What is your individual purpose? What would you like to be able to say is your legacy? I believe that each of us wants to find our purpose in life, our raison d’etre or reason for being. We need to have a motive to get out of bed in the morning. We want to feel alive and passionate about something. Something that makes a difference in the world. We are not alone in this and yet many of us are still searching for that purpose.
Purpose is much bigger than goals, yet we are advised in many of the self help and productivity books to set goals. However, If you are aligned with your purpose, the goals just fall into place.
I was friends with a fellow who set a goal to find the woman of his dreams, have a successful business and own his own beautiful home with a Mercedes Benz parked in the driveway, all by the age of forty. He did manage to achieve all of it and yet he admitted to me that none of it had brought him the peace and happiness that he had aspired to. He did not feel truly content or fulfilled and this really surprised and disappointed him. For him, these goals didn’t really come from the inside. They were simply based on what he thought he should do or have in order to look good and feel respected by his peers. They were more in alignment with what “society” tells us will make us happy than what our heart is saying. They came from the outside. Purpose has to come from the inside.
I was particularly touched by an email I received recently from a fellow who came across an interview I did several years ago with Dr. Leo Buscaglia, author and motivational speaker.
Dr. Buscaglia had an awakening to purpose moment while teaching at the University of Southern California when one of his most talented students committed suicide. As a result of that experience, Leo began a non-credit class he called “Love 1A” and he became known as the “Love Doctor”.
Of all the interviews I have done over the years, with people such as Dr. Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch etc, the one interview of which I have received the most feedback in the form of emails and letters is the one with Dr. Buscaglia. I will be forever grateful for Leo’s support and encouragement of my work and I was so honoured that he agreed to an interview, something he rarely did.
Sadly, Dr. Buscaglia passed away this month in 1998. Even though Leo has been gone now for 12 years, his legacy still lives on. So many of my readers have told me that they want to continue his work and make it a part of their own legacy of love.
For many of us, our awakening to purpose comes out of a major life crisis, a suicide in Leo’s case, a life threatening illness for Terry Fox, an active Canadian teenager involved in many sports. Terry was only 18 years old when he was diagnosed with bone cancer and forced to have his leg amputated in 1977.
While in hospital, Terry was so overcome by the suffering of other cancer patients, that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He called his journey the “Marathon of Hope”.
Terry passed away also in this same month in 1981 at the tender age of 22. However, his legacy had only begun. Close to $500 million has been raised worldwide in Terry’s name for cancer research, through the annual Terry Fox Run, held across Canada and around the world.
You can feel purpose in someone’s heart, see the determination in their eyes and witness passion in their step. With purpose, nothing is impossible and no one can stand in the way. The Universe is on your side, cheering you on and rejoicing in your victory. With purpose, defeat is nonexistent as purpose itself is the triumph.
It is not necessary however, to experience a crisis to live on purpose. As Leo said to me in his interview: “It is not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
Being fully open, completely alive and intensely aware each day of where we could make a difference in someone’s life and in the world, that for me is purpose. One moment at a time, one day at a time. That is a life well lived. That is a legacy to be proud of. I think we can all think of someone, a teacher, a mentor, a friend or even a complete stranger, who made a real difference for us, perhaps even helped to turn our life around. They may not be famous or publicly celebrated but to us and probably many others, they are the unsung heroes.
We do not need to go out and find our purpose. If we are open to life, it will find us. However, we must be living consciously in order to do that.
Many of us are so caught up in the busyness of life, multitasking on our computers, running errands while talking on our cell phones, conducting business while walking our dogs, that we wouldn’t see a purpose moment if it hit us in the face. And sometimes it does just that. To give you an example, I myself was multitasking the other day, playing on my new iPad and working on my computer, totally lost in what I was doing and completely unaware of what was happening all around me. I was sitting at my desk very near my large balcony door and at precisely that moment a huge gust of wind came up and the drapes hit me in the face. I got the message. I laughed, became conscious once again, and attended to the matter at hand.
Where is life hitting you in the face? And are you ready now to wake up to your own unique and individual purpose?
I have been writing inspirational stories, poems and articles as far back as I can remember. I recall reading somewhere that a good way to uncover your true purpose in life is to remember the things you did as a child that you enjoyed the most, the things you seemed to do a lot of.
In thinking back to those innocent and seemingly carefree days, I remembered that every afternoon when my mother took a nap, I would lie down next to her on the bed and proceed to tell her a story. We had no books in the house in those days and so I would make up my own stories. I would tell her tales of faraway places, of kings and queens and castles. I would regale her with accounts of people who possessed magical powers and worlds where everything was perfect, beautiful, steadfast and true. They would always have happy endings.
Some days, I would make up inspiring poems. I can’t remember if they rhymed or not, but they always made my mother smile. When she was ready to get up, she would hug me and kiss me and tell me what a great little storyteller I was. Of course this only served to encourage my behavior and ensure my return the next afternoon.
It was not until many years later that I came to realize how unusual this scenario was. After all, I was the child and she was the mother.
Making people feel good was always important to me. It was my purpose, my passion. I was indeed born to be an uplifter. In my early jobs, people would visit me in my office and tell me their problems, share their dreams, and trust me with their secrets. In one of the companies that I worked for, it seemed like I spent more time engaged with the people that performing my actual job. My boss said nothing about it to me, possibly because he himself had an unspoken standing appointment with me every morning before our workday actually began. He would come into my office, sit back in the big, comfy, brown chair and proceed to recount to me the details of his life. I would simply listen, offer a few words of compassion, a nod of appreciation, a sigh of understanding, whatever was needed in the moment and he would be on his way, ready to begin his day, his step a little lighter than when he had arrived.
In later years, when I started my own business, I regularly had to stay late in the evenings in order to get some “REAL WORK” done, to make up for the long trail of constant visitors to my office, during the business day.
Looking back, I suppose that was my “REAL WORK” so to speak, in the eyes of the universe. Making a difference in other people’s lives. I was just masquerading as a senior buyer or magazine publisher, whatever the label called for.
I wonder how many there are of us who have been masquerading as something else while actually living our true purpose in whatever way that may be showing up for us. Today would be a good time to take a look at your own life and see where you may be doing just that without even realizing it. Take some time to really acknowledge it and feel good about what a real difference you may already be making in this world just by being you. Perhaps it is time now for you to take that purpose to an even deeper level.