Yesterday I had two appointments in Newport Beach spread apart by several hours. I used the time to have a wonderful lunch at the Panini Kabob Grill followed by a self-guided tour of the Sherman Library & Gardens. There I saw beautiful sand sculptures by Chris Crosson. One of the sculptures asks the question “What is your purpose?” (or porpoise, in this case) and it got me thinking about purpose or lack thereof and its contribution to both personal and societal wellbeing.
People derive purpose in a number of ways. A religious upbringing might teach you that your purpose is to serve God’s will. Encountering discrimination during your lifetime could lead you to determining you will help make the world a kinder place. Being touched by a particular cause might lead you to align yourself with its mission.
In mulling all of this over, I encountered a particularly helpful article by Dr. Scott Allison in Psychology Today. He stated that regardless of the specifics, our purpose is to live the life of a hero. If you’ve read or watched many movies in your life, you’ll recognize that stories often follow the same pattern. Dr. Allison describes that a hero goes on a journey, encounters adversity and grows from it, assembles a team of allies and gives back to society.
While I’m still defining all of the details of my purpose, what I’ve come up with so far is that my purpose is to:
- Encourage others. I’ve had breast cancer, and thankfully I am considered “cured” as it has been over 10 years since my diagnosis and treatment. The experience led me to write an article for Coping with Cancer magazine discussing how I was trying to view the struggle with optimism. My breast cancer art and thank you cards are designed with the goal of easing the pain of the journey through breast cancer.I have also struggled with depression and anxiety in my lifetime, and I want to help de-stigmatize mental illness and help uplift others who are feeling that life is harder than it should be. I try to accomplish this goal through my writing and art.
- Educate others and myself. I firmly believe that knowledge is power. Knowledge helps dispel myths and conquer fears. Many of the world’s problems are due to lack of education. Lack of knowledge leads to demonizing the “other” who we view as unlike us and closing our minds.I educate others through my writing. I educate myself through exposing myself to information that is often uncomfortable or different than that which I have been taught or conditioned to believe. My goal is to actually think through issues and teachings and come to my own conclusions rather than regurgitate or parrot what others say. I’ll be the first to admit that this is not easy; I am a work in progress for sure.
- Create. I feel my best when I am creating on a regular basis. As Twyla Tharp notes, creativity is a habit. You don’t have to be an amazing artist to create, but you do have to make a conscious choice to create. You have to face your fears that what you create may not be perfect or as good as what others create. Facing your fears helps you grow and become more resilient. The act of creating is good for your mental health and helps create new neural pathways that sharpen the senses.
- Enjoy and appreciate. Regardless of your religious beliefs regarding what life is about and what may come after we die, we can all agree that we’re here now, living this lifetime. If you believe in a Higher Power, your appreciation may result in thanks for the joys and maybe even the struggles you experience as both contribute to making you a fuller person who can do more and be more. If you are agnostic or atheist, you might find joy in the opportunity to simply experience being.
Life is opportunity. What we choose to do with that opportunity is ours to decide. Have you figured out your purpose and what you will do with this opportunity? Please share in the comments. And if you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please subscribe (it’s free) and share with others on social media. Thank you!