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Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for.
Often, what we really want is hidden beneath what we've settled for. When the comfort zone doesn't allow the expanded behavior necessary to fulfill our dream, we tend to forget the dream.
It's too painful otherwise.
When we know we can have what we want--that the comfort zone is under our control--we can remember what we truly want.
This section will explore the idea that we can have anything we want (though not everything we want) and offer suggestions for discovering our heart's desire.
The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.
People often confuse "goal" and "purpose."
A goal is something tangible; a purpose is a direction. A goal can be achieved; a purpose is fulfilled in each moment. We can set and achieve many goals; a purpose remains constant for life.
If the purpose were "west," for example, the goals while heading west (from New York, say) might include Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, China, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Boston, and New York. Many goals, same purpose.
From there, although we had already traveled 25,000 miles, we would still have as much "west" to go (as much of our purpose to fulfill) as when we first began.
A second journey toward the west, again from New York, might include these goals: Detroit, St. Louis, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Midway Islands, Mongolia, Greece, Italy, France, Ireland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New York. Even after another 25,000 miles, there is still as much west to go as there was in the beginning. At any point in the journey, in fact, there was (and is) always an infinite amount of movement--and goals--available while living "on purpose."
You'll note that, even though the goals are numerous, there can be many goals within a goal, and lots of freedom within each. While in France, for example, one could travel north, south, east, and west. As long as Ireland were the next major goal, even traveling east could be a fulfillment of the purpose "west."
Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes.
Looking at the life of someone whose purpose is, say, "I am a grateful giver," the goals along that purpose might include nursing home attendant, school teacher, physical therapist, writer, and foundation president. These would, of course, only be career and professional goals. Marriage/family, social/political, and religious/spiritual goals might interweave that life, all aligned with the purpose, "I am a grateful giver."
While goals are chosen, a purpose is discovered. Our purpose is something we have been doing all along, and will continue to do, regardless of circumstances, until the day we die. When I refer to a "dream" in this book, I mean a goal--a significant goal that would, in a profound and vital way, fulfill one's purpose. As that dream is realized, another dream is chosen, and as that is satisfied, another. When I refer to "living your dreams," I mean a life of movement from dream to dream, always on purpose.
People can misdefine a purpose (as something to get to) or misdefine a goal (as something one is always doing no matter where one is), and feel frustrated with both. When people confuse "purpose" with "goal," they often have trouble reaching a goal, which, in turn, can interfere with living on purpose.
Someone may think, for example, that his goal is to be "an actor." This is fine, except whenever he is acting--no matter what, where, how, or with whom--his goal is fulfilled. The automatic goal-fulfillment mechanism within him says, "That's done. What's next?"
"What's next?" the actor puzzles. "I want to be an actor."
The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
"You just acted," the inner goal-filler says, "in that class you took. And very well, too."
"No. I want to be paid for acting." So the goal-fulfillment mechanism rallies its considerable resources and finds the actor a job as an avocado in a supermarket Vegetable-of-the-Week promotion. Pay: $250 for the week. The goal of being a paid actor having been met, the goal-fulfillment mechanism shuts down for a while.
"Hey," the actor complains, "Why aren't I getting work?"
"You got work," says the goal-fulfillment mechanism. "You acted. You got paid. Two goals, two goals fulfilled."
"I want more work."
"Want to try for carrot? Radishes are next week. You can go out for radish."
"No. Enough with the vegetables. Actors have agents. I want an agent."
So, the goal-fulfillment mechanism finds an agent, and the agent finds nothing.
"I want an agent who will get me work. Regular work. Performing."
An agent is found who also manages a restaurant, and the actor gets regular work performing as a singing waiter.
"No! I want to be an actor! A big actor!"
So, the actor puts on 100 pounds.
The actor's problem is that he is confusing purpose with goal. If he discovered that his purpose was, say, "I am a joyful entertainer," then the week as an avocado could have been a fun-filled, fulfilling one.
It would also free him to set clearly defined goals within his purpose: "I want a major role in a feature film," "I want to star on a network sitcom," "I want to make $100,000 this year acting in commercials," and so on. These are the kinds of goals to which the goal-fulfillment mechanism within says, "Yes! Let's go!"
