Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Life on Purpose

I've been stuck on my purpose lately.

About eight months ago, one of my coaching friends suggested my purpose was to love. I was struggling with an idea of community, helping, health, and wellness, and she boiled it down to the word love. Love is a nice purpose. Love is the sort of purpose one can lean on, put weight into. Having a purpose of love is unselfish. Love is something we are supposed to give unconditionally. Love is a grand purpose. Even last week, I was looking at love as my purpose. I was questioning love as the real bottom line of my purpose, but I was willing to continue walking with it,

Yesterday, I was talking to a close friend about purpose. I asked her what she thought her purpose might be. Most people don't know immediately, so when she answered in that vein, I started asking her about what she was engaged in when she felt like life was just plain easy. Her answer threw me for a loop. I was digging for a "grand" answer, something like love. Her answer: taking care of herself.

My initial reaction was surprise. I was caught up in thinking that purpose had to be selfless; something that ended up serving humanity on a"grand" scale. My purpose, after all, was to love! As we talked more, I kept trying to find ways to frame her answers in a way that would help develop a "grand" statement, but I failed and failed and finally came to the conclusion I must be in the wrong.

I had a psychology professor who once said "Feelings are." What my professor meant was you feel what you feel, and there is no wrong way to feel about something; the statement went along with idea of not shoulding on one's self. I realized purpose must be very similar. There is no ideal purpose for every person, and there is no reason for my expectations for a definition of purpose limit someone else in her search for purpose.

After this conversation, I spent the rest of my day at orientation for my master's program. I loved it. I enjoyed meeting my new peers, my new mentors, my new program. I loved being in an environment where people were talking about research, ideas, and their passion for exploration. I was excited, I was stimulated, I was engaged in ways I never expected to be. Life was clicking along. I met another friend for tea after orientation, and told the girl behind the counter I was "sparkling... " and then added a bit sarcastically "like a vampire" when I realized how over-the-top happy I sounded.  

I don't remember the last time I felt like I was living my purpose. Trying to love all my clients: impossible. Trying to love everyone I pass on the street: exhausting. Living in a learning environment: easy.

I knew this love thing wasn't working, but it sounded good; too good, in fact. I'm going to try out a new purpose for a while: to learn. I started to try to expand it to include something about the good of humanity, but it started to take on that hollow tone again. Keep purpose simple was the primary point in my coach training. While it may not sound as selfless and giving as "to love", I think "to learn" fits me a little more closely.

I'd rather focus on loving the people I want to love any way.

I think my friend whose purpose is to take care of herself is on to something. The whole point of purpose work is to get to the heart of how we want to live. I believe in doing my part for the good of humanity, but it is much easier to do that when I'm living my true purpose, and not trying to live up to some "grand" ideal I've set for myself.

Yours, in learning,

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