“Be fearless in the pursuits of what sets your souls on fire.” Unknown
Purpose can be the light that shines the path of our lives through the darkness. I found that during my life, a lot of things, in fact most of the things that were part of my existence were the product of happenstance, luck, indecisive, a lack of clarity or goals, and often being in an auto-pilot mode. Tagging along and opportunities molded my life into what it is today and maybe it is the same for you. But as I take time to reflect upon my life, it ultimately brings me back to my sense of purpose and why I do the things that I do. What does my life brings? Am I happy with it? What do I want out of it? Unfortunately I cannot find the answers or reasons for most of these questions.
Now I don’t believe that it is necessarily a good thing to go to the other extreme and have a reason for everything that one does, but I can’t help to wonder if having a more purposeful attitude can help get more enjoyment and consciousness into life, activities and actions.
Maybe being fully committed might be excruciating and stressful and acting sometimes without reason is beneficial? But having purpose could also mean greater control over one’s life and a sense of direction.
The definition of purpose is: “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”, or “a person’s sense of resolve or determination.”
I believe purpose comes in contact with other concepts, like control, consciousness, volition, goals, meaning, needs, fulfillment, which I will explore in other blog posts.
Trying to come to a better understanding of purpose, I asked myself a few questions that I answered simply. My goal is to lay out practical knowledge, applicable actions and mind-sets to improve my life (and maybe that of others) surrounding the notion of purpose.
So, what are key factors that influence purpose?
I think some of the factors are:
-Needs, resource availability or scarcity
-social environment, my projected place in the world
-internal desires and goals
-Conflicts, inner, social, conflicting purposes
-time and priorities
Can one increase one’s sense of purpose?
My guess is yes, through:
-repetitive self-inquiry, why am I doing that? What is my purpose in this?
> Repetitive questions during action, regular reflection time (weekly, monthly, etc)
-Making a purpose part of your personality.
> By developing a strong belief or conviction and a sense of mission or calling. As an example, telling yourself things like: “I am here for that very purpose”. Which brings me to the next point,
-Developing a sense of responsibility, and accountability
>”People count on me, there is no one else in the world that can fulfill this role or do this task the way I can.”
-Planning and organisation, think ahead or visualise what you are going to do and why you do it, and keep on repeating to yourself why am I doing it?
-enjoying what you do
Is it desirable to be purposeful or can purpose be negative?
I believe it can be either positive or negative to be purposeful depending on the situation.
A strong sense of purpose means you are more likely to achieve your goal and carry out actions.
It can also make you enjoy more while doing it, be a vector for consciousness and continuous gratification.
That being said, having a purpose that is to defined or set, can I believe lead to impatience, inflexibility in the approach and conflicts with others. Having too strong a purpose in an area of your life can take away from purpose in other areas of your life, which may lead to imbalance and lack of fulfilment. Making a flexible approach to fulfilling a purpose may conciliate it with other aspect of one’s life. Be definite on the goal, flexible on the approach.
Also it is when one is without purpose and that spontaneity can sprout. One can stumble on surprises and serendipity, welcoming what was not scheduled
I think you and your cloose ones can identify if you lack purpose of you are being too zealous.
Are there impediments of purpose?
-other people purpose, purpose alignment
> When two persons have opposite purpose they enter conflict. One will try to impede the purpose of the other or find a compromise.
Simple example: A want to utilise natural resources to manufacture a product and make money and benefit people, B want to protect natural resources out of concern or fear for the environment. A and B have opposites purposes. They will compromise or fight. There will be a winner and a loser, or one will lay down.
Depending on the importance of a purpose, losing in a battle of purpose can be devastating as it can be a core in our identity.
-Energy and other resources: You can have a purpose but have no energy or time or money or other resources to carry it out. If a sense of purpose is left for too long without nourishment it will die out, deemed too hard to pursue.
> Lack of resources is a temporary obstacle but more often an excuse. You can find or develop the resources over time if you are truly committed. As Tony Robbins states: “you don’t lack resources but resourcefulness”.
>The effort it takes to realise a commitment can be an evaluation of the strength of that particular purpose.
What facilitates purpose or what are mental exercises I can do?
Here are I think four important factors, N.E.R.D to remember
-need: If you need something you are more purposeful in trying to get it. If you are starving you will put all your attention and effort into acquiring food. Turn your purpose into a need. Identify why you need want you want and convince yourself of the importance of it.
-exposure: The more often you are expose to the why’s of the what, the easier the what’s are to carry out and the more they make sense (when you know the purpose of your action, it is easier to carry them out). Expose yourself to your whys, write it down somewhere you can see it. Make it a habit with accountability. Make it a mental mantra and repeat it over and over. Make asking purpose questions a habit.
