one cool way to figure out what your badass life is about
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dream of meeting your heart’s longing. — Oriah
Here’s a neat little exercise to help you state your life purpose.
It’s called, wittily enough, the Purpose Statement.
Although it’s always been important for us humans — pattern-seeking creatures that we are — to use purpose to put meaning into our lives, it’s increasingly important for us to use purpose just to keep our damn sanity.
We lead fragmented lives. We belong not just to one tribe, but many; we cycle through different roles in the course of a day; our identity is a bright, shifting, quicksilver thing. We contain multitudes. We try on different careers. We develop portfolio careers. We build distinct personal brands –
(did you just roll your eyes at that?)
– through a synthesis of skills and interests that sets us apart. As writers and other creative types we have to figure out how to market ourselves in a way we can tolerate and maybe even enjoy. We have to create a platform along with the work, that supports and illuminates the work — but also provides value in itself.
That’s a lot to hold together.
And if the center cannot hold, all we get is disconnection and chaos.
And the world comes at us like fans mobbing a celebrity: beeping and honking and yanking on us, pulling us this way and that, thrusting stuff in our faces to look at or sign or buy or buy into or tweet or reinvent or evangelize or watch or download or answer or believe. Our attention is as limited as our time. Everybody wants a piece. It’s so easy to spend it so carelessly, it streams out through cupped hands like melting snow. It’s so easy to spin around looking at all these different directions only to take no direction at all.
Let’s not do that.
Uncovering your purpose statement – you don’t write it so much as unearth it – is like locating your north star. It’s the sign with an arrow pointing THIS WAY. The people you meet, the choices you face, the options you consider: you can hold them up to the light of that statement, see who is going in your direction and what will help you get there.
It’s the magic thread that sews your life together.
It’s the oomph that gets you out of bed in the morning (or afternoon or night, depending on the hours you keep). It’s the superhero x-ray glasses that allow you to see through all the mundane daily stuff to a deeper, richer vision.
It’s the lemon zest of your freakin’ soul.
I took this from the book TRAIN YOUR BRAIN FOR SUCCESS by Roger Seip who took it in turn from a guy named Kevin McCarthy. It’s a fill-in-the-blanks question that seems simpler than it is. You might want to take a tip from Steve Pavlina and keep answering and answering and answering the question until you hit on the thing that sends shivers down your spine and a fat YES from your heart.
The first blank gets a verb.
The second blank gets a noun. Or possibly an adjective.
The only rules are:
It must make sense to you.
It must inspire you.
It should not depend on anyone other than you; your purpose should remain your purpose no matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do.
Here it is:
I exist to serve by _________ing ____________.
Some real-life examples:
I exist to serve by bringing joy.
I exist to serve by teaching life’s lessons.
I exist to serve by being real.
I exist to serve by expanding horizons.
I’m still playing around with the exercise, but I came up with:
I exist to serve by delivering soul.
This works for me because of what ‘soul’ means to me: a mash-up of meaning, emotion, essence, empathy, inspiration, wisdom, transcendence, love, authenticity. Soul is transformative. As a fiction writer, I track the transformation of my characters and what that means to the story. As a blogger and perpetual student of life (and stuff), I’m interested in a different kind of transformation. Either way, I want to go there. Strip it bare. Get at the root. Explore the human condition in my own way, as deeply as I can, through story and language. I want to take the top of your head off and show you epic shit. I want to crack you open and throw you into the light – and sometimes it’s a dark light, for darkness has gifts of its own.