Do you look at people who have a super-strong sense of direction in life and envy their clarity? Do you feel eaten alive by a nagging feeling that something is missing in your life, that you want to do more and be more but you’re not sure what that looks like or how to make it happen?
Clarity of purpose is something that gives life a deep sense of direction, and tends to create self-esteem. When we lack a goal, we are like a boat floating in the ocean with no destination. If we take that metaphor further, we can see that that boat with no sense of where it wants to port is doomed to putter around on different trajectories, never getting very far in any one direction. Perhaps it will just run out of gas in the middle of the ocean and eventually float to some random place. It won’t get the feeling of satisfaction that comes from arriving at someplace meaningful and beautiful.
I know that for me, when I lose sight of the larger purpose of my life, or get distracted so much that I forget where I want to go, it is very easy to fall into depression. After all, if I can’t sense a purpose to my existence, what’s the point in anything really? On the other hand, if I can sense and deeply connect to my life purpose, no matter what the obstacles, I feel compelled to keep trying, keep making healthy choices, keep moving forward. There is a reason to make good choices, because they serve a larger sense of direction. In my practice, I notice that coaching people to make healthy choices on a daily level only works if the person already feels a deep sense of life goal or purpose. Without the bigger goal, the small choices seem futile and irritating.
Inspiration is an incredibly important ingredient for our lives. Without out it, how can we avoid falling into darkness? We need a direction that gives our life meaning…it is the bigger picture into which the day-to-day falls. We can enjoy the big things and the small things in life when we are connected to purpose. Without that sense of connection, we simply cannot find much enjoyment in things either big or small.
In our current society, it is most common for the sense of purpose to be associated with career. And although career success and happiness in the work you do is important, career is not the only place where purpose arises. You could have an interesting, successful career or amazing marriage and still feel a lack of clarity around life direction. I find that purpose is more complex than just one goal like having a great career. It is (at least) a threefold process. From what I have felt and witnessed, a sense of purpose naturally arises when:
- We work on what we struggle with.
I put this one as #1 because, first of all, it often it is easier, especially from a depressed perspective, to feel where we are struggling! And more importantly, our deepest purpose comes from healing our pain, and turning towards our struggle rather than away from it. In your life, what are the repetitive challenges that keep you up at night, that nag at you like a squeaky wheel? Do you have an unresolved addiction, a problem in your relationship, body image struggles, financial stress, or do you hate your job? You really need look no further than where your pain lies to find a deep sense of where to turn and start digging in.
In the addressing and facing of the issue that haunts you most, you will find an incredible wealth of inspiration that takes you down a spiraling, deepening path. As Barbara Brennan puts it, “in your wound lies your greatest gift.” So, rather than hating your problem and wishing it didn’t exist, try turning towards it. When you start to turn towards your fear of never finding healthy love, for example, instead of trying to distract yourself from it, you will find an amazing possibility for transformation and growth. Getting support in the area where you struggle is key…look for new perspectives on what you struggle with, and keep expanding your mind in the search for healing. It will open a new world to you. Your pain is actually a good thing, not a reason to hate yourself or blame others. It is your soul trying to point you towards your destiny.
It is very important to admit where we are in pain in life. Don’t rob yourself of the opportunity for transformation by telling yourself and others that “I’m fine with my divorce” if you really aren’t. Or, “I’m ok being 100 pounds overweight, it doesn’t bother me.” This kind of denial is dangerous…it can keep your life stuck for far longer than it needs to be stuck, and can keep you from receiving the amazing gifts and transformation that come from having the humility to admit your struggle to yourself and to those who can help you work through it. This is what life is about!
- We work towards what we long for.
What do you really long for? For yourself, for you loved ones, for the planet? I have worked with many people in depressive states who claim that they don’t long for anything. Not true! You do have longings, even if they are buried beneath your depressive feelings.
What depression indicates, rather than a lack of inspiration or longing, is actually that at some point, you got so fed up with not actualizing your desire that you decided you’d rather shut down the movement of your energy field than keep experiencing that pain.
