Why Are We Here? Our Individual and Collective Purpose

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Photo by Vikas Anand Dev on Unsplash
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Ever since I realized that the goals that came from my brain did not bring happiness  when achieved, I have been focusing on life’s meaning and purpose.  So when Chris passed away and Spirit invited me to start the Foundation, with its audacious goal of helping others (on a global scale) to create positive and rewarding relationships with themselves, each other, and Earth, I felt I had to put my money where my mouth was (literally).  I left a 26-year career in higher education and am contributing a large part of my savings to the cause.  Though at the time I wasn’t sure to what degree Spirit would be actively helping me, I decided that I would want to try to do this either way.  I figured that if I received help, all the better.

No coincidence, then, when I’m invited to share a message with someone, it’s usually about what their life’s purpose is or could be.  It’s taken my work on callings to a whole new level.

Spirit has also been sharing with me the purpose of humanity’s existence.  We’re here to learn and grow to create more light and love.  We do so through service to Earth, children and those who cannot care for themselves, and each other, in that order.  We also take care of ourselves in the process.

That’s it.

Our focus should be ecocentric and humanistic.  Our materialism and focus on money, status, power, and luxury and comfort items are far afield from what we’re supposed to be doing.   It is at odds with God’s expectation that we care for Earth.  Our unremitting, senseless consumption is draining Earth’s resources, and polluting her waters and land, and is unsustainable.  We already know that Earth is ailing, yet we continue to take and take without regard to the long-term consequences.

Our first order of business needs to be to find ways to care for Earth in the ways that will be most helpful to her.  The Foundation for Family and Community Healing (www.familyandcommunityhealing.org) was created based on guidance from Spirit so that I may deliver this message and lead the way.

As a supplement to existing environmental efforts, we should also be providing the emotional and spiritual support that Earth needs.  We are in a reciprocal, emotional and spiritual relationship with Earth, and therefore we should provide emotional and spiritual support for Earth’s healing.

To learn more about this, you should join and follow our social media campaign.  But in the meantime, simple things you can do now are to pray or meditate for Earth each day and/or be present when you step outside.  Notice how Earth and her plants, animals, and minerals look, feel, smell, taste, and sound.  It takes no extra time and will be helpful to Earth for her to know that we are paying attention to her out of love and concern for her and her wellbeing.

If our collective purpose is to care for Earth and each other, how do we know what is our individual purpose?  Our individual purpose in life has a simple formula.  You are likely meant to be helping others in areas that you struggled the most.  For example, if you struggled to have enough money in your life, your purpose might be related to helping others get by with what they have, or to find ways to make money.  If you struggled with some aspect of having a medical condition, maybe your purpose is to help others with that aspect of their medical condition. 

You may feel like you still have a long way to go to rise above the challenge you are facing.  That may be true, but it is also likely true that you’ve made a great deal of progress already, and that many are far behind where you are currently.  So in your calculation, consider the challenges you’ve faced where you’ve made the most progress.  For example, I’ve struggled with finding my authentic purpose, going down the wrong track of seeking a tenure only to find it didn’t bring me happiness, so that is my passion and my current work (I’m going to create an app, y’all!).  I’ve also struggled with growing plants, but I’ve made no progress on that so it would not be a good life’s purpose for me right now…unless I decide to change that and learn.  Which I will.   So stay tuned!

In summary, your life’s challenges are there for you to learn and grow.  You use that knowledge to serve Earth or others.  It could become a calling, your unique way to serve the world.  There’s a beautiful symmetry to it, and it belies the idea that we’re supposed to just be comfortable our whole life and never struggle.

You may recall that I did a lot of informal and formal advising for the students in the program I worked for. Many of these incredibly bright students came to me because theywere struggling academically, a scenario they had yet to experience.  It was a shock and they were having a crisis worrying that they were in the wrong place.  I would tell them that if everything were easy for you, then you’re not pushing yourself enough.  Everyone eventually will find they have to struggle if they continue to learn and grow; to do so otherwise means stagnation. 

People who are stagnant may not experience much stress, but it also means they are not thriving.  Take the analogy of a plant.  As someone who harbors a black thumb, I know all too well that a plant which is not growing is actually dying, and it’s just a matter of time before it goes to the great compost heap in the sky.

