William A. Foster
“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.”
“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins; The Shawshank Redemption)
A high quality purpose will shape your life while a low quality purpose will waste your life.
In the 1950′s, a scientist named Curt Richter did a series of experiments that involved putting a bunch of rats in a high-sided bucket of circulating water and timing how long it took the rats to stop swimming, give up, and sink. The average rat was only able to swim for 15 minutes. Richter then repeated the experiment but this time he rescued the rats just after they had given up swimming at the 15 minute mark. After drying the rats off and letting them rest for a few minutes, he threw them back in the bucket of water. This time the rats were able to swim for an average of 60 hours before giving up – 240 times longer than the rats who were not rescued first. Richter concluded that the second group of rats were able to swim longer because they were given hope and this hope strengthened their purpose of living. Similar studies showed that rats would give up swimming in a bucket of circulating water after only 5 minutes if they were kept in a dark room. However, if a single ray of light was allowed to shine in the room, the same rats would keep swimming for over 3 hours.
Purpose Provides Hope
A strong purpose in life is your ray of light. The greater your purpose of living, the brighter your light will shine. Purpose is the key to achieving your goal. In my last two posts, I discussed how purpose can literally be the difference between life and death. Not only will your purpose of living direct your life, it will sustain your life. Understand: your purpose provides hope. The stronger your purpose in life, the more hope you will carry in your soul. And hope is a powerful motivator. Hope is what motivated the rats in the first experiment to swim 240 times longer than they were physically able to swim. The problem is that most people either fail to define their hopes and dreams, or they spend their entire lives hoping for the wrong things.
1. Ditch low quality purposes.
Many people have no problem naming their hopes. The problem is they are hoping for crap. There is a difference between a high quality purpose and a low quality purpose. Too often, life will beat you down until you resign to hoping for simple things like Hawaiian shirt day at the office or getting drunk on the weekends. Maybe your purpose of living has been reduced to making money and hoping for a small raise, or hoping to hear your boss say he appreciates you. Maybe all of your hopes have been shrunk down to making your next mortgage payment or making your marriage last one more day. If so, it’s time to get a higher quality purpose in life. The only way to have a high quality purpose in life is to ditch your low quality purposes. Do you really want to live your life for the next party, the next TV show, or your next trip to the mall? Stop suffocating your biggest hopes and dreams with insignificant desires and start making room for a high quality purpose of living.
2. Find a high quality purpose.
Do you ever notice how small children can entertain themselves with almost anything? They move from one activity to the next, completely absorbed in each new thing. We adults see this and think its because young kids lack purpose. The truth is, it’s not that children lack purpose, it’s that they can give anything purpose. They can give anything meaning. And when something loses its meaning, they ditch it and move onto something else. In the same way, you can zero in on your true purpose in life by skipping from activity to activity until you find something that resonates with your soul. Don’t just sit around and think about all the different options in the world. Instead, take action in a thousand different directions. Then, slowly consolidate yourself on the one thing that gives you the most meaning – the one thing that fills you with the most energy and hope. The more action you take, the quicker you’ll identify a high quality purpose of living.
3. Name your high quality purpose.
Define what you are hoping for and you’ll define your purpose in life. Everyone hopes to improve his or her life in some way. Even nihilists, people that believe life is without objective meaning, purpose, or value, still have a desire to become better nihilists. The fact that the word “nihilist” exists makes it possible to be a better or worse nihilist. Once you give something a name, you give it purpose. It’s inescapable. The hard part is finding a name for the high quality desires buried deep inside of you. This takes focus, decision, and commitment. You have to define exactly where you are in life and exactly where you want to be. More importantly, you have to differentiate who you are now from who you want to be. Once uncovered, you have to commit unwaveringly to your purpose and force yourself to stay intensely focused on it. There are a variety of techniques that will help you do this, all of which I will cover in my next several posts.