It’s hard to live life without a sense of purpose. I know. I’ve tried it, involuntarily, and life is neither as productive nor as fun without that sense. What’s your life purpose? Have you dusted it off lately and made sure it is up to date? Do you keep it in mind? This Provision will not only challenge you to do so, it will equip you to do so as well. I invite you to read on and to reflect with me on the matter of purpose. Who knows, something new may just emerge both for you and for me!
The ancient Epicureans were famous for their ethic of pleasure. Indeed, they viewed pleasure as the point of life itself. Of course they also believed that the way to pleasure was not to “eat, drink, and be merry” but to live modestly, to get educated in the ways of the world, and to limit one’s desires. The bottom-line and raison d’être for such restraint, however, was pleasure. Apart from deriving happiness from life, Epicureans found no reason to go on living at all.
That was, in part, because they did not believe in a world beyond the physical world. From their point of view, this world was the only thing that we could be sure of and, therefore, the best basis upon which to ground our lives. They became famous, therefore, for the epitaph that was engraved upon many of their tombstones: “Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo.” (I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care.)
Now I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t ring my bell. I understand and appreciate the flow of time. The dictum, “I was not; I was; I am not.” is the story of us all. It’s a mere statement of fact. We are born, have our moment in the sun, if you will, and then we die.” It’s hard to get anything more basic or universal than that. That’s true not only for every living thing on this planet but also for the planet itself. Nothing in the material world exists without a beginning, middle, and end. That is, if you will, the flow of things.
It’s understandable, then, that some people would go from such an obvious fact to such an oblivious attitude. When they look only on the surface of life and focus only on themselves – on their own, individual existence – it’s not only easy to become nonchalant, it’s almost inevitable. Ho, hum. It is what it is. Here today, gone tomorrow. Who cares. But that’s no way to live. At least that’s no way to live so as to be filled with the most amount of pleasure possible.
That may be ironic, but caring for others is the best way to care for oneself and to bring oneself pleasure. And that’s where I differ most from the Epicureans. They, too, recognized that hedonism would not result in true, lasting happiness. But what did they substitute in its place? Stoicism, education, and self-denial. As much as I admire self-control, education, and self-discipline, they are not, in and of themselves, sufficient for a rich and fulfilling life. There has to be some fun along the way and there also has to be a sense of purpose.
What is life without such a sense of purpose? As far as I can imagine, it’s either aimless or destructive – two qualities that simply do not contribute to or build up the human community.
My guess is that you agree with that simple statement. The real challenge is not to affirm that a sense of purpose is important but to keep that sense of purpose in mind over time and to make that purpose constructive. And that’s where mindfulness comes into the equation. Mindfulness is not just a matter of staying calm and being aware of what is happening in the present moment; it is a matter of being aware of how one is interfacing with the present moment and impacting the well-being of others.
With that understanding and from that place of mindfulness, all manner of things become possible. It opens up our hearts and minds to many possibilities. Mindfulness pays attention to our thoughts, feelings, and desires so as to connect them in caring ways with others. And that’s the best kind of purpose to have.
It can, of course, take many forms. From the smallest of one-on-one interactions, to small family and community groupings, to large-scale assemblies, it is possible to live with purpose. Indeed, most of us do so in one fashion or another. But we do not always do so mindfully and carefully. It is easy to go through our routines without those dimensions. I encourage you, however, to adopt a different stance and approach in life. I encourage you to care and to hold caring consistently in your awareness.
Choosing to care is where it starts. My guess is that most people do that. But to hold caring consistently in our awareness? Now that’s another matter altogether and it’s a matter that calls for mindfulness. Mindfulness takes us beyond Epicureanism to enthusiasm so as to live with that constructive purpose.
Do you know the root meaning of the word, “enthusiasm”? I’m sure I’ve noted it before. The word “enthusiasm” comes from the ancient Greek word, “en-theos”, a word that literally means “to be filled with God”. However you may understand the spirit of life that abides in and flows through each of us, two things are certain: you are alive and you will have both good times and bad times in life. There’s no way around that. That’s the deal, once we are born into this world.
But one thing that is not certain is whether or not you are going to live with any sense of purpose, let alone with a positive sense of purpose. Those dimensions of life require choice; and I encourage you to choose life. Stop going through the motions. When you wake up in the morning, get oriented and figure out at least one thing you can do to make things better on this old planet of ours. It doesn’t matter how or for whom or what. Just set out to make things better.
Then be mindful of that choice as often as possible throughout the day. It’s amazing what happens when mindfulness takes over our lives in this way. It fills us with a sense of purpose and it transforms our attitudes as well as our actions. That’s the underlying power of mindfulness: transformation. We don’t have to work at it. We just have to pay attention and allow our natural way of being – our natural caring – to express itself more fully in order to make life better for one and for all. Why not make the choice today?
Coaching Inquiries: How would you describe your sense of purpose? In what ways does it contribute to your own well-being, the well-being of others, and the well-being of the planet? How can you enhance your sense of purpose? Who can assist you to make it happen?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
I’m enjoying your Provisions. Just checking in to see if you’ll be visiting my part of the world again this year. I would love to see you and Megan again!
I’m not sure I have told you—or have told you lately, in any case—how meaningful and peaceful a part of my Sunday morning your Provisions are. I read them along with my first cup of coffee in the silence of an early Sunday. They consistently move me to gratitude and appreciation for all I have, for all that is possible. Even though your recovery from your coma is miraculous, I also see that you were meant to do the work you are doing, and we needed you here to do it. Thank you for sharing all of it; I am the richer for it.
Very good to hear that you are doing better. Thanks for the nice things you shared in your “brush with death” Provision. Well done.
Thanks for your last Provision. Wonderful and inspiring message as always. I had a bout with Hep C and went through the 11-month treatment with interferon and other drugs. During the time, I was fortunate enough to “re-mission” my life. I’ve made it simple. I wrote on a 3 x 5 card, “Make a difference”. That might sound trite, but it’s not. It’s what now guides my everyday actions. The idea of an opportunity to re-mission has become central to my teaching of leadership to future school leaders. Thanks again and wishing you many blessings.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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