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What does it mean to live on purpose?
(WELL. If you were to google this, and then read every article you could find on “living with intention”, or “living on purpose” you might come away with 107 slightly different definitions and ways to do it – because, of course, we all want other people to see the world the way we see it. So we talk from our point of view and forget that we’re all a little different.)
I believe that living on purpose is creating a life and attitude that you will look back on and be happy with. It’s knowing who you are and what is important to you and then making the effort to live in tune with those things. It’s being brave enough to walk away from things that are easy, and put the effort into thing that are better.
For me, that means putting God first, putting effort into my marriage and creating strong relationships with my family and friends. It means attempting to be a good steward of the money and the things I am blessed with, and treating my body well. It means taking the time to enjoy this short life and prioritizing, carefully, the way I spend my time.
For you, it might mean living in a commune with like minded people, where you grow all your own food and take care of the earth. That’d be fine.
Regret is real and I don’t want to look back on my life one day and realize that I let life steamroll me.
A short history of how I was not, in fact, living on purpose
10 years ago, I was 20 years old, setting out on a year of travelling the world, with huge expectations for my life. Meet the man of my dreams, settle down and have babies. Be a stay at home mom in my little house that was always clean. Grow flowers. Drink wine on the deck.
Time went on and life “happened”. I did get married, we did settle down, but babies didn’t come. I got a job waitressing since I didn’t have an education (but that didn’t matter because I intended to have babies and be a stay at home mom…).
5 few years ago, if you had asked me, I would have told you that I was fine, my life was fine. I wasn’t exactly happy, but I was too busy to really notice and nothing ever changed and I figured that was how being “grown-up ” was supposed to go.
Time went on and the momentum of life happening just dragged me along. I went with it – cus what else was I gonna do? I made decent money at my crappy waitressing job, even though I hated it more everyday. I made “friends” with people who were also being dragged along by life, and we complained about it together. I drank alot of wine, but rarely on the deck.
3 years ago, I was defenitly not happy, and at a total loss for how my life had turned out … this way.
I was still working my terrible dead end job (hating every minute of it) and not really winning in my personal life. Babies seemed farther away than ever, not that I was sure I really wanted them anymore (because life was hard enough without them). My house was always a mess, but I couldn’t muster the energy to really even care. I drank the wine, I stayed up late crying, I gave up keeping in touch with people.
There was no hope on my horizon.
But then something changed
I got fired from the terrible dead end job.
It was a wake up call. Particularly when I realized two things – 1) being fired is not something you are supposed to enjoy, or feel relief from. But the relief was overwhelming. 2) I wasn’t fired unfairly, I was a terrible employee, and I deserved it.
I’d like to say that everything changed overnight and I woke up the next day totally freed from all my troubles and bad habits with a new lease on life. It wasn’t quite like that. It was a slower process. I knew that I had to change some stuff, but I wasn’t really sure how.
I bought a journal and sat myself down to really reflect on what the past year(s) had been. I made lists, things that made my unhappy with my life, things that I couldn’t understand, things that I didn’t know how to address. Things that I knew I could change if I tried. Things I believed were important to me. I wrote pages about how this was a turning point in my life and how I had so much to learn. And in the margin, I see, looking back at it, I wrote “Because 2014 will not suck”.
That became my motto, for the new year. I didn’t trust myself to jump into a pile of new habits, because I felt I had proven myself pretty unreliable. I broke the first three months of the year down into the things I would focus on. I figured baby steps were the way to go.
January → Read my Bible, stop over committing my days, put away my clothes at the end of the day, drink less wine
February → Get out of bed early, get serious about finding a job I don’t hate, find a real way to deal with stress – no more shopping
March → Find a hobby I enjoy, tackle the question of whether or not I want babies
I figured if I could accomplish these (simple?) things in three months, I would be on the right path. Underneath all that I wrote, “Because you are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
Bad habits are hard to break and it actually took me the whole year to turn myself around and start to live as though I was doing it “on purpose” and life wasn’t just “happening” to me. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I did it, and I have never looked back. My life is about 90% different than it was 3 years ago, yet I am happily married to the same man, living in the same (although cleaner) house, am at the same weight, and believe most of the same things I believed back then.
All that’s changed is me. (And my job, hallelujah.)
Now, I tackle all (most?) aspects of my life as though on purpose. This doesn’t mean that I’m perfect and never catch myself doing something halfheartedly or wishing I could take back my words and think about them before I let them out. But it does mean that for the majority of the aspects of my life, I try to approach them with mindfulness, intention or caution.
My spending, my health, my relationships, my faith, my ability to enjoy life, have all drastically improved.
Are you living on purpose?
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that if you’ve never given it any thought, then the answer is no. It’s not something we tend to do naturally. (Perhaps if you are a sort of type-A super organized health freak with a balanced budget and you’re totally content with life… then maybe it IS something that happens naturally for you. Lucky ducky!)
If you find yourself searching for fulfillment, always tired, always grumpy or often short with your people, constantly busy and rushing, bothered by your messy house, wondering where your money went, feeling guilty, unsure of what direction your life is going, wishing you were somewhere else with someone else…
OR maybe you’re not miserable, and your life is fine. My life was fine once too, before I got miserable. I think fine is a sad place to settle.
Just ask yourself – are you doing much on purpose at all?
You should probably start. Or one day you may very well look back at your life and see nothing but blurry, boring, lonely days and you’ll know you’re out of opportunities to change anything.
Buuuut… Where to start?
Understand what living on purpose IS, and define what it means for YOU. Remember, It’s going to look a little different for every person – because we all have different priorities.
Ask yourself these questions (make yourself some lists, discover what your priorities are and then find a way to take action based on your lists) –
- What’s really important to me? What are my core values?
- What habits do I have now that might be interfering with (or not contributing at all) to what is important to me?
- What do I wish my life looked like?
- What habits or actions could I implement that would take me closer to that picture of what I wished life would look like?
I think you should start with one thing. Be aware that you want to change your overall attitude towards how you will approach life, but really focus on ONE bad habit this month. And another one the next.
Some of the things on my list that were horrible black marks on my life were that my house was ALWAYS a mess, I was ALWAYS tired, I was often rushed and short with people.
The very first thing I worked on was not over-committing my time anymore. Even if it meant choosing to skip doing something I thought I would enjoy. I even pared down my “friends I spend time with list” (some of my friends were crappy influences anyhow, and we just complained about our lives when we were together. I don’t miss those people). Once I felt like I was doing better at being less busy, I worked on my sleep habits. Then I stopped being messy. I finally put the effort into finding a hobby I LOVE (blogging) that makes me happy (and makes me money too – no more horrible jobs for me)!
I am still a work in progress. But at least now I’m on the right track. And it feels great!
I hope that you’ll choose to live your life on purpose. It doesn’t guarantee that your life will be great, but I would be very surprised if it doesn’t get a whole lot greater than it is now.