The Awakening of Purpose

by Alan Hewitt on September 12, 2012

By Paul Counsel
Sept 12, 2012

“If you know where you’re going, it’s easier to get there”, might seem like an obvious statement to make, but the fact is that life’s journey is seldom as obvious as you’d like it to be.

Not so many years ago, I was living without meaning and without a clear sense of purpose. There was an unspoken loneliness that I felt deeply but could not express in words.

My energies were dispersed among a series of seemingly unrelated and unimportant things because that’s the routine I had fallen into over the years.

I was living in outback Western Australia, barely surviving on the “work/stress, not enough time, not enough money treadmill”.

Not only was I struggling with money, I was far from happy, and I could see no future other than more of the same frustrating results that I desperately wished would change.

Needless to say, I was both concerned and scared. I had this eerie feeling that life was passing me by.

My actions were half hearted, and my thoughts were confusing as they continually crisscrossed each other. My energy was scattered, and any sense of harmony in life was absent.

I realised that I was following the often contradictory guidance of conventional wisdom.

I wanted to get out of the rat race. I wanted to live a bigger life and live more of my dreams but I had no idea where to start. My lack of money meant that I couldn’t keep up with my friends and I couldn’t join them on holidays.

Without noticing how it happened, I realised that I had fallen into a deep void, an unspoken emptiness that was slowly but surely consuming any potential I may have had.

One day, when my emptiness was burning a deep inner loneliness, I came across the inspiring thoughts of the Kalahari Desert Bushman.

Their wisdom spoke of two ‘hungers’: a Great Hunger and a Little Hunger. “The Little Hunger wants food for the belly; but the Great Hunger, the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning.”

And that’s when it hit me… I was missing a deep connection to meaning in life. I realised that my sadness, emptiness, confusion, restlessness, call it what you will, was coming from a deeply felt and profoundly experienced void that lacked any sense of purpose to my being.

In Hasten Slowly, Sir Laurens van der Post said that meaning is a far more important comfort to the soul than happiness… it’s greater than happiness or unhappiness. “Once what you are doing has for you meaning, it is irrelevant whether you’re happy or unhappy. You are content – you are not alone in your Spirit – you belong.”

Reading these words unearthed an everlasting and profound impact on my life from that day on. Up to this point, I had been doing things just to “fit in”… to do as I was supposed to do… to do for everybody else, but I could never get rid of the gnawing feeling that there must be something more to life than “daily routine”.

After reading the Bushman’s words, I felt a surge of energy as it took on a clear sense of direction. As I ventured forward, I discovered rich tributaries to the ultimate expression of a purposeful life… to contribute… to share… to give back.

I’ve discovered a wholeness that’s so enjoyable and so peaceful that I now share it with people who want similar outcomes. My purpose is to partner with people like you in the discovery of meaning; especially if you’d like to experience the independence that comes with economic and personal freedom.

In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszenthihalyi notes that, “From the point of view of an individual, it does not matter what the ultimate goal is – provided it is compelling enough to order a lifetime’s worth of psychic energy… As long as it provides clear objectives, clear rules for action, and a way to concentrate and become involved, any goal can serve to give meaning to a person’s life.”

When you have something to aim for, life takes on a sense of clarity and flow that’s unstoppable. Pure fulfilment becomes a direction with which all other aspects of life logically follow.

When you invest energy into learning that leads to the advancement of skills, the energy you supply carries your feelings, thoughts and actions forward with harmony and grace. Everything surrounding your sense of clarity touches every cell in your body.

If this sense of purpose is important for you, then sufficient clarity must be present in order to consume the focus of your intention, willingness, and satisfaction. Purpose must utilise your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy.

It’s energy that’s directed towards the achievement of goals which result in certainty, capability, contentment and autonomy. Without clarity, energy is often diffused by distraction which often results in feelings of confusion, isolation, predictability and despondency.

A clearly defined sense of individualised purpose unifies values in a similar way that magnetic fields attract and unify themselves.

As meaning, purpose is the way we experience our sense of worth and the way we structure meaning into our daily experiences.

Purpose is universal in nature and, although you may not consciously know your purpose, every single person is imbued with purpose from their moment of creation.

By satisfying the “Great Hunger”, purpose becomes a driving force that shapes your daily actions and provides you with compelling reasons for the day ahead.

Purpose has you jumping out of bed and looking forward with both anticipation and joy. It’s a motivating behaviour that can either be active or inactive within in you.

If it’s inactive at present, just be reassured that change is possible. It’s a flick of an internal switch, much like the switch I flicked a few years ago, that embraces a rewarding confirmation that you matter.

It can be expressed as legacy, experience, innovation, or being present for another. It’s the significance you apply to what you do and the contributions you make.

Without a clear sense of purpose, feelings of “something’s missing” shape a formless and directionless experience of life.

Richard Leider, one of the worlds’ most respected educators, wanted to look deeper into the meanings of purpose. He wondered if others thought it was important or if it was just something that people gave lip service to but never did anything about it.

He began by asking a cross-section of older adults to reflect on a life well lived. “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” he asked.

Three clear themes arose from their replies.

Be more reflective.
Be more courageous
Be clear earlier about purpose

In essence, these answers reflect the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell describes within The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

Campbell describes the hero as someone who ventures forth from a world of sameness into a world of adventure.

On this journey, the hero engages in battles and eventually wins a decisive victory over themselves, or a foe. This victory allows the hero to return to the world from which they came with the power to bestow contribution and advantage on his fellow man.

If you follow your bliss, notes Campbell in The Power of The Myth, “You put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you and the life you ought to be living… I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

In The Power of Full Engagement, performance psychologist Jim Loehr notes that “purpose creates a destination. It drives full engagement by prompting our desire to invest in focused energy in a particular activity or goal.”

For a goal to be meaningful, it must be taken seriously. It must have meaning enough to direct your energy into its focal point. According to Csikszenthihalyi, “Each goal prescribes a set of consequences, and if one isn’t prepared to reckon with them, the goal becomes meaningless… Goals justify the effort they demand at the outset, but later it is the effort that justifies the goal.”

Purpose requires the investment of energy into further developing the skills and talents you were born with. It requires investment in developing autonomy, mastery and self reliance.

It’s from this stage that you contribute the most back to the establishment of meaning, hope and promise for others.

Because the culture of our society (enculturation) establishes residence on the plateau of predictability, opportunities for the hero’s journey slip by unnoticed by most.

“Unfortunately, most of us do not pursue the hero’s path”, say Jim Loehr. “The simple, almost embarrassing reality is that we feel too busy to search for meaning. Who has the time and energy to actively pursue a deeper purpose?”

In fact, time is all you have. “The issue isn’t whether your life is providing you with a sense of meaning or purpose; It is whether you are actively using life as a vehicle through which to express your deepest values.”

After surviving the Nazi Holocaust, Viktor Frankl came to the conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanising of situations, life still has meaning and that suffering can be meaningful.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl said, “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognise that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

As time is a resource we cannot get more of, a powerful observation to trigger is your scrutiny of how effective, or how responsible, or how conscious you are in your current use of time.

In the search for meaning and purpose, two broad choices become available. One entertains the possibility of you becoming the meaning maker where you consciously and deliberately craft the creation of personalised meaning.

The other entertains the notion of unconsciously following the meanings crafted by media, conventional wisdom, enculturation and the plateau of predictability.

Remember to follow your bliss and that definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.

I hope you discover a wholeness that’s so enjoyable and so peaceful that you want to share it with others who want similar outcomes for themselves.

Hope our paths cross soon.

Paul Counsel

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