Finding Purpose in Life

Ask yourself, “What do I believe my purpose is in this life?” When reading this question it is easy for our minds to go straight to work, and list all of the achievements and accomplishments we strive to attain in life. But, after taking a step back from those answers, we may encounter some falsehood in answering this seemingly simple question.

Is PURPOSE in life really to move up the ladder, build wealth, or buy a beach house? These are some examples of what some of us might set goals to have one day, but can we say with confidence they are our purpose? Consider the fact that our goals may not have anything to do with our purpose in life, perhaps.

If our purpose is NOT to attain nice things, go to cool places or have a house on the beach, what is purpose?

Personally, I identified my purpose(s) in life by following my will for meaning (as expressed by Victor Frankl in his novel, Man’s Search for Meaning), or a feeling that I contribution to a certain area in my life. I found much of this purpose had to do with my relationships with people and nothing to do with work or accomplishments at all at the end of the day.

I believe our society may have purpose and goals mixed up to be synonymous. As a result, our professions can truly distract us from our spirituality and understanding our real path in life. In pre-historic times, our lives were surrounded around maintaining existence, our purpose in life being the need to provide food for our family and keep them alive. Now, we take our existence for granted, and since we have less concern about survival, we embark on a search for some greater purpose to our lives through work and checking off goals. But, are we searching too far? Are we trying too hard? Is our true purpose found in our everyday existence after all?

Perhaps our life purpose is simply relieving another of their suffering by being a friend, giving love to another in a time of need, giving purpose to another, or serving as a positive figure in the life of a growing adolescent. Such examples are not necessarily sought, for these are all opportunities to pursue a purposeful life exist in our everyday lives in our experiences with friends, family, and loved ones. We are given opportunity for purpose no matter what our status, occupation or wealth. Dig deep into understanding yourself, and know purpose can be find in the simplest existence. Then ask yourself, “What is my purpose?”

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Think about a time in your life when you had interpreted someone’s “Yes.” (emphasis on the period) via text as he or she harboring frustration with you. You then begin to analyze this event and bring reason to why they are mad at you and assume they are irritated with something you said. But how much of that is the truth? Rather, this is the story we tell ourselves to bring a story line into a trigger event to help make sense of it. Yet, that IS all we are really doing, making up a story, and not even considering the truth in the situation.

Perhaps after confronting this friend regarding the text message, she does not even remember it because there was not emotion attached to the response at all. Meanwhile, you had suffered for days thinking constantly about this response which turned out to be a misinterpretation at the end of the day. Dr. Brene Brown speaks of how the brain actually rewards us for creating a storyline such as this to help to make sense of a situation whether it is a truthful storyline or not. As a result, however, we may be so committed to our story that we never end up finding the truth.

Brene Brown speaks about how these trigger moments, such as the “Yes.” text message response are opportunities for self-reflection. Our recognition of the tendency to craft a story in this moment is the sign to begin our self-reflection. To take the same example, once we are triggered by this text message and recognize our minds readiness to craft this entire story about our friend, we stop and reflect. Here, we are given the opportunity to figure out what about this response had triggered us?

The interesting thing is that we will always find that it everything to do with us, and nothing to do with the other person. The person on the sending end had no foul intention or malicious vengeance with a “Yes.” text response but because of our own inner insecurities and fear of rejection, we are sensitive to the short diction.

Since we are the creators of our reality, if we believe the story we tell ourselves all of the time, we may never give ourselves the opportunity to find truth or use this opportunity for self-reflection. By constantly believing the story we tell ourselves to be true, we can ruin various relationships in our lives. We may blame the actions of others for the way we are feeling or the failure of a relationship on the faults of another. How much truth is in these storylines? Are they merely just stories we tell ourselves?

Next time you feel the urge to develop a storyline in a trigger situation, recognize it as fiction and question what about YOU allowed for this to be a trigger event. You may find out more about yourself than you’d like to admit.

Creating Peace in a Chaotic World

In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl speaks of his experience in the Holocaust as a Jewish prisoner. Instead of focusing on the hardships and details of the event, which many of us are aware of, he speaks of the inner experiences of the prisoners who he shared a story with. Frankl speaks of the prisoner’s ability to find peace and joy inside themselves despite the horror and inhumane conditions surrounding them. He describes each prisoners appreciation for the small joys such as a sunset, being delegated one laborious task over another, finding humor in the direst of situations, and, for Frankl especially, the simple thought of a loved one’s presence, which gave him enough reason to survive.

Today, I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have never, and hopefully will never, experience a comparable experience to Frankl’s but we can relate to this idea of being dealt a difficult hand, so to speak, and finding ways to manage our emotions in those times of hardship. Frankl presents a useful lesson on how to cultivate joy in a situation where joy may not be found externally. He speaks of finding this within our inner selves, as he did with the thought of his wife and her love during his time in the camps.

