Have you been pulled by your sense of purpose into areas of personal greatness?
What has been pushing you this year to reach the targets you set for yourself at the beginning of the year?
Was it your parents, your boss’s perceived expectations of you, your spouse, your own ambition?
And do you feel closer to where you wanted to be when you crossed the threshold of the year – or further away from it?
I ask you all these questions because I despise the almost obligatory reflection on the 31st of December every year. I want to know if I am on track, headed in the right direction – sooner rather than later, so that I don’t waste even more time going deeper into a purposeless abyss.
I want to live my life on purpose. I want to be intentional about my days.
Partly because I feel like a decade of my life has been stolen from me – but mainly because I really want my life to count for something. I want the fact that I have taken up a tiny portion of space to have mattered to the people that I have crossed paths with.
So when an evolving concept of “push and pull” behaviours began cropping up in a few conversations over the past few weeks, it began to intrigue me.
This is actually quite a deep topic to really delve into, so I’ll try and position it in the way that I am beginning to see the framework. The basic premise is: You will always feel pushed into something if you’re not pulled into it by a deeper sense of purpose.
A retrenchment, a divorce, a sudden death. There are things that shove you into realities that you weren’t quite ready for (and don’t know how to deal with).
Circumstances that we find ourselves in, that are beyond our control, creates a negative kind of push. Another factor that we can’t control (that we often forget) is that we can’t control people.
Pushing others is not fun. Feeling pushed is no fun either.
It conjures up a sense of resistance. It makes you feel like you don’t have a choice. And then everything in you wants to do the opposite.
Have you been dealing with situations in your life this year that has made you feel pushed by external factors – and either caused you to respond defensively or rendered you passive?
When we allow situations or people to determine our state of action, that’s when we give up our power.
It might not always feel like we’re in control but the way we respond to a situation always is. If we don’t have a strong sense of why we’re doing what we’re doing, then we will always get caught up in the “what is happening around us” that can be a major distraction to your actual purpose.
No one is going to help you figure out your purpose. This is a process of discovery that we all have to embark on as solitary sojourners. And it’s scary.
So we often take a easy option and allow other people to decide the direction of our lives for us. Therefore if things don’t feel great, we can rail against the machine and blame the state of our lives on other people. “If my boss was just more… (fill in your magical wish list here)” or “If only I was married/single again/in a relationship/out of this one… then life would be ok.”
Finding your Beckoning Space
In a session with a coach earlier this year, she asked an evocative question: What is your beckoning space?
What is the place where you see yourself thriving, being fueled with passion, where do you see yourself coming alive?
I didn’t have to think too much about that question. I know what that answer is. I’ve known for years. It’s just taken a while for me to grow in maturity and character to be able to reach for the things that I know I’m wired for.
The thing is, we often get so fixated on fighting against our current realities that we don’t have energy to think about the any alternate realities that might make us come alive.
So yes, it will be a fight. Swimming upstream is not easy. Going against the flow, when everyone else seems content to wile their lives away on non-purpose related pursuits, doing the thing beating in your heart is going to take guts.
It’s going to mean that you have to be ok with other people not being ok with you.
What is pushing you? What are the things that you do on a daily or weekly basis that you feel propelled to take on because of a sense of duty or obligation?
On the other hand: What is pulling you towards the place where you feel a special kind of magic? What are the things that, when you do then, you feel a sense of wonder and excitement?
(You might want to write these things down and ponder them for a bit. Don’t ignore them… they will just keep lingering until you eventually pay attention to them).
Of course we can’t avoid all duty and obligation.
You might not feel like going to work some days. But maturity helps you to get up, shower, get dressed, and get your butt in your car. Once you’re there, you actually get things done and end up having a pretty productive day.
It might be a similar process with going to the gym. If you’ve had a long day (or week), everything in your body and mind is shouting at you to avoid the thing that won’t feel good at the outset but at the end of the session, you’re feeling pretty incredible.
Your strength of your inner pull will determine whether you will allow the right kind of push.
When I switched my gym visits from a place of beating myself up for not measuring up to some impossible standard, to now swiping my card because I understand how taking care of my health has a vital and direct result on my longevity so that I can live out what I believe my passion to be, what was previously a push action has shifted to a ‘pull choice’.
I still don’t ever feel like doing the session but there is less inner turmoil than a few months ago because my renewed perspective on this one aspect of my life has had positive knock on effects on other areas of my life.
So how do you allow the pull your of purpose push you into greatness? Here’s how it’s working for me:
1. Don’t be limited by your job title (or your salary)
You will have many job titles in your life, clocking in to a number of organisations and working in various office team environments. When we first start out, it’s easy to expect others to lay out the projected trajectory of our career – until we discover that just like life, our professional endeavours will not be linear.
Each job contains opportunities for you to learn particular skills sets and if you are open to that, you will be able to glean a lot of valueable experience that you might only realise 10 or 20 years down the line was actually extremely beneficial.
Therefore, do not despise humble beginnings and also don’t be limited by your salary. Explore what you can do to develop multiple streams of income. Job security is fickle. Don’t set anchors in sinking sand.
In this current shifting landscape of work, it still fascinates me how some people pin all their hopes on a job title (and it’s incumbent benefits).
I understand that not all personality types are comfortable with risk taking and not everyone will have a desire to start their own business. I do believe, though, that everyone needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, just to keep themselves relevant and flexible in a vastly changing job market.
2. Let your life purpose be your compass (and then step out)
There is a golden thread in your life that provides clues to your life purpose. As you begin to see this more clearly, it will help you determine what you will say yes, no more, no, or maybe to.
Something that has helped me to keep a clear focus on my life vision, is a printed list entitled “What I want people to say when I die”. I read this list of ten items that I have determined will be the cumulative impact of my life (and I can see it from this finite point) every morning when I’m brushing my teeth.
It often feels daunting but it also reminds me to appreciate the ‘small’ ways I’m able to live our my life purpose every day and every week. Some days, that just looks like being purposeful about meeting someone for coffee and encouraging them. Other days, it means sitting at my desk and (finally) writing that blog post that has been simmering in my brain for way to long.
Most of the time, it’s reminding myself to be present in the conversations I have with others or learning how to say no when I need to. Your life purpose should direct your steps and it should chart your course. After numerous iterations, my life purpose can now be summarised in the phrase “inspire hope in the hopeless.”
3. Make time to dream (and then plan your action)
Whose life am I living?
It’s important to ask yourself this question on a regular basis because sometimes our life scripts morph into what others expect from us without us realising it. Don’t forget the reason you’re living. Write down the vision for your life and then keep reminders of where you’re headed with you in places that you can see it.
Don’t get sucked into the subtle ways that you can ruin your life.
You get one life. And it comes with an expiry date.
Dreams only come to live when your drape your wishes around the skeleton of a plan.
Don’t blame others for you not taking the action that is within your power – right in this moment – to take.