Menanteau Serfontein – 15 April 2021
In Part 1 we covered what is meant by Meaning and Purpose and why it is of Critical Importance to find Meaning and Purpose in our lives.
In Part 2 we are addressing “How to Discover Meaning and Purpose for your Life.”
Who Am I?
The Author Frank Powell states that “Who am I?” is the single most important question you will ever ask. Your identity is the foundation for your actions. If you don’t understand who you are, you won’t understand where you are going. And, although many people don’t understand this connection, a meaningful life is impossible unless you understand your identity.
In other words, “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?” are useless questions if you can’t answer “Who am I?”. “Who am I?” is the foundation for “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?”
Nicky Gumbel, an Anglican Priest, Author and ex Barrister says “You can teach what you know, but you will reproduce who you are.”
In order to live a meaningful and fulfilled life based on one or more clear purposes, there is an array of questions about who you are (i.e. the “real self”), to assist you in discovering the purpose(s) for your life and which facets of your life should receive the highest priority.
Below is a list of questions that you are encouraged to answer about yourself:
- What do I believe in?
- What values, principles and habits do I treasure most and live by?
- Which of these values, principles and habits have been worthwhile and assisted me to function effectively as a well-adjusted person?
- Which of these values, principles and habits (in hindsight) have had a negative impact and have been counter-productive? (In other words, were some of my values, principles or habits inappropriate, causing you to make the wrong choices, or to have the wrong thinking patterns, or resulted in wrong behaviour?)
- Which of these counter-productive aspects would I like to change?
- What is the most important to me? What do I really care about? What drives and truly motivates me the most? What activities set my soul on fire?
- What is/are my deepest desire(s)?
- What am I really good at? What have I done uncommonly well?
- What am I not interested in and what do I do not like doing?
- How do I see/regard others; is it all about me or do I also take a genuine interest in other people?
- In addition to my narrow interests and passions, am I also pursuing things of significance that are beyond/outside and bigger than myself? If so, list them.
- What problems or needs exist amongst my fellow-men, in communities, in society or even the world? Which of these problems or needs can and would I like to do something about?
- What is life asking of me? What tasks have I been called to address? Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which life constantly sets for each individual. What is my moral responsibility here?
- If my life were perfect, what would it look like?
- If I had all the money in the world, how would I spend my time?
- What would my perfect day look like? Describe every detail.
- When I get to the end of my life, would I like to know that I have impacted and enriched the lives of my fellow-men?
Below are some principles/guidelines to be taken into account in the process of considering the above questions:
- To do justice to this critical question of “Who Am I?”, you have to set aside sufficient quality time for quiet contemplation/solitude, where you will not be disturbed and interrupted and where you will be able to have intimacy with yourself – listen to your life – exercise patience – don’t jump to conclusions prematurely.
- The Author David Brooks says that on the surface of our lives we build a hard shell. It is built to cover fear and insecurity and win approval and success. Deep down in the core of yourself, you find a deep yearning to care and connect – it is where your heart and soul reside. “When you have touched these deeper sources, you have begun to make the ego your servant and not your master. It’s at this deep level that you sense a different life, that your ego cannot even fathom. It is at this point that you are ready to shed the old self so the new self can emerge. It’s at this point that you really discover the heart and soul.”
- According to Brooks, when we ask what do I want to do with the rest of my life, the ego self should die. The ego self was developed to perform well, to bull yourself into the world, get a good job, make your mark, build an identity. But there is a deeper self underneath that can’t be seen unless the ego self falls away. When the old self is relinquished, the heart and soul have space to take control. Old desires are shed and bigger (and better) desires are formed.
- Brooks says that when we are ready to change direction in life, there is a motivational shift, i.e. different things now become important such as generosity, giving back to others, serving communities, giving and receiving love, and living in accordance with some ideal, based on spiritual and moral motivations, to make a difference in the world and to feel right with oneself.
- A major priority is that you should know what the values, principles and habits are that you wish to live by and that your values, principles and habits must cut across and be applied to all the areas of your life – irrespective of the circumstances.
- Your purpose excites you, stirs your heart, and gives you energy.
- Your purpose is larger than you.
- Your purpose is usually where your deepest passions intersect your greatest strengths.
- Brooks states that the right question is not what am I good at, but the harder question is “what am I motivated to do.” What do I desire so much that it captures me at the depth of my being? In this case, interest trumps talent. This is the terrain of your heart and soul, your long-term motivation. There must be an emotional commitment which will be translated directly into your work. Looking into the unconscious regions of heart and soul.
