one cool way to figure out what your badass life is about

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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

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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.

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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.

And you?

Share below!

Oct 19, 2012
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25 comments · Add Yours

Oooh! Love this. I came up with two – interrelated but equally important to me.

I exist to serve by empowering the exploited.
I exist to serve by challenging the powers that be.

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I exist to serve by teaching preemptive delight.

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Those are awesome. So pleased to know you both.

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I exist to serve by seeing (a bit) differently.

the only thing which comes fast, although I’m not sure whom this serves. the universal disorder? :)

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ah, and i totally love this paragraph:

“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 record or answer or believe. Our attention is as limited and precious as our time. Everybody wants a piece. It’s so easy to spend it so carelessly, it streams out through cupped hands like melted snow. It’s so easy to spin around looking at all these different directions only to take, in the end, no direction at all”

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I exist to serve by opening the eyes of the blind.

Not to force those eyes open. Not to make them stay open. Not to tell them what to look at or how to see.

Just showing them that light exists and that they are capable of receiving it.

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Love this, Justine. I’m still playing with it, but so far, I’ve come up with:
I exist to serve by instilling confidence in women.
I exist to serve by telling the truth.

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This whole post is magical as it hits the buzzer in each part.. saying it is simple..
Just unearth the core and focus on that… But I did find these following words especially enlightening as to the path, world we have the power to create

” through bringing together skills and interests in a way 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.”

What do you do is what people constantly ask ~
With this blog I realized I have to start being very definite on who I have become.
In that I exist to serve by being a catalyst.
I did not choose this..
It choose me very early in life as I refused to go along with things that I knew were not true.. I am too sensory ~ I live via deep senses and they have to resonate Truth !

Image has been leading our society for a long time.. People twisting themselves into pretzels to keep up with Images and role definitions that are not really them has to me made a really nasty world of angry frustrated people !! ~

I am easy going happy person… but when I see things that are convoluted and twisted, not functional I cannot walk away especially when it concerns my or my son’s welfare and life.. I seek to know, to understand, to connect dots, to make it comprehensible.. Curious for sure , Scorpio natural investigated nature.. has me opening many Pandora boxes…

I do not go looking for trouble that is for sure.. I like quiet peaceful life.. but I find myself stirring the pot so we can get Truth to lead rather then avoidance.. Thank you for this simple exercise… Now I know this is the purpose of catalyzing and can walk with it in much more beneficial way.

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I exist to serve by connecting people to their power.

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“I am the Sprint Moon. You do not see me for I am hidden inside the soul. Others want you for themselves. But I call you back to yourself.” Rumi

I exist to serve by Being the Spirit Moon! By calling you back to Yourself.

Interestingly, that is exactly what you do too, dearest Justine. I do it too, only differently!

I LOVE your posts. Thank you.

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thank you for that Rumi quote, it’s gorgeous!

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I was a little surprised at what a knee-jerk reaction I had to this. Without thinking, I answered:

I exist to serve by loving the unlovable.

Looking back on my life, I see this as a constant pattern in the actions of my days and my writing. It’s the architecture the rest of my stuff–bones, blood, soul, thoughts–rest on. The pay is crap. The pay back is beyond value.

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I exist to serve by inspiring others to see possibility.

Thank you. I love your posts

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After months of reading you and thinking about me through your inducements, today I feel I should tell you that you recall me the path of Dante in the Divina Commedia (shouldn’t be translated, I guess), so much darkness travelling inside human nature and the light at the end, only one too short instant, and it was just Love.
I exist to love. More and better. Not only referring to interpersonal interactions.

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I exist to serve by inspiring new ways of living and working.

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Love this! I exist to serve by being honest :)

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Honest, inspiring words, as always. Thank you Justine. As for me – I exist to serve by telling stories. No more no less.

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Played with it until I got shivers…
I exist to serve by freeing LIFE.

Nothing like dreaming big..

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Love your blog, Justine.

The new title for ‘me on the web’ now makes sense: A New Adventure Every Day. I think this might be my purpose statement.

And apparently, I exist to serve by sharing love. ♥

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I exist to serve by motivating spirit.

xoxoxoxo

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Thank you so much for this timely reminder.

I’m still playing with it but so far I’ve run through:
loving people
giving hope
sharing sunshine
facilitating change
bringing peace….

My goal is always to educate for a culture of peace (different from Peace being merely an absence of war – idea taken from BIPPI http://www.bippi.org/bippi/home/english/home_en.htm ) but I like the challenge of looking for the spine tingling mantra, rediscovering passion in what I do. Glad to have been led to your blog.

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i serve by aligning with my infinite self.

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I exist to serve by manifesting beauty.

“Beauty” has a similar meaning to me as “soul” may to you; essential, passionate, aesthetic, transcendent, shifting, natural, breath-taking, enlivening.

Great exercise. Thanks for the inspiration!

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I live this post, and am a little surprised at how immediately the answer popped up. I exist to serve by listening to stories. This is my heart in my work, at church, on my blog. That’s what it’s all about. I love to share, I love to tell the truth, but I exist to listen.

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Thank you thank you thank you

I exist to serve by Connecting people
……………………… Uncovering stories
………………………. Inspiring others
………………………..creating possibilities

What a brilliant exercise

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