Over the years, in addition to writing, speaking, and teaching, I’ve also offered one-on-one coaching — sometimes by phone and sometimes in person at my home in Northern California. One day a man I’ll call Peter came to my home for a session. We greeted each other, he paid the agreed-upon fee in advance, and then I began with a key question: “What’s your purpose for coming here? What would you like to accomplish?”
"I Have No Purpose"
When I asked Peter this question, he just sat there, looking down at the floor, before he answered, “I don’t know — I have no purpose.”
“Well, if you did know your purpose, what might it be?”
Peter shook his head and repeated, “I have no purpose. None at all.”
I thought about this, then explained, “This session is based entirely on what you want to accomplish, Peter, and since you’re certain you have no purpose, I can only thank you for coming by. Nice meeting you. Now could you close the door on your way out?”
Discovering Your Life Purpose
Surprised and a little disoriented, Peter stood up and started moving toward the door, but then he turned and said, “Wait a minute! I traveled quite a distance to get here, and I just paid you some good money for ninety minutes of your time!”
Smiling, I said, “You know what? I think you’ve discovered a purpose. Please sit down.”
This bit of Zen trickery on my part helped Peter to see that he did indeed have a purpose — to spend ninety minutes with me. And when our session was over, I promised Peter, he would discover another purpose — driving to wherever he was going (without hitting any people or objects on the way). And then, when he arrived at his destination, another purpose would appear.
The Most Important Purpose Today
I then told Peter a brief conversation that took place at the funeral of a great Hasidic master. When a visitor, paying her respects, asked a longtime disciple, “What was the most important thing to your teacher?” he responded, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the moment.”
I reminded Peter that the purpose of today is today. The same is true of each moment.
Peter had convinced himself that he had no purpose because he hadn’t yet grasped a larger mission for his life. But he had failed to notice what may be the most important purpose of all — the one that appears before each of us, moment to moment. Such moments are the building blocks that form the foundation on which we build our lives.
The Purpose Is Here and Now
Attention to this arising moment has been advocated by many different sages, at different times, in a variety of cultures. Yale professor William Phelps said, “I strive to live each day as if it were the first one I had ever experienced, and the last one I would ever live.”
Zen sword master Taisen Deshimaru reminded his students, “Be happy here and now or you never will be.” And writer Margaret Bonanno points out, “It’s only possible to live happily ever after on a moment-by-moment basis.” No matter where you go, and no matter what the clock-face reads, you are always right here, right now.
What Snood Taught Me about Life Purpose
Snood is not an Eastern guru or relative of my mentor Socrates. Snood is not even a person, but rather an online game, and an addictive one at that. Like most addictive games, it seduces through simplicity: You shoot a little round colored bubble, aiming to hit groups of same-colored bubbles; if your aim is true, they vanish, and the goal is to make as many bubbles as possible disappear.
Other than developing a measure of aim (so presumably you can dissolve any other colored bubbles you may encounter in the real world), Snood provides a few moments (or many nonproductive hours) of immersion and diversion; it’s fair to consider it a shadow form of meditation, a sport without exercise, an insular activity.
But there’s one beautiful, largely hidden facet of Snood that may reveal a transcendental teaching about life — and about living in the moment freshly, innocently, and without judgment or expectation. Does this wondrous revelation I’m about to share justify the hours I spend manipulating my mouse in hopes of topping my last score? Probably not. Or maybe so, depending on what you do with what I am about to share. Perhaps my wasted hours were not so wasted after all.
The Meaning of Life Is Here and Now
So here’s my revelation: Every five shots or so, the entire configuration of all those bubbles shifts. What was, is no longer the same. It all changes, just like life. Any plan or strategy I might have formed for the next shot is now useless. It’s a whole new ball (or bubble) game. There’s no point in resistance or regret. You have to shift your mental course instantly, look again, freshly, and address what is here and now, in this arising moment.
Everything changes — again and again. Each time the demand is the same: What now? What’s my purpose in this moment? Snood taught me to linger not on what almost was, what could have been, or what might have or should have been but rather on what is, right now.
As Marcus Aurelius wrote,
“Time is a river of passing events. No sooner does one thing appear in sight than it is washed away, and another appears in its place. And this, too, shall be washed away.”
Each moment unfolds like waves breaking on the shore. If you’re knocked down by one wave, rise again and ready yourself for the next one. Wave by wave, moment by moment.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, HJ Kramer/
New World Library. ©2011, 2016. www.newworldlibrary.com
The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World
by Dan Millman.
About the Author
Dan Millman — a former world champion athlete, coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor — is the author of numerous books read by millions of people in twenty-nine languages. He teaches worldwide, and for three decades has influenced people from all walks of life, including leaders in the fields of health, psychology, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment, and the arts. For details: www.peacefulwarrior.com.