Frankl’s point throughout the book is to prove the power of finding meaning for our lives and how it can give us the physical strength to rise above seemingly helpless situations. By giving our lives meaning and focusing our minds on that purpose, we cultivate our own reality and will to continue on our journey, no matter the circumstance. Frankl does not fully credit his salvation to his own luck, but rather, to his mentality and his ability to create peace within himself throughout his time in the camps.

This story proves the power of the mind, and its ability to give us the strength in times we may feel hopeless or physically powerless, as Frankl was living off of watery soup and a rationed piece of bread every day in freezing, inhumane living conditions. So, in our own lives, we can carry Frankl’s lesson with us in times we feel without hope, envision the things that bring you joy and that give meaning to your life, and know that you are capable of rising above it all.

Uncovering the Fear of Losing Control and What to Do About It

I have been battling for a solution to my life-long irritation towards sounds, and recently, I have grown intolerable to the sound my co-worker makes in the cubicle next to mine. The sound of chewing, slurping and clanging on the bowl of cheerios has urged me to flee from the building while pulling the hairs out of my head. This is not a new irritation to me, for I had always been bothered with various sounds others make ever since I was a child, always prompting the same feeling of discomfort and need to run away. Now, I have forced myself to take a deeper look at what the root of this problem has been all of these years because it is beginning to make me have disdain for people I like and impedes my ability to focus.

What I found to be the deeper issue is, not my resentments towards my co-worker or the pitch of the clank on the bowl, but it is my fear of losing control (of my life). You may be asking yourself, “What the heck does that have to do with people making annoying sounds?” right? It does sound far-fetched but let me explain with a more obvious example. Why do we get so irritated and impatient when we are stuck in traffic? It is because things are not going our way, or as we planned. If it was up to us, we would never sit in traffic, and since we have no control over it, we are frustrated when we find ourselves idling on the parkway, sitting bumper to bumper. In applying this scenario to the one I am personal struggling with, I find that if it was up to me, there would be silence in all situation and everyone would have perfect food etiquette (like the one I would be so delusional to think I have ;P). Since this is a situation I do not have control over, this same impatience, irritation and need to change circumstance grows and grows as I continue to recognize how much I am losing control over the present. I urge you to think about the times you have felt irritated by something just as trivial, a fight you got into with your partner, or quitting something when things change and became more difficult. Did you ever consider these reactions to be your fear of losing control in some way? The fear of rejection and judgment can even be under the fear of losing control, for we cannot control what people think of us or if they will like us, so this worry and frustration causes us to act in ways we would not if we did not have this need for control.

Now that I know the irritation towards my co-workers cereal chewing, for example, is an indicator of my fear of losing control, what can I do to ease this burden? Can I stop him from eating cereal every day? Can I throw a blanket over my head in an attempt to block out the sound? OR, do I have to change something within myself? Since this is an external irritant, our only viable option in conquering this trigger long-term is to change something within ourselves.

My first step in conquering this irritant was identifying it as a trigger for my fear of losing control. Next, I began to breathe throughout the duration of this occurrence and focus solely on myself and the present moment. Then, I began to affirm that my co-worker is a good person and does not deserve the disdain I am feeling towards him, so I thought of him positively. Finally, understanding that I will NEVER have control over the actions, thoughts and feelings of other people has provided me with a peace which I can apply to other aspects of my life, from my fear of being judged and rejected to my fear of losing control.

Next time you are annoyed with someone or something, take a deeper look to find out if it is because you cannot control it. Instead of acting from a place of fear, recognize it as so and let it go with actions similar to those I took on my own. My co-worker’s cereal chopping is still a bit irritating but to a MUCH lower intensity, so I call that progress.

THE ONLY RESOLUTION YOU WILL EVER NEED TO SET FOR A NEW YEAR

Resolution: Improve my self-awareness.

I strongly believe this is the SOLE and ULTIMATE resolution to be set in replace of all those in the past and future New Year’s.

By committing to a journey towards improving self-awareness, all other life improvements will come as a byproduct. We all set new goals in the New Year to try to improve our self-esteem and make our lives feel richer, right? We begin to think about all that we are not doing, what we do not have and what we want, and formulate these goals based on all of these components. Some of the most popular New Year’s goals are eating healthier, getting more exercise, saving more money, getting more sleep, reading more, getting a new job, etc.

But, what if I told you that we really only needed to set one goal that would lead to the accomplishments of all those proceeding? Sounds good, right? It is easier said than done, but by committing to a journey toward improving self-awareness, we will develop the discipline to lose the weight we wanted because of our improvement in decision making and understanding ourselves, and will also be able to save more money as we become more aware of our priorities and what is truly important.

