Are you feeling the change coming?
More and more people are waking up to the idea that life can be about more than survival or ever more refined consumption.
Recent events like the shock and surprise of Brexit, the upcoming elections in the US, the loss of trust in our leaders, the increasing income inequality across the globe, and the growing awareness that we are actually living on one planet together all contribute to a new sense of urgency.
This is inspiring people to get involved in doing something different, live a life of purpose and become active participants in creating our collective planetary future.
Many have already realized that nobody else is coming to fix the world, that it is indeed in our hands, that each and every one of us has to step up and take responsibility for our planet, become stewards of life.
Living a life of purpose sounds great, but it can also be overwhelming.
The idea of a planetary society sounds great, too, but it seems even more ambitious of a goal — one that feels especially far away as we are witnessing the world seemingly moving backwards at the moment.
So where do you even begin?
Since purpose is individual, there is no blanket answer. No right way of doing this. No prescription for how you “should” live (and in all likelihood, it wouldn’t be a “should” anyway as that induces guilt and isn’t particularly enticing).
That said, here are a couple of suggestions that might support you in getting started:
Forgive yourself and all of life
You can’t focus on the future without making peace with the past. Embrace the idea that all you have done so far has been an innocent exploration of your purpose — just like all of life has brought us here, to this moment, in an innocent exploration of life itself.
All that has happened in the past, all the atrocities and all the wonderful moments have prepared us for this very moment.
Now is the time to accept all of it, and let go of any attachment to any of it. Forgive yourself and everyone else, and in an instant, you can be ready to embark on a new adventure.
Start spending time with yourself in silence
Especially in the western world, we are used to a lot of noise. The average American sees thousands of commercial messages a day. Thousands of messages that tell you that you are not good enough as you are, that you need something outside to become whole. These messages are powerful. Advertising has become a highly developed science over the last century, including refined neurological research on how to activate desire in order to get you to buy something you don’t even need.
The noise has become exponentially worse with the advent of social networks and always-on mobile access. It is not surprising that adult ADHD, anxiety and other issues like that are on the rise. We are simply overloaded with information and don’t have enough quiet time.
This noise is drowning out your own inner voice.
So, one thing you can do is to start spending more time with your self. Schedule it. Give yourself the gift of that time. Turn off the notifications and alerts, retreat into yourself. Make time to sit and ponder, take walks, meditate, simply do nothing outside of being with yourself.
Find an outlet for creativity
Once you start spending time with yourself, develop that inner voice, it will want a means to express itself.
There is a notion in our society that in order to express yourself you have to be an artist: that there are creatives, and they do that kind of thing, but the “normal” person doesn’t need to write, draw, paint, build something… And if you are not on the level of an artist, you might as well not bother.
This is a horrid notion.
Even if you destroy whatever you choose to create, the very act of creating is in itself an important experience and release. It is a tool for self-reflection, a tool to honor and connect to your own genius (and everyone has one — the original meaning of the word simply indicates your own higher self).
Being creative serves as a tool to remind yourself that we are all made in the image of the creator, that each of us is creating all the time. We are not victims, but creators of our reality. We are quantum machines, constantly collapsing probability into actuality by means of our observation and experience. Allow yourself to create without expectation of outcome.
“Curiosity killed the cat” and similar expressions in various cultural contexts are there to protect our children from doing stupid things like putting their fingers into the electric outlet. But they also squelch the human desire to explore (and a school system based on standardized testing and the notion that there are “right” answers doesn’t help either).
Curiosity has a potential social cost, which is why many avoid it.
But there is still a five year old inside of you who wants to know more about the world.
Allow yourself to let go of what you know, who you think you are, and open up to who you could become. This will cultivate compassion for yourself and allow you to continue to evolve.
Curiosity in others in turn, will create compassion for them. We have no idea how anyone else experiences reality; what the world looks like from their perspective. So ask them. Learn about them.
Learn something new
And as we are on the topic of learning… Another horrid notion in our society is the idea that you are done learning once you completed school; that, from then on out, you “should know.”
But that is an illusion.
Most people who went to college in the last decades realized that by the time they left college, much of what they had learned had already become obsolete. That most of what they use in their jobs they learned on the job anyway.
This also means that you can learn something new anytime in your life.
That you are not tied to what you thought was important when you were a youngster. That you can shift careers, get involved in something completely new.
It has never been as easy as it is today to learn something new.
There are thousands of free courses available online (e.g. here a list to 1200+ online courses). There are more every day. The internet is a treasure trove of knowledge.
Find something that interests you and learn about it, enroll in a course or two, experiment. For that, you have to be willing to have beginner’s mind, accept that you don’t know yet, and that you are just learning. This openness will also create openness in other areas of your life, and might just lead you down the path to living your purpose before you know it.
Find the others
While it’s great that there are so many online courses, we learn best from and with others. Fortunately, even here the internet can help. There are opportunities to meet whole communities online and offline: From forums to a growing number of meetups and local event calendars, it is easier than ever before to “find the others”, to connect in meaningful ways with others who share your interests, learn together, from each other, or inspire and support each other when things get tough.
Get involved in your local community
On the notion of community: if you want to forward our evolution toward a planetary society, get involved in your local community. While a planetary society is a worthy aim, ultimately, it will be a “glocal” one, one that is locally focused with global knowledge sharing.
We can best affect that which is right in front of us.
So get involved in your neighborhood, your local community. There are plenty of opportunities to drive change there, while learning about and exchanging best practices with a global community.
As we are advancing maker technologies and beginning to have Open Source Everything, we are also beginning to shift from mass production in far away lands to local manufacturing, local energy, local food production. For that to work, we need local community activists. People who care enough about their neighbors to create those opportunities.
And caring is the key… The easiest way for you to find and live your purpose is to find someone to serve. Find those who you can support. Apart from a direction and inspiration, this will also give you the strength to keep going, the incentive to get over yourself on those days when you are not feeling your best.
Having someone to focus on, knowing whose life you are impacting makes the whole purpose thing real. Gives it a face. Gives it the human experience. When people die, most things they talk about wishing they had done more of have to do with relationships. Relationship is what creates experience. And purpose is most easily fulfilled in service.
A life of purpose is up to you
…and the good news is, it is within your reach. It is something you can start today. Right now.
It doesn’t have to be perfect immediately. But take a step. Do one thing in that direction, and one more, and another, and so on, and before you know it you will be living your purpose…
So… What are you waiting for?