“Don't ask yourself what the world needs - ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
- Harold Thurman Whitman, Philosopher and Theologian
At a very basic level, most of us travel through life relatively unconsciously. We have become so immersed in reacting to external demands of what needs to be done to “get by” and survive, that we rarely stop to ask ourselves WHAT DO WE REALLY WANT, WHY do we want it, and HOW will it make us feel once we “get it”? The term PURPOSE is certainly a very popular and perhaps over-blasted word in the self development/high achievement world, and yet much like the term “functional training” in the fitness realm, there are many definitions and misconceptions about what it really means. A quick glance at www.Dictionary.com reveals that – like functional training – this word has several dimensions:
- The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal: “And ever those, who would enjoyment gain/Must find it in the purpose they pursue” (Sarah Joseph Hale).
- Determination; resolution: He was a man of purpose.
- A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention.
- The matter at hand; the point at issue.
The “purpose” (see #4 above) of this article series is not to tell you what your life purpose is but to open wide your own thinking and feeling so that you can discover for yourself:
- WHAT do you want?
- WHY do you want what you want?
- HOW can you consciously identify and create the inner state that will enable you to experience the essence of your purpose… NOW?
The aim here is to help you connect with your own sense of inner drive in your life and career and then to give you a fresh perspective on true motivation that can be applied to all of your clients and athletes, so that we may all emerge with a purpose… that we may live with purpose… and to do it all on purpose!
While the real juice and “sacred keys” of purpose fulfilment are found in the WHY and the HOW (numbers 2 and 3 from the above list), in this first article, we’re going to clear the path, open the vault and set the stage by allowing ourselves – perhaps for the first time – to find out WHAT we really want.
Opening Up to the “What”
"We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about."
- Charles Kingsley, 1819-1875, Author and Clergyman
We have come to associate the notion of purpose with a grand sense of achievement in the world, and we often measure how on track we are by how much material wealth we have amassed. While such accolades often emerge naturally from a true and clear sense of purpose, the number of unhappy “successful” business people with broken families and ulcerous organs attests to the fact that there’s a lot more (or perhaps less!) to purpose than outward worldly achievement.
To me, purpose in life is the simple act of bringing our true sense of Identity into Action the world. If you have read Functional Integrated Life - Part 1, this is a great place to start because once we have a clear feeling-based understanding of who we are and who we really want to BE, then it becomes a natural next step to put that sense of BEING into what we are DOING (if you have not read this article, now is a great time to do so!). While our purpose will certainly manifest itself outwardly in what we do on a day-to-day basis, it must ultimately come from WITHIN – and from a deep sense of knowing who we are, not who anyone else is or what anyone else is doing around us, but who we are as individuals and what we feel called to do.
If you want to gain an understanding of what it means to “have a purpose” in life, don’t look to the Fortune 500. Try instead to spend time out in nature watching animals or hanging out with young children. Animals come into the world with a clear blueprint of who they are and how best to live their lives. They may learn some of the basic skills from their elders, but they don’t question their worthiness or qualifications. They live simply, in line with their intuitive connection with the seasons and their surroundings and based on the natural gifts and preferences they have brought into the world. They don’t question these gifts, and they never measure or compare themselves with other species. They simply know who they are, and they know what they came here to do. Though it is often covered up by our conditioning and by the massive over stimulation of pressures, options and opinions in our world, I believe we also have this sense of knowing in the blueprint of our being. If you could tap into the simple, natural, carnal clarity of your unique gifts and essence, how would you describe it? If like all other creatures in the world, you were put here with certain gifts, the natural expression of which would fulfil your purpose on the planet and enable you to contribute your piece of the master puzzle, what would those gifts be? Take a moment and reflect upon your innate gifts and natural talents.
Wisdom of the Innocent
Another great place to identify “purpose in action” is in young children. They have not yet been tainted with all the shoulds and should nots of the world. They don’t yet know what is cool, what is right or what they are supposed to do. They simply know what feels good to them, and they pursue it without censor or inhibition. In the Western world, we sometimes see this as self centred or selfish, but in truth, it’s just wonderfully honest. Children are some of our greatest teachers because they don’t take life too seriously, they don’t carry any baggage, and they allow themselves to pursue the passion and purpose “of the moment” without judgement or dilution. Having watched and learned much from my five-year-old son Joshua (who rightfully claims that the purpose of his life is to “PLAY”), it seems one of the main reasons children have so much energy is because they have no attachment to the past or the future - they simply immerse themselves right here, right now, doing what feels best. This may seem unrealistic in the modern “adult” world of planning and responsibility, but there’s certainly a slice of truth in there (perhaps a large slice) for all of us.
Energy Flows Where Attention Goes
The challenge that most of us face is that we are so busy reacting to external demands of what is most urgent, what others expect and what is “the plan” that we never stop to ask ourselves a really basic question that can literally transform our entire world in an instant…. The question (and I invite you to ask it) is…WHAT DO I REALLY WANT? Not, “What do I want, considering my current situation and what seems realistic?” Not, “What do I want, after I finish fulfilling my roles and doing what everyone else needs and wants me to do?” Not, “What do I want, that will be acceptable by my peers and make everyone like me?” but… “WHAT DO I REALLY WANT?”
