Thursday nights in hospital are a strange and lonely affair. Everything and everyone seems to sigh to a half pace slouch as the week rolls to an end, and the world outside slides even further out of view than it is during the rest of the week. Needless to say, a surprise visit from a good friend was a welcome relief this week; added some life to that vanilla period between dinner for one, and those easily forgettable evening meds that cradle you through another night of plastic dreams.
During one of the many things we talked about, he asked me a very poignant question; “what do you think you’ve learnt during all this?”. Great question. What have I learnt, or perhaps more accurately, what am I learning?
Well the list is a long and broad (maybe even a books works), ranging from the obvious (life is more precious than I ever imagined), to the more oblique (there are forces we cannot see waiting to assist us if our will and belief is strong enough). But one observation that did stand out however, and that deserves further examination, is how long and how far away I have been living from my purpose. Ironic given it’s so central to an Agent of Calm. How and when did I stray so far from the work/things/stuff that inspires me? My passion? The stuff that I can’t not do.
Unsurprisingly there’s a lot going on right now on the subject of people opting out of their old regime to pursue a life of Purpose. And to avoid confusion with the cliché understanding of that term, that doesn’t mean legions of spiritual converts setting off on personal missions to change the world (but that would be cool). More simply, choosing to live a life that is congruent with who they are and what they love to do. Their passion. Their inspiration. The work they can’t not do.
But here’s the irony. Despite summoning the will and courage to make that switch, a lot of people get stalled early by one of two things: 1) not knowing, or being aware of what their purpose actually is, or 2) believing that a head long pursuit of that purpose might not provide adequate financial support.
Personally, I’m still grappling with the first of those – the second is the subject for another post (in the meantime, if you search for ‘Life Purpose’ on Amazon there are over 340,000 titles to choose from that (I suspect) all lay out a similar formula for helping with this.
But as for the first, rather than go at it arbitrarily, it made sense to put together a framework to help get focussed. If you’re in a similar stage of adventure and self-examination, I hope it provides some help.
So here’s a condensed version. 3 stages to finding and nurturing the work you simply can not do:
1. Become a self-expert.
Sounds obvious I know, but at no point in our education, from pre school to university are we ever taught how to really strip ourselves down to unveil who we really are and what really drives us. Some get lucky and just instinctively know. Most just tow the line, follow the syllabus and package our passions under ‘hobbies’; things we do every now and then during those oh so precious weekends in between the job we took by accident.
Know thyself; your unique strengths, your values. What is your soul made of, what experiences inflamed your inspiration and which ones left you coiled up and repelled. Who inspires you and why. You need this compass before anything else. And as simple and obvious as it sounds, once you really get into it you’ll be surprised at what and who comes up.
2. Short-list your ‘Things’, with the most Impossible at the top.
This is a similar exercise to understanding your Value hierarchy. Once you’ve really locked down what your ‘things’ are, create a short list putting the most impossible at the top. By impossible I mean the one thing from which you just can’t see there being anyway you can make a living. The rest you can list in any order.
This is where you need to make that leap over logic and the old conditioning of what can and can’t be done. This isn’t about conventionality and reflecting what contemporary society might deem ‘ok’. This is about you, and what you deem to be incredible for you and your life.
So, starting from the bottom, it’s now a process of mining back up the list by pitting each ‘Thing’ against one another by asking: “if you had to spend the rest of your life doing A or B, which one would it be?” Here’s a dummy list and example of how it works:
- Become a professional Instagramer
- Buy and sell cool furniture
- Bake stuff
- Write children’s books
So starting at the bottom, if you had to spend the rest of your life writing children’s books or baking stuff, which one would it be? If the answer is Bake Stuff. Move on and ask the same question between Bake Stuff and Paint. If the answer is still Bake Stuff, move that up the list above Paint, and ask the same between Bake Stuff and Buy and Sell Cool Furniture. And so on, until you have your numero uno ‘Thing’ at the top of the pile. Then restart the process again from the bottom again until you have your final list, ordered by your passion and inspiration. Why do the whole list? Because who says you only have to do one thing, and you’ll more than likely discover an underlying pattern that will help with your self-expert work.
3. Surround yourself with the right, passionate and inspirational people
Wanna’ know what the biggest life-hack in the world is? The people you put in your corner. Environment is everything, but it’s on you to manage it in the right way. The importance of surrounding yourself with the right people and energy is of paramount importance if you’re to embark on a adventure like this, and it often involves making some big and tough decisions.
But it’s essential. Whatever you choose to do, find out who’s doing it. Connect with them. Watch and learn what they’re doing. Borrow the things that resonate, discard or recalibrate the things that you feel you can do better. Talk, meet, share, collaborate with anyone and everyone that is in anyway associated with what it is you want to do. Sure, you’re bound to meet some negative or competitive people along the way, so what. Move on, they’re still living in fear. And for everyone of those types, you’ll find a dozen others more than willing to support you. And once it all get’s going and starts happening, that’s when the doors of opportunity grow wider and wider, and your awareness of the possibilities that you’ve created explodes.
It’s just occurred to me that I’m writing this like someone who’s already been through all this! Well I’m not. Truth is, I’m still on stage one, and loving every second of the process. But I do believe the rest will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And on that note I’ll leave you with an ‘amazing’ piece of writing I received whilst in hospital, from a dear old family friend.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose , some extraordinary project ,all your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction , and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful World. Dormant forces , faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
Patanjali (c. 1st. to 3rd.Century BC )
Peace, calm and gratitude