Perhaps defining self-awareness will assist you as you craft this single goal for the New Year. Self-awareness can be explained as recognizing our thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires, which will in turn allow us to make more reasoned decisions and choices. The constant improvement in this understanding will empower us to lead healthier and happier lives as we make more quality decisions and choices as a result. There are various ways to embark on the journey towards self-awareness. Please see below for four simple practices you can incorporate into everyday that will start you on this path, and take over the New Year!

  1. Meditation
    Through meditation, we allow ourselves a moment of silence, away from the noise in our everyday life. Here, we are able to observe what thoughts have been floating through our mind, and any emotion we are experiencing, prompted from those thoughts. In performing this practice, we are more aware of the various things that may trigger us in a negative or positive way. From here, we have the power to change our reactions to these thoughts and create a new association to them. As we routinely meditate throughout the week, we begin to discover the root of our emotions and are given the power to change them as we see fit. Such awareness will then become part of our everyday encounters, allowing us to manage various challenges and obstacles.
  2. Journaling
    Journaling is another amazing way to reflect on our thoughts and emotions. By putting this into practice, we can visually observe what we are thinking in our minds, and begin to analyze our reactions. Our thoughts are now real and live on paper, as if they have a life of their own. In our journal entry, we can ask ourselves questions like, “What did I do great today?” and “What can I improve on today?” These sort of questions will allow us to reflect on the whole day and revisit when we felt positive, uncomfortable, dissatisfied and/or proud. We can then understand the moments which had been associated with these emotions, and strive to improve our reactions in the more challenging or disappointing moments going forward.
  3. Reading
    Books allow for us to gain more insight into the lives and experiences of others, which we cannot experience ourselves. Reading expands our perspective beyond, assisting us in understanding others and even learning from them. As a result, we begin to empathize with stories, experiences and people who we did not even know existed. We become aware of other’s emotions and the events that lead to these emotions to rationally determine if we wish to be in a similar situation or not. Now, these books have influenced our own decision making and our ability to understand humanity and even a bit about our place in it. We can read specifically about self-awareness and other’s experiences on their own self-awareness journeys. Please visit Books to check out the novels under “Self-Improvement” for suggestions.
  4. Feedback
    This last step is most definitely the most daunting and vulnerable of all previous steps, and quite honestly, something I need to do more of, which is asking for feedback. Who is a better observe of you, you or other people? Of course, other people because otherwise people who chew gum loudly, talk with their mouth full and make conversation with you at the gym while you’re mid-set WOULD NOT BOTHER YOU if THEY knew it was annoying. So, if this is the case, this presents us with a new opportunity to better understand ourselves from other person’s perspective. Maybe we can do this after a big presentation at work, or during a mid-year appraisal review, or maybe more personally, opening ourselves up for feedback from our partner or friend about how we are doing in following through on commitments or listening to them when they tell us about their day. Outside feedback is necessary for us to make a change, because otherwise we may never be aware enough to change it. For example, my partner has pointed out my increase in volume while telling a story in restaurants, which I had not previously been aware of. Now, I look out for it and make the effort to catch myself if I feel the volume may be on the rise (Working on it).

In incorporating these four simple steps into our everyday lives this New Year, we are sure to be on our way to improving self-awareness and making us an overall better person this 2019!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!

 

 

 

 

Be Careful Not to Inherit the Conditionings of Others

I have spoken much about conditioning in this blog so I will not go on and on about the importance of recognizing our own conditionings, but the main objective of this post is to understand the conditionings of OTHERS before allowing for their conditioning to impact our own. We must begin to understand where people are coming from when they provide us with their own opinions before accepting them as fact.

Why do we take advice from others who are not in where we want to be in life? Unless we wish to live a similar life as the one providing advice, we must question its relevance to ourselves and what we are looking to accomplish. It is similar in questioning whether we would take financial advice from someone who has filed for bankruptcy a number of times. We simply would not do so. There are people in our lives who serve as resources for a variety of challenges, but not for all.

Many people who provide us with advice are sourcing their words straight from their conditionings. Their beliefs may have been handed down to them by their parents, by community, by friends and neighbors, who more than likely ended up in the same place. Now, these same individuals are making the effort to influence you with these same conditionings. By understanding their conditioned fears and how they played out in their lives, we can be empowered to make the choice to own this condition or not.

For example, if my father has always had a fear of losing his job, belief that working at a big corporation was the best career and was an extremely religious person, what would you expect of my beliefs? Without the awareness of these beliefs being HIS conditionings and not my own (YET), I am likely to inherit his same fears, lack of aspiration, and narrow-mindedness towards other religious beliefs or ideas other than his, and now my, own.

We will inherit conditionings inevitably without our knowledge, for many of them had been engrained at a young age, but as we grow older and gain an awareness of the origin of these conditionings and who/where/what they are coming from, we can take the power back to reject or accept them as we see fit.