Purpose, How to Find and Cultivate YoursMay 30, 2022
Have you ever thought about opposites before, like a long list of them? I don't know why things pop into my head sometimes, but today, I was drawn to the topic of opposites, as I believe, you can tell a lot about a person based on opposites.
You know what's interesting is that when you decide to be a parent and then become an empty nester, there'll be a moment when you try to reflect on the last 20 years and everything becomes blurred because there were so many experiences. My wife and I are semi-empty-nesters and now have a different life, as we don't have the kid responsibilities as we once did.
After 30 years of marriage and not ever taking a honeymoon, as I create this podcast, my wife and I are on day 12 of an eighteen-day vacation down in Florida, that we labeled our honeymoon. Yes, we never had a honeymoon, I guess I thought all of the out-of-town hockey tournaments would eventually add up to a honeymoon, but I guess that's not how it works. So here I am, on an 18-day honeymoon with my wife whom I've known since 1989.
There's been a lot of walks on the beach down here on Treasure Island, Florida, and are super grateful to Kerry Ace for letting us stay at her oasis down here, which resulted in having some time to reflect on things. My wife and I were watching a sunset the other day, and the concept of opposites started to keep coming up in my thoughts. The more time I spent thinking about it, I don't know, but I think you can tell a lot about a person based on opposites, because at some point, you have to decide what side of the fence you're going to choose to stand on. Let me explain.
If you look at opposites, which I'm going to give you a bunch here shortly, they clearly show 2 points of origin that are very different. It's pretty simple, I'm going to give you 2 opposite words and you have to choose, one or the other, based on who you are, or who you want to become. Let's see what happens with you after the exercise.
Opposites, and remember you have to choose one of the options that best describes you.
- Good Bad
- Winner Loser
- Hard Easy
- In Out
- Love Hate
- More Less
- On Off
- Kind Cruel
- Give Take
- Kind Cruel
- Laugh Cry
- Normal Strange
- Victory Defeat
- Messy Neat
- Rude Polite
- Funny Serious
- Useful Useless
- Honest Dishonest
See what I mean when I say, if you have to pick one or the other, by the end of the list, you get a pretty clear picture of who you currently are or who you want to become. And once this happens, pairing these life pillars of importance with a passion or purpose, well then, that's when magical things can happen.
So how do kids learn how to start thinking about creating a purposeful life? How can we as parents help in this process and how early should or can we start? I have a few books that might help shed some light on the topic and I'd like to share some of the best quotes from each, that may get you thinking about the current journey you're on, from a different perspective, so let's begin.
Book number 1
The Path to Purpose
How Young People Find Their Calling in Life by William Damon
“In my prior work, I had encountered the notion of purpose many times, but dimly and indirectly, as if through a telescope with an ill-fitted lens. None of my earlier studies was about purpose per se; yet I now see that much of what I have been trying to understand for many years does in fact hinge on purpose. A study I conducted (with Anne Colby) of extraordinary moral commitment found that people who pursue noble purposes are filled with joy, despite the constant sacrifices that they feel called upon to make. In a subsequent series of studies (with Howard Gardner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) of men and women who have done socially valuable ‘good work’ in their careers, I was struck by how vividly these people were able to answer our questions about what they were trying to accomplish and why. An elevated purpose was always on their minds, driving their daily efforts. This purpose was their ultimate concern, essential to all their personal successes—it gave them energy; it gave them satisfaction when they accomplished their goals; and it gave them persistence when they ran into obstacles. ... This work led me to examine how young people find their purposes in life. Do adolescents have purposes, and if so, how do they learn them? What kinds of purposes, in addition to those related to careers, are inspiring today’s young? What happens when young people are unable to find any purpose at all to devote themselves to? The present book is the first account of the insights that I and my students have been gaining through our initial research into these questions.” ~ William Damon from The Path to Purpose
LET’S DEFINE “LIFE PURPOSE”
“What exactly do I mean by a ‘life purpose’? A purpose is an ultimate concern. It is the final answer to the question Why? Why are you doing this? Why is it important? A purpose is a deeper reason for the immediate goals and motives that drive most daily behavior. Short-term desires come and go. A young person may desire a good grade on a test, a date to the prom, a cutting edge electronic PlayStation, a starting slot on the basketball team or admission to a prestigious college. These are desires; they reflect immediate aims that may or may not have longer-term significance. A purpose, by contrast, is an end in itself. A person can change purposes, or add new ones, over the years; but it is in the nature of purposes to endure at least long enough that a serious commitment is made and some progress toward that aim is achieved. A purpose can organize an entire life, imparting not only meaning but also inspiration and motivation for ongoing learning and achievement.”
