“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman
“A goal is an objective, a purpose. A goal is more than a dream; it’s a dream being acted upon.” — David Schwartz
“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” — Viktor Frankl
Have you ever heard of logotherapy?
In today’s day and age, we are quick to assume that “Life Coaching” is a modern-day construct, when in reality this has been a part of the 21st century for longer than most assume.
Logotherapy is an applied therapy where the psychologist “assists the client in detecting their specific and individual meaning” [in life]. This therapy is based on the philosophical / scientific basis of “Existential Analysis”, which basically means an analysis of one’s existence given the prerequisites of a self-responsible, self-realized, and humane life.
Logotherapy is the “fancy” study of finding meaning in life, and it is the brain-child of Viktor Frankl (psychiatrist and neurologist who survived the Nazi concentration camps and wrote about it in his famed book: Man’s Search For Meaning), who was influenced and inspired by the works of both Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler two of his predecessors. In logotherapy analysis: “the search for meaning in life is identified as the primary motivational force in human beings.” (https://www.viktorfrankl.org/logotherapy.html)
One of Frankl’s most powerful quotes goes like this:
“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”
Even with the passing of many decades since that statement, Frankl’s words couldn’t ring more true even today … sounds like we need a little hope.
Waking Up ON MISSION
When we get out of bed we have two choices to make: 1) either make life happen, or 2) let life happen to us. Each day we have the opportunity to discover, understand, and remind ourselves of the point of our life and what we are living for. Not taking advantage of this opportunity will be the default choice if you do not intentionally or consciously make one. This is one of the greatest maladies, highlighted by Frankl’s psychotherapy, that continues to plague our existence, adding to the rise in depression, anxiety, and suicide. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/suicide-depression-anxiety-mental-health-issues-increase-teens-young-adults/)
While phones are an easy scapegoat (and rightfully so), I believe this is a surface wound and not the root. At it’s core, it is a loss of purpose; a loss of clarity in direction and pursuit; a misconstrued focus on image vs. relationship; an emphasis on self fulfillment through pleasure instead of meaning.
The beauty in this is that each day we have a choice. Every human has the ability to wake up on mission. Each individual has the capacity to set a trajectory for their life and pursue it. Each person can intentionally live with a daily drive for a higher purpose — for something bigger than themselves.
Breaking the Cycle
Until we consciously choose to live on-purpose, we will naturally be living for pleasure, survival, and whatever else life brings our way. This is a cycle that will perpetuate until there is a stimulus for change stronger than the resistance opposing that change.
I recently began mentoring formerly incarcerated youth (oftentimes they teach me more than I could ever teach them). These inspiring and powerful humans are fighting a battle much harder than most who are reading this now. In the battle to break the cycle of poverty, bad decisions, violence, drug-use, broken families, and beyond, the single greatest ingredient that will generate the endurance needed to make lasting change is … purpose — pushing for the change, striving to break the cycle, for something greater than just themselves. Whether it be family, children, or simply a self-worth that was never given to them; purpose is the power that can break the chains of generational cycles which seem insurmountable.
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” — Samuel Johnson
If these men and women, who many times are dealt cards from a deck stacked against them, can choose to live lives of purpose despite the adversity, so can you and I regardless of the circumstances we may find ourselves in.
We all have a cycle to break, it’s time we see it, own it, and shatter it with hammer of purpose.
There is a very simple mechanism for living a life of purpose: conscious choice. If the goal is to have purpose attached to each day we live, this goal is accomplished by the mechanism of making a conscious choice to live for something beyond our immediate wants and desires — something beyond our self.
The reason for this mechanism can be understood through one of my favorite inventions in all of life: sports.
Why are sports so fun, addicting, and all-consuming? There’s the physicality, the teamwork, the competitiveness, and the tribal nature it produces; but I would argue it’s even more fundamental.
The reason why we love sports so dearly and are willing to pour incredible amounts of time, energy, effort, and money into these activities is because: they have a clear objective, a defined purpose. Imagine if basketball didn’t have a point? The National Championship that just took place would be chaos, at best, without the clear purpose and rules that any sport must have guiding it’s participants. If I didn’t have a compelling reason to hit a little white ball into a small hole in the ground, there is 0% chance I would ever try to accomplish that.
But there is one other ingredient that must be paired with purpose in this mechanism of making a conscious choice. Sports rely not only on a defined purpose or objective to be accomplished, this purpose must be reinforced by infusing it with meaning. Winners get “x”, losers get nothing! Without meaning for the game being played, what fun is left in the game?
Sports are microcosms of life. From this view of sports we can see that living a life a purpose is accomplished by: making a conscious choice that’s aligned with a clear and defined purpose that’s been infused (attached) with meaning.
“Your calling is found where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” — Frederick Beuchner
Seeking Wisdom From Children
Children have the propensity to ask a million questions a day, or so it seems. Childlike curiosity is an attribute I'm quite fond of, and one that's widely seen as a noble pursuit for adults alike.
The simplest (and often most profound) of all questions is: why?
The question of “why” is the question of purpose. Why are you doing what you are doing? A child’s #1 question always seeks to understand the purpose, and we adults think growing up means becoming more wise...
Asking “why” is a question that improves with repetition. Usually the first “why” will be answered by some trivial, surface-level reasoning. The second “why” that follows will try to dig down a layer beneath the surface, but it’s almost always the third “why” (and beyond) that finally starts to reveal the true purpose found at the core. This holds true in so many instances, and I’ve personally experienced it’s power in the Development and Performance Coaching work I do.
The question of why highlights another superpower of purpose: it clarifies. Stated simply: purpose cuts through the crap, slicing through the noise and distractions of every day life. Noise produces confusion and confusion can lead to aimlessness. And in modern-day society, all we typically experience is noise!
If purpose produces clarity, then clarity produces vision. And if clarity produces vision, then vision produces hope.
“The difference between noise and music is very simple: music is two sounds related to each other; noise is the same two sounds not related to each other.” — Wynton Marsalis
Purpose has the ability to turn noise into music, to shift chaos into clarity, to transform aimlessness into direction, and to amplify hope through living under a powerful vision and calling.
“The only thing worse than blindness is having sight but no vision.” — Helen Keller
Living On Purpose
Living lives of purpose never happens by chance. We have a responsibility to constantly be practicing the daily discipline of infusing our lives with purpose. Life will never automatically attach itself to our purpose. That is the work we must do on our own.
This will be a daily battle, a daily endeavor, a daily goal that isn’t alway reached. But it is a goal that can be accomplished and measured. Here are my two favorite questions for evaluating where we are at:
Am I living connected to my purpose? (Attached)
Are my actions and my day-to-day life in union with my purpose? (Aligned)
Simple stated: Am I living attached and aligned to my purpose?
Until we can honestly answer that question “YES”, we will continue to let life happen to us instead of making life happen. At the end of the day life is a gift. Let’s receive it and own it to the fullest, bringing our greatest gift for the world’s greatest good.
“We may spend most of our waking hours advancing our own interests, but we all have the capacity to transcend self-interest and become simply a part of a whole. It’s not just a capacity; it’s the portal to many of life’s most cherished experiences.” — Jonathan Haidt
[To read more about my “why”, click HERE]