“What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful. ~ Dalai Lama
Do you truly know what floats your boat? John F. Kennedy wisely stated that a rising tide lifts all boats. Forget that he was talking about the economy. I’m talking about the sea of life, the ocean of experience. Is your mast set to wind? Is your course charted? Or is your vessel rudderless? It won’t all be plain sailing, but you’ll have many adventures navigating from port to port. Before you know it you will have circumnavigated the globe. Okay, okay, enough of the nautical lingo…
Are you aligned with your purpose in life? We can look at many examples of extraordinary people who changed the world by simply following their dream. Individuals who stayed the course, no matter the obstacles they faced.
What will keep you going regardless of success or failure? Inner peace and happiness comes from being true to your vision and values. To inspire your fellow human beings and be the tide that raises other ships, your purpose has to be something other than the quest for money, endless consumerism or a new pair of shoes. I might regret saying that last part!
It has to be a deeply felt cause that is bigger than us as individuals. Without that inner resolve there is no motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
During my life I’ve done jobs I absolutely hated. Luckily, they were only for relatively brief spells. I found myself wishing away my life, desperate to get to the weekend. I could really relate to philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s words, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” How soul destroying it is to feel that your existence counts for nothing, that you do not matter. Do you know what you were put on this earth to do? Fortunate are those who have shaken free from the clutches of apathy, and are expressing their talents and passion in the world.
Viktor Frankl experienced more trauma in his life than most of us could ever imagine, or would ever face, and yet he went on to write a moving and inspiring lesson for us all, in his ground breaking 1946 book: Man’s Search for Meaning.
For me, when I look at the achievements of people past and present, such as Viktor Frankl, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Beryl Markham, Emily Pankhurst, Florence Nightingale, Madam Curie, Helen Keller, Joan of Arc, Ludwig van Beethoven, Daniel Barenboim, William Shakespeare, Mother Theresa, Walt Disney and many more than I could possibly mention, whose lives were, and are challenging, but through being true to their purpose left their legacy in the annals of time. We ordinary mortals can achieve our success according to our own values and dreams.
You don’t have to be famous to make a difference. You don’t have to have a world changing vision. You just have to know who you are, where you’re going and have a plan to get there. Sounds simple right?
Five pointers to help you find your passion and purpose:
- Pay attention to how you spend your time. Chances are, if you do something a lot it means something to you. Awareness creates choice.
- What knowledge can you share? What activities are you good at and enjoy, that you could make a living from or help others master?
- Write a list of your values, brain storm, then make a short list of your top 10 values and see where they fit into your life. What causes are close to your heart? How can you get more involved?
- Delve into your beliefs. What beliefs do you hold around money, work, success, health, and relationships? Be honest with yourself, and label each one as being either resourceful to you or a hindrance to you. How many of them are long buried self-sabotaging beliefs creating negative self-talk? Beliefs are powerful, and we always find ways to prove them, whether they are ‘true’ or not. It makes sense to have well-adjusted healthy beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. It’s time to shake off years of indoctrination and remove the glass ceiling.
- What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail? I know it’s a provocative question, but as Einstein stated, “Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” He also said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
There are really only four things that we have complete control over in our lives. How we feel, how we behave, the people and situations we attract to ourselves, and the meanings we assign to all of the above, our internal representations of our lives.
What Makes Life Meaningful: Michael Steger at TEDxCSU:
A recent Stanford research project explored the key differences between lives of happiness and meaningfulness. The meaningful life is a road worth traveling.
Feeling happy doesn’t mean our lives are easy, or perfect. We often feel sadness and joy along our journey, indeed, a whole range of emotions, that’s just the nature of life. But true purpose keeps us on course, gives us that inner peace that we are contributing to the world in our own unique way. Each of us has the ability to touch lives that no-one else can. Every day you are happy is a gift to the world. So in order to be altruistic you also need to be selfish. Indulge in what you love, and give it away…
We all have the same time given to us. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, 31,536,000 in a year, and just over 2.2 billion seconds in a seventy year lifespan. None of us knows when our personal clock will stop ticking. Time is precious.
How will you spend yours?