Questions about our (man's) life purpose have been addressed by many and the answers provided are as numerous as there are religions, philosophies, cultures, and individual beliefs. For example, if we consider our five mainstream religions, we find answers such as those I list below - please note that this is not intended to be represent any kind of comparative analysis. With due reverence and respect I merely give them as very basic or simplistic principles to show how they differ.
Buddhism - To enlighten ourselves (about Life) and, through our own enlightenment, to enlighten others by serving as examples or role models and never through forcing others.
Christianity - To worship God and unify the people of the world in the name of Jesus Christ through baptism.
Hinduism - Some believe that the attainment of love is the purpose of life; others say they need to reincarnate numerous times into this life in order to attain a state of Godliness from which they will no longer need to come back to earth again; some believe that the spirit can manifest itself in any life form and that they are here to manifest the (human) life form they are doing at present.
Islam - Worship to the One True Almighty God on Terms and under His Conditions (“ibadah”); Worshipping Allah by accepting Allah’s Will over his (man) own.
Judaism - Every soul has a specific purpose besides the general purpose of making an abode for God in this world. ... a soul may descend to this world just to do a favour for another in the material or the spiritual realms whenever presented with an opportunity that is certainly sent from Above.
There are others who believe that one should forego any ideas about being here to save the world as this may be nothing more than an ego-driven notion. Still others believe that we are simply born, live this life, die and our body becomes food for the worms. As these people say, “There is nothing more than that, so make the best of every moment you are alive.”
If there is one thing that for me stands out about each of these beliefs, is how little they have in common. Even though the objective of each seems (at least to me) to be that of worshipping the same God, or same Creator – whatever identity one gives to this God. So which of these purported purposes represents God’s true reality, your reality? Do any of them? If you identify with any one of these as being the genuine one, what are you identifying with? Is it reality or simply a belief? Is there even such a thing as a real life purpose that could be considered as The Truth that stands apart of anyone's cultural, social or religious beliefs?
In 1991 I attended a workshop on this point with twenty-six fellow attendees. At the end of that workshop, each of us had a clear picture of our respective life’s purpose. What I found rather interesting was how the majority of our purposes related to doing something for the overall benefit of mankind and/or our planet as a whole. For example, some wanted to work at alleviating the pain and suffering of children, others wanted to eliminate global hunger, put an end to all our wars, bring joy and happiness to everyone, save our natural resources, work to bring equality to everyone, preserve our wildlife, and so on.
Skeptics may argue that those results possibly emerged out of our altered state of consciousness, the euphoric feelings and ideals triggered by the dynamics of the structures of the workshop environment. And that therefore they are not a natural or real representation of an individual’s life dreams. I would probably be in agreement with such a possibility if it wasn’t for the fact that I personally have witnessed and experienced people achieve similar results in casual discussions - about their purpose - over a cup of coffee, at a lunch, in the office and other non-structured workshop environments and situations.
Of the twenty-seven of us in that workshop, and the people I have personally facilitated in subsequent years, not one expressed their purpose to be that of wanting to be a celeb, make loads of money, lie on the beach all day doing nothing, wanting to travel all over the world, being a fighter jet pilot, a race car driver, a beauty or fashion model, a managing director of a company, the president of a country, or any other such materialistic roles. The meaning and power each person experienced of their life's purpose was, well, hugely overwhelming. It is everything more than any achievement, goal or level of success they are striving to achieve in their life.
Consider for example the effect the following persons had in our life. Also consider what difference or effect these people would have had on this planet had decided to dedicate their life solely to fulfil their existential needs and life goals:
Jesus – perhaps a good carpenter?
Gandhi – just another attorney?
Mother Theresa – just another nun?
Martin Luther King – another Baptist minister?
The Greenpeace Movement – possibly never have been created
Nelson Mandela - a boxer, lawyer, another shack dweller in an African township?
Fortunately, for the benefit of the world and mankind they dedicated their life to fulfil their life passion and make a difference. There are many others like these people that are living their life purpose even though they do not make the front pages of news headlines or become celebrities. Such was the case a number of years ago in Durban, South Africa. A young lady in her early twenties having graduated as a teacher, chose to teach children in the street, on the pavement, under the sky. Teaching children was her life’s dream, it was all she wanted to do. And as I recall from that report, for her there was no question of not teaching just because she did not have state-of-the-art school rooms and everything else. She merely wanted to bring teaching to those kids, in that environment, in whatever manner she could.
People who are passionate about fulfilling their purpose will do so at any cost and regardless of the circumstances. If necessary even unto death - as has been the case for Martin Luther, Jesus and Gandhi to name three.
Some time ago I happened to watch the film “For the Love of A Child.” Having missed the beginning of the film I made a point of reading the credits at the end – not something I generally do. I was somewhat surprised to read that this film was based on the true story of two Hollywood actresses, Sara Buckner (O’Meara) and Yvonne Lime (Fedderson) who started their mission for children back in 1959. (see their website http://www.childhelp.org). Let’s face it, one does not embark on such projects and put themselves through the hardships they faced just because it was a nice thought or a good idea. Had it been just a nice idea, chances are the two women would have carried on being Hollywood actresses and pursued their acting careers – would more than likely have made more money and lived a more comfortable lifestyle. Instead, they have done a lot more.
Your life purpose is something very real, tangible, it is in your heart all the time, every day even though you may not recognise it as such, or consider it as an idealistic and un-accomplishable egotistical imagination.