The same is true for people.  According to Carol Dweck, author of Growth Mindset, people who do not believe they can grow and improve tend to be more depressed and less successful.  Those who are always trying to learn and grow tend to be more successful and happier.  So embrace your challenges.  We are here on Earth to rise to those challenges and bring that wisdom back to others.

We are facing grand challenges socially, economically, politically, environmentally, and spiritually.  The Foundation is aiming to help us rise to the occasion, but you have to want to learn and grow to surmount these issues.  I am excited by the slate of educational programs that we will be launching in 2020 and 2021 and the scope of our social media programs and regional meetings.  Come join us.  Follow us on social media (Facebook,  Instagram, and LinkedIn) to stay apprised of our work and learn how to help Earth to heal herself.  Check out our website.  Spread the word to those who you feel might really resonate with our mission.  Donate a few dollars, I promise we’ll put it to good use!

Hope to see you there too!

Our Authentic Purpose and Spirit’s Hope for Us

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

What’s the purpose of life?  Why are we here?

Timeless, age-old questions.

Some of us seem lucky enough to be born with the answers to these questions, or have discovered them early in life.  Those of you who followed the earlier version of the Silver Linings Blog know that these were a prominent theme for me.  The interest in the meaning of life and work began for me with a crisis – when I got everything I wanted.  Nothing like checking off all your boxes to make me realize that happiness does not from a strong resume.  This interest and search for meaning and purpose continued through my masters’ capstone project on callings, and through this day.  Now, one of my favorite things to do as a developer and coach is to help others to uncover the life’s purpose that is always to calling them.

 

I guess you can say I was called to do callings work.

Though the focus of my main day job has shifted again, this calling to help others with their calling is still there and just as important as ever, because our calling is the gateway to what is most meaningful and impactful in our lives.

I’ve been confused between meaning and purpose for much of my life.  Meaning has to do with understanding the impact or importance of something, whether it’s something you’ve done or something you’ve witnessed. For example, helping children is meaningful whether you saw a movie about it or it’s your vocation.    If it’s your vocation and it brings you a great deal of satisfaction and success (though not necessarily defined by financial success), then it’s likely part of your life’s purpose.  Your purpose becomes a calling when it becomes self-transcendent, i.e., it’s blissful work that seems to help transform yourself and others in positive ways.

It’s also important to note that our calling may be expressed outside of work.  It does not necessarily have to be what you get paid to do 40 hours per week.  Thank goodness.

Therefore, our authentic purpose, the reason we’re on Earth, is to follow our calling (according to my understanding of message from Spirit/God).

How you discover your calling, if you’re not sure, is a subject in several previous blogs.  Suffice to say that the sense of calling does not come from our heads, which explains where I went wrong in my early career.  Rather, our callings come from our hearts and souls.  When mind, heart, and soul are in alignment, you can bring your best self to your work.

Usually our calling has a prosocial aspect to it, i.e., it benefits others either directly or indirectly.  For example, sometimes people say that their calling is to live a good life.  I ask them if no one ever benefits from living that good life but you, would you be happy with it?  Usually the answer is no, but when it is yes, I would guess that that purpose may not come from the heart and soul.  But I could be wrong.

That prosocial orientation brings us to what Spirit/God wants for us.   We are here to care for others, especially Earth, and children and those who cannot care for themselves, in that order.  We are also supposed to take care of ourselves.  There are no exceptions to this.   There are no demographics that are excluded from God’s love and care, and so we should follow suit because that’s why we’re here.

Spirit wants us to care for Earth first and foremost right now.  I’m writing about that imperative on the Foundation blog, and trying to help everyone understand how fundamental that is to our purpose on Earth, and even our survival right now.

If you feel you do not know your calling and/or are struggling with the focus of your life, Spirit just wants you to take steps to try to discern what you’re here to do.  There are many resources to help uncover your purpose (you can start with this blog series) and I hope someday to develop an online program that will help people to discover it.

Spirit does not expect us to be perfect.  We’re human, which means we are born to struggle and try to learn.  What matters is that we have a sincere desire and attempt to do better at caring for Earth, others, and self, and living our purpose.  Spirit knows we can’t all necessarily be where we want to be in our lives, and that we all make mistakes.  The intention and effort to do better is what matters.

I also believe your calling is there waiting for you, sending little invitations in discreet forms.  If you know your calling, how did you discover it?  Share here and help give others some ideas of what to look for.

