You thought I was going to say feeling, right? That’s alright, it’s a pretty catchy phrase. Anyway, today I’d like to talk about purpose. Each day can be a chance to infuse meaning into your life. Each day is an opportunity to be useful in some way. Every day provides room for improvement. Why waste days when there can be one small thing that can be done?
My family has this habit of working themselves nearly to death. In one case, I believe one person actually did work themselves to death. You see, there’s this incredible drive running through the Neal family. It is passed down to each new generation. It is an extreme urge to work, to be productive, to have a useful purpose. I love this about my family. Many would say this is because a lot of us have some mental disorder or another. If so, I don’t mind at all because we produce so many wonderful things. We run businesses, we come up with novel ideas, and we work tirelessly. The downside to this is that our social skills tend to suck, but some of us work on correcting that more than others.
There’s another draw to living a life of purpose. Everything around you must serve that end. People tend to view this as a sacrifice, yet it is the exact opposite. A sacrifice is giving up something greater for something lesser, in other words operating at a loss. In the end, this helps no one. Putting aside smaller things in the pursuit of a larger goal benefits you and everyone else, because it produces something that wasn’t there before. It is improving upon an event, an idea, a service, what have you. Having a purpose also means that you can accept nothing less. The usual way of living may not be open to you anymore. The path you forge will be a new one, it will change the people who will be around you, it will mean that any other job you get will not fulfill you unless it is toward that end.
Let me make this personal for a moment as an example. I went to college for four years working on a degree in Brain and Mind Studies. I’ve previously written about how my brain works (by context in parallel instead of point by point in serial) and this program worked perfectly for me. It was an integrated major, drawing from philosophy, psychology, biology, chemistry, sociology, science, anthropology, just everything. I got to take information from all disciplines and make up my own mind about what it meant. I have always been interested in everything so this served me well. I could use what I learned in my writing and in my life. Then, out of the blue, the college decided to drop the major. Not enough people were interested in it but the worst part was that those who were currently in it could not finish out the degree. We were shunted into regular fields of study and I lost my will to continue going to college. The majors left to me no longer served my life’s purpose.
For a while I felt purposeless. My entire life I’d been told that there was only one true way to reach my potential, to serve my purpose, to make something of myself. Life without a grand, unifying purpose is a large wasteland of lost opportunities, depression, and aimlessness. Life becomes random, disintegrated, and disconnected. I had to rethink the path to my goal in order to survive, in order to avoid slipping back into the decay that almost made me take my life years before. Suddenly, as I saw a new way, the world opened up like never before. I started with the idea of just doing one thing each day to make my life, my situation, and my relationships better. I didn’t try to tackle everything at once. I planned to just make some small bit of progress every day, no matter what.
This naturally snowballed. Weirdly enough, life began improving in all ways. I rediscovered some cherished friends, I learned that I could be a better parent than I’d ever thought possible, and I looked at my books in a new light. I felt differently; even when the situation was bleak I actually had hope that things would get better. This was an extreme occurrence for me; I literally cannot ever remember feeling hopeful in my youth. I began to feel more alive than I thought possible. Each day I started waking up happy and excited (except if it was early morning, then I was just angry) and going to sleep each night planning my next day. My lucid dreams became more realistic and eventually reached a point where I would start dreaming about what I needed to do the next day.
I am still not where I want to be, but the point is that I am headed there! I am closer than ever and that brings with it such joy and peace. My purpose is clear and I plan my path every day. My own change sparked a chain reaction through my friends and family. Some went away because they had yet to figure out their own purpose yet those who appeared and stayed have started shooting for the sky. Every day I help a friend or a stranger , every day I work I’m my stories, I talk to my child, and I look forward to starting the whole process over again the next day.