“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.
By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.~Lao Tsu
When I joined my college improv comedy troupe during my freshman year at UPenn, I wasn’t the only newly inducted member in the group. Another guy named Pete came on board with me.
Pete and I were total opposites. Right before a show I was a ball of nervous energy, while Pete was super cool and relaxed.
I worked hard in practice, memorizing the rules of each game and studying what worked and what didn’t, while Pete — always on cruise control — seemed to just wander into practice and wing it.
I didn’t like Pete at first. I didn’t think he was a good performer and didn’t trust him in scenes. He would say something totally random that no one else was prepared for, and the scene would suddenly turn in a completely different direction.
There was just one thing though — Pete was funny. Real funny.
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.~Bryant H. McGill
Some acquaintances and I were hiking together in a new spot. Everywhere we turned there were things to behold — falcons perched, coyotes hunting, altars built — it was an experience I can’t wait to repeat.
Since we were all fairly new friends, we all had plenty to tell each other. There was very little silence, even in such an awe-inspiring place. When I got home I realized that I didn’t remember a lot of what was said. I was embarrassed to admit it, but it seemed I had forgotten to listen.
I’ve been told many times that I’m a good listener; in fact, many people open up to me for just that reason. Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe I was just out of practice (working alone will do that to you) but I decided to revisit some of the things I draw on to listen well. Here are four tips on how to listen:
Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept things as they are.~Karen Maezen Miller
This morning, as I absentmindedly watched the news while returning hoards of neglected emails and tweeting like mad, a story about anxiety caught my attention.
According to the story, anxiety has become the “most common of psychological complaints,” affecting three in 10 Americans on a regular basis.
The man featured in the story had been racked with anxiety for years, spurred, he believes, by the traumatic experience of attending college and compounding every year since.
For him it almost ruined his relationship with his now-wife and continues to disrupt both his sleeping and waking life every day.
This is typical line of thought for him:
“I am anxious. The anxiety makes it impossible to concentrate. Because it is impossible to concentrate, I will make an unforgivable mistake at work. Because I will make an unforgivable mistake at work, I will be fired. Because I will be fired, I will not be able to pay my rent…”
Reading it now, it sounds like madness. None of it makes any logical sense, yet I recognize the thought pattern.
Three years ago I was depressed. I couldn’t stop crying over the mistakes I had made, and I was trying to dig myself out of a dark hole. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t go back and the only way I saw out was through death. I wanted it to be over, and I couldn’t see how I was going to live with myself.
I went to a doctor for a checkup because my body was so tired. When I told her my symptoms, she immediately asked me if I had suicidal thoughts.