“The purposeful are those who have found something meaningful to dedicate themselves to, who have sustained this interest over a period of time, and who express a clear sense of what they are trying to accomplish in the world and why. They have found a cause or ultimate goal that inspires their efforts from day to day and helps them fashion a coherent future agenda. They know what they want to accomplish and why, and they have taken concerted steps to achieve their ambitions.”
“To qualify as a worthy purpose, the how of a course of action, as well as its why, must be guided by a strong moral sense. Finding noble purpose means both devoting oneself to something worth doing and doing it in an honorable manner. For this reason, a telling way to distinguish between ignoble and noble purposes is to analyze whether both the means and the ends are honorable.”
WHAT GETS IN THE WAY OF FINDING PURPOSE?
“The single greatest barrier to youngsters finding their paths to purpose is the fixation on the short horizons that infuses cultural messages sent to young people today. A popular culture celebrating quick results and showy achievements has displaced the traditional values of reflection and contemplation that once stood as the moral north star of human development and education. Instant mass communication transmits tales of highly envied people who have taken shortcuts to fame and fortune to every child with access to computers and televisions (and that amounts to just about every child in any industrial society). Among the most common formats for television shows at present are contests in which ordinary young people rocket to fame or fortune in a matter of minutes, days, or, at most, weeks. The appeal of quick material success is amplified by current economic conditions, which have led to unparalleled abundance and affluence for some, fierce global competitiveness for others, and the specter of deprivation for many others.”
THE URGENT PROJECT FOR PARENTS TODAY (<— PURPOSE)
“I am entirely confident in asserting that the urgent project for parents today, in this world of increasing economic, cultural, and social uncertainty, is to help their children gain a wholesome sense of direction that will carry them through the minefields of drift, confusion, apathy, anxiety, fear, and self-absorption that threaten their generation. I am also convinced that the key to this sense of direction is finding a life purpose. While a parent cannot simply give a purpose to a child, and indeed any too forceful or controlling effort to do so is likely to have adverse repercussions, nonetheless, there is much that a parent can do.”
Here's his list of suggestions -
- “Listen closely for the spark, then fan the flames.”
- “Take advantage of regular opportunities to open a dialogue.”
- “Be open-minded and supportive of the sparks of interest expressed.”
- "Convey your own sense of purpose and the meaning you derive from your work.”
- “Impart wisdom about the practicalities in life.”
- “Introduce children to potential mentors.”
- “Encourage an entrepreneurial attitude.”
- “Nurture a positive outlook.”
- “Instill in children a feeling of agency, linked to responsibility.”
Book Number 2
Mastery by Robert Greene
“In many ways, the movement from one level of intelligence to another can be considered as a kind of ritual of transformation. As you progress, old ideas and perspectives die off; as new powers are unleashed, you are initiated into higher levels of seeing the world. Consider Mastery as an invaluable tool in guiding you through this transformation process. The book is designed to lead you from the lowest levels to the highest. It will help to initiate you into the first step— discovering your Life’s Task, or vocation, and how to carve out a path that will lead you to its fulfillment on various levels. It will advise you on how to exploit to the fullest your apprenticeship—the various strategies of observation and learning that will serve you best in this phase; how to find the perfect mentors; how to decipher the unwritten codes on political behavior; how to cultivate social intelligence; and finally, how to recognize when it is time to leave the apprenticeship nest and strike out for yourself, entering the active, creative. It will show you how to continue the learning process on a higher level. It will reveal timeless strategies for creative problem solving, for keeping your mind fluid and adaptable. It will show you how to access more unconscious and primitive layers of intelligence, and how to endure the inevitable barbs of envy that will come your way. It will spell out the powers that will come to you through mastery, pointing you in the direction of that intuitive, inside feel for your field. Finally, it will initiate you into a philosophy, a way of thinking that will make it easier to follow this path.” (End Quote)
You Have A Destiny to Fulfill
“Let us state it in the following way: At your birth, a seed is planted. That seed is your uniqueness. It wants to grow, transform itself, and flower to its full potential. It has natural, assertive energy. Your Life’s Task is to bring that seed to flower, to express your uniqueness through your work. You have a destiny to fulfill. The stronger you feel and maintain it—as a force, a voice, or in whatever form—the greater your chance for fulfilling this Life’s Task and achieving mastery. What weakens this force, what makes you not feel it or even doubt its existence, is the degree to which you have succumbed to another force in life—social pressures to conform. This counterforce can be very powerful. You want to fit into a group. Unconsciously, you might feel that what makes you different is embarrassing or painful... At all costs you must avoid such a fate. The process of following your Life’s Task all the way to mastery can essentially begin at any point in life. The hidden force within you is always there andready to be engaged.” (End Quote)
THE APPRENTICESHIP PHASE
“The principle is simple and must be engraved deeply in your mind: the goal of an apprenticeship is not money, a good position, a title, or a diploma, but rather the transformation of your mind and character—the first transformation on the way to mastery. Slowly, you will ground yourself, in the objective world represented by the knowledge and skills that make people successful in it. You will learn how to work with others and handle criticism. In the process you will transform yourself from someone who is impatient and scattered into someone who is disciplined and focused, with a mind that can handle complexity. In the end, you will master yourself and all of your weaknesses.”
