The umbilical cord of work is longer than ever before and in many cases it is connected to an empty bag of broken dreams and unachievable goals.
When Victor Frankl was in a concentration camp his simple objective was to survive the atrocities around him and in his book Man’s Search for Meaning he wrote, “Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”
Victor Frankl reminds us that we have the power and freedom to create our lives, I applaud his insight and attempt to get us to look deeper at our journey. My opinion is that man does simply exist (most of the time) and it requires a concerted effort of awareness to construct a life that has vitality.
Frankl was right when he stated that every human has the ability to change, this shift is possible at every stage of one’s life and is rooted in exploring—and defining—individual meaning and purpose. This crafting requires thought and insight, it demands exploration and discovery, and it must be intentional.
In the process, you must create a blueprint with actionable goals and you need to develop a system that efficiently drives your focused energy in a way that is both challenging and renewable. Tony Schwartz in his book The Power of Full Engagement calls this interplay ‘oscillation’ which is finding the right balance between energy expenditure and energy recovery.
Oscillation is a dance of physical, emotion and psychological elements that require honest evaluation and tweaking—hipsters would call this life hacking.
What is the alternative?
One doesn’t have to go very far to see examples of a life full of sorrow and psychological frenzy. My own life is littered with broken relationships and behavior that some would call ‘questionable’. The New York Times reported in 2013 that one in ten American’s take antidepressants and among middle aged women that figure is one in four.
The spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti talks about a second-hand human being, whom is a result of repeated fragments of a rotten society and a diseased psyche. He writes, “We are the result of all kinds of influences and there is nothing new in us, nothing that we have discovered for ourselves; nothing original, pristine, or clear.”
Seeing ourselves clearly lies at the foundation of being able to create a life blueprint that represents a way of living that resonates with our true self, versus a life based on someone else’s values and objectives.
Before you start to craft your meaning, you need to figure out if that meaning is a conglomeration of other peoples stories. If not, you’ll wake up one day to the lyrics from Once In A Lifetime by the Talking Heads:
“And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself yourself
My God!…What have I done?!”
What I am saying is that there is deep work to be done before you start looking for meaning and purpose. Without doing that work the house of cards that you build will come tumbling down heart-wrenchingly quick. The bedrock of the real work has to do with knowing yourself, being brutally honest with your intentions and transparently moving toward a realized existence.
Does your life have meaning and purpose?
Many people mix up meaning and purpose, understanding their difference is essential to creating a fulfilling life. Let’s take a look at the root of each of these words.
Meaning comes from the old English word mean which is defined as intending something to occur with synonyms such as design, contemplate, plan and aspire. Meaning is your blueprint for life, a rough sketch, plan or draft proposal of where you would like to go and how you will get there. You need a plan, and you need to measure how the hell you are doing.
Purpose derives from old French, from the word propos and the Latin word proposer. The Latin root is defined as put or set forth and the French root means ‘to place.’ Synonyms include words like move, advance, and present.
Once your blueprint (or meaning) is drafted it requires movement and energy to bring it alive, this is your purpose. As you can imagine, a misguided purpose is a waste of energy. And if you have no energy to fuel your propose, then you will go nowhere fast.
Your purpose is the energy that makes meaning dance, it is the driving force of creativity and action.
Harnessing and focusing your purpose is the third element of the living process trinity and is born from efficiency, focus and a systematic approach based on self assessment and a consistent nurturing away from homeostasis and toward vitality.
This project, is a combination of these three life elements: meaning, purpose and efficiency.
I’ll give you some great tools to utilize, suggest approaches, and talk about my failures and successes. My hope is that the living process will become a launching pad into yourself that unveils new insights, while harvesting a more fulfilled life.