A Year of Living Purposefully
by Richard J. Leider
There are two fundamental questions that most of us, ultimately, want to know the answer to: The first is “Who am I?” The second is “How shall I live?” The primary questions that have been asked of leaders and elders throughout history, in the end, refer to these two questions.
A “year of living purposefully” requires answering the two questions with two core practices: Contemplation and Activation. The challenge is, “Will we dare to contemplate who we really are and then activate the truth of what we discover?”
What is Contemplation?
Contemplation is the pursuit of “truth.” The pursuit of truth means that we seek to find out for ourselves, “Who am I.” If we look around at the world we live in, we will find that it is a very rare person who is curious about what is true. In fact, many of us simply assume that we already know. It takes a rare courage and curiosity to be willing to independently question notions that we already have in order to find out directly for ourselves what is true.
What is Activation?
Activation is the experience of living our truth. When we act in the world on purpose, it is often quite a revelation. We discover a depth of vitality that is energizing. And, in those purpose moments, we experience a dynamic freedom that is liberating and meaningful. As long as we are breathing, we must live in these questions. There is no choice in this if we want to feel alive.
For the Sake of the Whole
Purpose is a call to both contemplation and activation. Genuine purpose points to the end of a self-absorbed, self-serving relationship to life. The promise of purpose is “evolution”—the evolution of consciousness. This evolution occurs when we recognize that “the point of human life is to consciously live for the sake of the whole.”
The most significant part of the purpose quest is to uncover why we are here. And when we uncover that, the whole point of human existence—to live for the sake of the whole—is revealed.
If we are sincere about living on purpose, we want there to be no contradictions between the self that we experience in contemplation and the self that we are who acts and reacts in the world.
Everyone Else Has a Purpose. So What’s Mine?
An entertaining expression of “living on purpose” is the musical Avenue Q, which is the twenty-first longest-running show in Broadway history and has won several Tony Awards, including the award for best musical. The show has also spawned other productions around the globe, including the one I experienced at the Gielgud Theatre in London.
The show is largely inspired by (and is in the style of) Sesame Street. Most of the characters in the show are puppets operated by actors onstage; the set depicts several tenements on a rundown street in an outer borough of New York City. However, the characters are in their twenties and thirties and face adult problems instead of those faced by preschoolers, thus making the show more suited for the adults who grew up with Sesame Street. A recurring theme is the central character’s search for his elusive “purpose.”
I sat enthralled as the song “Purpose” was sung. The core message—“Everyone else has a purpose. So, what’s mine?”—brought forth murmurs from the strangers sitting around me, as they chuckled over the lyrics, such as “Purpose—it’s the little flame that lights a fire under your ass. / Purpose, it’s like driving a car with a full tank of gas,” and others. I left the theater that night feeling affirmed that purpose had truly arrived in the public discourse. From shows in London and La Vegas, from youngsters and oldsters, the ever-elusive-purpose-in-life theme was finally on the marquee. Avenue Q was a purpose moment for me.
A Year of Living Purposefully
Drawing on years of experience in life/work planning, The Inventure Group designed a LifeMap practice tool to help build a framework for a year of living purposefully. As its name suggests, the LifeMap serves as a navigation tool for the most important journey of all—your life!
Here are five frequently asked questions about the LifeMap:
1. Why do I need a LifeMap?
A LifeMap is a powerful way to visualize your goals and keep you evolving. Vision is a key connector between your activation and contemplation.
The LifeMap is intended to inspire you and focus you by keeping your “story” on display 24/7, 365 days of the year. It keeps your “why” in front of you focusing on the big question—“How shall I live?”
2. What goes on a LifeMap?
Each LifeMap is unique. Every artist has his or her own view of life. Every map expresses an individual’s own style. The more personal it is, the more likely it will attract and keep your day-to-day attention.
We recommend using visuals, affirmations, favorite quotes, power words, photos and online images to encourage you to focus your attention on the map.
The LifeMap process starts by asking you to contemplate your purpose, vision and values. Next comes the activation of those essential elements through establishing your goals for the year in four areas: work, personal, financial and relationships.
3. Can I do a LifeMap on my computer?
Part of the magic in the LifeMap is the “handmade” design process. Your map can, however, be adapted into screensavers and even posted to your cell phone for wallpaper.
Some people choose to downsize their map with a smaller scan that they can post at their desk or even in their car. We’ve seen wallet-size versions of maps and iphone and Blackberry-size replicas.
4. How do I use a LifeMap?
The LifeMap is a self-coaching tool. Check it daily or weekly. Carry a copy on a small card in your planner or wallet. The LifeMap is a daily, weekly, monthly reminder “practice” not just a vision.
5. Do I share my LifeMap?
By sharing your map with a “purpose partner,” you will attract a like-minded person who supports your vision and who will hold you accountable for progress on your priorities.
The LifeMap Premises
Throughout a year of living purposefully, we begin to see certain themes repeat themselves. Here are six fundamental premises on which the journey of purposeful living is based. Contemplation of these premises will enable you to find out simply and directly what appropriate response to life is in any given moment. These premises, when used as tools to inquire into what we’re actually doing, penetrate through confusion and obscurity like lasers.
Authenticity is essential. A masterful life is an authentic life. Mastery rests on a foundation of courage and transparency to yourself and others. Knowing your own essence is essential to peace of mind, happiness, and vitality.
Purpose is a focus on why—“Why do I get up in the morning?” Find meaning. Live longer, better. Having a clear reason to get up in the morning is essential. The path of purposeful living requires that we name our purpose and take full responsibility for living it.
Vision is our story, a metaphor, a clear picture of where we are headed in the future. Masterful living comes through holding an image of what succeeding looks like to you.
Values guide a life of purpose and vision. Mastery and solid relationships require letting go of things that are beyond our control and making day-to-day choices based on our values.
A year of living purposefully depends on declaring your intentions and moving toward specific goals at a pace that creates energy and results.
A successful life comes ultimately from making our deepest creative contribution to the community around us—for the sake of the whole. When we make our full contribution, we feel fulfillment. When we don’t, we don’t. The single objective of the LifeMap is to help us live the next year purposefully for the sake of the whole.
A year of living purposefully, done in earnest, promises to bring us to a place where the life that we live is free from fundamental contradiction, a place where our persona becomes a clear expression of the power of purpose moment to moment.
The Purpose Game
Purpose helps us understand what is core to our life, what we care about in our actual day-to-day living. Our world suddenly makes sense to us.
There are purpose moments that we could all take advantage of by extending ourselves into the world. When you want to give yourself a lift, you can play the “purpose game.”
Here’s how the game is played. Look around, wherever you happen to be, and see what or who needs your touch. For example, while driving, maybe you could let other cars in front of you while driving all the way to your destination. Another possibility is to tell your spouse or significant other a new reason why he or she is important to you. Or you could buy coffee for a friend for no reason; create an end-of-day celebration because you lived this day; get up early to write an e-mail or handwritten note of gratitude to someone.
The important idea is to play consciously in life, giving your gifts or serving others. You want to do little things that make you feel on purpose. We often put a lot of energy into doing the big things, but we want to feel on purpose “all” the moments of life. There are “purpose moments” everywhere, every day that we could fill up with ourselves. When we are watching, ready to play the purpose game, the possibilities are endless.
Make a list of purpose moments you could play tomorrow that would be unexpected and make you feel good. What are your favorite games of purpose?
To learn more about The Inventure Group’s LifeMap or to order the LifeMap kit, visit our store.