By: Lisa Garber | Guest Post
Each time I start a new course, training, or venture, the teacher or leader asks me “why?” “Why are you here?” “Why are you taking this course?” “What’s your ‘why’?” “What’s your purpose?”
And I’m never prepared.
You’d think by now, after all the years of working on myself and studying, I would have an answer on the tip of my tongue.
Yet, I find “why” to be a difficult question to answer.
I have wondered, “Do I really not know? What’s the block?”
Then it dawned on me.
The reason I find it difficult to answer the “why” question is because I don’t have just one.
I have so many whys and I’m motivated by so many things that my head just gets overwhelmed and rolls up into a ball when I think I have to come up with just one.
So I get stuck, draw a blank, and can’t answer the question.
This was an enlightening insight for me because previously I thought I was only allowed to have one purpose.
I would take what the authors, teachers, and books told me about purpose very seriously. I thought they really meant I could only have one all-encompassing purpose, and that’s that!
So I spent a great deal of time trying to figure that big purpose out, to find, as one teacher guided me, the “why that could make me cry.” To no success.
It was a relief when I realized and accepted how multi-faceted my purpose actually is.
It doesn’t make it wrong, bad, or insufficient. It makes me smile and relax and allows me to enjoy the many aspects of my being.
It has brought me a stronger sense of inner peace also, by letting go of trying to fit myself into a mold that someone else made.
That’s right. I am breaking the mold and creating my own one.
Here’s what I mean by a multifaceted purpose.
Purpose #1: Personal Growth
Without a doubt, I am driven by my relentless interest in growing as a person in all aspects of my life.
For example, I read a lot about health and fitness. I’ve been doing CrossFit for over four years. I’m always adjusting my diet to find one that works even better for me. I love growing into the best health and fitness version of myself.
The vision of myself at a CrossFit class when I am ninety is a huge motivator for me. I don’t ever want to be a burden on my loved ones. That’s wrapped up in this “why” also.
I have studied psychology, trained as a therapist, and been in different forms of therapy my whole life. There are amazing emotional teachers and healers who I follow.
I am always striving to grow into the happiest, most well-balanced person I can be who is kind, supportive, and loving to myself and others.
My spirituality is my rock. I have meditated for over forty years. I have read spiritual books and studied ancient texts in school. I listen, I learn, I try. I hope to keep raising my consciousness forever.
And I learn about my craft, my work, my business. I never stop learning.
Yes, indeed, personal growth is one of my “whys” in life.
Purpose #2: Fulfilling My Potential
I have always had the idea that I was capable of much more.
I was an athlete as a child. I played and watched a lot of sports.
I was uplifted and excited when I saw people breaking records and pushing themselves beyond what anyone thought was possible.
And I loved the arts. I was mesmerized by ballet dancers doing extraordinary things on stage. And musicians performing at their best. Even paintings by remarkable painters took my breath away.
It’s genius that I was seeing. People pushing themselves to be the very best they were capable of.
The idea that humans, meaning me too, could excel in that way fascinated and captivated me.
I want to do that too. Fulfilling my potential is a huge “why” in my life.
Purpose #3: Making a Difference
I want to alleviate suffering in the world.
Perhaps seeing my parents suffering with sadness and depression and not being able to help them fuels this purpose.
Even so, my drive to alleviate suffering has evolved into something very satisfying and motivating.
It is the cornerstone of my work; it colours all my relationships. It gives me a reason that is beyond myself.
Being of service is another way of looking at this particular “why.”
I’ve noticed that if I’m not careful, my first two “whys,” personal growth and fulfilling my potential, will keep my focus a little too self-centred.
I really do want to be a catalyst for positive change in people. It’s also pretty clear that I’m not driven to go out there to actually change the whole world.
At times, I have felt some guilt for not being more active for social change.
But over the years, I have come to understand that the change I help facilitate in the world is very personal, individual, and intimate. And that’s okay.
Whether it’s friends, family, or clients, nothing feels more meaningful to me than seeing someone’s whole energy shift, burdens lift, and excitement return to their faces.
Pretty sure my love of alleviating suffering counts as part of my life purpose.
So let’s try this again.
“What’s your why?” you ask?
“It’s personal growth, fulfilling my potential, and alleviating suffering in others.”
That just makes me so happy. There is such a life lesson here in my awareness of my multifaceted purpose.
We are so influenced by others’ teachings that sometimes we forget to look deep inside ourselves for the answers we seek.
Yes, we can learn wonderful things from the stories and studies of people, yet our truest and most profound learnings must come from within.
Rather than taking lessons at face value, we must explore them, put them on like a new piece of clothing to see how it fits, how we look, if it suits us, and if we really like it.
We want guidance to resonate with us. That means it’s in alignment with our nature.
Having one purpose just didn’t fit me. I’m not a one-size-fits-all kind of person.
And now, allowing myself to be myself, to recognize and embrace my multifaceted purpose, has given me much more inner peace.
The internal struggle with myself has subsided.
I get to be who I am, regardless of what the experts may teach.
Uh oh, I think I may have landed on another “why.” What’s my purpose in life?
Purpose #4: To be myself
I love it.
* * *
The Most Powerful Way To Resolve Conflicts In Relationships
“The heart is like a garden: it can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” – Jack Kornfield
I was all set to float effortlessly through life on a cloud of peace. I was trained mediator, had a Master’s Degree in Peace Education, led workshops on constructively managing conflicts, and had a lifelong interest in creating interpersonal understanding. Yet, here I was, ready to wring his neck.
I’ve found it’s always easier to help others solve their conflicts than it is to deal with your own—there’s none of that pesky “emotional intensity” or “personal baggage” getting in the way.
* * *
Read more on Healthy Relationships: What It Means To Love: 9 Steps To A Strong Relationship
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