When I was a professor at CSUN*, part of the homework I gave to my students on their first day of class was to go find someone over the age of 75, and to ask them this question: If you had to live your life all over again, what do you wish you knew then that you know now? The answers that came back were as expected: Take more risks; do what YOU want to do (i.e. Don’t live your life for others).
Since then, I have read Richard Leider’s book The Power of Purpose, in which he summarizes an extensive study he conducted on seniors and Purpose; where he asked a similar question. The subjects wished they had 1) Taken more risks, 2) Spent more time with loved ones, and 3) Discovered their Purpose earlier in life.
How to Discover Purpose
So what makes your heart sing? What are you doing when you lose track of time? To whom and how do you give that away? “How you serve” is usually what you end up giving away. You are so happy to do it, it comes naturally to you, and it is fulfilling to share. Naturally, people need a paycheck, AND, those who LOVE doing what they do will often find ways to continue to do it because the intrinsic rewards are so great. Gifts could be Acts of Service, such as the medical doctor who does community work (e.g. Doctors without Borders) or the colleague who is willing to ask the question(s) &/or make the comment(s) for co-workers who are too fearful to ask for themselves – due to the work environment, it could be Quality Time such as the friend who is there to listen or the supervisor who cares to spend time getting to know you inside and outside of work; it could be Words of Affirmation such as the person who encourages you to be the leader you are meant to be.
To give your gifts away are acts of love. The actions demonstrate how you love yourself enough to share the best of what you have to others. It is the opposite of hoarding. Someone once said, “I have never seen a luggage rack on a hearse.” If you were to die today, for what would you be known? If you are a creator, how do you share what you invent? If you are a nurturer, how do you share your compassion? If you are an organizer, how do you share your systemic process? If you are a thinker, how do you share your intellect?
Purpose Renders Happiness
Adam Leipzig is a Tedx Talk speaker who delivered a presentation entitled “How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes.” While I disagree with his time proposition and method, he made an interesting observation from his 25th college reunion…80% of his Yale classmates shared that they were not happy with their lives. They did not know what their lives were about. The 20% who were happy had followed their passions and had, consequently, led successful lives financially and personally. This approach towards life began in university by studying for the joy of learning; not from studying what they thought they were SUPPOSED to study, is the inference.
Are you living your life with purpose? Life is about choice; if you feel you have no choice, you are not living your life with purpose. Those who fail to act on their passions may, later in life, meet the Oulda brothers (Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda…done better if only…).
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
Love what you do. Do what you love. Love yourself. Share your talents.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of a virtual consultancy of OD experts, CLG. Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com.
©Rossina Gil, 2014
*California State University Northridge
Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages, 5lovelanguages.com
Adam Leipzig, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVsXO9brK7M