Let’s examine the question; why is it important to find our purpose? Some would say; we have lived all these years without a clear purpose or we know what it is in our mind and our life is moving on well, so why do we need a purpose? I have come across a very small percentage of people who have a clearly articulate purpose, but most of them would say; I think this is my purpose, but I am not sure if it is the right purpose. The following interactive story, titled the million dollars on the mountain, helps audiences of my workshop to start understanding the importance of a purpose;
Ranjan: Imagine a cheque for a million dollars drawn in your name on top o a mountain. Would you like to go get it?
Audience: Yes, of course.
Ranjan: You need to fulfil three conditions if you are to get the million dollars; You need to climb the mountain within 24 hours, you need to pick a day for the climb within six months and you are allowed only one attempt. You get excited about the prospect of getting the million dollars and check what it will take for you to climb the mountain. You find out that you need to have above average health and basic mountain climbing skills. If you already meet these two conditions, when will you start?
Ranjan: What if your health is not good enough for the climb?
Audience: We will get our health sorted out; we have six months to do it.
Ranjan: Imagine you consult a physician and you are told you need to do physical exercises for one hour a day for 3 month to be physically fit to climb the mountain. Would you do it?
Ranjan: Would you do it even if you were over-demanded at work and you get back home only at 9 pm? Would you do your exercises from 9 to 10 pm?
Ranjan: What if you don’t have mountain climbing skills?
Audience: We will find an instructor and learn mountain climbing.
Ranjan: Would you go at 5 in the morning to learn mountain climbing if that is the only slot available, even though you usually wake up at 7 am?
Ranjan: Let us fast-forward to the day you have picked to climb the mountain. As you start climbing you develop a headache. Would you take sick leave and go back home?
Audience: No way, we will take a headache remedy and continue climbing.
Ranjan: You find that one path is steep and slippery.
Audience: We will find an alternate path.
Ranjan: You see a cricket match. Your country’s cricket team is playing the world cup final. You need to watch the match, right?
Audience: No way. That can wait. The million dollars is more important.
Ranjan: You find that you need a team to help you. Would you hire some people even if you must share part of the million dollars?
Ranjan: Every time I ask these questions anywhere in the world, from any type of audience, I get similar answers. This shows that none of us have a motivation problem. What we don’t have is a million dollars to motivate us. To make us look after our health, learn new skills, find alternate strategies create teams and not allow silly things like headaches and cricket matches stop our journey. Now I use money, as it is a common denominator for many. It doesn’t have to be a million dollars. If someone tells you that your child is lost on top of the mountain, would you not take the journey?
Audience: Yes … of course
Ranjan: Yes … even if you are not fully fit for the journey. Therefore, the reason you take choices and action, even if it is not very pleasant and convenient, can be useful in finding your purpose. I consider purposeful living is living a life, inspired by a big reason.
Sometimes I find participants coming up with materiel things such as money, position, achievement etc. as their million dollars. Others think about their family, health, knowledge, service to the society etc. as their million dollars. I also see some who first picked materiel goals, later converted to goals which were of service to others. I think our choices are dependent on our values and our values too evolve as we attempt to live a purposeful life. When our values evolve, it can continue to give clarity, meaning and shape to our purpose. While I find this story useful in helping others understand the importance of living purposefully, it comes with the danger of them looking at purpose as a simple formula for success rather than the need to persistently work on it. Some could look at purpose as a means of ‘getting’ what they need rather than ‘giving’ to the world. The following story helps in understanding this concept further.
At the age of 93, St Theresa of Calcutta (then mother Theresa) had a bout of malaria. Doctors had ordered her three weeks of bed-rest. Someone saw her up and getting about her work after just three days. She asks, “Mother, what are you doing? Were you not asked to take bed-rest for three weeks?” Mother Theresa replies, “My child, I don’t have time to be sick, I have work to do.”
That’s what purposeful living can potentially do for us. It can give us energy to live life, the resilience to bounce back, and an attitude of adding value to you world.” It helps us make choices that will help us improve our spirituality, knowledge, relationships, emotions, health, finances and environment in line with the glimpse of our purpose. As we start making these choices, the experiences we have could help give more clarity to our purpose. Therefore, I see this as a process that can last a life time, while giving us a sense of us living our life to the fullest. The process of gathering the raw material required to formulate our purpose will be discussed in my next blog post. Meanwhile I invite you to reflect on some of the choices you have made in the past and making at present and examine the purpose behind such choices.