There'll be a lot more on goal setting later. For now, let's focus on the purpose. Your purpose.
Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind as a steady purpose a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY
This is the first of several exercises in this book that involves doing-- in this case, writing. Please decide now if you're reading this book just for information, or if you're reading this book to make a significant improvement in your life. Although I'd like to flatter myself that I could write a book that would make indispensable advancements in the lives of everyone who even brushed past it, I know that change comes through involvement, and involvement means doing. My recommendation, then, is to do the exercises, starting with this one. If you read the book and later decide to do the exercises, please start with this one. It is the foundation of all the others.
To discover your purpose, get a piece of paper and start listing all your positive qualities. You might want to write each positive quality on a 3x5 card. This will make shuffling them easier later. If no 3x5 cards are handy, listing the qualities on paper will do.
(Do pick up 500-or-so 3x5 cards the next time you're out. We'll be using them later. If you're someone who tends to put off physical tasks until "later," and then never gets to them, you might want to put down this book and go get some 3x5 cards now. While you're out, consider your positive qualities. And have fun!)
Don't be shy listing your positive qualities. This is no time for false modesty. Are you kind? Considerate? Compassionate? Joyful? Loving? Loyal? Happy? Tender? Caring? Write them down.
One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
A purpose usually begins with "I am," followed by an attitude ("joyful" "happy" "caring") and an action ("giver" "explorer" "nurturer"). On another page (or another set of cards), start listing actions you find fulfilling--the positive things you like doing most. Giving? Sharing? Exploring? Teaching? Learning?
Take some time with this process. Reflect on your life. Explore its motivation.
If you get stuck, call a few friends and ask for suggestions. Tell them you're filling out an application for the Peace Corps. You need help with the questions, "What are your best qualities?" and "What activities give you the most satisfaction?"
You might also go to your sanctuary and ask your Master Teacher for some ideas. Or, go to the video screen and review some scenes of satisfaction, joy, or fulfillment from your life. What were the qualities you embodied in those situations?
Consider the people you admire most. What is it you admire about them? What qualities do they embody? Those same qualities are most likely true about you, too, so write them down.
Eventually, a pattern will emerge on the "Qualities" and the "Actions" lists. Begin grouping qualities and actions under general headings. For you, "Compassionate" might include "caring," "loving," and "kind" while, for another, "Kind" might encompass "compassionate," "loving," and "caring." The idea is not to discover which is "right" from Mr. Webster's or Mr. Roget's point of view, but which resonates most clearly within you .
Start to play around with the qualities and actions in a sentence that starts, "I am . . .." A purpose is short, pithy, and to the point. There's usually room for only one or two qualities and an action. "I am a cheerful giver," "I am a joyful explorer," "I am a compassionate friend."
Please consider my grammatical structure as a starting point. "I am a minstrel of God," "I sing the song of life," or "I serve the planet" are outstanding purposes that don't fit the "I am a [quality] [action]" format. Go to the spirit of what a purpose is--the purpose of a purpose, if you will--and find your purpose there.
Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.
After a while of rearranging qualities and actions, something will click. A voice inside will say, "Yes, this is what I've always done, and this is what I'll always be doing."January 10, 1996 (This discovery can come with equal parts joy and resignation--joy at seeing that our life has had a direction all along; resignation in noticing it may not be as glamorous as we had secretly hoped.)
And that's your purpose.
You might want to place your purpose in a prominent place in your sanctuary--emblazoned on the wall in letters of fiery gold, or, perhaps, on a hand-sewn sampler.
I suggest you not tell your purpose to anyone. That's why I suggested--as a joke, of course--the Peace Corps ruse. (You didn't really tell your friends you were joining the Peace Corps, did you? Oh, dear. All right. Well, call them back, and tell them it wasn't the Peace Corps. It was really the Nobel Selection Committee. Yeah, that's it. The Nobel Selection Committee has been asking a lot of questions about you, and you wanted to have a few comments prepared, should you unexpectedly be invited to Stockholm.)
Keeping your purpose to yourself is not so much secret as it is sacred . Consider it a beautiful plant. Keep the roots (the essence of the purpose) deep within yourself, and let the world share in its fruits.
Please save your lists (stacks) of qualities and actions. We'll be using them later.