By Anil Bhatnagar
Each one of us has a unique purpose in life, and in its realization lies our happiness, growth and success. Here is how you can discover and fulfill your purpose, and in the process move further towards the ultimate goal-self-realization
I look at the sun as it bathes me in its bright golden light, and ask: ‘‘What is the purpose of your being?‘‘ Its beaming rays throw back the question at me. ‘‘Don‘t you know? To give life and sustain it. I have been doing it for eons-from the beginning of creation.‘‘
The river playfully saunters along, tickling my feet. I am sucked into its playful mirth and watch it flow and flow and flow-endlessly.
The soft, gentle breeze infuses fresh life into all beings and moves on. Seeds sprout forth from the womb of mother earth, flower and die out with the rhythms of seasons.
Each night I search for newer stars in the vast skies and watch many others die out.Life creates, destroys and recreates itself each moment and fills all creation with a throbbing effervescence. This alone is the purpose of life. As the river flows to merge into the ocean, thus we live to connect to the source and find that purpose. What we do in our lifetime is merely the itinerary we draw for ourselves as we move towards our destination, towards completion.
A blade of grass delicately holding the morning dew, a freshly sprung rose, bees hovering over the flowers, ants busy building their forts, little birds foraging to feed their young, the eagle swooping down on its prey, the tiger out on the prowl… they all fulfill the role Mother Nature assigned to them. They fulfill the purpose of their life as they grow and dissolve in harmony with Nature, joyously living their part in the greater design, happy just being.
What is the purpose of human life?
The purpose of human life is to know its true self, to realize the purpose of its being, to find its source and return to it and to know that it is the soul and not the body. The only vital difference between human life and any other form of life in the universe is that the former is capable of living its life‘s role with acceptance and awareness, while the latter live their role with acceptance but without higher consciousness.
Both are journeying, evolving, moving to a higher state of being, towards the same destination. The more aware you become, the closer you are to the destination. Whatever we do in life, whatever the people we come across, whatever we accomplish-or do not accomplish-whichever way we choose to live are all a part of our journey.
The purpose of Mother Teresa‘s life was not to save millions from destitution; she was just a tool to bring smile and cheers into many a life as she moved on the journey to her Life‘s destination. Her aim might have been to provide for the poor of the whole world, and she could have succeeded or failed in it, but she knew that was not the ‘purpose‘ of her life. That is why she was happy and fulfilled. She did not confuse the journey with the purpose of her life. Neither do the thousands of other aware and enlightened souls.
The purpose of each individual‘s life is the same. But he or she can make the journey more interesting, happier and more fulfilling. He can choose a cart or an aircraft as his vehicle, ride a horse or go bungee jumping as he journeys along. However, whatever the consequences thereafter, are the result of the choices he exercised.
If you feel you are going slow, well, you chose the cart. If you break your leg riding the horse, curse yourself. If you are ever miserable, blame yourself for the choices you made. But the clue to happiness and fulfillment in life is to accept cheerfully what comes our way, since we have caused it to happen. And in future, exercise the choices that make our journey more rewarding and satisfying, and which hasten the progress towards our destination.
The key is to joyfully accept and flow with life; flow in a manner that the swiftest currents take you fastest to the ocean. You could resist the current for some time to satisfy your ego, but flow with the current you must. When you let go, Mother Nature steps in to make the journey smoother.
- Anuradha Vashisht
Had I not noticed it in time, I would have crushed the apple seed under my feet. Who knows for how long it had been lying on the concrete pavement of Delhi‘s urban jungle? Elsewhere, another seed, having found the right soil and conditions in some salubrious orchard, was probably sprouting into an apple tree. The seed on the pavement, despite my careful sidestep, will obviously not grow into its inherent potential.
