When we think of our purpose, chances are we think of big, grandiose goals and sweeping statements.
In reality, living with purpose isn’t about achievements and accomplishing goals on our to-do list. Truly living a meaningful, fulfilling life is about finding purpose in everyday moments.
Would you like to live longer?
Would you like to get more done?
Do you wish you could cope with stress better?
Do you want to be more radiant, have more friends, and a social life filled with connections?
Would you like to enjoy a better sex life?
Believe it or not, all of these desires are fulfilled by finding a sense of purpose. If you want to live a life of more, experience better health, happiness, wellness, and fulfillment, you need to learn how to discover the purpose in everyday moments.
It’s funny because many of us hear about purpose often. There are gurus and teachers out there, motivational speakers and business leaders who will talk about finding your purpose and it sounds…daunting. Living a life of purpose seems like one of those goals that’s hard to pinpoint or even achieve. How do we “live with purpose?” How do we “find our purpose?” What does it even mean?
Purpose isn’t a grand mission statement. We tend to think our purpose needs to be huge—earth-shattering. We think we need to create a purpose statement on par with Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Gandhi. We look at visionaries and leaders and wonder how our meager lives could measure up. How could we live with as much purpose as these great people?
After all, when you’re stuck in traffic during your commute, when kids are fighting and you’re trying to get dinner on the table, or when your order gets screwed up at Starbucks, it’s hard to feel like you’re living with purpose and fulfillment, right? It’s hard to think of the bigger picture.
We tell our students at Wright Graduate University that they’re life students at Earth School. It’s their job to look at each moment before them and ask, “What is the earth school lesson being posed to me right now?”
Yes, that’s a little challenging when there’s artificial sweetener in your coffee (blech) or your toddler’s having a meltdown in the grocery store. But those moments full of opportunities to learn and grow. Those are moments for finding purpose.
What gets in the way of discovering our purpose? Fear. Habits. Drama. Life in general. We all want to live meaningful, purposeful lives. We want to be the best people we can become and to live great lives. Many times, though, we may feel as though we fall short—like there’s more potential locked inside us.
Maybe we face challenges in our lives (after all, who doesn’t?!) such as family problems, relationship problems, aging parents, or small children. We may find ourselves in political battles with our friends and coworkers. We may face conflicts at the office. Our days are demanding and overwhelming. Some days, we may feel as though we’re barely staying afloat, let alone swimming through life. We lose sight of our purpose.
Yes, life gets exhausting. We’re so busy getting through the demands of the day, we lose sight of the bigger picture. Instead of living a big, full, juicy, satisfying and meaningful life, we zone out and “get by.”
What happens when we’ve had a rough day or stress out? We turn to our phones and start scrolling through social media, right? We look at all the fun activities and accomplishments our friends are posting, and we sink even further into the feeling of “blah.” Our lives don’t seem to measure up.
So then we turn to food—we reach for ice cream, chips, pizza, and cookies. Not because we’re hoping to enjoy and appreciate a special treat, but because it gives us a temporary rush of pleasure.
Or, we decide to engage in retail therapy. We buy new shoes, we fill up our Amazon cart, or we buy “toys” like makeup, video games, or another fun item to give us a temporary thrill (even if we can’t afford it).
Maybe you turn to Netflix? We binge out on shows, watching episodes back-to-back.
When you get through engaging in these time-wasters, what we like to call soft addictions, how do you feel? Do you feel relaxed? Energized? Emotionally upbeat?
Chances are, even if the episode was interesting, the food was delicious, or those new shoes are super adorable, the momentary high wears off quickly. After you’ve spent a Saturday indulging in your soft addictions, chances are you probably feel gross. Maybe you feel zoned out—almost hungover. Perhaps your energy is simply drained. Maybe you feel panicked about your impending credit card bill.
When we lose sight of our purpose, when we engage in soft addictions and timewasters, we move away from meaning. We go to counterfeit pleasures instead of seeking what would help us truly feel fulfilled.
Purpose is like a compass. It gives us a sense of direction and helps us get to our destination—one of greater fulfillment. Purpose can inform our every moment.
We can find more purpose in our commute; more purpose at work; more purpose in our interaction with our children and grandchildren; more purpose in our face-to-face time with friends and family.
When we think of purposeless interactions we may think of chitchat. Conversations about the weather, or observations. Purposeless conversation may even include expressing physical sensations we’re experiencing, “Ugh, it’s so hot!”
Think of our interactions in an elevator or while we’re waiting in line at the coffee shop. When we talk to strangers, we often aren’t engaging or speaking with intention. We aren’t stopping to really listen to what the other person is saying. We aren’t talking about meaningful topics.
Imagine instead if we went into our interactions with a stronger intention to engage. If we stretched ourselves to converse about topics other than our surroundings. What if you asked someone how they were really feeling today? What if you observed something about them you could sincerely admire and compliment them on? What if you asked them their opinion or why they were there?
We aren’t used to walking into the coffee shop, or even into a work meeting with intention. We’re used to going through the motions, living but not really feeling alive. If we approach every moment with the intention to learn more, to connect, and to understand others better, we gain greater fulfillment.
Our sense of fulfillment and purpose is guided by the longings of our heart. What we refer to as our yearnings. These are deeper than our wants. We don’t yearn for coffee, new shoes, or even attention from a cute stranger. We yearn to connect. We yearn to feel loved. We yearn to be respected, to be seen, and to be heard.
If we engage with intent and consciously go into each situation, our yearnings will guide us. We become more engaged. We’re looking at the bigger picture, rather than indulging in the moment or seeking instant gratification. This sense of purpose brings us deeper satisfaction because our yearnings (not just our cravings) are fulfilled.
With practice, we’ll start finding purpose in everyday moments. Instead of zoning out, we’ll lose the feeling of sleepwalking through our lives. Purpose makes you feel more YOU.
Purpose helps us live longer. Scientific studies show now living with a sense of purpose and fulfillment lowers our incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure and even suppresses the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Extracting lessons from each moment, living intentionally with purpose will help us strengthen our connections with others. It helps keep us feeling renewed and cognitively sharp. It even helps us live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
The benefits of purpose are huge!
But purpose itself fits into even the smallest situations. We can set forth intention and find a greater purpose in each moment throughout our day. Be mindful. Extract the lesson from every situation. Explore, be curious, zone-in instead of zoning out.
For more on living a life of greater fulfillment and purpose, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming networking event or download some of our great courses available online. Get more meaning from your day-to-day life, today!
Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.