20,000 HOURS OF TENACIOUS EFFORT
“In our culture, we tend to denigrate practice. We want to imagine that great feats occur naturally—that they are the sign of someone’s genius or superior talent. Getting to a high level of achievement through practice seems so banal, so uninspiring. Besides, we don’t want to have to think of the 10,000 to 20,000 hours that go into such mastery. These values of ours are oddly counterproductive—they cloak from us the fact that almost everyone can reach such heights through tenacious effort, something that should encourage us all. It is time to reverse this prejudice against conscious effort and to see the powers we gain through practice and discipline as eminently inspiring and even miraculous.” (End Quote)
Book number 3
Die Empty Unleash Your Best Work Every Day
By Todd Henry
“Your days are finite. One day, they will run out. As a friend of mine likes to say, ‘You know, the death rate is hovering right around one hundred percent.’ Many people I know spend their entire life trying to avoid this fact. They fill their lives with frantic activity, bouncing from task to task, and no matter how successful they perform in their work, as they close shop for the day they are left with the question, ‘Did the work I did today really matter?’ Others I’ve met are incredibly successful at, vested in, and highly compensated for their work, but over time they’ve grown stagnant. They sense they have something more to give but they can’t quite put their finger on why they’re stuck in first gear. They have a nagging suspicion that they can contribute more—maybe even being truly brilliant at something—but have no road map for unlocking what that contribution might be... If there is one overriding goal of this book it is this: to bring newfound clarity and a sense of urgency to how you approach your work daily and over your lifetime. I hope to help you lock onto a focused understanding of what’s important and help you make a commitment to chase after it with gusto rather than simply settling in for the ride.” (End Quote)
MAPPING + MAKING + MESHING = DEVELOPER
“The Developer is constantly weaving together available resources and opportunities to create value. He doesn’t work frantically, but instead works with urgency and diligence, making plans and then executing them, learning from his actions, and then redirecting them as needed. He recognizes that uncertainty is not an enemy, but a natural part of engaging in important and valuable work. He also knows that opportunities are valuable only if he is prepared to take advantage of them, and as such he is constantly developing the skills that will be needed when he gets where he wants to go rather than where he is currently. If you want to die empty of regret, with a body of work you can be proud of, you must focus on becoming a Developer.” (End Quote)
TODAY’S THE DAY
“Imagine for a moment that you will have a guest accompanying you throughout your day tomorrow. This person’s task will be to follow you around from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep. They will take copious notes about your schedule, how you interact with your family and friends, how you engage in your tasks and projects, and your mind-set through it all. Once the day is over, this person will spend the next few days processing their observations, draw conclusions about your motivations, and compile their notes into a book about you that will stand as the definitive record of your life and work. How would you act differently tomorrow if you knew that your actions and attitude on that one day were going to be a permanent testament to your life? If you’re like many people to whom I’ve posted this question, you would probably get up a little earlier, pay extra attention to your family and the barista at Starbucks, be fully vested in every meeting, be meticulous in every task, call up an old friend for lunch, reconcile with an alienated colleague, and generally wrap up loose ends. Next I ask, ‘How does your imagined behavior compare with how you are actually living your life today?’” (End Quote)
STEP, SPRINT, AND STRETCH
“Growth doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of intentional effort and consistent progress. You must define how you want to grow, then establish a plan to help you get there. There are three kinds of goals that help you grow: Step, Sprint, and Stretch. A step goal is a very short-arc goal (often daily) that helps you maintain forward progress, even if it’s small progress. A sprint goal is a medium-arc goal (a week or two weeks) that causes you to go beyond yourself for a season to increase your capacity, and a stretch goal is a long-arc goal that forces you to go far beyond your comfort zone. Each of these three types of goals nest within one another. Step goals help you accomplish your sprint goals, and sprint goals help you accomplish your stretch goals. They don’t always have to co-exist, but it’s unwise to set the long-arc goals without having accompanied short-arc goals to help you get there. For example, running a marathon is a great example of a stretch goal, but I would be foolish not to set the corresponding sprint and step goals to help me work my way up to 26.2 miles. The stretch goal is the objective, but a step and sprint goals are the building blocks. We usually reach our end goal, but fail to consider the mechanics, or the day-to-day logistics, of how we will get to where we want to be.” (End Quote)
