I am readingEleanor Roosevelt: The Early Years right now. It’s awesome. I’ve always drawn upon Eleanor Roosevelt (ER) quotes, and have seen biographies about ER, yet reading the book has given me much more to consider, and to reflect upon. Powerful.
If you’ve not read much about ER, here are some of my favorite quotes, and a cool American Experience interview I highly recommend with Vernon Jarrett.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
A purpose-driven life. What does that mean? Any idea? Okay, well, as with most things, there is no one way to think about purpose, or life. Lots of ways to think about these concepts. And, for sure, they are just that, concepts. As humans we often become confused about the meaning we derive from concepts. Why?
Because we create meaning to make sense of the world. And, we create concepts or stories with the language we use to describe our experience. I’ve written about this in other posts, yet it is also instructive here. Why? Because searching for purpose is something that humans spend a lot of time, and money on. Is it necessary? Not sure? Let’s take a look.
What does purpose have to do with life?
How many times have you heard someone utter the phrase, I found my purpose! Yep, me too. And, I’ve uttered that phrase myself. What’s the issue with this way of thinking?
One issue is that if we find purpose outside of ourselves, then it can be taken away. Make sense? Sometimes people land the job they’ve always wanted, and believe the job, or the company, will deliver the purpose they’ve been looking for.
I lived the majority of my life this way. Yep. True. Yet, what I’ve come to realize in the past three years, is that purpose, like all concepts that are created in language, live inside of us. Period. Then what does that mean for people that are in search of purpose?
It means that they will never find it in the world. Not until they find it within themselves. There really is no other way. What we create within us, can never be taken away. Why? Because we’ve created it, and it lives within us. Not accessible to others, unless we choose to invite them.
This may be hard to believe for some, and for others may make perfect sense. We create purpose in our lives. Period.
We are the active agents in creating purpose, and all other concepts that are derived from language. They come from within. Has always worked this way, and will always continue to work this way. What about people who say they’ve found their purpose, and that their purpose lives in the outside world? Depends.
If they’ve created that purpose from within, then when circumstances change their purpose will remain. However, if their purpose is attached to something that lives in the world, and does not live within them, then that purpose may fade. Why is this so?
Because life is full of change. The world, everything around us and within us, is always in a constant state of change. Constant. And, what happens with change?
Where there is constant change, it is only a matter of time before that which we’ve attached our purpose to also changes. And, when it does, there goes our purpose. Extremely painful. Let me give you an example.
When I was first married, we lived in a couple of different apartments in Los Angeles. After a few years, we were ready to buy a home. Hard to do in LA. However, we persisted, and found one. A lovely little home.
In the time we searched for this house, many people told me things like, owning a home is the best, it is everything people say and more. Because my parents were homeowners, I believed that homewoning was a requirement. Owning a home became my purpose at that time in my life.
It was perfect. Our sons were very little, and we were on our way to homeownership. The issue, you ask? Well, this was in 2004. And, what happened in 2007 and 2008? Yep. The housing crash.
Though we ended up selling the house in LA, and purchasing one in AZ, we ended up foreclosing on that house in 2007. That was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Tons of tears. It was as if a part of me had been ripped right out of me. Why?
Because the purpose I had created in language, lived outside of me. When the house foreclosed, then, it was a visceral experience of loss. Losing something so dear, and so important to me. Really was painful. And, why was it so painful?
Because the concept of purpose that I created was that being a homeowner was not only the next step in my life, but was also a step that would bring me peace and security.
What followed? A ton of shame about foreclosing on that house. Shame followed naturally because I had created a purpose that lived outside of me, and that purpose was attached to a particular way of being, and result. Painful. Yet not the only way to create purpose. There is a different way. Let’s take a look.
How can we create purpose in our lives?
When purpose is created from within, it’s never about what’s outside of you. Not ever. Purpose is derived from the actions you take inside of the manifold things that you do. Period.
The main difference for me, is that I don’t have a particular purpose, outside of living my life fully in every moment. This moment, then the next, then the next. And, the purpose that is derived from within is generalizable to all contexts.
A walk on the beach; a conversation with a friend or loved one, a meeting at work, writing this post. Same. They all feel similar to me today. Was not always the case.
When you have a purpose that starts inside of you, the world looks and feels different. Why? Because you are more present to each moment, and all of the wonder that lives there.