- Your purpose should be a calling – a source of lasting interest, passion and energy. You are already good at it, or you are motivated to become good at it.
- One way to assist you to discover what your unique purpose(s) is/are, is to go back into your past, list the times you felt most fulfilled, and then see if you can draw a line through them.
- Remember that your core purpose/cause is a cause beyond/outside and bigger than yourself – impacting others and even the broader society.
- There are exceptions where some people are able to find a job/career that is aligned with their deep-seated passion(s) and life’s purpose, in such a way that they can earn a good living doing what they love most. This would be the ideal, but in my experience it is not the norm.
- There are also examples of people who have lived a life of success without being able to simultaneously follow their dreams/life’s purpose and who then get to a point later in life where it becomes possible for them to change direction in order to pursue their dreams/passions in such a way that it leads to them living a life of true meaning, substance and purpose that is beyond and much bigger than themselves.
- In most cases though, people are not in a position to pursue their unique life purpose on a full-time basis, because they are obliged to earn a decent living that will enable them to provide for the daily and longer-term needs of themselves and their family. People in this position, have the challenge to make ends meet and in addition, to pursue their core purpose.
- If your calling and desire is to “change the world” in one form or another and you have the ability (talents) to do so, then it is your “duty” to pursue such a task (purpose). However, it is essential to stress that the vast majority of people will not have a purpose to “change the world”. There are multiple examples of people who face the most difficult circumstances in humble conditions and can hardly make ends meet at the most basic level, yet they are known to positively impact the lives of people around them with a joyful disposition, friendliness, kindness, gentleness, love, care, peace, hope, authenticity, generosity and faith. This is a life purpose in itself.
- Carefully consider what role your faith should play in all facets of your life.
- You are encouraged to consider what happens after you die.
- The objective of life-purpose can be called the end-goal of life-end-goals, the end of all other ends, or the ultimate end, i.e. why do I do what I do?
- You need to clarify whether, when you get to the end of your life, you would I like to know that you have impacted and enriched the lives of your fellow-men. This helps you not to dwell on the superficial, frivolous, temporary and irrelevant things of life.
- Write down your thoughts and the conclusions that you come to.
- After you have completed writing down your thoughts and conclusions, take a break for a few days and then read your Notes again and refine your thinking further if necessary.
- It might be necessary to take quite a few breaks followed by further thinking and refinement, until you are satisfied that you have found all the answers you needed.
- It is sometimes useful and necessary to discuss your thoughts and conclusions with a trusted person who knows you well such as your spouse, a close friend, a coach, mentor or counsellor.
- Pray for guidance throughout the process.
- The ideal is to come up with one overriding life purpose, however in my opinion, it is possible to have more than one purpose that is worth pursuing.
After having completed the above processes, summarize in writing your conclusions about your life’s core purpose(s).
My Personal Experience
For a variety of reasons, I have felt driven to always perform well and to achieve success in my self-imposed ambitions and goals throughout most of my life. Fortunately, I realised relatively early on that there is nothing wrong in pursuing your personal dreams and goals, provided your whole existence does not only revolve around yourself (self-centredness) and your selfish needs and wants at the expense of everything else.
I have been a committed Christian since the age of 14 and have experienced a gradual growth in my understanding of what it means to be a Christian – and I am still learning more every day. One of the key principles that I have learnt is to endeavour to apply my faith in all aspects of my life. The desire to do so, has become one of my key purposes.
What helps me immensely to deal with the daily ups and downs and challenges of life, is the knowledge that God is with me under all circumstances, as well as my firm belief that life on earth is temporary, that it passes by in the wink of an eye and that I have the hope of eternal life after my death. This belief enables me to live with hope, peace and inner joy, even during periods of hardship and suffering.
Part 3 (to be posted on the Website on 23 April)
Part 3 of the series, will deal with “How to Implement in practice, your personal conclusions about your life’s purpose”.
Some of the content of this Article was derived from the following sources:
- Book entitled “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks
- Book entitled “Game Plan” by Bob Buford
- Article entitled “Who Am I? Why Am I Here? Where Am I Going? Answering Three Questions The Whole World Is Asking” authored by Frank Powell https://frankpowell.me/about
- Article entitled “15 Life Purpose Examples To Help You Write Yours” by Barrie Davenport – Life Coach and Author https://liveboldandbloom.com/07/self-improvement/life-purpose-examples
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