Musings: Life Purpose

For most people, work life plus commute time occupies about 30% of a week’s total 168 hours. That’s a big chunk of time and energy to invest in just about anything, considering sleep takes up another 30%.

Because the way you feel about your job affects not only your work performance but your overall health and quality of life in general, finding satisfying and fulfilling work means more than just bringing home a steady paycheck. It’s also a way for bringing balance to your life by helping you discover who you are, what works for you and what doesn’t, and maybe even identifying your life purpose.

However, it seems that more and more of today’s workers are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to continue on with the commuting, the 9-5 inflexible schedule with not enough time off, the decreasing benefits and increasing workload in this era of cheap labor and expendable employees. “If this is life purpose, than what’s the point?” they ask.

As the world seems to be growing more complicated day by day, many can no longer ignore the stress brought on by mounting dissatisfaction with their work lives. Blinking like a neon sign, the daily hardships on the job remind you to reconsider “what is my purpose in life and how is that being served in my present work situation?” When we are living “on purpose,” it’s like taking a good medicine tonic that fuels our health and enjoyment of life from the inside. Even when the going gets rough, we look towards our purpose for inspiration and confirmation, and we are revived. Living a life with purpose is the best medicine there is.

We’ve each been endowed with unique purposes in our lives, some we are aware of and some we will never know about. These can include special relationships, career goals, personal or public accomplishments and pivotal choices to make at the crossroads of life. Your destiny is to succeed in all these areas of life and fulfill the purposes you were born to accomplish. Becoming aware of them is the first step. Ask yourself: What interests you most? What or whom do you feel compelled to take care of, to spend time with? What are you good at? What do you feel passionate about? When you answer these questions honestly, your heart is leading you towards discovering your life purposes. You are lucky to discover them.

Not every life purpose is meant to produce income and no one’s life purpose is better than another’s. While some life purposes can also be career paths, others will guide us towards gaining certain knowledge or healing for ourselves and others. Just like gifts, life purposes come in all shapes and sizes. If you are really good at making funny faces or absolutely fascinated by bluebirds in North Carolina, there is a life purpose in that for you to discover. Don’t let money be your guide in deciding which paths to follow. When you are living your purpose, you are naturally supported to fulfill it. No one can live your life purpose but you.

It seems that more people than ever feel lost in a sea of meaningless and lack of purpose, aimlessly wandering or bouncing back and forth between all sorts of personal diversions, money concerns and career choices. Like a dangerous virus, destructive attitudes such as apathy, greed and entitlement have been allowed to flourish on college campuses, high schools, and even in our homes, producing a next generation which expects cheap goods, uninterrupted services and energy resources provided to them without contributing in return. While we certainly did what we thought was best for the children we parented through the 80s, 90s and into the new millennium, we see now that we provided too much too freely, which diminished their chance to earn learn how to make a balanced return. We still have time to teach them something new. Free flowing money is not our true purpose for living.

Humans, at our core, are endowed with the capacity to love. All of just want to be loved and to love in return. This leaves us vulnerable to experiencing great pain when love is missing from our lives, but also great satisfaction, joy and well-being when love flows. While some of us may have clearly defined life purposes which guide us personally or professionally, we all share a common life purpose as humans to create the healthiest, most peaceful environment on Earth that is possible. We create this ideal environment when we express more love in our lives. I like the simple guideline the Dalai Lama uses for describing our life purpose — to reduce suffering for all sentient beings, or if you cannot reduce it, do not create more — which is also echoed in the Hippocratic oath: First do no harm.

Expressing love takes more time and effort than not expressing it. In our increasingly fast-paced society, people have less time to care, to listen, to wonder. Love and mystery, on the other hand, take time to unfold. The faster we go, the more we lose sight of love in our lives, and the further off-purpose we become.

The recent spike in gas prices may have an unexpected benefit in slowing people down enough to stay home, giving them time to think and reflect about what’s important or what’s missing in their lives. Sometimes we miss the cues leading us towards paths of great fulfillment and happiness because we’re going too fast to notice the signs or don’t have the time to pursue a commitment, a passion or a responsibility. Often disguised as hard work, these choices present us with opportunities to light up our hearts in a way that is uniquely our own and on purpose.

Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change.