Tuesday, January 12, 2010

the meaning of life with no purpose

A key component of this module has to do with clarifying your purpose. Frankly, the question "what is your life purpose" totally confuses me. I have spent so many years and dollars trying to come up with a good answer and have never managed to peg it down.

So today I decided to give up on it. I don't think it is necessary to have a "purpose" and I wonder if it is even up to us to determine our life purpose. Isn't that something that other people either tell us or confirm? That's been my experience. How can I say what I am to another person? All I can do is express my intention and hope that we find some degree of agreement and understanding. Who I am is what I do.

Purpose? I have no idea.

What I do have is a deep sense of DIRECTION determined by a visceral sense of my values. This I KNOW.

I can feel this mysterious purpose but any attempt to verbalize, visualize or verify it leads to mental static, depression and frustration. It makes me feel like I should and am lacking because I can't. Anyone else out there experience this?

It turns out that the three people to whom I brought this up knew exactly what I meant. All three are artists, tend to think out of the box and are much more philosophical than pragmatic about life.

We all agreed that we "knew" the answer, could feel it ache in our bones, feel the heat of it in our hearts and were basically incapable of behaving in any way that went contrary to that deep feeling. How could this be then that we could not answer the question?

What I discovered is that when you ask a creative person "why are you making this painting" (as in- what is it's purpose?) they shut down, lose their vision, their motivation and in fact go totally negative.

On the other hand, when I asked them why they want to paint (as in what motivates you to paint) they were suddenly able to expresses powerfully what painting meant to them, how it made them feel, what it was about the image that captured them, and where they wanted to go with it. They came alive. They felt connected and purpose-full.

I followed this with "what is your life purpose?" thinking that the previous excitement would guide them. They went numb again.

So I then rephrased it by stating- "what direction would you like your art to take and how does it fit in with your life purpose?"

All three were able to say basically the same thing which I have been saying my whole life about horses and philosophy (my form of coaching). "I don't know how it fits, but I love it and it is all I want to do and I don't care why or where it takes me. But I do know that I want to be really invested, or true to my vision, or connected etc."

Fascinating and liberating!

So for those of you who are unable to answer the question "what is your purpose", take heart- because it is in your heart and it doesn't need to be verbalized. If you can't say it, it is probably because you live it so completely that you can't separate it from who you are. We have the answer, we just aren't being asked the right question.

For those of you with people like this as clients or members of your inner circle- here are some ways to support people like me:

*Be interested in the what and how more than the why for paint?

*When we get down, plug us back into the "why to paint" because we are probably trying to justify our actions by coming up with a good reason for our self-expression.

*When we are done, help us to recognize and to remember the deeper reasons why we do what we love to do. Show us how it fits, or expresses the greatness of us and most of all, be moved. Tell us how our bravery makes a difference to you, that who we are is there in what we do and it is good, valuable, important. We will want to know "why?" or "how exactly?" so you had better be prepared to have a real answer.

We want to share in a deep, true and honest way. We want to be recognized in the product of our labors.

*Then help us to connect the dots backwards. Help us to see how what came before led to now, and then plug us into wonder and curiosity about what might be around the corner. Get us moving before we start thinking about $, fame,etc. We live in our work.

*See us and what we do as brilliant, bold, intentional, amazing, unique and worthy of existence for no other reason than the pleasure it gives for simply existing. This lets us know it matters. It has purpose, even though we can't say what that purpose is.

By giving up needing to know the purpose/the why, I have discovered that purpose isn't a pre-requisite for doing, rather it is a consequence of action taken. I'll know why when I'm done.

Just do it has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

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