I’ve long been frustrated with the marching chant of finding our ‘purpose’ in life. So many people think their lives will be better when they stop working in corporate jobs and starting following their ‘purpose’, but I believe this is a misrepresentation of what ‘purpose’ actually is. I believe that nothing will change until you live your life purpose where you are, in whatever you’re doing.
Because whatever your purpose is, you can do it anywhere.
Back in 1999 was when I first came into contact with the western personal growth world. I’d just left the Buddhist monastery I was living in and moved to San Francisco. I’m eternally indebted to some of the people I met in those first few years for how they helped me to deepen my own inquiry, and at the same time, it was the first time I noticed this concept of finding and following your purpose.
In the monastery, we did the most menial things, every day. We woke up, we sat and did nothing, we ate with intention, and then we did the work it took to make the place run—making the beds, cleaning lamps, scrubbing the toilets, with the idea being that in each and every instant, we have the opportunity to offer our deepest gifts to the world. For three years I chopped vegetables, dug ditches and washed dishes, and I never once questioned whether I was living a meaningful life.
What are you here to put forth in the world and how can you do that right now?
Are you here to awaken people to their true nature? Do that while serving coffee.
Are you here to help people be more fully themselves? Bring that to your corporate job.
Are you here to create beauty? Create it in your family. Right now.
When I moved to San Francisco, I began working as an Administrative Assistant. It was a big international company and I had so many different responsibilities that nobody knew where I was at any moment. During my lunch break, I’d go to the movies, and I could do that every day and still do all my work and no one knew any different.
And after a while, I started to consider leaving because I wondered what the point was and figured there had to be more to life than this. And I remember at one point, my energy condensed and I pulled myself back to my center and thought that while that might be true, I wouldn’t leave because of that. I made a decision to stay in the job until I could leave with integrity. Integrity is not just about doing what you’ll say you’ll do, but doing things that are in alignment with who you are and after a while in that job, I couldn’t look myself in the eye anymore. I was getting raving reviews from everyone around me, but I knew I was doing a half-assed job.
So I doubled down. I connected people’s phone lines, created guest passes and did all the other menial tasks, but I did them with a passion because I knew what I was doing was helping the world. Whether that was the clients or the sales staff I supported, I was making people’s lives easier and I wanted to do it with everything I had. That meant getting in alignment with myself in the office and not doing a half-assed job. In the process, I realized that if I could do my job in half the time, maybe I only needed to be there half the time! So I went and asked to go back to school and told them I’d do my job in half the time, and enrolled to study art for two years while doing my job. And that was living my life purpose.
Around three years ago I was re-launching my coaching and teaching career. I wasn’t making ends meet, so I started taking care of another child after school, while I was also with my own children. Living in alignment with my values made it a truer choice to do childcare (which is not my life’s purpose), to be with my family and pay the bills, rather than have a pipedream about living my ‘purpose’. To accept and bring true joy in all parts of life, even those that we think ‘aren’t our purpose’ is saying my life is gorgeous already and I am here with it fully.
But, there’s another side to this (and they aren’t opposed).
It is a disservice to the world to pretend like you’re only alive when you’re fulfilling the sexy part of your destiny, but it’s also a disservice to the world to deny the part of your destiny that also might be scary, that might require you stand in front of people and say ‘this is what I believe,’ and have people disagree or agree. But the willingness to also follow that part of your destiny is part of this. I have students where part of their destiny is to become a teacher or an artist, and it’s a disservice to the world for them to deny that destiny.
There’s a quote in Zen Buddhism:
“Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost. Let us strive to awaken, awaken – take heed, do not squander your life.”
Yes, take the opportunities and seize the day, but the side that gets less attention is the part about that says ‘do not squander your life’ – what that means is: at this moment, do not step away from your life’s purpose just because what you’re doing seems like a menial task. I believe that’s what it means to live your true nature. I do not claim to know what your unique true nature is, but I do believe each one of us does know & we each have the capacity to live in alignment with it throughout our entire life.
So ask yourself with every breath: How do I give my gift now? And now?
How do I express the truth of who I am no matter what I’m doing or where I am, no matter the limitations of my being, my body, my mind, or my karma? We all have limitations! They are exquisite, and they give us our life – because they give us the structure we live in. This isn’t about ‘limiting beliefs’ – this is about falling in love with the truth of the reality of our lives!
The idea of playing small is bullshit! At least in the way of how it’s generally talked about. There is no small life. Do you hear me? There is no small life.
Find what your true values are, and what you’re here to give and then give it no matter what, and you will never be playing small.
As Yogi Bhajan says, we’re here to be forklifts for others in the world. We are not here to flagellate people into doing better, to say this is the better or worse life, or to say you’re doing it wrong. We’re here to do whatever it takes to lift people up. So in your life, just as it is, are you lifting? Are you doing what you need to do so that you can lift others? Are you lifting yourself enough so that you can lift others?
My invitation to you today is: Whatever it is that is in your heart to offer, even if you never make a penny from it – do that! And, whatever it is that you need to do, even if the whole world is watching – do that! Give the gift of YOU no matter what.
Watch the full video here: