“In the end only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
Years ago, a dear friend, now a memory of the best sort, put down her coffee and asked, “Is this all there is?” The question came out of nowhere and I hesitated before speaking. I’m not good with cosmic queries. I have a skewed view of the universe and I’ve never allowed myself, by interjection or example, to foist my beliefs on others. So we sat a bit, burping our baby girls, while my brain sorted possible answers to her question. When it came, it was neither profound nor pointed and what escaped my lips was an inane, “Why do you ask?” I have a recollection that she replied, “There has to be more.” While our lives and education had been in lock-step, we filtered lessons differently and I was not sure if the conversation about to come would be philosophical or religious. As it turns out it was neither. She wanted to have a life that was meaningful and in order to do that she believed it was necessary to have a life that mattered. Rather than waste dreams, she sorted through them and became purpose-driven in pursuit of goals that would lend more meaning to her life.
Of course, the hardest part of purposeful living is defining the goals we want to reach. Once they are set, forward motion demands the formation of habits that will allow us to live in an intentional manner. It also demands a self-assessment. It is necessary to identify talents, likes and dislikes, and above all else, passions. Would you seek the goal you are pursuing if no one was watching or paying you to do so? If the answer is yes, free your mind and commit the goal to paper. Then break pursuit of your goal into manageable segments and create signposts that identify mile markers you have passed. Talk to good friends about your plan, but chose them well. The world is full of naysayers and you want encouragement from those around you.
When my children were small, I loved to watch episodes of the Muppets where they’d search for purpose. They stumbled and fell and weekly changed their goal, but they generally concluded that purpose was best found by investing in something larger than themselves. They showed up to life with a passion. They had a rudimentary vision of who they wanted to be and what they wanted to accomplish. Better still, they were warm fuzzy teachers and much funnier than the pros who dispensed the same wisdom from the heights of Mt. Olympus.
I am not dismissing experts, but I do wish they’d lighten up. Of course, it is important to have a purpose. There’s not much point to getting out of bed if there is no reason to do so. There has to be more to life than marriage, children, aging and death. Each one of us is here for a reason, but no one, save you, can define what your purpose might be. Like it or not, purpose is the point of our existence. It gives focus and context to our lives, but it doesn’t just happen. I have many goals, some too private to mention here, but the one I hope defines me, is a commitment to treat all who fall within my shadow with kindness and respect. While I often stumble, that resolve empowers me.