Is Your Purpose Really Something You Do?
Last Friday at our family ranch, I stretched out on the grass in a cow pasture looking up at the pale blue sky. Doing nothing but listening to the sounds of birds, bugs, gurgling water and a breeze gently blowing in the trees. The moment of rest and nothingness penetrated my soul. It dropped me into a place of awareness of all the distractions I’d been carrying in my body and mind from the psychic density of living in the city and the busyness of day-to-day activity. It felt as if the earth instantly absorbed the entire disturbance that had been filling my mind and the tension in my body.
I found a deep inner-peace and gratitude for the beauty, raw ciaos and simplicity of plant and animal life. It made me think of our human tendency to seek purpose. In the desire to find some greater meaning in life, we believe the cultural programming that our purpose is outside of us, something we do, some function we fulfill in the world.
Those things that make us feel joy tend to be attributed the label of our purpose: creative arts, music, writing, activities that have an element of service to others. We want to clearly see what our purpose is and we want it to be fixed, one thing for our entire lifetime. When we experience purpose for awhile through some activity like being a parent, or working on a creative project, then that stage of our life comes to transition or completion; we feel a sense of meaninglessness or lack of purpose again. The self questioning begins.
We struggle with a desire to know our purpose and want a life focus that is guaranteed to give us a sense of fulfillment. We are haunted with a subtle yet chronic dissatisfaction and sense of yearning, feeling unfulfilled, looking for this purpose outside of ourselves. We decide that we are doing the wrong job or in the wrong relationship because we don’t feel satisfied. We give our power to this concept of finding a purpose beyond simply living. We feel disappointment and self-judgment that we haven’t figured it out yet.
It appears from the outside that other people have figured it out. We see the bright light of successful athletes, actors, writers, politicians, healers, musicians. We believe that they have a sense of purpose and are at peace because they are living their dream. Yet it is an illusion. Those in these positions that venture to reveal their humanity will confess they still question their purpose.
We have been sold a collective lie, a belief that if we discover something to do that is our purpose we will feel forever fulfilled and at peace. But the source of fulfillment and inner-peace isn’t a job or a relationship; it’s in our approach to every day activity.
While I sat in the pasture noticing the cattle grazing, birds soaring and little bugs foraging for food, I realized that they were at peace with simply eating, drinking, sleeping and creating a nest. They didn’t experience dissatisfaction. There was no belief that something out in the future, some bit of insight or self-awareness that they hadn’t figured out yet was going to make them perpetually feel better.
A more satisfying focus of our energy, than this illusive question of purpose, is identifying what creates a sense of meaningfulness in our lives. Here are some possibilities to contemplate:
- Connecting with others through conversation and touch
- Creative expression and sharing our creations with others
- Having interests that keep us curious to know more
- Setting goals that are attainable
- Teaching, parenting, learning, nurturing
- Knowing we have friends to call on when in need
- Spending time outdoors or creating a beautiful sanctuary in our home
The belief that we haven’t figured out or are not living our purpose, denies our power to create a meaningful life. It leads us to focus on people or activities outside of ourselves that we think are to blame for our lack of satisfaction and to judge ourselves. The deeper need behind the quest to find our life purpose is our desire for fulfillment. Sustainable inner-peace comes from choosing what inspires, expands and energizes us day-to-day.