An example of this came forward in my practice just the other day. When working with a client in a very depressed mood, together we noticed that underneath the depression was a lot of pent-up anger. When I asked her what had made her feel so angry, she was able to find that she was angry/disappointed with her husband for not stepping up and helping her when she needed him. Repeatedly. It was a deep ingrained theme in their relationship, to the point where she had stopped asking for his help, instead turning her anger inwards and causing herself a lot of depression every time the issue resurfaces. She had told herself to just stop asking for his help, that it was pointless and wouldn’t happen so she should just deal with it. This was causing her so much pain. I encouraged her to keep longing for and working for the connection with her husband, rather than deciding that there was no point. There are always possibilities in any stuck situation, usually through changing our own actions and being open to new outcomes. In this case we found areas where her communication around her need for support could shift out of a defensive tone and could possibly create a different outcome.
But whether things shift with her husband or not, it is very important that she doesn’t shut down her longings. Without listening to herself and staying in faith that she can manifest the kind of support she needs, she is actually shutting down her purpose.
When we have this kind of repetitive disappointment in an area of longing, it can feel like the easiest thing is to just stop trying or try to stop wanting what we want. However, I can guarantee you that this won’t work, at least not for long.
Why? Because our longings are the key to our life purpose. If we shut them down due to disappointment, we are headed straight for crippling depression, anger, and all those not fun emotional states. Our soul won’t make it easy on us. We have to not give up on our dreams, even our smallest dreams and desires. Movement towards them is the movement of our soul. Stagnation happens when we need to work through a piece of consciousness like the example above. The stagnation and depression lets us know that we are missing something and need to re-evaluate before moving forward again. Once we integrate the missing piece, motion can begin again.
- We align with a universal human purpose.
We are in a moment of incredible upheaval on the planet, especially those of us in the United States, where we are watching daily the basic values of humanity being consistently undermined by dark agendas of greed, ignorance, and disregard for basic human rights. Where do our seemingly small personal purposes fit in a climate of crisis such as this?
I believe that becoming who we truly are, becoming a more authentic, true-to-self version of ourself, is THE BEST offset to the mounting difficulty. Purposeful, self-actualized humans are better equipped to handle change, upheaval, and challenge.
Simply aligning with the intention to meet each day with as much faith and attention as you can, to meet each challenge with vulnerability and authenticity, is often enough to activate some movement in life. Even a simple sense of purpose can be powerful. My purpose is to be an awake human being today. My purpose is to love myself today and to feel loved. My purpose is to be playful today. This alone can encourage a letting go of any kind of “one day when I figure out who I am, I’ll start showing up for life” mentality. When we align with a basic, powerful truth such as the ones above, our energy can start to naturally move towards health and ease.
When we really align with our inherent value as a breathing, talking human being, what is called the “pleasure principal” in healing starts to activate. This is the pleasure in the body and mind that an animal feels. It is what causes a cat to scratch its back on a piece of furniture with such fervor. It is the feeling of basic aliveness, and it is deeply purposeful. It is not moving when we are in a depression.
So you see, purpose doesn’t have to be accompanied by such a colossal thunder-booming feeling. There will be those moments on any activated path, the “aha!” moments when everything comes together and illuminates…and, there will be ordinary moments; of planning a meal, taking out the trash, being a lover, a wife, an employee, a regular person.
If you find yourself struggling deeply with the feeling of purpose, I would suggest releasing the feeling of needing a huge “aha!” to land right now. Those often don’t come under pressure, but when we are already in a flow with ourselves. So, rather than beating yourself up for not having a big answer, start to look at all of your life, and find one place that feels a little stuck to work on. Start a trickle of movement. This could be finally addressing those underlying communication issues with your partner, or addressing your health through exercise and diet changes. See if you can find one stagnant area to enliven, and see where it leads you when you move it forward a little bit.
For more information on how I help people move through depression into a sense of purpose, please contact me for a free consultation.