“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
Countless self-help gurus urge people to find their purpose, to lead a purpose-driven life, to be purposeful about their choices.
The thinking goes like this: If you’re feeling a pervasive sense of un-fulfillment and lack — perhaps sprinkled with varying degrees of anxiety or sadness or anger — then you’re probably lacking your purpose. Find your purpose, the enlightened people say, and all else in life clicks into place.
Roger that. It’s a logical thread to follow.
There’s just one problem: Trying to find your life purpose causes a lot of people more stress and anxiety. It throws life wildly out of balance. It creates striving. Until that holy grail of Here’s my life purpose is found, life can feel perpetually lacking.
If you don’t? Someone’s going to get whacked in the face, really hard. That’s not going to promote communication.
Most people spend a lot of time just trying to work up the courage to have a difficult conversation with someone. This is a tough space, isn’t it?
No one likes to initiate a conversation in which they know that they need to communicate that there’s a conflict between them.
After you’ve checked to make sure that you’re not manipulating the work when you decide to speak your truth, here are a few guidelines to more successfully throw that ball so that someone else can catch it.
In 2012, for health reasons, I needed to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet.
I needed to, so I chose to. It wasn’t a life or death in the strictest sense–my diagnosis with an auto-immune disease did not require me to make any dietary change–but after trying it out for a brief period, I realized that diet did have an effect on my condition.
But food is controversial. People who omit things from their diet are suspect. Some people point out some research factoid they’ve read that says that diet doesn’t make a difference. Others say, condescendingly, that gluten-free is “just a fad.”
The biggest rub? That giving up certain foods would drain the joy out of life. Since I could continue to eat gluten or dairy and still mostly, basically, pretty-much get through life, then: How could I give up bread? Cheese? Ice-cream?
We are not meant to be perfect;
we are meant to be whole.~Jane Fonda
It’s the crisis of the modern era: stressed-out, disconnected, working so hard and not knowing what, exactly, we’re working for. Entire lives are planned around promotions and pay raises, or around simply surviving the day-to-day, and then we look around and ask ourselves: Is all this work actually getting me where I want to go?
I’ve found myself in this position–the position of the person who has figured out how to work hard and achieve things, but has realized with a sudden and startling clarity that she doesn’t actually know that they are things she wanted.
What do you do when you’ve pursued the things you’ve been conditioned to want, and find that once you’ve got them–they weren’t what you really wanted?
Perhaps what you’ve sought was some outward measure of perfection, and now the journey is towards wholeness.
I’ve seen it happen so many times: In casual conversation, without really thinking about it, I start a sentence off with, “Our couples counselor…” and I’m startled when I see the eyebrows raise.
Amid what has become my utterly ordinary reality–we see a couples counselor–I forget myself. I forget that for most people, working with a couples counselor is the sort of thing you’d only reveal to intimate friends and family (and perhaps not even then).
But this is my truth: my partner of seven-plus years and I work with a couples counselor, and have done so since about the two-year mark of our relationship.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert,
These days, as far as I can tell, some of the world is choosing drugs and distraction over soul-searching.
That’s not, you, though, right? You’re willing to do the work. You’re willing to look at the ugly stuff, and acknowledge the areas where you could use some work—whether it’s emotional, mental, physical, ethical, moral, or any other kind.
But like many things in life, there’s a shadow side to this.
At some point—if you’re not very careful—you may cross the line from personal growth into perfectionism: constantly assessing yourself and your flaws, berating yourself for not doing everything better, and then using the lessons of self-help not for freedom, but as another system for beating yourself up the very same way you would have before you started doing any work at all.
Don't miss this inspiring and beautifully written article on finding inner peace through our core. Kate eloquently articulated something I’ve been feeling but haven’t quite bubbled up into words. Amazing job.
Undertaking the journey to get some ground under our feet,
is completely missing the point.~Pema Chodron
Things I have tried, in order to reach a state where my life felt like it was all put together, where it was all in order, and to never again feel bad:
Reading lots of spiritual books
Counseling, therapy, coaching
Raw foods diets (the books always talk about feeling so “clear” and “mentally alert”)
Workshops oriented around catharsis
There are more things that I could list off, but I’ll stop there–you get the picture. All the while, I was searching for something that the searching itself was going to keep me from finding–because all the while, I was “doing stuff” in order to maintain the illusion of control.