The Purpose Of Living A Life Of Purpose

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“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive; because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

living a life of purposeI’ve always known that living a life of purpose feels good but I often wondered about what is the purpose of having a purpose! After years of honing my definition, here is my take on what it is all about.

If you have been receiving my coaching tips for a while you may remember an article I sent out called “The Game of Joy”. In this I wrote about why it is your purpose is to experience true happiness through the way you live your life. I talked about joy as being the ultimate goal for everyone regardless of what they do or how they go about it. The real premise of the this is that you are far more likely to find your ‘calling’ if you are already living from a space of love and happiness than if you were to wait for inspiration to strike before experiencing that joyful state.

The feedback and comments I received about that article were amazing! It seems it really struck a chord with a lot you. So much so that I want revisit the subject of living your life’s purpose. I really do feel I could write it forever!

There are so many teachers, philosophies and insights that have inspired me over the years to realise my own life’s purpose but, despite those countless hours of learning, the principle of what a purposeful life constitutes can be summed up in very few words. This is what it means to me:

 Living a life of purpose is to be of service to the world in a way that brings you joy.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have met and been taught by many different people who have been completely connected to a strong sense of purpose in their lives. What captivates me about each and every one of them is their capacity to handle life’s challenges with grace and benevolence. No matter what they encounter they always seem to know just what to do to keep moving. But not only that, they do it with an aura of peace and wisdom. It is not that their lives are necessarily easier or harder than anybody else’s but that when tough times do occur, it is their conviction in their purpose that seems to illuminate an obvious path for them to follow.

I’ve also realised that, on some level, they see life’s challenges as opportunities to reaffirm their connectedness to their purpose. It is as if problems just magnify their feeling of certainty for what they believe in. In other words, when their purpose is put to the test they always find a way of ending up closer to the ultimate goal – experiencing joy.

But perhaps the most fascinating thing about each of these inspiring people that that when we look at what their purpose is based on there is a consistent common theme. The joy they experience is always derived from them being of service in some way. I’ve don’t think I’ve ever met a truly joyful person who hasn’t felt that their actions contribute towards a meaningful difference in the world, be that to other people, animals or the environment.

When Abraham Maslow created ‘The Hierarchy of Needs’ he suggested that everyone is driven by the desire to become a self-actualised individual. This is the ‘state of being’ where all of our physical, social, emotional, moral and intellectual needs are taken care of. What is not so widely publicised though is that even Maslow recognised that once a person has reached a self-actualised state, that is not the end of the story. He considered that self-actualisation is really a platform for giving yourself back to the world. The reason we spend our lives making sure our own needs are catered is so that we are fully equipped to live a life of service to others.

But what does being of service really mean?

Well the good news is that it does not mean sacrificing your own desires to keep others happy. But equally it is not about doing things with the aim of making a material gain for yourself either.

Being of service in relation to your purpose is about the focus of your intention as you go about doing whatever it is that you love to do. It is about shifting your thinking away from “What’s in it for me?” and towards “How can I provide value?”

There is no greater source of connectedness that you can feel than the connection the world makes with you in appreciation of the difference you make.

That does not mean that you have to make monumental contributions every moment of every day, but that when you have the genuine intention to be of service it becomes a thread that runs through just about everything you do and say. In fact, it is the smaller consistent gestures you make that accumulate into a personal environment where your spirit stays lifted and you feel more and more engaged with life.

Some people have wonderfully big aspirations of creating massive positive change in the world, but often feel unfulfilled and frustrated because their day-to-day commitments limit their ability to make that kind of significant impact. You are more likely to have a meaningful and positive presence in the world through your small daily actions than if you wait until you are rich enough, free enough, confident enough or famous enough to make one gargantuan statement.

If your one wish is to put an end to world hunger, the best place to start is to find one hungry child and give her a banana!

What I find extremely exciting is that to start living a service oriented life you don’t really have to change that much. The quickest way to make the shift is to take a look at everything you are already doing – including the role you play in the lives of others – and assess what your intention has been in each of these areas. Have you been looking for what you can gain, or what you can give?

For example, if you secretly know you have been leaning too heavily on your friends or family, hoping that they will somehow come and make your life better for you; ask yourself what you can do to be of service to them:

“What can I do to bring them value in our relationship?” or “What is the kindest way for me to be a positive influence in their life?”

Or, in your job, if you have been feeling like a bit of a ‘wage slave’, what opportunity can you create to give more from your unique talents and personality. Perhaps you can serve others by being that bright spirit that boosts morale. Perhaps you can commit to making one small improvement to a process every day.

If you are an artist, rather than focusing on what you gain personally through the act of creating, connect with how your creations makes a meaningful difference to those who are fortunate enough to experience them. Let this be the WHY of what you do.

Even smiling at someone as you pass them in the street, if done with the intention of brightening their day, is a great demonstration of service based living.

So, if the ultimate goal in life is to experience joy, then the ultimate way of getting there is through the experience of giving yourself back to the world.

I firmly believe that people naturally discover their real purpose when they realise that being of service stems from who they are, rather than what they do.
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HOMEWORK
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Even if you have yet to decided what you want your purpose in life to be, take some time think about how you would love the world to remember you?

If you knew that history will only record the meaningful differences you made to others and the world, what kind of legacy feels really inspiring to you?

Now think about how that can translate into the essence of how you live you life today.

What does that mean in terms of how you serve in your relationships, your work, your community, etc?

And a final question to ponder: If you were to summarise what that says about you in one word, what word would that be:

* Teacher?
* Healer?
* Leader?
* Caregiver?
* Creator?
* Entertainer?
* Or something else…

Maybe you’re closer to discovering your life’s purpose than you think!!

 

Take great care. Namaste.

 

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