There is nothing mystical, religious, metaphysical or philosophical about your purpose and/or the reason for your life. Identifying your purpose also does not require any structured environment or induced state of altered consciousness because you experience and are in touch with all the time. All you need is to identify and acknowledge it for what it is. And you can do this by working through a very simple process, in your own time, in the comfort of your own home, sitting in a park or wherever. All you need to do is consider and reflect on what other possible reasons there could be for you feeling so strongly about what I am about to guide you to identify within yourself. Rest assured that it is something very real for you. Something you feel and have always felt rather passionate about regardless of whether or not you have done anything about it – even if you have ignored it completely.
It is extremely important that you acknowledge your experience without judging “it” or yourself. What I mean by that is you must not judge your experience as being right or wrong, something you cannot do anything about, or that things are the way they are because that is the way they are meant to be. Doing that will detract you from dealing with it as your reality. For example, people have told me how they see and experience a lot of global pain and suffering. To this they quickly add something like, “Oh, but there is also a lot of good as well, and one needs to be positive and see the good things in life.” Or, “It would be nice if there wasn’t so much pain in the world, but maybe that is how it is meant to be. Besides, I can’t change that.” These are the types of self-judgment traps you must avoid as it will block and prevent you from identifying and acknowledging your answer for the reality it is. Such judgements are also the mechanisms you use to escape acknowledging your reality; your way of escaping having to take personal responsibility for and about who you truly are.
Right, so here is what you do.
Focus on YOUR picture in your mind’s eye of how you perceive life is on this planet – be it our human lifestyles and behaviours, injustices, discrimination, abuse etc. towards one another; how these impact or affect the animal world; the environment; or whatever else stirs almost uncontrollable emotions and feelings in you to want take a stand to correct; that make you wish you could wave a magic wand to resolve; the one thing you experience and feel totally passionate about on a grand, global scale.
Don’t allow your thoughts and beliefs to question your emotions and feelings about your "picture". Just be completely truthful and honest to yourself. You are not out to prove anything to anybody. You are merely setting out to acknowledge “what is” to yourself.
Make your picture as real and large as you can for yourself. Allow yourself to experience everything and anything you feel about it – might be anger, the wish and will to want to do something about but don’t know what or how, compassion, and whatever else. The most important thing is for you to identify and acknowledge what this is and its relevance for yourself and life on this planet.
What you want to avoid is to cloud your true feelings by seeing things as a “rosy picture" because you want to believe you need to be positive, not focus on the negative etc. Be warned not to fall into this trap. The tell-tale sign for that will be that such “rosy picture" will not really grab you; you don’t experience a passion within; it appears as a “nice to have”, an ideal, a positive picture of life instead of your reality.
Your real life picture is something you will experience in your gut (solar plexus), it grabs your whole being, you are likely to experience your pulse race, become emotional with anger and frustration because you feel so passionate about it. That will indicate your real picture of life on this planet.
As you get in touch with this you might realise how this has been how you have “seen” and perceived life to be all your life. And how deep within you may have dearly and passionately wished and wanted to do something to change things – irrespective of whether or not you have done anything about it.
Even though you may have considered and consciously put your vision out of your mind as a simple, ideological thought never to be achieve and fulfilled, every time you come across something related to it, it hits your inner core. For example, if you have a passion for the welfare of animals, when you see, hear or read about any form of abuse toward them anywhere in the world you might experience an immediate reaction of compassion, anger and frustration, and want to reach out to put an end to it. Conversely, you might not experience or feel the same degree of passion and reaction for cases of abuse amongst humans. That does not mean you care any less for human suffering, it just means that your passion – your vision – is caring for animals. The same applies to those whose vision is to alleviate or eliminate all forms of child abuse in the world. They will experience the same intense passion of emotions and feelings when they see, hear or read about any form of child abuse taking place but will not necessarily feel as strongly about abuse toward animals.
Whatever your unique vision is, you will experience a greater passion for one situation versus another. That does not in any way mean you care more for one than the other. It is a case what you identify with more, what resonates more with who you are.
These are some visions identified for themselves by people I have facilitated:
Firstly, my own - “to bring Peace and Contentment to Mankind”
stop child abuse by enlightening and helping parents and abusers
bring laughter to children through the theatre (plays, acting)
bring people together
colour the world through art and teaching
give abandoned/orphaned/single children a sense of individuality, empowerment and non-dependence
stop man from destroying our natural forests and environment
create a village of creativity for children
heal the sick and suffering
bring music to the world; uplift everyone through music
What is yours? Write it down for yourself with all the passion it raises for you.
As you experience this passion, do you perhaps also see, wish and/or …
envisage yourself playing a role to make things better by taking the lead without any thoughts for recognition?
feel so passionate you could dedicate and your entire life to achieve your desired results … even to your death
feel that it is too big for you to contemplate or consider doing anything about it
feel overwhelmed at any thought of actually dedicating your life to it
consider your vision so far-fetched that it would be ridiculous to even begin to give it a second thought
living your life to fulfil your vision a manifestation of who and what you really are, what you really stand for and represent in life
Often people ask whether all of us have a purpose. By the results I have experienced from the people I have worked with, all point to the conclusion that we do. Does finding your purpose/vision result in your life suddenly all working out okay? Probably not. Identifying your purpose is not the end of the journey. It is only the beginning. Uncovering your purpose means having a real meaning for your life versus striving to create meaning by everything else we do and strive to achieve.
Having a meaning, purpose for your life also means that you are already successful and therefore can be the creator and source of your life experiences instead of living in fear of possible consequences, compromising and being a a victim of your circumstances.
By living to fulfil your life purpose you also are automatically a giver to life instead of being a taker by living as a victim. That results in you living to ensure that everyone is a winner because you have no reason or cause to take from anyone or anything in life.
You have been blessed with God-given talents to benefit all life on this planet. Put them to best use for everyone and everything to enjoy the very best of everything that mankind has the ability and capacity to unconditionally offer.
That is the true power of your life purpose.