In my experience, the failure to ask this question is one of the greatest obstacles in achieving happiness and fulfilment in life. It seems ridiculously simple and obvious as I write this, but it’s true. And for people in the service industry, this can be an especially challenging question to ask. We are so used to adjusting our energy to match others and to helping them achieve what they want that we often find it hard to do the same for ourselves. As a result, we end up giving the LEAST amount of our time and energy to the things we want to do the MOST, and then we wonder why we’re not truly satisfied.
Amidst this pursuit to give and give and give, we must remember something… we cannot give what we do not have. We are living in a world that truly needs the type of insight, empowerment and energy we have to offer, and we are working in an industry that is committed to serving that need, but in the process, it is quite easy to side-step our own needs and run ourselves ragged responding to the outside demands of the moment. However, if our own cup is not full, we quickly run out of the good stuff to give, and if we are not truly answering the call of what we want deep down inside… at some level not only we but the people around us will sense this. We may think we’re doing all the right things for all the “right reasons,” but if it isn’t in line with what we really want, or if we are wrestling with some inner conflict about having/doing it, a subtle veil of unauthenticity will permeate the experience, and in one way or another, our outside results will be affected. This often reveals itself in business, adventure and relationships alike, whenever something doesn’t quite reach its full potential. There are always reasons on the outside to justify, but beneath those reasons will almost always be some sense of uncertainty or inner conflict about whether or not this is really what we want or whether or not we believe we are capable/worthy/safe to have the experience. Reflect on your own life and the things you’ve pursued in the past to see if this rings true for you.
The other challenge is that, as humans, we have become such great problem solvers that we have a tendency to put much of our energy into hyper-analyzing and dissecting the issues and challenges we face, rather than focusing our vision and our emotional energy in the direction of where we want to go. We love exploring our “stuff” so much that we often get stuck in the spiralling energy of it. But in the energetic world we live in, like attracts like. When we feel good, we become energetic magnets for that which we desire. When we feel stressed and focus our energy on what we don’t have, we quickly become energetic magnets for that. As the ancient Hawaiians precept says, “Energy flows where attention goes.” As the ancient Chinese say, “Where the mind goes… chi follows.” When working through issues or challenges (with ourselves or others) in sport, vitality or life, the simple question, “What do you want?” will almost always stop people in their tracks and enable a genuine shift in energy to begin. Even in conflict situations where two sides can’t seem to agree, if someone were to take each aside and ask them what they really want, nine times out of 10 both sides want the same thing. Becoming conscious of this sense of unified desire opens the way for energy and chi to move in a more positive direction.
Clearing the Slate
So take a moment and consider your life and all of its elements, responsibilities, details and demands. Think about all the people around you and what they’re doing and how that makes you feel. Think about the tasks you’re supposed to do today, the people you’re supposed to call, the bills you’re supposed to pay and the roles you’re supposed to play. Think about the projects, dreams and aspirations you may have sitting on the shelf and how they make you feel sitting there like they do. Think about all the roles, expectations and achievements you’ve had in the past and all the plans and goals you have for the future...
Now take a moment and wash all that away. Breathe deep, shake it loose, jump around the room if you have to (whatever it takes), and for a time, imagine letting go of all the current internal and external structures in your life. As much as possible, just let them go (they’ll be there waiting after the article if you still want them).
Setting the Stage and Cracking the Vault
Review your last couple of answers from Functional Integrated Life - Part 1, or if you have not read the article, think of a moment or time in your life when you felt amazing, when you felt in your power, in balance, in the flow of who you really want to be. When you felt totally peaceful and content, and yet energized and passionate. Take time now to stand and move and breathe as you have in those moments. These are the moments in our life when we start to sense and realize that anything is possible… and in this state, anything (and everything) is. Take some time to connect on a feeling level with that true inner sense of self.
In this state, free of life structures and the opinions that have been passed along to you by others, you are free to sit and breathe with the natural intuitive connection of one who simply knows, without question, why you are here. Imagine for a moment that you have a totally fresh slate and you can do or have or give or create anything in the world… Forget about strategy or consequences, forget about how this mission may please or displease others. Scan your life with open eyes and ask the question, “WHAT DO I REALLY WANT?” Write what comes to you, and then ask it again. Keep asking this question for a few minutes and take time to write down all that comes. Don’t censor it. Don’t judge it. Just write it down now.
It seems so simple, and yet I have found time and time again that people rarely take the time to look deep and ask the question, so they rarely end up getting what their heart truly desires. Allowing ourselves to ask and to honestly answer this question is the first vital step to consciously co-creating the life we came to live. Some old things may naturally fall away, but in the process, incredible doorways into vast new possibilities begin to open.
Now that we have laid the groundwork and cracked the vault of WHAT we want, the real fun begins. The following articles in this series will venture beyond the traditional realms of goal/setting achievement into the “sacred keys” of motivation and the real engine room of dream fulfilment.
- Understanding the WHY. Igniting a deep sense of inner drive that knows, without question or doubt, why this want MUST come to be.
- Cultivating the HOW. Building the internal and external rhythms that allow the full manifestation of our greatest visions (and beyond) into the reality of our lives.
In the meantime, relax in the truth that any time we are doing something as a pure extension of who we really are and who we want to be, we are in some way contributing to the fulfilment of our purpose in life. This action can be as broad as establishing a global foundation or international business and as simple as surfing a wave or breathing deep. And next time you find yourself or a client dealing with a challenging situation that may be clouding the waters or pulling your attention into all the things you DON’T want in life, stop for a moment and ask the simple question, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
What if it were that simple? Maybe it is.