PURPOSE IN LIFE – part one – finding purpose

So you want to know what your purpose in life is? And you really have no clue what it could be? Really no idea?

And now that you ask yourself these questions, you start to feel a bit anxious about adding some awareness to this. Maybe you hear a voice in your mind that says that this whole purpose discussion is not important and that we all die anyway and life is too short and meaningless to waste time on such a philosophical matter. Or maybe you just now conclude that god knows and guides you and that it is not in your hands what to make of your life. Or, you simply define roles,  moral standards or goals as your purpose: “being a good father”; “being a reliable housewife”; “leading a humble simple life”; “not harming others”, “building a house” and if you are Chinese or have lived too long in Hong Kong maybe “becoming rich” seems like a fantastic purpose to surf on.

So why is purpose important? Fulfilling your purpose in life holds the power to create genuine happiness. This as a source of energy which helps us living our lives with more confidence and less fear. The clarity about your own individual purpose is the antidote for your anger, anxiety, and depression. Living your live more purposefully will reduce your levels of stress and increase sustainable well-being.

Let’s uncover this thing in two steps:

First we want to know what we actually mean by FINDING PURPOSE in life.

Second we want to ACCESS AND MAINTAIN PURPOSE in our lives.

FINDING PURPOSE

Purpose in life seems to have something to do with MISSION, CALLING, VALUES, STRENGTHS, TALENT and PASSION amongst others. We keep it inside of us – often hidden somewhere

My preferred way of understanding purpose is to make it explicit as a mission statement. Something you commit to through your speech and behaviour ongoingly, but what you will never accomplish or tick off, but rather constantly aspire and pay into – similar to contributions to the account for your godchild. In this sense it is very similar to values.

For example I value being outdoors and close with nature; life-long learning, humour and friendship. Therefore I love hiking, sailing, camping, reading, writing, teaching, training, comedy, making others laugh and keeping in touch regularly with my three friends I know since Kindergarten (currently living in Panama, Zurich and Munich).

But purpose does not superpose values. Here examples of purpose as mission statements: “I create meaning in my life and the lives of others by reducing suffering and dissatisfaction. In my way of doing this I focus on meaningful conversations and awareness of myself.”

The next blog entry to this text  will contain 10 essential questions to ask yourself or someone with purpose around you. Stay tuned!

COMMON NON-SENSE and the art of giving feedback

I don’t like references to common sense, because – let’s face it – what we experience as common sense more often than not turns out to be a lot of non-sense when looking at it more closely. Here is an example: remember the last time you flew as one of many passengers on an aircraft? Think about these two questions 1.) Where did you put your carry-on luggage before taking your seat? 2.) What did you do after landing right after the “fasten seat belts” sign went off?

Let me guess: You put your luggage into the overhead compartment exactly above your head. And when the sign went off, you jumped up as if some poisonous snake had just tried to bite you. But Why? Maybe you are scared that someone takes your stuff or steals from your belongings. It does not matter how substantial this worry is, it’s there and it makes you jump up. It’s very common, and seen from a distance it is common non-sense.

What if everyone would place his/her belongings into the overhead compartment on the other side of the aisle? CRAZY that would be – right? absolutely outrageous. Think about it for a moment. Let the craziness of that thought slowly evaporate and then acknowledge that doing so could actually help you worry less about where your bag is and if your belongings are still safe – because you could better keep an eye on your stuff!

Now, back to common non-sense in couples counselling. When it comes to relationships clients often reveal the following misbelief. They are convinced that communicating personal experience (better known as “giving feedback”) has something to do with embellishing the truth or a requirement to beat around the bush.

Furthermore, in my men’s groups I often hear, that the proper way to tell someone that he or she has areas of improvement is to sandwich this message between at least two positive remarks. This then often ends up like “Hey Seb, I like your tie and by the way you suck big time. But hey, you are really a funny guy!”. To be clear here: this is NOT feedback! This is HR talk in a german multinational automotive supplier in the early 90ties. It is that sort of horrible experience that people write about 20 years later on their blog.

When we give feedback to our partners or anywhere else where we show up as a person –  we do this by connecting with our hearts. Do this ONLY a) because you care about the other and b) because you want to support the other. Moreover, you will want to ask for permission (“Can I share my experience with you …”) and you do NOT want to package or sandwich anything. You do want to be honest about what is relevant. That requires you to refer to behaviour and not to personality.