Like a seed, we too have the potential to grow and come to fruition if we can find the environment and conditions to nurture us. And just as an apple seed requires conditions different from a rice seed to flourish, each one of us is born with unique qualities and capabilities that require specific conditions and climate. Very few are lucky enough to identify and find the right soil, conditions and nurturing to transform this potential into a reality. A majority, like the seed on the concrete pavement, barely manage to go beyond the survival issues. However, if we follow the inner voice and sustain the urge for unfoldment, we can surely fulfill our life‘s purpose.
It is this commitment that creates a Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan or Kalpana Chawla. They too would have been among the nameless masses had they focused on mere livelihood and not dared to chase their dreams. Are you a Sachin trying to be a salesperson, an Amitabh struggling to get his next promotion or a Kalpana looking for a break in an MNC? If so, pick yourself up from the pavement and plant yourself into a more nurturing environment-that is just right for your needs. That single step could be a giant leap towards leading an extraordinarily fulfilled life-the life of your dreams!
But why do we need to do this?
The deeper inner purpose of life, as we all know, is to rediscover our oneness with the unity consciousness that is-and be with it. The more sincerely we adhere to timeless principles that are the very nature of Nature, by virtue of which God puts this universe together, the more our own nature becomes one with that of Nature. And we cannot follow these timeless principles of Nature in vacuum-we need a context or a ‘field of action‘. Therefore, interwoven with that deeper inner purpose is an external purpose allocated specifically for this current incarnation, which provides us with a context or ‘field of action‘. You become aware of the inner purpose when you become aware of the outer one. You take a quantum leap and begin moving faster towards the inner, when you discover and dedicate your ‘current life‘ to the outer, against all odds. Lama Surya Das puts it succinctly when he writes in his book, Awakening the Buddha Within: ‘‘Perfect work is what helps us live here and now while keeping us connected to, and making us evolve towards a higher, more timeless reality.‘‘ The happiness, success and fulfillment that we are lacking or enjoying in life is Nature‘s feedback on the extent to which we are living in accordance with our twin purposes-inner and outer.
Life gives us ample opportunities to realize our dreams. To do so, we must be able to make the most of our talents and capabilities, have the courage to go off the beaten track, be motivated by inner rewards such as growth and fulfillment rather than money and fame, and lastly, navigate by faith instead of reason. When our lives are thus led by intuition, Nature herself will rally around in our favor.
How then can we move towards this state of mind?
1. Resurrect and fulfill your abandoned dreams
There are only two kinds of people in this world-those who pursue their dreams and those who pursue excuses. Our dreams are the only truths in our lives. If we discover and fulfill them, we live the true life; otherwise, we merely exist. As children, we were not afraid to dream. Over the years, minor failures and well-intended but unwise rebukes from parents and mentors threw dust over our faith in our hidden potential, until finally getting obliterated by the daily struggle for existence.
Nothing is more painful than the realization at our death-bed that we failed to achieve our heart‘s desire. We are all born with the seed of our dreams but it is amazing how few among us are able to sow and nurture it properly.
True success is not an accumulation of impressive external attachments but a growth from within. Our life is not a product of chance; we are here on a purpose. Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘‘If you have not discovered something you feel like giving your life for, you have yet not begun living your life.‘‘ Nothing could be truer. To really succeed in life, forget the career and look for the unique purpose for which you are born, and give your life to it. The history of this world is the history of those few who, having discovered their life‘s purpose, consciously or unconsciously, pursued it relentlessly against all odds.
This life has not been given to us merely for the sake of making a livelihood but to endow it with the meaning it deserves. We are obliged to live in a way that will compel God to say: ‘‘I give life to everybody but this one did not go in vain.‘‘
2. Listen to your inner voice and go for that radical vision
Mother Teresa was like any other woman when she taught geography in a Calcutta school. The day she chose to listen to her inner voice that told her to reach out to the destitute and the dying, she took the first step towards leading the life of an immortal winner.
When we break away from past conditioning and develop radically new ideas we carve new paths, which leads us to contribute to a greater vision of tomorrow, both for ourselves and for the world around us.