 

Next blog:  Guidance from Spirit

Meaning at Work

Getting surprised while doing a training session never seems like a good thing. When I train, I like to anticipate what the range of reactions will be so that I am prepared to handle them.

However, on Friday I was leading a session on job crafting – an exercise that helps you edit your job to be more satisfying, fulfilling, and productive – when I got a surprise reaction from this group of 50 or so female leaders.

In hindsight, maybe it’s related to the fact that I had just strayed from the traditional exercise.   Duh.

We had just finished identifying their strengths, passions, values and job tasks. Then I asked them to consider their personal mission and the purpose of their work.   Then to my surprise – everyone burst out laughing. Not in a that-was-really-funny-Susanna way, but in an are-you-kidding-me? kind of way.

I then explained to them that finding and building meaning at work can enhance worker satisfaction and motivation. Think about it: if all your life you wanted to be a teacher, and you have a job teaching people how to sell a video game that you believe to be bad for children, likely you will not enjoy your job. Once I explained this concept, they thankfully seemed to settle into the exercise without that element of incredulity.

But why the initial reaction? Is the notion of meaning and purpose at work so out of reach, at least upon initial reaction, for some people? Do most of us really just go to our job for a paycheck and little else?

Research on callings tell us that approximately 1/3 of the adult population considers their job simply a means to a paycheck. These participants self-selected for this seminar, so perhaps they are disproportionately represented in this category as opposed to the 1/3 of the population who are pursuing their calling through their work.

Are you in that means-to-paycheck group? Can you draw a connection between what you do at work each day and your life’s mission (what you long to contribute to humanity)? If so, perhaps you feel relatively good about how you spend most of your day. If not, why not? Maybe your answer will surprise you.

Authentic Purpose

What are we here on Earth to do?  What is our purpose?  We each have a unique purpose that we each can sense inside us, even if we have not yet identified it.   That purpose is a little more vague than our personal mission because the path may lead us in so many different directions, many of which we cannot even imagine.  I believe this purpose is better left open-ended, and we should thus be also open to where it takes us.

I wrote about the uniqueness of our personal mission and our ensuing authentic purpose in recent blogs (Complexity of Life, part I and part II).  The difference between the two, at least as I see it, is that our personal mission is our global purpose in life.  This global purpose applies to both our personal and professional lives.  The theme of our mission, once we identify it, rings true to us once we identify it.  We see it as our personal truth that is highly specific and which we have known at some level much of our lives.   When and how we develop this mission is beyond my understanding at this point in time.

In contrast, our authentic purpose is what we do with that mission.  My mission is to use active love (being actively involved) to help others be the best possible versions of themselves.  I could do that from so many different vantage points:  stylist, coach, teacher, education designer or writer, counselor, nurse, etc.  So the way I direct my mission is also authentically mine and is reflected in my authentic purpose.

I say the purpose must be authentic, because if we’re approaching our mission from the needs, wants and desires of another, we’re simply trying to be someone we’re not (SWN) or inauthentic. Being SWN is exhausting and we are likely to set ourselves up for failure and dissatisfaction as we’re living our lives by someone else’s standards, values and strengths.

In contrast, living authentically tends to be energizing.  Add to that mix the pursuit of our passions, and then you have someone who is fired up and energized by their work.  I believe our authentic purpose is what Joseph Campbell calls our hero’s journey.  We set off to pursue our calling, fight monsters and demons along the way, but return victorious with the knowledge that was lost by our generation.

Since this area of authenticity and mission are on the edges of what is known in psychology,  I’m extrapolating somewhat based on the known literature and experience from my personal and shared journeys.  My own understand is still emerging, but I believe that many of us could benefit from identifying our mission and authentic purpose.  Not only am I enjoying my work and personal life more, but I am much more successful at what I’m doing now than what I was doing previously.  In addition, it has enhanced my spiritual journey in ways that I’m unable to describe.

What is your authentic purpose?  How did you find it?  What impact does it have on your life?  If you haven’t identified it, do you wish to?  Why or why not?

Complexity of life, Part II

I know we have a unique and authentic mission because I have been observing it almost every day.  I have been coaching members of the university community to help them find their personal mission.  That mission is clearly unique and central to that individual.  That person knows when the stated purpose resonates authentically, when it’s not quite right, or when it’s completely wrong.  When they touch upon their realization of their authentic personal mission, you can see the light inside them ignite, and they realize it is their personal truth.  Change one word, and the mission is wrong.  It just doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t ring true.  And as far as I can tell, each person’s purpose is as unique as their fingerprint.

