Are you living life on accident? Not many people would immediately identify with that, but in my experience, most people struggle to answer whether they are living life on purpose.
One of the most important things I do with my Leadership clients is to help them define their purpose. I don’t mean their task list, or their job, or even their career I’m talking about getting in touch with what they exist on this earth to be and to do. For most life on planet Earth, this is an easy question. In fact, it’s not even a question. The honey bee doesn’t need to think about how its behavior fits so neatly into the ecological system. But humans are both blessed and cursed with knowledge and consciousness, which makes our question of purpose that much more elusive. Because modern civilization has made basic survival something we take for granted, we now need to look deeper to find meaning in our lives.
Usually, the work I do with clients culminates in some sort of metaphor that is memorable and easily accessible for them. It is enduring, but it definitely evolves over time. My own life purpose recently went through some evolution and I want to share it with you here.
“I am the dancing light who liberates humanity
with courage, purpose, and love.”
Let’s break it down, starting with the word Liberates. Whether we’re aware of it or not, most of us live our lives trapped in an illusion created by limiting beliefs, false assumptions, and the self-deception that we are isolated at the center of our own universe. To be liberated from this illusion is to be awakened. Philosophers, spiritual teachers, and psychologists have been describing this phenomenon for ages. Plato wrote about it thousands of years ago in his Allegory of The Cave, and more recently one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, illustrated it in a futuristic way.
Of course, what the illusion creates for us is Fear. I know all about fear. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve come to admit how much I let fear limit me in my life. It’s been said many times, in many ways, by many people, that courage is not the absence of fear; but rather, the will to act in spite of fear. Without fear, there is no such thing as courage. Courage is the first step in living a life on purpose. (By the way, posting my own life purpose on this blog is a courageous step for me.)
Courage is a choice that needs to be made and this is where Purpose comes in. Choice comes from purpose. Without purpose, any choice will do. In business, choice means strategy. Many companies fail because they lack the courage to choose boldly. In life, choice means living on purpose. So understanding and defining your own purpose is essential, as it will guide every major choice you make.
Love, as the song goes, makes the world go round. In her most recent book, Love 2.0, Barbara Fredrickson defines Love as “positive emotional resonance.” Fredrickson is a leader in the science of Positive Psychology and she lays out a compelling case for the fact that Love is an essential nutrient for humans to thrive. In her case, she makes clear that Love is not exclusive to the long term bonds between people “in love,” but rather, is a physical/emotional state that can arise between any two beings who are in a state of mutual positive emotional resonance, even if for a brief period of time. Unfortunately, this state is relatively rare in today’s society, but I have seen its power first hand. Not only is it an essential ingredient of a happy, purposeful life, but it is a necessary ingredient for Leadership and all effective human endeavors, like running a sustainable healthy company for example.
The first part of my purpose statement is a metaphor for who I am. As the Light, I help other people see. I also lighten things up. I understand my personal impact on others, and when I am my authentic self, my impact is to make people smile. I make people laugh. And I lead people to feel courageous, on purpose, and full of love.
The Dancing part? Well, have you seen my moves?