Only when you dare to flout convention in obedience to your inner call will you be a winner. This requires courage, a quality no winner can do without.
3. Achieve excellence and boost your self-esteem
Work and self-esteem affect each other and determine our level of fulfillment in life. With a higher sense of personal worth we are more likely to find and engage ourselves in work that gives us an opportunity to express our unique potential, talent and skills. A low sense of self-worth may push us towards work that mires us further in low self-esteem.
4. Identify your life‘s true dream
In fact Nature never gives us our dreams without giving us the potential to fulfill them just as it never gives us seasons without the fruits just right for that season. If you have identified your true dream it will be in harmony with the endowments you have been blessed with-your passions, temperament, attitude, meta programs (your natural tendencies or the way your brain processes experiences), knacks, skills and abilities. Your ability to fulfill your life‘s urpose depends on having a dream that harmonizes with your endowments and the contribution you make to society and the world. This is represented by a triangle having ‘dreams‘, ‘endowments‘ and ‘contribution‘ as its three vertices.
Dreams are your expectations and aspirations in life. What kind of a house, car, social and financial status and family do you want for yourself? Endowments are the unique gifts-talents, passions and attitude-you are born with and will use to fulfill your dreams. Contribution is the fulfillment of a unique social need that you are best equipped to fulfill.
Your life‘s dream involves identifying an occupation that necessitates the maximum utilization of your endowments and ensures maximum contribution to society. And with each accomplishment, you set a higher goal for yourself, which will in turn enhance and refine your endowments and step up your contribution to society. If you work in an organization that pays well but under-utilizes your talents and abilities, you will not be happy. If it utilizes your abilities and fulfils most of your expectations but does not serve society through your inputs, then again you will not be happy. Similarly, if your endowments are being utilized meaningfully to fulfill social needs but your expectations are not met with, you will not be happy. So real happiness comes when all the three vertices are in complete harmony.
5. How to find your life‘s purpose
You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.
a. Discover your dream vertex
Bolt yourself in your room, and undisturbed, list all that you need to make you happy: Achievements (what kind?), fame (what for?), health (your vision of it), home, car, money (at what age?), entertainment, travel, spouse, family, friends (what kind?). Keep writing till you have nothing more to say. Do not justify, condemn, judge or evaluate what you write or how realistic it is. This is the destination you have to reach.
b. Discover your endowments vertex
Do a similar exercise to answer questions like:
i) What work would you do if there were no possibility of failure?
ii) What is the one thing you can do better than most others?
iii) What work do you do best?
iv) What are you good at and receive most compliments for?
v) What work do you most enjoy?
vi) What work gives you a feeling of accomplishment?
vii) If God were to ask you to make your greatest contribution to the world what would it be?
viii) What kind of work would make you feel that you are making the most of your life?
ix) How would you pass your time if you had no need to earn money?
x) What would you like to accomplish if you had only one more year to live?
xi) What work makes the most of your endowments and fires your passion?
xii) What would you deeply regret not doing at your deathbed?
xiii) In which field can you shine and grow the best irrespective of your formal education?
xiv) What do you never tire of doing?
The answers to these will tell you your current possessions or where you are. It consists of three things: passion, attitude and abilities.
Now you know your dream or your destination and you also know your endowments, your possessions and where you are at present. Now you need to identify a social need wherein your endowments could be used to the full so that what you get in return is fulfillment of your own dreams.
c. Discover your contribution vertex
How would you like to be remembered by your friends, colleagues, family and society? If they were to be called at your funeral what should they miss and remember about you? Spend some time in silence every day and pray for guidance. Relax your body progressively from your feet to the head and backwards to the feet. When you are sufficiently relaxed, ask your subconscious mind to present you with a visual of your ideal profession. Do not force it but let it surface. If you fail, you may enlist the help of a professional in this field.
