There is a restlessness that lies at the core of all human beings and rears its head from time to time. It has been the subject matter of several discussions and has fuelled amazing works. From Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to Victor Frankel’s work Man’s Search for Meaning, and various tests designed to gauge personality type for goal alignment and hundreds of other works, thinkers, philosophers, wise men and women across ages have dwelt upon it and proffered distinct ways of finding purpose!
The unique challenge that arises in this particular aspect is that human beings are complicated creatures with a mix of subjectivity and confusion additionally thrown in, impeding clarity. And each one happens to be at a different level of evolution at any given point in time. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all solution or roadmap that can address it. An individual’s restlessness, the desire to find direction and purpose has to be dealt with on a case-to-case basis, using a methodology or two that may be suitable.
A new way to think, maybe?
Also what makes things worse is that human beings have forever tried to find purpose through goal-based achievements. While there is nothing wrong with it—in fact it can be a very rewarding exercise—a different outlook, where every action in itself becomes purposeful can make every moment amazing, and enrich our experience by itself. Whether it lies in casting back a stranded starfish back into the sea, or helping an elderly person with their grocery bags, finding a rescue animal a loving home or even making a child laugh with a nonsense rhyme! There is complete fulfilment and joy to be had in each moment, if one wants it.
In a more recent personal introspective session, while looking at my own belief systems (with the idea to weed out ones that had turned into limiting factors) one of the beliefs that came up was this: I had a need to ascribe a meaning to everything.
How soul-sucking can this become in a time where we pay money to experience leisure/holiday/have a soothing experience? One could simply sit back in a chair and breathe easy, share a cup of tea with a friend, offer a prayer for someone suffering, or soak up sunshine on a winter afternoon or laugh easy prompted by the honest, hearty, full-bodied laughter of a baby! There are no meanings there, only an experience of what is. One could slot these experiences as ‘very worthy bite-sized purposes’ in one’s mind. The experience of satisfaction goes up dramatically.
The road to Big Purpose
However, if you are looking at giving a particular direction to your life, where the larger purpose or long-term goals are in question, there are a few pointers which can do the trick:
1. Use power of elimination : While it may be difficult to arrive at what you really want, it is relatively easy to make a list of all things you don’t want to do or be. For instance, a teenager’s short stay in the hospital because of an illness made it amply clear to him that he did not want to be a physician or work in a hospital environment. So a degree in medicine was completely ruled out. You can look at your disinclinations and peeves in order to weed out things that are NOT your purpose. Doing this as a written exercise always helps.
2. Ask the whys : One of the most famous TED Talks out there was given by Simon Sinek and is about asking yourself this question. Finding your ‘why’ can help you give vital clues to defining your purpose. Once you are in touch with what drives you emotionally and see the direction where you will be able to sustain your effort, you can be practically unstoppable. You can watch the talk here.
3. Move beyond myopic vision : It is of extreme importance that a person moves beyond the myopic vision of I, me, myself, my loved ones and my family in order to find one’s larger purpose or meaning. When one thinks of a larger group, a community, a nation or the world in general, and how one aspires to serve them, it helps define a more fulfilling purpose.
4. Hone the 4th adrenal response : Fight, flight, fear – people’s reaction to any challenge is always defined by any or a combination of those three. One could also add an additional response of “Fix”. How can I fix a particular gap/need, or What does a situation require to get fixed? could be some starting points.
5. Drop the comparison : It is extremely important to stop comparing notes when it comes to life and personal achievements and goals. While others may serve as an inspiration or in other cases a deterrent, in either case, it is a major diversion from one’s own path. It is better to keep your own unique set of circumstances, resources, physical condition etc. in perspective to draw up realistic and rewarding goals.
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