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Friday, October 10, 2014

Falling Down and Getting Back Up: Stumbling Into a Purpose in Life

 I certainly believe I need to attain a greater purpose in life. My life has been good. I'm 63 years-old now, and I live comfortably. I am blessed: I have a loving family, a modest home, and good health. I also have had a good career and some memorable accomplishments.

However, I still feel I have fallen short of attaining personal contentment concerning my purpose.

Webster's defines purpose as "the reason something exists or that some act is undertaken." Achieving any purpose involves active participation and persistence. All my life I have tried to maintain good intent and positive values. It's just that I have a nagging feeling I still have something -- a purpose -- that I need to accomplish. I believe it implies something I was meant to do that remains undone.

Most definitely, not achieving some of my some career goals has contributed to my uneasiness. I have learned to accept what I cannot change. Still, I wish I could have done more to be a stalwart educator. I struggle with mental health issues that cut my teaching career short. I regret this.

Also, it seems growing older creates its own melancholy as friends dwindle, emotions change, and energy subsides. In these so-called "golden years," I know some strengths I possess, and I continue to work to improve them. At the same time, an opportunity to satisfy my existence seldom knocks, and a feeling of desolation sets in. I find it very hard to begin a "complete makeover," and honestly, I don't think I can make drastic changes in my personality or in my beliefs.

I understand growing spiritually and engaging in passionate pursuits help me feel a "sense" of purpose. It's just that I can't determine exactly what my purpose should be. Some would advise me to "Let God have the controls" or "To rest assured," but my continued hope that some concrete evidence for purposeful achievement will surface cannot be denied.

Psychologists tell us finding a meaning in life involves an emotional and a cognitive component. The emotional component alludes to quality of existence, for example feeling that there is meaning to present and past life, a sense of fulfillment, and coherence. The cognitive component touches upon the purpose of existence referring to having goals in life, a sense of "directedness" and harboring a belief that gives life purpose and cognizance of order. 

(D. Shek. "Meaning in Life and Psychological Well-being: An Empirical Study Using the Chinese Version of the Purpose in Life Questionnaire. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 153. 1992)

I believe, as I suspect many others do, that my quest does not question the quality of my existence but instead questions the purpose of my existence. It is very difficult to determine attainment while I am still in active pursuit of something I cannot even define accurately. Did you ever think you know what you want but you have no idea of where, how, or when you might attain it?

 Dr. Susan Biali

One lady has a remarkable story about finding her purpose. Susan Biali is a medical doctor, wellness expert, speaker, life and health coach, author and flamenco dancer. Formerly clinically depressed, Dr. Biali took back her own life and health by extensively studying how to create a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.

Biali has pertinent wisdom to impart based on her own experience ...

"Most people who know me would find it hard to believe that I ever worried about my 'purpose.' I'm living that purpose so passionately now, but rather than having encountered a single purpose-defining moment (which would divide my existence into 'life before the moment I found my purpose,' and 'life after I found it'), the discovery of that purpose has been more of a winding, baffling, nonsensical yet brilliantly perfect journey. 
"In my life I started out determined to become a Solid Gold Dancer, but later abandoned that dream and followed a largely unplanned and very windy path: I became a (rather inept) gymnast and gymnastics coach, studied physics, studied kinesiology/human mechanics, modeled (rather unsuccessfully) for a while, got a degree in Dietetics, became a medical doctor, got into an Emergency Medicine residency, quit that residency and became a GP, became a salsa dancer, became a flamenco dancer, started a photography business, almost completed my first novel, became a travel writer, became a health writer, became an inspirational writer, planned to move to Italy, moved to Mexico, began working as a life coach, became a professional speaker, became a non-fiction self-help book author...and that's just a brief summary, missing lots of details and other equally improbable tangents."
(Susan Biali, M.D. "Prescriptions For Life." Psychology Today. June 23, 2009)

Biali says her parents at one time actually banned her from her home because they thought she was throwing her life away. But she found out (although she, herself, didn't even know at the time) by doing all of these authentic, courageous things, she would ultimately come "full circle" and have a truly complete life.

Dr. Baili acknowledges all of these sudden changes in direction made important contributions to the person she is today by providing her with unique skills, knowledge, or  experience that she now uses today to help herself and others. She claims she has not had a single "aha" moment, yet she believes what she thinks may be an "aha" takes her on a different destination and an unexpected  destination turns out to be far better for her than the original one she  might have planned.

Biali says, "It may not always come in an appealing package, but it's always good for my development and my life."

I have not accomplished even a smidgen of the plateaus Dr. Susan Biali has; however, I, too, trust in fate and in personal development through consciously following signs that point our proper directions. She surely has made her life into an exciting, rewarding experience through her pursuit of opportunities and her dogged initiative. Of course, I don't think it hurts that she is young, extremely intelligent and drop-dead beautiful.

Focusing on meaning alone would likely make a person follow a narrow path that would limit life's dynamics. I think taking a new route, as long as it doesn't pose treacherous pitfalls, adds to our being. And, it is true that life never runs out of choices, but it just seems the choices get so much harder to make as we age and find ourselves grounded in complicated environments.

It is still wise to consider that, perhaps, purpose is impossible to realize by remaining in "one place" -- a stagnant space in time and in mind. It seems that such a realization would be death before dying. And, that is something I hope my spirit never experiences.

My purpose in life? Whatever it is seems to have the quality of varying from day to day and from hour to hour. Achieving a permanent existence may be satisfying to those who are content with the actions of their lives. I don't want to completely achieve the reason for my being: I just would like to have a little more "aha" during my older days.

I may never meet my purpose. Just as I discovered about teaching, one could never be the best teacher of all, or even be the best teacher he or she could possibly be. Each ladder to the top is never-ending, and even though you successfully climb many rungs, no accomplishment is good enough.

Lately, ruts in the road and rust in the brain seem to be pretty serious impediments to exploration. That doesn't mean I'm not open to suggestions and to opportunity. I think it means I am just becoming more realistic. I admire one of my favorite historical figures when she said ...

Lately, ruts in the road and rust in the brain seem to be pretty serious impediments to exploration. That doesn't mean I'm not open to suggestions and to opportunity. I think it means I am just becoming more realistic. I admire one of my favorite historical figures when she said ...
The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Unlike Dr. Biali, Eleanor wasn't a "babe" by any means, but her grit, determination, sense of direction, and keen mind made her a woman who achieved great purpose. Then, of course, Mrs. Roosevelt did have position and money. She used both very well in my opinion. Yet, some of us continue to struggle with limited resources to find a purpose, so I wish good luck to all those, like me, who seek what they do not fully understand.

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