Updated: Sep 5
I believe we're creatures of meaning. A life without something purposeful to get us up in the morning quickly becomes depressing. I also believe in recent decades we've largely lost touch with the purpose of life and that our society has filled in the blanks, giving people countless pointless things to chase that bring no lasting satisfaction. A chasing after the wind, if you will. In our capitalistic society, money and power are king, and are inextricably tied together. Everyone is supposed to do something BIG, striving for fame, fortune and large-scale influence.
Many of us have begun to suspect that money, prestigious jobs and large audiences don't offer any lasting meaning. Not the kind that fills the soul and gives you a sense of grounding. The problem is we often don't have any better ideas. What are we supposed to be doing? What really matters?
This is another area in which awareness of your archetypes can help. When you pin down your unique archetypes that make up your personality, you begin to see what sort of mission would suit you. For example, if someone has an Advocate, a Networker and a Warrior, you may come up with some good guesses of how such a person could employ their talents to benefit both themselves and the world. Using the skills we have been given and working within our strengths is certainly a big piece in the puzzle.
But in a society that values some pursuits over others, that isn't going to give you the full answer. For example, what if you have an inner Hermit, Invisible Child and Jack-of-All-Trades? (This may or may not be me!) Suddenly you're a behind-the-scenes type who has no focus. Society may have plenty of negative things to say about you and you may struggle to find your proverbial 'place in this world'. (Again, me.)
"There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person." -Anais Nin
Consider those who live in convents, monestaries and temples and devote themselves to prayer and meditation. That is a meaningless life by North American standards leading to neither personal power, money or accumulation of things. But would the monks and nuns see it this way? On the contrary, they would ascribe meaning to the smallest of actions, believing that connection with the Divine and doing everything with one's full attention is the purpose in and of itself.
Who's right? When our own society leads increasingly to anxiety, burn-out, depression and addiction, many of us are seeking out meditative practices to regain some sort of balance in our lives. We are suspecting more and more that everything we've been told to seek is actually purposeless illusion. Paradoxically, those who do 'nothing' but seek and pray seem to have a greater sense of meaning in their lives than most of us who are still under the spell of collecting money and stuff. So then, step two may well be to realize that most of what we've been taught about what's meaningful and what isn't needs to be chucked out the window.
Start again with the assumption that there is meaning in the smallest of details. Some philosophers would say that life itself is the meaning of life. But I do believe that we are all given different skills and talents for a reason and that we all have a very personal mission. It may have to do with influencing large groups of people or it may be private. It may be a journey of transformation that liberates you from a long-held burden or illusion in your family line. To find purpose, it's useful and likely necessary to expand our vision of what living a purposeful life might mean.
So what's your purpose? This is something the coaching process can help you answer by increasing your self-awareness and giving you space to consider what's important to you, as opposed to what you've been told is important. You can eradicate those voices of society in your head that suggest only things that end in money or fame are meaningful, that tell you that you must focus on one career, that you must rise on the ladder within your industry, that you must be known by crowds. When all is said and done, what difference will any of those things make? All of us must work out meaning and purpose for ourselves, beginning with a total acceptance of who we are and who we're not. A tailored destiny, so to speak. A mission for each individual. What might yours be?