We may have saved the best for last. To be healthy, wealthy, and wise we need to operate from the position of knowing who we are and what we have to contribute to the world. Each of us has a special life purpose. To go on vacation from this purpose is to lose our very reason for being. To hear and follow the call, is to be filled with the very mystery of life itself.
This is the last, and yet in some ways the most important, of all our considerations when it comes to wisdom. There’s simply no way to be healthy, wealthy, and wise unless we release aimlessness, which goes to the core of who we are as persons and of why we bother to get up in the morning and do anything other than lay around all day.
What is your reason for being? Do you have a life purpose that you can put into words and that guides your life from day to day? If not, don’t be discouraged. We live in a world filled with distractions. Our consumer society spends trillions of dollars a year to keep us thinking about the shallow things in life: what we wear, where we live, how we look, and who we know • to mention only a few. It doesn’t want us to slow down and take stock of what’s important, why we live, how we behave, and who we are.
Perhaps a final distinction in this series will help us to understand the concept and grasp the importance of releasing aimlessness. What’s the difference between “vocation” and “vacation?” On a shallow level, the difference is but a single letter. But on a deep level, the difference is between having and not having a life purpose.
We all know what a “vacation” is, of course. It means to get away and play for some much needed rest and relaxation. On a good vacation we have no worries and no responsibilities. We just let ourselves go in easy repose.
These positive associations derive from the root meaning of the word “vacation,” which literally means to be “free from occupation.” It also means to be “empty,” which may be fine when we are literally on vacation but which poses some problems when it characterizes our entire way of being.
Aimless people are empty people. They are on vacation from their life purpose, which just isn’t a fun place to be. Have you ever reached the end of a long vacation, yearning to go home and to sleep in your own bed? That’s what aimlessness does to people. It wears them out, exhausts them, and makes them want to go home.
“Vocation” • not work, effort, and busyness • is the opposite of “vacation.” It literally means to be “called to occupation.” It also means to be “invited,” which is the antidote for emptiness.
To rise each morning, as David Whyte has written, with the knowledge that “we are not a troubled guest on this earth,” “that we are not an accident amidst other accidents,” and “that we have been invited back to life from another and greater night than the one from which we have just emerged,” is to be on “vocation” rather than “vacation.” It is to treat the day as though we belong and have something special to contribute.
In his excellent book, Answering Your Call: A Guide for Living Your Deepest Purpose, John Schuster writes that the most fundamental aspect of living with a sense of vocation, purpose, or call is to “mightily believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that you have one to begin with.”
He uses the word “mightily” to emphasize how difficult this can be. Life puts up many distractions, roadblocks, temptations, explanations, and excuses to keep us from the things that matter most. Schuster calls this “social noise,” which must be filtered out. “You must mightily believe,” he writes, “that beneath the noise is a call to a deeper life that only you can respond to in the unique ways that your gifts allow and your life path has led you.”
Do you believe this? It is clearly audacious to believe that each of the more than 6 billion people on planet earth have something special to contribute, but Schuster believes just that. And he wants us to internalize it on a very personal level. He wants each person to believe this about himself or herself.
Do you believe that that you have something special to contribute? It doesn’t always have to sound magnificent. Sometimes it can just be a matter of how you approach very mundane tasks and activities. Perhaps you know someone like that. Literally or figuratively, they whistle while they work. Their very presence makes the work lighter. And when they enter a room, everything looks brighter.
Other times, of course, our sense of purpose is magnificent. Just read some of this week’s Reader Replies in response to last week’s Provision, Release Apathy. From politics to religion, from careers to health, many readers were moved to write eloquently about the sense of purpose that gets them up and going in the morning. Our world is a better place because these people live, struggle with, and embrace their life purpose.
What about you? Can you identify your life purpose? Or do you wake up in the morning with the malaise of aimlessness and despair? Whether you believe, as I do, that our purpose is a gift that comes from God or a self-generated decision, one thing is clear: life is empty and barren without a sense of purpose.
