’d become after spending hours in the library reading and writing, I LOVED it. It made me feel alive. I realized that that is a gift that not everybody possessed, and so I wanted to embrace it with all that I had.
I believe it’s our duty to embrace our weaknesses as well. I have a gift that for years I considered a curse. I can sense the presence of dead people and entities on the other side. This “gift” terrified me for much of my adolescence and young adulthood. I couldn’t stop these visitors from disturbing me in my sleep. As I got older, I accepted that I was stuck with my gift for better or for worse. There was a reason for them; they were instrumental for my life’s purpose. As a result, one thing I learned was to lay down boundaries with these entities and insist they don’t disturb me in my sleep. Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean they won’t walk all over me. Serendipitously, this lesson bled into my everyday life, and I learned how to prevent even living-people from walking all over me. I believe one reason I have these gifts is to learn boundaries and to teach other budding mediums how to protect themselves.
How to find your life’s purposes
Everyone certainly has a life’s purpose, and most have several. For some, it’s to have a specific career. For others, it’s to raise a family. For pets, it’s to teach life lessons and bring joy to their owners. I mentioned in some previous entries, two of my life purposes are to be a writer and to embrace and learn from my gifts. There may be more that come to light later in life, but it’s too soon for me to know about them now.
Deep down, you already know what your life’s purposes are (at least those that are relevant to where you are in life right now). It takes a little guided meditation to discover them. Think as far back as you can, back to your childhood, about an interest you had before any of your peers. Think of a talent for which you’ve always had a natural inclination, some action that, when practising, made you feel alive. Think of a desire you’ve always possessed, one that sparked excitement whenever you thought about it. These are clues to your life’s purposes. Float some ideas across your mind, and listen to how your body responds. When you land on the right answer, you will sense a feeling of calm and acceptance. When you land on a no, you will sense a feeling of discord. Every body has a different language and a different way to communicate those messages to you. When I get a “yes,” for instance, my body communicates it to me through chills. Your body will never lie or lead you astray. If you did not get a clear answer, it may not be relevant for you to know at this time in your life, or, you might need to revisit the question later. If you get a clear answer, it is your duty to embrace your life’s purpose.
It is important to understand the nuances of timing. Everything is subject to the universal timeline. There is this concept (that I’m sure you’ve heard) known as the “American Dream.” It purports that every American can achieve his/her/their dreams through hard work and determination. I believe we Americans (assuming you are an American) are socialized to believe that we could just plow through all obstacles as fast as we can in order to obtain these dreams. What’s missing is the fact that timing is very essential. One of my dreams is to write a book, but I know that the time to write it is not now. I need to live more life, make more mistakes, experience more relationships, and grow before I can write the book I dream of writing. While I’m not actively writing the book right now, I’m gaining the life experience I need to write it one day. I’m still on the right path, even if it doesn’t immediately appear so.
I liken universal timing to a scene in a video game. Early in the game, at any particular scene, you, the player, are drawn to certain locations thanks to strategically placed lights pointing the way to a particular path or clue. These clues offer you the insight and experience to prepare you for what is next. Later in the game, you might be at the same scene, but what was once bright is now dim. It is no longer time to investigate those clues. You are ready for the next step. The light draws you to a different path, the path to where you must go next in life.
Embracing your life’s purpose is extremely important, because if you don’t do so, you will feel like a house plant whose roots have outgrown its pot. Nothing is worse than living that way.
One of my fears is reaching the end of my life, looking back on it, and realizing that I didn’t live to my fullest potential. But I know that’s not going to happen to me.
This is one of my favorite quotes:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
That which makes you come alive is your life’s purpose. It’s your life, and it’s your time to make the most of it.