“Hey! Welcome!” a man called out. “How are you guys doing tonight?”
“Great. Thanks!” we replied, focusing on disrobing in the pitch black night and making our way to the hot spring.
The men continued their conversation. Slipping into the water, my eyes had not adjusted to the darkness, but I could hear their conversation. “I thought my purpose was there, but now I have no clue. I thought I’d be putting down roots there, but now I am wandering again.” Ah, yes. This conversation again. Different flavor, same subject.
In all cases, purpose was equated with job and because the individual had not found their purposeful work, they felt lost.
Purpose lost and found
I knew in high school I wanted to be a journalist. I chose my college for a specific journalism degree and the school closed the program after I was accepted. Unhappy with what was offered as an alternative major, I pivoted to my second choice, exercise science. I have continued to do both in some form or another for the past 24 years. Perhaps intentional, perhaps lucky, I’ve for the most part always know what I wanted to do, I just didn’t always know exactly how I wanted to express it and at times that has invoked a similar feeling of being lost. Through the journey, I have discovered some powerful lessons about purpose.
The Bhagavad Gita is a must read for anyone who is struggling to find their purpose. There are many gems in this tiny section of a much larger Veda (sacred scripture). From our true nature to our purpose, it packs a wallop. To over simplify on purpose, it’s not what you do but how you do it.
To sum this notion up brilliantly, I’ll borrow from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Jesus offered a commandment that while simplistic in statement, I believe is the complicated root of the how when it comes to living our purpose, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Integrating purpose in the mundane
These two notions have been expressed in a variety of ways through the years. People who lived their purpose though their job was merely a vehicle. What you do is less important than how you do it. In every job, you have a choice of how you show up, act and react, engage with others, and what mindset you carry with you.
I once met a Guru working as a cashier at Taco Bell. He taught me the secret to loving, lasting relationships through a brief conversation with the person in line ahead of me and myself.
I learned the value of respect, attention to details, and paying attention recently from a waiter in Big Bend, TX.
A janitor in Dallas, TX many years ago taught me about compassion, humor, unconditional love is possibly even while cleaning up a bathroom after 30 kids on school break. At the same location, an office manager taught me to be nice, pay attention to details, laugh “it” off (whatever the it may be) and don’t take your work stress home with you because life is too short to not enjoy it.
Purposeful introspection and inspired action
No matter where you go or what you do, there are opportunities to love yourself and love your “neighbor”. When we hold ourselves and those around us to a higher standard and an expectation that we are all great and have the capacity to live that greatness, we elevate our standard of living. If we think we have no purpose, or haven’t found our purpose, we miss those opportunities to evolve and grow both personally and collectively.
Our purpose becomes working through our personal limitations, particularly our self-limiting beliefs. The parts and pieces of ourselves that we do not like and do not accept, block us from love. Our purpose is to work through those. In doing so, we can begin to work through the limitations that block unconditional love with others. (Unconditional love does not equate to accepting bad behavior. You can love someone unconditionally and still hold them accountable for their actions and words. It’s tough, but totally possible.)
Perhaps your job (as one of mine is at the moment) is merely a stepping stone and not a lifetime career. That’s okay. Use it as training. You will be amazed at what happens when you make a conscious choice to do your work from a place of service, respect, compassion, and love. In other words, when you show up fully, the absolute best version of yourself. That is our purpose.
The next time you are working (maybe you’re reading this at work), notice how you’re showing up, what thoughts you entertain, what actions you take, how you treat the people around you. Then take action. Show up more authentically, love more, be kind, act with respect and integrity. See what changes. Then come back, leave a comment to let me know about your experience, please.I read and respond to all of them. Need some help? Let’s talk.