The main elements of life are time, activity, and experience. The quality of your life is determined by what you do with your time and, invariably, the experience that results there from. One of the foremost personal achievement philosophers, Mr. Jim Rohn, uncannily defined life as being not just the passage of time but the collection of experiences, their intensity and frequency.
Historically, experience is defined as the accumulation of knowledge or skill that results from direct participation in events or activities (WordNet). Modern day realities, however, prove that one can indeed accumulate knowledge or skill by studying and applying other people’s experiences (O. P. E).
Finding purpose in life
An individual’s search for purpose is a search for a particular activity that creates a unique experience. Until you discover that activity, every other activity you engage in creates less than the unique experience you’re seeking. That unique experience gains its uniqueness from the emotion of joy that accompanies it. Your persistent lack of joy in what you do is a clue that you’ve not yet found your purpose. But don’t give up.
Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple Computer, offered this advice to people seeking what they love (their purpose) in his famed Commencement address at Stanford University in June 2005: “…You’ve got to find what you love… If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it...”
Very few people discover their purpose early in life; some discover it much later while most never discover it. It’s important that you don’t become part of this vast majority.
Approach to finding your purpose
To find your life purpose, you must expose yourself to diverse life experiences. Not only is variety the spice of life, it’s also critical to the discovery of purpose. The more experiences you have, the easier it is for you to discover your life purpose.
Purpose is a unique experience. When you’ve found the particular activity that creates that unique experience for you, your job throughout life is to continue in the performance of that activity. For Mother Theresa, it was caring for the poor people. The particular activity for Nelson Mandela is fighting injustice and for Warren Buffet, it is seeking out opportunities for and making investments.
The exactness of the unique experience will be determined by the vastness of your experiences. It’s tough for a man who has only engaged in a single activity all his life to find purpose. The chances of discovering your purpose is a function of the size of your experiences relative to the population of experiences. Finding your unique experience is a case of ‘the more, the merrier’. The more life experiences you have, the more the likelihood of finding your purpose. For the sake of argument, if the population of experiences is 500 and all you did was to expose yourself to only 5 experiences (1% of the population); what is the probability that you will find your purpose? Answer: Very low. To improve your chances, you have to step up the size of your experiences.
Passion and Purpose
Engagement with purpose resonates with your soul and creates an emotional energy called passion. You will be passionate about your purpose. It’s this emotional energy or passion that propels you to continue in the pursuit of your purpose irrespective of the difficulty of the circumstance.
The question can then be asked, “Can someone be passionate about an activity that is not his or her purpose?” This is a bit tricky. But the point to note is that the uniqueness of your purpose makes this very unlikely. We must avoid the risk of mistaking commitment for passion. Whereas passion is an involuntary action that needs no introspection to activate, commitment is a voluntary action; you can choose to be committed or uncommitted. Once you engage in your purpose-driven activity, passion flows automatically. Quite to the contrary, you can be committed to something you’re not passionate about.
For instance, you can be committed to a job you’re not passionate about. All that is required to turn the wheels of your commitment is the understanding that the job meets your need for survival. But when you go well above the survival level you face the risk of becoming disenchanted. That happens because you were never passionate about the job in the first place, you were only committed. It’s, however, possible to still find purpose in that job if you engage in diverse activities (tasks) and check which of the activities resonates with your soul.
As a banker, I was committed to my job but passionate about few activities the job entailed. My commitment made me do everything I needed to do even though I didn’t enjoy some of them. Activities that resonated with my soul were: meeting customers, discussing their businesses and offering creative solutions; writing proposals; and sharing experiences about work and life skills with colleagues. Activities like rendition of returns, manual collation of performance reports and meetings that lasted forever were a bore.
It goes without saying that the pursuit of purpose as enunciated here connotes that you must be actively doing something. The excuse some people give for idleness which is that they’ve not found what they enjoy doesn’t hold water. In fact, such people will never find their purpose. Commitment to whatever you do is a necessary ingredient for discovering purpose. In the Scripture, Christians are advised: “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9 verse 10).
A practical guide to finding purpose and maximizing your life
The determination of purpose is contingent upon exposure to a myriad of experiences. In order to achieve this, you should open up for others to make contribution into your life. Someone said, “You’re the same person today that you will be in five years. The difference is in the people you meet and the books you read.” If we consider that we also meet ‘people’ in the books we read, we can substitute ‘people you meet’ for ‘the books you read’ and the statement becomes, “You’re the same person today that you will be in five years. The difference is in the people you meet”. In short, people are the source of experiences.
When you open up for others to contribute into your life, your role becomes that of an umpire. As the umpire, you are to evaluate the suitability of contributors to your life in accordance with the rules of engagement you’ve defined. When people violate the rules, you fire them. Those that keep to the rules are retained. I believe this is why the Scripture says: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The idea of guarding your heart and, invariably, your life connotes that you scrutinize what goes in, not that you close the door like some people are inclined to do. When, out of fear of or past nasty experiences with people, you close the door of your heart to new experiences that people bring, you deny yourself the opportunity for growth and, more importantly, the discovery of purpose.
My advice is that you run your life as an Open Source application (OSA). OSA, an information technology terminology, is a process that allows participation in the development / improvement of a system’s architecture by all and sundry. OSAs are overseen by competent people who put controls in place to maintain the overall quality. A couple of successful business tools in this information age are built on OSA.
The internet which has literally altered the course of humanity is built on OSA. Many I.T. gurus contributed to the development of the internet. It remains one of the most significant creations of the century. Other examples of systems built on the Open Source application include WordPress (a web development platform), and Wikipedia, amongst others.
The social networking sites are a variant of OSAs. The difference is that the business model only allows people (users) make contributions to the front-end not the back-end. Even at that, if they are to remain relevant in the years to come, they must constantly be in tune with their users’ preferences through the use of surveys and other information gathering techniques with which they can improve on their offerings.
Let me reiterate that you run your life on an OSA by availing yourself other people’s experiences (O. P. E). You simply can’t live long enough to personally garner all the experiences life has to offer. The time-proven strategy for finding purpose and maximizing your life are: reading books and listening to audio books (non-fictions), attending seminars, and listening actively when people share their experiences. By doing all these, you will quickly ramp up the size of your experiences and be on your way to maximizing your life. I recommend that you share this article with your friends and colleagues. You can also tell them to subscribe to receive articles on ‘Personal Development for Significant Living’ through the link: http://waleadeniranye.