Most of us are born with an innate sense that we are here for a reason. That our existence serves a purpose, even if we don't know exactly what it is.
While there are many holy texts that document the generation, degeneration and regeneration of the human soul - like the Bible, Tao, Bhagavad Gita, and the Quran - there is no owners manual specific to your make and model that spells your life's purpose out for you.
When we are young, we are supremely confident in our dreams and creativity. As we grow older we become less sure of ourselves. As we age, and our dreams never materialize, many of us shrink as we become disappointed, resigned and resentful.
- How do we lose ourselves?
- Can we get our sense of purpose back?
- If we don't, what is the cost to humanity?
How Do We Lose Ourselves?
Our formative years are filled with fun and play, through which we discover our unique combination of gifts and talents. (It's my personal belief that they were given to us to help humanity to evolve by making this world a better place.)
When we're young it's okay to be messy. It's expected! But during the mess, we also encounter stumbling-blocks we must wrestle with to allow for their fullest expression.
This is the point where we begin to shut down our sense of wonder and creativity.
It would be lovely if we didn't have stumbling-blocks, but that's not how we're wired. In fact, Dr. Brene Brown said that human beings are actually wired for struggle.
Part of the struggle is: we want to feel good and be happy, but need pain for contrast, variety and incentive. Tony Robbins said that all human behavior is driven by pain and pleasure. "We have a need to avoid pain, and gain pleasure. But of the two, we will do far more to avoid pain than we will ever do to gain pleasure."
The paradox: we want to feel good, but struggle is uncomfortable. In fact, it can be painful.
Everything has a constructive edge and a destructive edge, and that includes positivity and negativity.
In Western culture we're all about letting go of the negative, and being positive. It's to the point that we live in an era of "negaphobia", where anything that is painful, difficult, or challenging is seen as a sign from the universe that we're on the wrong track. Thus, we avoid anything that smacks of negativity, especially struggle.
Can We Get Our Sense of Purpose Back?
In The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science, Judge Thomas Troward said, "The human is not creative. Creativity comes from Source and already exists. God created humans for the express purpose of assembling and disseminating (spreading) creativity into material form."
This means you were created as a channel through which creativity can move as it seeks material form. To accomplish that task, you must prepare yourself by sharpening your gifts and talents into skill and mastery.
Those damn stumbling-blocks again! Stumbling blocks not faced, embraced and mastered evolve into demons that haunt us and rob us of our potential.
Is there a way to dissolve stumbling-blocks without sacrificing your sense of passion and purpose? If there is, I do not know it!
There are workshops and seminars galore that claim to reconnect you with your passion and purpose. For a whole weekend, you can pay someone large sums of money to help you explore, discuss and reconnect you with what makes you happy and gives you joy.
But happiness and joy are elusive qualities, and the harder you search for them, the more elusive they become.
Happiness and joy are wonderful emotions, but once experienced fully, dissipate quickly, and leave a warm, pleasant glow in their wake.
We associate purpose with passion, and for a good reason too!
Have you ever danced with a muse, and/or been swept away by passion?
There is nothing "pleasant" about it!!! Passion and inspiration are raw, consuming and visceral! In her book "Big Magic" Elizabeth Gilbert said, 'Inspiration will take you on a wild ride, then throw you off of a cliff, and as you lay in a broken, bloodied heap on the ground will sidle up next to you and whisper, 'That was fun! Wanna do it again?''
If you are searching for something as powerful as passion, and your life's purpose, I don't think we're gong to find it somewhere that makes us feel pleasant, or nice, or all warm and fuzzy either.
I have a different ideas of where you can possibly reconnect with your purpose visa vie, your passion. Think back to your carefree childhood days playing, dreaming and creating...
- What was it about you that set you apart?
- What had you crying into your pillow because you were so different from everybody else?
- What did you have to hide, shame, or smother within yourself so that you didn't make other people uncomfortable?
- What was your biggest flaw that everybody from your parents, neighbors, and teachers told you was inappropriate?
Explore that! It may not make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but it will tap into powerful emotion, and maybe even help you regain something precious you'd buried deep within yourself.
At What Cost to Humanity?
My friend, Marlin Glenn, gave an award winning speech at Toastmasters entitled, "Don't Rob Me!" His message was that within each and every one of us lay dormant potential: the cure for cancer; perhaps the secret to tapping into the sun for free, unlimited power for the planet; or how to end of poverty. But if you shrink from your potential, or play small, you rob us all of your gifts, your talents, your experience, your wisdom, your brilliance!
What are we all so afraid of?
In her magnificent book "A Return to Love" Marianne Williamson famously wrote,
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Mahatma Gandhi said, "A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes."
Which makes me wonder: are you given a purpose, or are you given a sense of purpose, and that it is for you to explore and define for yourself?
For my day job, I work with hospice patients, and every day I see the end result of talent squandered, dreams never gone for, and last breath drawn choked with regret. That may seem harsh, even cruel, but it is the truth.
On the other hand, I also meet glorious, interesting, beautiful individuals who have lived life fully, deeply and passionately, who make the transition with absolute grace. Unfortunately, they are very rare, but when I meet them, their luminosity envelopes me, their peace comforts me, and their grace humbles me. And they inspire me to live deeply, as well.