i) Consider what you are good at Ask yourself what it is that people often praise and compliment you for. What do people ask you to do for them? What do you often feel you are good at? What can you do better than others for your company? Caution: Check if you would love it. Being good at something is different from liking it. Liking your work is essential for identifying your right work-slot.
ii) Consider what you love to do What work have you always dreamed of being involved in? Could you combine two or more of these ‘dream jobs‘ into one? There may be cases in which you love something but do not quite have the skills for it; for instance, a love for the game of cricket does not mean that you can become a cricket player. However, you can involve yourself with cricket in a number of other ways: write about it, collect statistics, be a commentator, manufacture cricket bats, organize tournaments and so on. The idea is to connect your love to the needs of the society. Caution: One reason why you might love a particular kind of work is that it offers diversion from your main job-and making this second kind of a work a livelihood might actually squeeze the joy from it. Give it a try on a one-time basis before committing to it, and make sure you have some ‘back-up‘ diversions. Note that doing what we love can hurt us in times of failure; be patient and detached.
iii) Consider what you feel strongly about What would you like to change in the world? What injustices bother you so much that you would like to do something about them? What problems have you been able to overcome? What contribution do you want to make to the world before leaving it? What good things would you like to make sure the world preserves? Have you been ignoring an inner call? When considering your perfect work, do not ask: ‘What‘s in it for me?‘ Rather, ask: ‘How can I serve others, and make a difference in their lives?‘ Caution: The mission may make a person rigid and attached to the notion that he alone is right. Moreover, success may come late, and you must be prepared for this.
iv) Consider what you are equipped to do Your formal education, your area of specialization, your contacts, the organizations you have worked for, the places you have visited and the experiences you have gained, all have a definite purpose. Caution: However, one should ensure that one likes and feels confident about the work, can derive satisfaction from it and is in a position to give it all it needs for success, before deciding on a work-slot based on these criteria.
d. When you find your new perfect work, examine your choice
Before you take the plunge and change careers, imagine for a moment that you have already achieved success in your new field. Visualize your daily routine. What are the repercussions for your relationships and your general sense of peace? Are you happy with these changes? Do you feel entirely comfortable with the prospects? Concentrate on your heart center (chakra). Discomfort in this area may mean that you need to reconsider the options carefully. Ask your subconscious to present the scenario after a year, two years, five years from now. Check if it fills you with joy or discomfort intuitively.
6. How to outgrow your fears of change and struggle
After you have discovered your life vertex you may experience fears in pursuing what may appear risky, simply because it is different from what you would have arrived at by considering the job-market situation and your formal education. Your parents and well-wishers will try to prevent you from taking this decision. They may warn you about adverse market conditions and remind you of the neighbor‘s son who committed suicide for want of a job.
Apart from this, you may yourself lack the courage to leap into the unknown. You may be convinced that you should go in for it, but doubt your ability to be successful in it. Or you may like the idea of serving others but fear that it will leave you penniless. The required shift in attitude takes courage, because we are all conditioned to equate unfamiliarity with insecurity.
However, if we look back at our lives, we will see that things have always eventually turned out to be in the best interest of everybody. Yet we hardly notice this and fail to understand the divine plan behind every happening.
Many of us become immobilized by our fears and succumb to the trap of security and familiarity. When we hold on to security like a fearful child, we stop growing. The emotion of fear is a positive emotion since it cautions us of what may go wrong, but we tend to turn it into a negative one by letting it immobilize us and by keeping us from doing the needful.
Developing attachment for your ‘secure‘ job despite its meaninglessness reflects a complete distrust in God‘s plan for you. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; the moment one commits oneself, then providence moves too.
As Goethe said: ‘‘What has not burst forth from your own soul shall never refresh you… Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.‘‘
A shift in attitude and cultivating the necessary courage to change requires mental preparation. Just as you have worked to convince yourself that change will be disastrous, convince yourself of the contrary. Just as you have focused so far on the maxim, ‘change has a price‘, begin to focus on its converse, ‘not changing exacts an even bigger price‘.
