An Excerpt from Life Purpose Boot Camp by Eric Maisel
Editor’s Note: We’ll be talking with Dr. Eric Maisel live on the Power Up Living show about living each day with direction and meaning. Click here to learn more and join us! ~K.G.
As life gets busier and more complex, we all crave something larger and more meaningful than just checking off another item on our to-do lists. Traditionally we’ve looked to religion and spirituality for a sense of life purpose, but in our secular age the idea of gods or gurus providing this sense of purpose seems less compelling. The need grows stronger every day for new, better answers as traditional answers continue to fall by the wayside.
Certain sorts of secular solutions to this dilemma, such as, “Do what you love” or “Live with passion” sound attractive. But though they possess the virtue of simplicity, they just aren’t psychologically sophisticated enough. Human life is complicated, full of stressors and distress, and can’t be made to match some fantasy of bliss and ease. Any genuinely fruitful exploration of life purpose has to take human reality into account.
Likewise, such an exploration must get at what meaning really is. You can’t construct a meaningful life for yourself if you don’t have a clear understanding of the nature of meaning. People flounder as they try to envision their life purpose because they’ve skipped the necessary step of arriving at a deep personal understanding of this very thing.
Once you understand that meaning is a psychological experience that you can cultivate and create, you suddenly realize three fundamental laws about life purpose: there is no single life purpose for everyone; most people need multiple life purposes; and arriving at an understanding of your life purposes requires effort
You can gain a deep understanding both of your life purposes and of how to achieve them, but you are obliged to work for that understanding, just as you are obliged to work in a real boot camp to learn how to handle, clean, and fire your rifle. Few of our goals in life can be achieved without work. The same is true with respect to choosing our life purposes.
Even though it is human nature to want life to be easy and to hope that unlocking one secret will change everything, we also retain an abiding desire to show up, do the work, and make ourselves proud. Recovery programs prove that; weight-loss programs prove that; military service proves that. Now you can learn to do the necessary work in the area that matters the most to you: living your life purposefully and meaningfully.
By adopting certain ideas and engaging in specific practices, you can effectively meet your pressing life purpose challenges. Today many of us have grave trouble comprehending our life purposes and experiencing life as meaningful. This contemporary problem has clear causes, but here I am more concerned with providing answers than with analyzing the roots of this dilemma.
The headline here is that there are answers. Once you understand how meaning operates, how meaning and life purpose are related, and what concrete steps you can take to live as a value-based meaning-maker, you will be able to completely transform your life and never run out of meaning again.
You can make it through life doing your work, entering relationships, having a glass of wine, watching the evening news, and putting one foot in front of the other. We are built to be able to make it through life like that, though we are also built to become sad if that is the entirety of our life. We grow sad because we know that by not articulating our life purposes and by not manifesting those purposes, we have fallen short of living authentically.
On the one hand, why not just live, since that is taxing enough? No cosmic arbiter cares if that is all we do, and half the time we don’t really care, either. On the other hand, we know that we have an obligation to ourselves to make our time on earth worthy. We wake up each day on the horns of that quintessentially human dilemma: Shall I just go through the motions, which is hard enough, or shall I try to inject some purpose into my day? Most days we settle for the former.
If you would prefer to live a life of purpose regularly and not just sporadically, then I suggest you do three things: get clear on your life purposes, upgrade your personality, and manage your circumstances as mindfully as you can. If you do these three things, you will make yourself proud.
Some heavy lifting will be involved: the psychological heavy lifting of adopting a new attitude and a new vision of life and the practical heavy lifting of manifesting that attitude and that vision in the real world. That amounts to a lot, but the reward is the highest prize available to you: an authentic life.
About the Author
Eric Maisel, PhD, is a licensed psychotherapist and the author of Life Purpose Boot Camp and numerous other titles including Mastering Creative Anxiety, Brainstorm, Coaching the Artist Within, and Rethinking Depression. Visit him online at http://www.ericmaisel.com.