Over the past six weeks, my meditation circle has reflected on our personal values as inspiration for our writing and personal transformation. This week’s value is higher purpose, which is often defined as our mission in life or our reason for being alive. Do you know your mission in life? If not, the two gentlemen below direct us toward happiness as a source for discovering purpose.
Love is your destiny. It is the purpose of your life. It is the key to your happiness and to the evolution of the world. Robert Holden
The purpose of our lives is to be happy. Dalai Lama
My spiritual growth journey over the past two decades led to my own axiom about a purposeful life, Joy is our only job, which begs the question, “Why did I forget this?” In my forgetfulness, I was not — and am not — alone. Studies on mental health claim that as a global society we have never been more unhappy. The World Health Organization estimates by 2015, depression will be #2 on the global disease list. Lack of fulfillment, dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances and prolonged unhappiness are precursors to depression and strong signals for a need to change.
In its constitution, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his own community.” As is visible in WHO’s definition, what increases joy is not found outside of ourselves, which reflects another of my axioms — Joy is an inside job.
In my pursuit to rediscover joy in my own life, I first had to ask myself, “What brings me joy?” An inability to answer this question unleashed within me much exploration and experimentation. Let me save you this trial and error, by asking you “What does not bring you joy?” Everyone can easily answer this question, and generally speaking, the opposite of what does not bring you joy is joyful for you. Related to careers and workplaces, here are some joyless examples people shared with me —
- Working 60 hours per week
- Having no say over how I do my work
- Not feeling as though I make a worthy contribution
- Feeling anxious inside
- Working 30 hours per week
- Controlling how I do my work
- Knowing I make a worthy contribution
- Feeling peaceful inside
I ask people to work from a place of positive possibility as opposed to focusing on eliminating their limiting, dissatisfying behaviours. If you have ever tried to lose weight, stop smoking or quit biting your nails, I don’t have to tell you old habits die hard. When we focus our attention on our negative habits, our energy and emotions sink into a dark hole of doubt and despair. Enough time, attention and energy have already been used to create the dissatisfaction. Why would we want to add to the problem by expending more of the same?
By reframing the negative into a positive — joyless into joyful — we shift our focus toward creating something new instead of tearing down the old. Our emotions are elevated and energized by the process of creation. In the end, the more successful we are at activating the new habit, the less need for the old one, and it eventually disappears on its own.
This reminds me of yet another axiom I live by — Awareness is Power. The Power to Choose. The Power to Change. As the ancient philosophers believed, all knowledge is self-knowledge, and by coming to know oneself, we come to know life. It stands to reason, the more intimate (in-to-me-see) our relationship is with ourselves, the greater chance we have of knowing our purpose. Let’s test this out.
Ask and answer for yourself, the following four questions. Dig deep into your awareness. You might even create a Mind Map for each question and brainstorm as many possibilities as emerge.
At my core,
1. What do I most want to experience?
2. What do I most want to express?
3. What do I most want to create?
4. What do I most want to contribute?
Once you have answered the questions, write a mission statement for yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get your thinking kick started. My own mission statement — transforming fear into joy — did not come in its final form on my first try.
Share your mission statement here on the blog and with your loved ones at home.