When we are able to get outside of our minds continuous longing to be busy, to find purpose, we can be more still. And, in that stillness, purpose is actually kind of a funny concept. What purpose does one really need in this life, but to live; and, live well?
How do you create purpose? Well, that is up to you. You can look, and be on a continuous quest for something that is already inside of you. Many people, including myself for most of my life, live that way.
Or, you can begin to understand that we are the active agents and creators of our purpose. And, in each moment a purpose can be created from within you, no matter what you are doing. Anything, at any time.
For instance, I am now at the coast for a couple of days. Nice. Upon arriving, I walked on the beach for a little while. Just walked. Was beautiful. Then I came back to the tiny, and I mean tiny, room I’m staying in, and meditated for 30-minutes. Now I’m finishing up this post. Then, I’ll get dinner, and then, don’t know.
Doesn’t matter. What comes in each moment will come; and I’ll see it as it comes. Life is actually quite exhilarating that way. No conceptualization of how it will be, or what I’m supposed to be doing. Just doing. That’s all.
What actions can you take to create purpose in each moment?
Live life fully – whatever you are doing, be present to that context, and fully enjoy each moment. When we are not present, and are thinking about other things, we miss our opportunity to create our inner purpose in that moment.
Be the best iteration of yourself – when we give everything we have in every moment, regardless of what we are doing, we are living purposefully. Give your all, always.
Create your purpose from within – create your purpose from within you, and create it again, and again. Each moment, of every day. That’s living a full life.
Be who you reallyare – your inner purpose will come from who you really are, not a performance based upon who others think you are. Be who you are, and your purpose will show up.
Stay engaged with all that you do – we have so many things that we can do, and contribute to. Phew, so much to do. And, being engaged in all that you do, is important to creating that inner purpose. Engagement means getting the most out of everything you do. Important.
Let go of expectations you have – when we have expectations about how things are supposed to go, we set ourselves up for disappointment. And, there is no purpose in disappointment. Don’t expect, just be present and do.
Alright, there are a few actions you can take to begin to create that inner purpose. Funny. It’s already there, you just need to slow down, be present, appreciate everything that is in front of you, and experience the life that is there to be lived.
Let go of the life you think you should be living, and live the one that is right in front of you. You will see, feel, and believe in your new found purpose, whatever it is.
This week I’ve been reflecting upon the old age question: what is the meaning of life? Also asked in other ways, such as, what is my purpose? Or, what is the purpose of life?
Just a moment ago I finished a Friday email to the team I work with, the subject of which was purpose. I used to think that purpose, or the meaning of life, if you like, was something that existed in the external wolrd. That the meaning of life was something that would show up, or was something that I could find, purchase, or attain.
I’ve since come to realize that this notion is a fallacy, one that can induce a lot of suffering whether your quest comes up empty or not. The realization that the meaning of life does not exist outside of you, creates an understanding, then, that the present moment is all that we really have.
In the present moment we have the opportunity to be all that we wish to be, to make all of our goals, wishes, and dreams a reality by creating the actions necessary to reach those goals, wishes, and dreams. The present moment is the one right in front of us now, and then now, and then now.
The present moment is about living in that moment, accepting all that it contains, no matter what happens. It is knowing that whatever happens is in some way connected to all of the goals, wishes, and dreams that we have. Even when we are unable to understand how whatever is happening is connected to those goals, wishes, and dreams. For me, it is especially true in those moments.
There was a time, not long ago, where all things unknown frightened me terribly. Today, I know that to live fully, to live presently, we must not only accept all that is unknown, we must also come to love it and live for it. It is inside all of the unknowns of life that life becomes extra vibrant, and special.
For me, life is about fully expressing ourselves in every moment. Living each moment with the fullness of our entire being. Serving ourselves well, and serving each other likewise.
Life is about inspiration and creativity. About finding inspiration in the smallest things in each moment. A leaf, a tree, a rainy day, a smile, a touch. It is about creating within each of these moments the human being you want to be, desire to be, and giving of yourself fully, while also filling yourself with all of those around you.
Life is about creating a purpose in each moment. And, recreating that purpose over and over again, moment by moment, and day to day. It is about living at the edge of what we believe is possible in the world, and then going past that edge into the unknown.
Live at the edge of what you know. Embrace all that is new. And, create from those spaces. Create the life that you want, the life that you desire. The meaning of your life is your creation, and it is your creation every moment of every day.