7. Visualize yourself involved with your ideal work in ideal conditions
The best way to predict your future is to build it. You are today what you have allowed yourself to be, through your thoughts. Just as your thoughts and dreams have brought you where you are at present, your present thoughts and dreams will take you where you want to be tomorrow. There is no doubt about it. This is how, and the only way, the universe works.
Having outgrown your fears, carry on with affirmations and visualizations. Write down on a piece of paper the kind of life you dream of living. And read it before falling asleep every day. Visualize it every morning. Daydream the same. Live with your dreams from moment to moment without ever doubting them. Feel yourself living your dream life every day.
Affirm to yourself many times during the day: ‘‘I am open and welcome the change in my work that allows me to work at a wonderful place with affectionate, understanding and supporting people while letting me express all my talents, skills and creativity to the optimum. The work that I am doing now (the work you aspire to be involved with) earns me good money, brings a good balance in my life and fulfils me completely in all respects.‘‘
8. Be open to the opportunities
Keep yourself open to any opportunities that may crop up. Be at peace with your present moment. Do not crave or wait for your dream to happen. Being totally detached to the outcome will ensure accelerated developments and early results.
9. Celebrate your life-purpose
a. Work with ethics and courage
Once having chosen the right work for yourself, continue to listen to your heart and conscience at work. Ask yourself if your work is in the best interest of all. Is it ethical? Are you responding from love or from hate, from hope or fear, from humility or arrogance, from ‘what is there in it for me?‘ or from ‘how can I contribute and serve?‘
Success comes easy when it is pursued in harmony with the ethical principles of the universe and when devoid of any negativity our efforts are charged with love energy.
b. Work effortlessly with joy and total attention
The word ‘work‘ itself has been perceived as an antithesis of enjoyment. And hence life is what happens after work. From our perspective, work is not worship. Work is joy. When you worship something you polarize the reality into a worshipper and the worshipped. Joy, on the other hand, comes when the worker loses all awareness of the personal self and becomes one with the work.
Instead of getting rid of work, accept it with deep gratitude for the opportunity to contribute. Tell yourself that you are going to give it total attention, moment after moment. Tell yourself that you will not interrupt the work even for a moment with any interfering, unnecessary and irrelevant thought. Having done that, spend a moment visualizing yourself at work with this attitude, giving it your complete attention and being totally engrossed in work. Now begin the work and give it nothing but 100 per cent attention. Soon you will forget yourself and a divine force will take over the work from you and accomplish it with unprecedented excellence.
Continuous attention does not make a job boring, demanding or tiring; it is inattention that makes it so. Most of us spend our time doing a job that we do not love or are inattentive to and the resulting fatigue unconsciously makes us want rest from it and causes our body to fall sick.
c. Work with the right perception
Start noticing the good qualities of the people you work with and appreciate them. Our problems with people reflect our beliefs and impressions about them and people in general. If you have a problem with a colleague, junior or the boss, perceive them the way you would prefer them to be. Tell yourself many times during the day that they are affectionate, understanding and supportive. Fill your heart with love and affection for them every time you see or think of them, irrespective of how they continue to behave with you.
d. Utilize the present moment to your best
It is only in the present moment that we can act. The past cannot be changed and the future is yet to come. Identifying our ordained life purpose and using each moment to achieve it, will ensure that we do not regret our past. Even the smallest and most mundane work can be an expression of love and a mark of the sincere gratitude. Be constantly aware of the presence of the omnipotent divine creativity within you. Tell yourself many times during the day that you are grateful to yourself for being so creative and talented, for attracting the right people, the right conditions at the right time in your life and that you deserve everything you already have and shall have in the future.
(Anil Bhatnagar is a corporate trainer, motivational speaker, career and personal growth coach, author of five books, and a reiki teacher. He also writes for Training and Management, Personal Excellence and Executive Excellence-the two magazines brought out by Stephen Covey‘s Covey Leadership Center, USA.)
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