As much as we like to distance ourselves from our biology, it is a fact that we are biological organisms somewhere in the midst of a vertical and horizontal ecological tapestry.  Our individual purpose and pathway could be as unique as the nucleotide molecule that plays different roles in the course of its existence, only to be degraded or synthesized into a different molecule all together. The nucleotide that ends up adjacent to DNA synthesis enzymes is going to get woven into its purpose rapidly and efficiently.  The nucleotide that hunts for its purpose in the wrong place will float aimlessly and ineffectively until it happens upon the right enzyme.  Those loner molecules that never find their role are more likely to be picked off and metabolically repurposed into a new identity.

I spent much of my life thinking I was part of a protein when I am actually a piece of DNA.  Not literally, of course.  But by failing to recognize my purpose, I have spent a lot of time hunting to make a contribution in the wrong part of the cell, or doing the wrong thing in the right part of the cell.  But strangely, my authentic purpose has always been lurking beneath the surface, whispering to me my whole life.  Now that I have a much better understanding of my purpose, I am often startled when I reflect upon my past and see the theme resonating back through time.

My purpose has always been about authenticity.  In the fights with my parents, in my essay for graduate school, in my speech at an Asian American Heritage Day event, in my own personal mission statement, in my capstone project for my masters degree, and my realization of my calling (authentic purpose),  I have been drawn to this topic my whole life.  It has been only relatively recently has my own purpose dawned on me, and lit me up like a Christmas tree.  Now I know that I am here to help others find and live their authentic purpose.  And like the rest of you, I’m here to live mine.

What is your role on this planet?  Do you have a sense of what you’re here to do?  Have you identified it, or is it lurking just past your grasp?  Let me help.

The Complexity of Life, Part 1

 

Have you thought about the complexity of life lately?  Even the word ‘life’ is complex.  Do I mean your individual life, our collective life, the way our bodies operate to enable our existence?  Yes.

I’ve been thinking about this topic since talking to a student about the beauty of science.  Science, after all, is here to help us to understand the complexity of life and our universe.  If you bore down on the processes that enable life on earth, one goes from the macro – living organisms such as humans, plants, and animals – to the micro – tissues/organs, cells, molecules, and atoms.    Each micro component is comprised of complicated matrices of the components from the contributing subunits (cells are comprised of molecules which are comprised of atoms).  Even atoms consist of subatomic particles, and then we are once again into domains where the complexity of forces and interactions of those subatomic particles and forces are largely outside our comprehension.

In addition to the orchestra of interactions occurring at each level, each of those elements must also be dynamic in order for the unit to be static.  For example, for a cell to continue to function as a cell, it must take up nutrients, create waste, continue to synthesize new components and degrade others.  In other words, to remain constant, the cell must be dynamic.  In this manner, nature balances birth, growth, and stasis by a combination of birth, growth and stasis in a beautiful symphony of events.   The same dynamic seems to be at play at every level, from the sub-atomic on up through the organism level.

Now let’s consider the super-macro level (I’m making up terms here, can you tell?)  If we dial upwards from our proximity of human-on-earth, we humans further organize ourselves into complex systems.  We are part of a family unit which is part of the community, which is part of a nation and the human species which inhabits the earth which is part of the solar system which is part of the galaxy and then the universe (whew).  Like the micro level, the macro level contains its own balance of actions, interactions, birth, growth and stasis in a dynamic but complex equilibrium.  The role of the earth is to be part of the solar system and revolve around the sun.  The role of the nucleotide is to be a part of DNA or a catalyst for reactions.  Each has a unique and defined role within the matrix within which it resides.

We humans are no different.  We play a role in the ecosystem of the planet and on up through the macro levels and on down through the micro levels.  Whether the essence of our existence is defined by an unseen hand or biological accident is a question for the philosophers and religious leaders of our past, present and future, not for someone like me.   However, just like the enzyme catalyzes reactions and ligands bind receptors, I believe that each of us have a specific purpose we are meant to fulfill during our brief time on the planet.  Whether this is driven by the unseen hand or a biological accident is again not for me to say.

 

Next blog:  our unique role.