In my practice I frequently ask clients if they have a defined purpose for their life. It’s an important question to answer fully for yourself, but one that is contrary to what our culture often teaches.
Our culture teaches Goals. If you don’t have goals you are often judged as lacking ambition, or worse. And not just any goals will do. Culture wants “SMART Goals”: Specific Measurable Actionable Realistic Timely goals. That’s the stuff of success, of achievement, and it’s expected that we all have success and achievement on Culture’s terms.
Two difficulties immediately arise from this:
First, pulling goals out of the ether over and over takes either a lot of imagination or a willingness to surrender much of your agency, will and freedom to others (boss, family, church, corporate, the media).
This can seem fun and fulfilling for a time, sometimes. We do enjoy pursuing common ends as a group, or most of us do. But ultimately when someone or something outside of you takes over your choices it eventually grows tiresome, inauthentic, and increasingly distanced from who you really are.
The second problem with goals formed this way is the T in SMART. Time bound means when the goal ends, you’re back at zero, searching for or waiting for the next goal to be delivered. And if you are ambitious, the next goal has to be bigger, hairier, and more audacious than the previous one.
This might work for awhile, but eventually either our imagination or energy is exhausted and the existential crisis sets in. This is the scourge of the worker in post-modern society. Feeling exploited, exhausted, and increasingly less authentic, less valuable, and less alive.
The solution might be a simple as finding your purpose. In the yogic philosophy, it is the equivalent of discovering your Dharma—the highest and best expression of your talents and preferred activities and aligning your life with them for the betterment of a cause greater than yourself.
To paraphrase C. G. Jung, knowing who you are makes deciding what to do easy. Why? Because a purpose is not bound by time, being inherently expansive enough to sustain a lifetime of effort. Einstein’s pursuit of a unified field theory inspired him and generations of followers. C.G. Jung’s decision to abandon medicine in pursuit of the deeper wisdom of the Self and its integration produced a new way of living for millions and infused nearly every field of human inquiry with wisdom.
Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Georgia O’Keefe, Gloria Steinem, Amelia Earhart, and Toni Morrison all strayed from culture’s defined path, found their higher purpose, and raised the bar of consciousness of human potential for generations.
When you know your purpose, your dharma, your goals evolve organically from it. You know what to do next. You leave ground zero behind forever.
The practices of meditation, yoga, Ayurvedic nutrition and health, and having a detailed Vedic astrology reading along with actively applying a process I will share in my next post are tools to help anyone find a deeper meaning, more connected way of living, and the means to fulfillment that both expands and transcends the treadmill of culturally defined goals.
Check back soon for Part 2.