Book Number 4
The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle
by Jim Rohn
“There are always just a few important principles that account for most of the progress we make in our lives. It is these “basics” that have the greatest effect on our health, our happiness, and our bank accounts. This is not to suggest that there are only a few life-changing ideas that will affect us, for surely there are many. What I am suggesting, however, is that you begin your search by focusing on the five fundamentals we will examine in this book. It is these few among the many that will account for the biggest share of the results you will achieve. You will never be able to master every aspect of your life. To try to become the master of every detail of your life will only lead to frustration. Instead, why not go after the few among the many, the few that will make the most difference, the fundamental subjects that will have the greatest impact in determining the quality of your existence?”
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE PHILOSOPHY?
“Everything is within our reach if we will read the books, use the journals, practice the disciplines, and wage a new and vigorous battle against neglect. These are some of the fundamental activities that lead not only to the development of a new philosophy but to a new life filled with joy and accomplishment. Each new and positive activity weakens the grip of failure and steers us ever closer to the destination of our choice. Each new, disciplined step taken toward success strengthens our philosophical posture and increases our chances of achieving a well-balanced life. But the first step in realizing this worthy achievement lies in becoming the master of our ship and the captain of our soul by developing a sound personal philosophy.”
86,400 TICKS OF THE CLOCK
“Today brings to each of us 1,440 minutes; 86,400 ticks of the clock. Both the poor and the wealthy have the same 24 hours of opportunity. Time favors no one. Today merely says, “Here I am. What are you going to do with me?” How well we use each day is largely a function of attitude. With the right attitude we can seize the day and make it a point of new beginning. Today does not care about yesterday’s failures or tomorrow’s regrets. It merely offers the same precious gift—another 24 hours—and hopes that we will use it wisely.”
FINISH BEFORE YOU START
“Everything in the world around us was finished in the mind of its creator before it was started. The houses we live in, the cars we drive, our clothing, our furnishings—all these things began with an idea. Each idea was then studied, refined, and perfected, either mentally or on paper, before the first nail was driven or the first piece of cloth was cut. Long before the idea was converted into a physical reality, the mind had clearly envisioned the finished product.” (End Quote)
And Bonus Quote #5
PAIN WEIGHTS: DISCIPLINE (= OUNCES) VS. REGRET (= TONS)
“We all say that we want to succeed, but sooner or later our level of activity must equal our level of intent. Talking about achievement is one thing; making it happen is something altogether different. Some people seem to take more joy in talking about success than they do in achieving it. It is as though their ritualistic chant about someday lulls them into a false sense of security, and all the things that they should be doing and could be doing on any given day never seem to get done. The consequences of this self-delusion have their own inevitable price. Sooner or later the day will arrive when they look back with regret at all those things they could have done, and meant to do, but left undone. That is why we must push ourselves in the present to experience the milder pain of discipline. We will all experience one pain or the other—the pain of discipline or the pain of regret—but the difference is that the pain of discipline weighs only ounces while the pain of regret weighs tons.” (End Quote)
Pretty powerful stuff, wouldn't you agree and lots to think about as we navigate through this life, evolving into the best versions of ourselves, and doing things daily that bring us joy and happiness. Here's to finding your purpose.