Living on Purpose
Some of us are accidents. Unplanned surprises to our parents, the result of hasty decisions or other factors. But that doesn’t mean we need live like accidents. As humans, we crave feeling “in control” of our lives as this mitigates fear caused by uncertainty. But control is only half of it. Just sitting in the cockpit of an airplane with access to the control panel doesn't mean we'll end up in Paris.
The river of time is unyielding, flowing independently of our wishes. We can choose to either drift along like logs, or paddle our way to where we want to go. The biggest obstacle blocking us from what we really want? Our own outlook. The moment we decide to take the reins of life can be a revelation. So many people grow up following a set of societal instructions, from some kind of “Living for Dummies” manual. Yet these are suggestions. Only you can perfect and decide the ingredients for optimal enjoyment. To do this is to live with purpose.
What about leaving room for serendipity? There’s a great deal of novelty in letting the day take its course and allowing serendipity to guide our experiences. Yet, even spontaneity and randomness can be planned. E.g. you can schedule a 2-hour walk to an unknown destination and feel incredibly purposeful. Purpose doesn’t mean knowing every detail, its about understanding the macro-motive of our behavior. In other words, "to what end"?
As famed psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl says, if you surrender to a cause greater than yourself, happiness will ensue.
Knowing our time is limited is more blessing than curse. At first what might seem like unavoidable doom, actually makes life more savory as we have a tendency to take things of certainty for granted. Accepting my eventual demise brings a sense of urgency to my work. If I say, "Here’s something I made and I might not have another opportunity to do it again." Immediately it increases its value and thus our lives and stories becomes like scarce works of art. If we're not leveraging our own inevitable fate then we’re letting opportunity slip through our fingers.
Here are two purpose-invoking questions. First, “What do I want to someday do, that I’m not making a priority?” Write it down. The second, “If I knew I only had one month left to live, how would I spend that time?” Also write this down. In a state of urgency, we neglect the trivialities that would normally hang us up. Thus, by forcing ourselves into this state, we can overcome some of these critical road-blocks.
One way to measure impact is to ask a question that Seth Godin likes to ask, which is “Will I be missed?” If you’re a significant source of happiness and value in other people’s lives, willing to make that a priority, then the answer will be yes. You will be missed greatly.
Living on purpose is a choice. Sometimes it means paddling against the current to uncharted territories, but everything I’ve learned tells me a path of your own is more fulfilling that the path of any other.