So release aimlessness. When the doldrums of life set in, as they inevitably will, remember that it’s within your power to receive that gift or make that decision. Be gentle. Call yourself back to purpose without being harsh, demanding, or disparaging. Experiment with various “what-ifs” until one develops momentum and a life of its own.
The important thing is to not lose sight of the core belief that we all do have something special to contribute. When we make that unique contribution, when we play in that sandbox, we will find energy, happiness, and resources beyond compare.
Coaching Inquiries: What is the meaning and purpose of your life? Do you live from a place of “vocation” or have you gone on a permanent “vacation?” How can you get back on track?
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Your last Provision, on empathy vs. apathy, really speaks to me. I find myself in the place of discovering my passion (or one of them) • and perhaps one of the reasons I’m here on earth • and a phrase for it came to me this morning, like a gift: “to help people achieve a sense of well-being and wholeness in their lives”. I’m not sure what that looks like, but it may involve a number of different avenues. I thought it meant being a life coach (for me), but have found that that may not be it • or may not be enough. My job is ending at the end of the year, and I want to use this phrase as a guide toward what’s next.
And wow, you quote David Whyte, who is one of my heroes! His recording, “The Poetry of Self-Compassion” very much helped me through a difficult period in 2000, and since then I’ve heard many of his lectures, and read his books. Currently reading “Crossing the Unknown Sea”, which again is powerfully speaking to my own process and experience. Like you, Mr. Whyte has been a gift in my life. Thank you again for your thoughtful, heartfelt, and insightful reflections!
Excellent anti-apathy message; would you had it in chocolate-flavored, add-to-town-drinking-water-supply form, with time-release focus on GET OUT AND VOTE!!
I used to be apathetic. I just didn’t realize how much better than others I had it, despite the problems I was going through. At the time, it seemed each problem was more insurmountable than the last. I didn’t take into consideration that I had dealt with the other problems the best I could, and that they were not problems anymore. Somehow, though, I got through the new ones, and went on. I didn’t realize, until I survived quintuple bypass surgery and some serious operational set-backs, just how serious problems could become. This was different, however, I awoke each day with determination to make it.
At first, it was pretty difficult. After less than a year, I had a heart murmur and they said none of the grafts took. But, they couldn’t operate again, because I had no arteries or veins to give them. So, it was pretty much up to me. I could give up, collect disability, and passively await an early death, or I could enjoy the time, and work on the problem. After all, the heart builds it’s own arterial system, and heals itself.
So, I worked at it. I parked farthest from the store, shopped the whole store, gardened, and walked, and danced, and sang, and painted. I lost some weight and kept on trucking. Eventually, eight years after the surgery, the heart murmur went away and I seem to be doing just fine.
Attitude had a lot to do with it. I smile as much as I can, I laugh as often as I can, I have a painting business that I love, I have cats and kittens I am fostering, and dogs I am helping care for, and have met more people and am attempting to socialize. Each day is a new adventure. I also rest when I am tired. I make sure not to over-do to prove anything. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, least of all myself.
As usual, your current Provision is full of sound advice, wisdom, and, encouragement. I have been thinking a lot lately, “what is my meaning and purpose in life, who am I supposed to help and impact in this world?” I know that when I stand before Christ on Judgment Day, I want to hear the sweetest words that one will ever hear,” well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Master.” I do not want to be one that weeps and gnashes their teeth, who because of either fear, laziness, indifference, etc., did not obey what their Master told them to do.
So my wife and I have gotten serious lately about building our business here in New Zealand. So many of our dreams and goals depend upon our succeeding at this, and, a lot of those dreams and goals are of a philanthropic nature, but, if we do not get our own house in order, most of the goals and dreams that we have will be nothing more than wishes and fantasies.
Thanks for the good reflections on passion. I’m interested on your reflections on the relationship of enthusiasm and passion if you have time and interest. Envy your star-gazing.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
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