h Phoenix Qi: Life Purpose

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Life Purpose

"The Tao is very close, but everyone looks far away.
Life is very simple, but everyone seeks difficulty."
-- Taoist Sage, 200 B.C

If you've been giving thought lately to finding your Life Purpose, please ponder the writing "Purpose" from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, Harper San Francisco, 1992, ISBN 0062502239.


Suddenly, things snap into focus.
I've been pursuing unity all my life,
But could only glimpse the monstrous vision in fragments;
It has haunted me for years.
Each time I sighted it, I struggled to make it concrete.
At first, it seemed I only had a sculptor's yard of unfinished figures --
Then it slowly began to make sense,
Gathered from glimpses and inferences.
More and more, this mysterious life comes together.
It may take years more to reveal the whole.
That's all right.
I'm prepared to go the distance.

One's life's destiny is not easily revealed. It's too big. You may certainly set your sights early, but you will still have to make changes and adjustments as your true purpose is clarified. When it does begin to come together, there is a tremendous feeling of assurance.

Then with each step upon the path of Tao, your certainty rings from peak to peak.

-End Quote-

Ask anyone these days and they'll tell you that knowing your life purpose is pretty important. The sooner you know why you’re here, the sooner you can learn your life lesson or fulfill your destiny. Many people think that finding their life purpose will make them healthy, wealthy, and wise…and famous!

I'm going to tell you something, and you may think I've missed the boat with this one, but here it is anyway: stop looking. Searching for your life's purpose can be a bit like looking for sleep; the harder you look, the more elusive it is.

While you are diligently reading the book by the latest sage or following the guidelines of the latest guru, your life purpose, not to mention your life, is wandering off in the opposite direction one street over.

If you live your life correctly, as you progress through life, your purpose will unfold before you. What is living correctly? It means living in harmony with people and the environment without expectations. (Personally, I believe this is the primary purpose of the life of every person living on this planet.)

You do have to live first, though. You can't learn about life purposes if you don't know about life. You need to try many different things, visit as many places as you can, open your mind and your heart and let in everything. The things that don't belong or aren't pertinent to you will leave soon enough on their own. The things that stay with you are the things you should pay attention to for if they, individually, do not define your life purpose, they may at least be contributing principles. Examine every "coincidence" you experience for these are messages to help you find the right direction for you.

How will you know when you have discovered your life's purpose? Doing it will fill you with joy, give you energy, you can talk about or do it for hours (paid or unpaid), and you can't wait to get started on it every morning. When you discover what makes you feel like that, you will have met your life purpose.

Do not think that this is a static purpose. You may find that it changes over time; your joy and energy move to another facet of life. That is ok. As you grow and learn it is correct that your purpose shifts to accommodate and utilize your acquired knowledge and experience.

Below is the (slightly edited) response I left on a message board in 2003 in response to a post on life purpose. I feel it is a fair description still:

I do believe, first, that you must be open to new ideas, even if they aren't your first or second choice....even if they aren't on your list of choices. These things do come out of the blue in many cases....it did in mine. You find (quite by accident!) something you do well and enjoy....something you never thought of trying except for circumstances giving you a boot in that direction.

Of course, you must love what you do, but you must also find that it is Very Easy for you to do it. If you tell someone what you do, and they say, "Wow...that is very difficult." or "I could never do that." and you don't understand why not, then you have identified something that is easy for you and that you are well suited to do.

However, "easy" can become "boring," so there must be challenges in the work. These should not be of the "Oh, no, another stupid problem," variety, but rather of the "Ah, something I can sink my teeth into," type of problem. Challenging does not mean overwhelming or distressing. It means something that brings out the best in you, and demonstrates (and allows you to practice) your specific talents.

The challenge sets you up to exercise your inspiration to tackle the problem. Only you could have thought of that solution...everyone else is still standing around scratching their heads over the problem, wondering how to deal with it, and here you've solved it. If you find the challenges are too many and too large, realize you are in the wrong place and not quite doing what is right for you. You should not need to struggle to overcome challenges; work, yes (because you love the work), but not struggle.

The final step is the reward you feel, the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, that "I did it!" feeling.

You can find your "purpose" at any time in your life. Age does not matter. I began working as an assistant with emotionally disturbed children just as I turned 40, after having been a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. I was looking for a job, and friends thought I'd be good at this....I had never considered it as a career choice...hardly knew it existed. Now, I am beginning my tenth year in the field. It's easy for me, challenging, which I am able to overcome with flashes of inspiration, and extremely rewarding.

I have found this cycle to exist for most people who are happy with where they are in their lives, people who feel they have found their "purpose," a place where they can do the most good for themselves and others.

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