-repetition: Through repetition you gain feedback and the true value of your endeavors gets revealed. As you gain skill and mastery it can be easier to perform and more enjoyable, creating a “learning loop”. Repetitions develop patience with which you can enjoy the present moment without losing sight of the main goal. Try to find a way to get pleasure from the mundane, from the path not the destination.
-Desire: Associate your purpose with pleasure and want. In a positive desire, you will have a greater level of engagement and enjoyment in the process of fulfilling the purpose. Keeping track of progress can make you excited in the completion and accelerate the speed of the tasks.
Is there different level of purpose?
I think there are different levels of purpose like there are different levels of needs.
There are subconscious purposes that your body carry out instinctively in order for it to survive, like eating and drinking, sleeping, breathing, or reproduction. I think you can add other layers, of conscious and unconscious purposes on top of it.
It is my guess that instinct is another unconscious purpose, design to protect your emotional and mental sanity. For example, mental social priming, first impressions, mental biases like the narrative fallacy, or behavioral reflexes, etc., don’t necessarily serve your conscious mind but have unconscious purposes.
Bringing consciousness to your actions can help to identify the why you are doing things, and also having consciousness to your action adds a layer of purpose and can make life more purposefully rich for example, like mindful eating.
How do you find a purpose?
-you don’t need to find it. Purpose is ever-present; you need to pay attention to it. However you can choose layers of conscious purposes on top. You can choose your activities according to what purpose they fulfil within you.
-You need some time for self-reflection, and ask yourself what you truly are after. I may take a while…but the answer is worthwhile. You also need to reassess, you motives changes as your situation change.
-Finding the right information, maybe some people have found answers for you, or have a similar purpose that will resonate and you’ll want to join in.
-Similarly Faith is something outside of yourself, it being spiritual or secular, it is a powerful vector for purpose.
-Frames of mind and seeing the bigger picture
>Purpose can be a choice, and you can rally your own sense of purpose to that of a group, an organisation, or anything else’s. However you do run the risks of fulfilling someone else’s mission.
-you can ask yourself questions like: What is the purpose of this? What is my purpose? What is my aim in doing that? What do I want out of that? What is my goal? Why am I doing that?
Is there really such thing as purposelessness?
I don’t think there is such a thing as purposelessness. There can be a lack of conscious purpose, (being on autopilot mode) but unconsciously you are always fulfilling purposes or needs, like pleasing someone else’s (fear of conflict or saying no) or try to feel good in some ways (compensate emotional satisfaction, procrastination, etc.).
Even the act of non-volition is purposeful. You are purposefully purposeless in order to let natural experiences arises. It can be a positive thing and let you step out of the situation like an observer to be more deeply engage in other level of experience.
In my case, I definitely have lack of volition out of laziness rather than a meditative way of living.
Another hard question is where does my purpose fits in this age of information overload?
Ultimately you can always keep looking. There are so many ideas, theory and strategy that you can drown trying to find the answer. But maybe it is already right there in front of you, you already know it if you just think about it or admit it to yourself. You know when it is time to find information or when it is time to look inwards. You don’t have to have a complete picture to start acting. If you find something that fills you with purpose just do it, start acting on it even though it is not the perfect way.
Act on the information and go back to it if you need more. Sometimes you find that only one word of advice was enough, all the rest was extra and unneeded. If you didn’t try you would have spent all that extra time accumulating unnecessary information.
Ultimately I do think purpose is personal. Spiritual, metaphysical or higher purpose is a choice you make, even if it is true or not. Because of the biodiversity of nature we are all different. We evolve in different environments and systems, have different needs and upbringings. One has to find what one wants. But we are not alone and there is a world of inspiration out there just waiting…
In conclusion, personally I want to be more purposeful about how I spent my time. I want to spend more time writing because I simply enjoy it, it makes me feel good, and I feel like I am growing through it. Spend more time doing spiritual practice because I believe it to be life’s purpose. I don’t want to be diverted when I spent time having fun or with people I like, have some fun purposefully. I would like to be more careful when accepting proposition and committing to things, asking myself if it serves my sense of purpose or someone else’s. I’d like not to be fooled by the “I must, I should.” and understand consciously why I engage and when I do, do it fully. What about you? Feel free to enrich me with your comments below.
To me here are some Key points to remember and that I will try to improve on:
-Find your purpose through, reflexion and inspiration
-make it grow through engagement, exposure, repetitions, desires, need
-Bring consciousness to your daily activities and make a habit out of asking yourself the right questions
-find a balance in purpose, be definite on the goal but flexible in the approach
The question of purpose and meaning has been one of the major concerns of currents of thoughts, philosophy and religion. I will present insight and knowledge from philosophical and religious current in another blog post.
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” John F. Kennedy