Humans want to know that they matter and that their sheer existence makes a difference. It’s the privilege and downfall of being reasoning beings. It’s pretty egotistical if you think about it but humans are wired that way. Deer, for example, don’t care what their purpose is. They just care about eating and not getting eaten by something stronger and bigger than itself. In other words, survival.
But, not us humans. Once we master some level of survival, we like to know how we fit into the whole. A sense of purpose gives meaning to our lives and we want to own that knowing to bring order to our existence.
Doing Small Things With Great Love
In recent decades, the popularity of self-help has made the discovery of life purpose part of our lexicon but also an inadvertent cause of pain. If no clear answer arises for the seeker, suffering sets in. People think they are flawed if no cosmic assignment is relegated to them.
The truth is we have it all wrong. Many people believe that a purpose must be something grand aligned with the likes of Mother Theresa or Gandhi. That’s just fodder for the myths around purpose. The difference between these historic heroes and us is not a gap in greatness. They did not choose to be who they became. They responded to what was in front of them with all that they were capable of and had in their grasp. THAT is all you need to do. In the words of Mother Theresa herself: “We do not do great things. We do small things with great love.”
Purpose Is Not About What You DO
Purpose is not something you invent, or force, or manipulate to sound good. It’s not a platitude for a bumper sticker. It is something that’s always been there waiting for you to recognize it as a valuable asset.
Purpose is not about what you DO; it’s about who you ARE. It’s about what you cause just by being. At the core of the confusion over this, in my opinion is the lack of understanding of the difference between purpose and mission. Your purpose is the undeniable timbre of your being. Your mission is what you choose to build or create or champion with those natural givens. The mistake is in thinking you have to DO something to have a purpose. Yes, the best expression of that purpose may be through something you spearhead, create, build or do but you don’t have to.
It may be surprising to learn that your purpose is right under your nose. It’s like an Escher print—the image looks like one thing, but when you focus on it another way, it’s a different picture entirely. Once you see the new picture, your eyes cannot help but focus there. Similarly, once you bring your new purpose to the surface, it will be ingrained as a permanent part of the landscape. Best of all, it will not require a tremendous turnaround or effort to start living from that place.
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Your Natural Ripple Effect In The World
It’s ironic that the part of you people are drawn to you for might even be that ‘thing’ that is the bane of your existence. Do people tap you for one thing or another that is not part of your job description? Is there a pattern to how people react to you that has followed you around your whole life? THAT is something to consider as your natural ripple effect in the world.
As far back as I can remember, people have changed something in their life and told me it was because of me. It could be as small trying a new hairstyle or as big as starting a new business or life adventure. I did not give them a pep talk, they may not have ever read one of my books, but they’ll say because I did x, y, or z, they had the courage to do their a, b or c. I find it mildly annoying because I feel I had nothing to do with it. I was just THERE. It was a ripple effect. How could I be responsible (or culpable) for something they’ve chosen to do? When I chose to create a business around this core essence and get trained to do what I’ve done now for over twenty years, I did not even have the conscious awareness that I had this ripple effect. It was only in hindsight that I caught on.
In conclusion, if you’re suffering over your cosmic assignment, please stop. You already have one. It’s already part of who you are and what you do without effort. Start being it now. And notice how much more space you have to share it once you’ve stop stressing over finding it.
©2004, 2015 by Laura Berman Fortgang.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA). www.us.PenguinGroup.com.
Now What? 90 Days to A New Life Direction
by Laura Berman Fortgang. (Revised Edition 2015)
About the Author
Laura Berman Fortgang is a nationally renowned speaker, life coach, and career strategist, helping individuals, small businesses, and corporations forge new directions and weather change. Laura is a recent Huffington Post blogger and a media perennial appearing on Oprah, various morning shows, CNN, MSNBC, and in many print publications. Visit her website at LauraBermanFortgang.com