On the book tour, I met a woman named Lisa. After twenty years doing something that she felt was “just a job,” she’d just taken a few months off from working, hoping to find her passion and figure out what kind of work she really wanted to do.
At the end of the four months, she didn’t have answers. She had even more problems, including the loss of much of her savings which she’d spent down during that time, more confusion about her next steps, and now also feelings of regret and failure about her time off.
(A side note: this is what has happened to everyone I know who has taken time off to “figure out” what they want to do next, including myself. No one ever figures it out during downtime. Instead, we get more confused, overwhelmed, and isolated. We end up spending way too much time in pajamas, and with reality tv and almond butter. I’ve come to believe we don’t really ever need full days to sit around and “figure out” our next big career steps. We need more courage to be honest with ourselves, a little time for reflection and research (but as the side dish, not the main course), support to take action, and lots of opportunities to experiment and learn by doing.)
So back to Lisa. Lisa was feeling really frustrated and asked me, “how can I figure out my life purpose?”
My answer, my conviction, is this: we all have the same life purpose. We have it by dint of being born on to earth. Our purpose is to create more love and light on this planet that is a dense and tangled mix of light and dark, love and fear. Our purpose is repair what is broken, to heal what is wounded here. Our purpose is to make this place a little more worthy of the souls that inhabit it. There are as many ways to do that as there are moments, and we don’t have to find our one big way, or our right way, before we start living that purpose.
We can each live that purpose in whatever job we are doing today, whatever circumstances we are in today.
I’ve written about this idea before here. But today I want to delve into one aspect of it, one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: how that purpose is our shortcut to joy.
Watching my son play these past few months (he’s nine months old now) has pretty much debunked for me the contemporary California-y spiritual notion that we should be able to be perfectly content in the stillness, in the emptiness, just witnessing our breath.
I watch him – always reaching for the next object, in love with novelty and stimulation of all forms. I watch him work intently on challenges that he devises – how to get the shoe in the basket, how to clank the two cups together, how to pull the lid off the container. In him, I see so clearly how much we are wired to problem-solve, to work with purpose, with a goal. When he falls into focus intently working on one of those problems and silently does so – with none of the squeals or screeches that come with boredom for him, I see in him the part of all of us that is so content when we are absorbed in a puzzle, a project, a problem.
What I want to suggest to you today is that there is one grand puzzle that we are all here to solve, and that is always available for our devotion. And when we become devoted to it, we have found our shortcut to joy.
It is the problem of how to light a candle in the darkness. It is the problem of how to let kindness flow forth where harshness is present. It is the problem of how to let love rule. It is the challenge of being a ray of light in the world, discovering what that means in its every application.
When you make that your purpose, you have all the clarity and contented absorpbtion and rich inner life that comes with purpose. And you have your shortcut to joy.
Give it a try today, and let me know how it goes.
“ “Don’t try to change the world before you read this book! In Playing Big Tara Mohr offers you the keys to unlocking your gifts, your potential and your power to make a difference. I guarantee that you will find yourself and your dreams somewhere in this book and when you do Tara’s deep insights, her practical action steps and her real life stories will set you free.” – Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author, My Grandfather’s Blessings and Kitchen Table Wisdom