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.

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.

Not Accepting Every Thought as Fact

It is easy to lead with thought, right? Whenever we think something is a good idea, we are quick to jump at the opportunity before consideration. Whenever we think something is wrong, we are quick to avoid the instance. Thinking then leads to emotion, which is also a misleading determiner of action. Does leading with thought and emotion alone prove that the action is true? In other words, because you are frightened, should you then avoid? Because you are excited, should you then pursue?

These are hard questions to answer because we are often advised to go with our gut, but I would argue that gut is different from emotion, if you can believe it for a moment. The gut is admired to be an instinctual intuition, and I am not sure that can be equally categorized. I believe this gut feeling is more of a force or attraction we experience, while, I would categorize emotion as reaction or state of being.

Furthermore, many of us can fall into the routine of believing everything we have in our head, our doubts, our fears and our uncertainties, and accept them at truth. We might even argue with ourselves saying, “Well if this isn’t true, then why am I thinking it?” or “Since I’m thinking it, it must be true.” FALSE. We have more control over what we think than we realize. Thinking is simply a scattering of neurons in the brain, which actually have no meaning at all until we GIVE them meaning. Since this is the case, we can change the meaning of our thoughts and make the decision to accept them as fact or let them go. Oftentimes our days are rid with more negative thoughts than positive ones, unfortunately, so I would advise us to let them go.

Not accepting every thought as fact can reduce the worry in our days, understanding that we control what has meaning and what does not. We need to take control of the narrate we rehearse in our minds, and let go of the garbage that appears out of nowhere in our monkey brain. Today, take a moment to observe the thoughts flowing through your mind, and I urge you to objectively observe them as just thoughts alone and let them go.

Appreciation > Expectation

I previously wrote a post about freeing ourselves of expectation, which did not encourage having “low” expectation, but to rather have none at all. In this post I want to take a deeper dive into the dangers of having expectations and how it can sabotage our friendships, romantic relationships and work relationships. The appropriate word for this challenge is indeed, “sabotage,” because we place this danger upon OURSELVES with expectations.

The main danger of expectation is its capability of overlooking appreciation as a result, in all scenarios in life. For example, perhaps your significant other took out the garbage without you asking but left the bottles in the bin in the kitchen. You expected him or her to take BOTH the garbage and bottles out without you asking, so what does this typically lead to? This leads to the overlooking of what your significant other DID do and focus on what he or she did not do. Now, is this fair to your partner who thought he or she was helping out? I’m not sure that it is. Rather, if we were free from all expectation in this scenario, we might be more likely to see what our partner had done and appreciate him or her for doing the task at all.

Another example might be the expectation of getting something in return for doing a friend a favor. Your friend asks you to drive them to the airport often, asked for help on a new move or asks for a money loan. As a result, you are keeping score of these favors you are doing for this friend and expecting them to repay you for all the things you have done for them, and when they don’t return the favor, resentment builds.

The true destroyer at the end of the day is this resentment that has resulted from expectation over appreciation. Perhaps you can relate to a time when you had a friend or significant other who did things to show their appreciation of you but also omitted from doing other things that you had expected of them to further show their appreciation. It just wasn’t enough in your book. How did this relationship work out? Most likely, after continuing the cycle of expecting and not getting, while overlooking things to appreciate, resentment built and most likely tarnished this relationship till it could no longer be repaired.

So, now I ask you whether it was, in fact, them, who was the problem in the relationship for not having obeyed your expected (and often unexpressed) request, or was it you, overlooking what they did do any rather focused on what they did not? I encourage us to work on freeing ourselves of expectation or at least communicate our expectations to another. Conversely, focus on the good and appreciate what this other person HAS given you. Is it worth losing over expectation?

“There’s Nothing to Fear But…” BLAH BLAH BLAH

As we approach the concluding months of the year, many of us creating our New Year’s resolutions. Some people might think these goals are silly, arguing, “Well, you can make a new goal at any time, so why wait for the New Year to start?” Of course, there is some truth to this statement, we should always be growing and challenging ourselves, however the New Year is a symbol of something fresh, a clean slate that provides people with the belief they can begin again. And to that, I say, “Hell yeah!”

In my own brief reflection of my 2018 goals regarding what I achieved and did not achieve, I have noticed many factors caused me to fall short on accomplishing many of them.

The greatest limitation I have discovered in myself had been fear. Throughout the year, fear manifested itself both in my professional and my personal life. Progressing through this fear in various situations felt as if I was trekking though muddy waters. These fears had layers to them, for I found there was never just a single fear felt in a given situation. These fears had fears and I was fearful of my fears. Eventually, this debilitating feeling would blow out the spark I may have felt only moments before. As a result, searched for comfort rather than taking action against these fears.

It is easy to recite FDR’s famous words, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” but it is quite another to truly believe it. Fears are created from our insecurities and conditioning resulting from past experiences and childhood. In our adult lives, as we begin to take on the world, striving to fulfill our goals, these fears begin to stand in the way of our goals. Our choices are to run or to face these fears, and our instinct is the easiest way out, right? To run. The most difficult challenge is pushing through these conditions, changing them, and no longer obliging to the fear they have created within us.

Thus far, I have found the strongest opponent to fear has been faith and acceptance of failure. How can we fear if we have such a strong faith or belief in something? We must trust that what we are setting out to do is authentic in the given moment and not question it and feel obligated to answer fear’s doubtful questions nagging in our minds. We must believe we have positive intent in our action and pursue it unafraid. Furthermore, we must build the muscle to accept failure, for what is the greatest fear instilled in most people? The fear of judgment. In accepting failure, we can accept our flaws and our mistakes, and maybe even learn from them. Though facing our fear sounds scary, it is a small sacrifice for a much greater reward.