Do you have useful purpose in your life?

July 22, 2022

I saved these quotes over time, and they seem to go well together:

“The important thing is that men should have a purpose in life. It should be something useful, something good.”  (Dalai Lama)

“The purpose of life is to be useful to be honorable to be compassionate to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I suppose that most people don’t view their lives as being useless. After all they work and support themselves, and perhaps others. That would seem to be useful, but I think the Dalai Lama and Emerson both had something else in mind when they said that we need to be useful.

The purpose that both had in mind was to be doing things for others or to make life better for others. But why?

In Philippians 2:2-8 we read – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” 

Another Bible interpretation of being useful is to bear the fruit of the vine.

In John 15 we read that Jesus said – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

What is the fruit of the vine?

The fruit of the vine and the fruit of the Spirit are the same and we are told –

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23)

So, in this sense, the purpose of our lives is to live in such a way that we share those attributes with our fellow man. By doing so we will make their lives better and fulfill the purpose that both the Dalai Lama and Emerson had in mind.

Don’t let the Bible quotes comparing what your actions to those of Christ intimidate you. The intent is that you learn from the life of Christ and try to emulate it as best you can by being conscious of the fruits of the Spirit and practicing them in your day-today life. Each day you can look at that list from Galatians and turn each item on that list into an action statement for your life that day, i.e. “I will show kindness to others” or “I will be patient with others” or maybe “I will exercise self-control when dealing with others.”

If you consciously do those things each day, you will be doing useful things by making the lives of others better. You will have purpose in your life and your life will be better, too.

Live well. Have purpose.

Be a winner today…

July 16, 2016

“There are victories of the soul and spirit.  Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.”  (Elie Wiesel)

The quote above from Elie Wiesel was used on the Jack’s Winning Ways blog recently. Jack went on to relate a story that you may have seen in the news – I recently read of a female softball player who was about to score the winning run in a championship game when she turned her ankle, fell to the ground, and couldn’t get up.  The 3rd baseman and the shortstop on the opposing team picked her up and carried her to home plate for the score.  That’s an example of winning by losing.

winner-loserAs a society we have become too fixated on score keeping, on winning and losing, on a zero sum game philosophy of life that somehow relates winning for one person meaning that someone else must lose. One of our presidential candidates seems to take great pleasure in characterizing people with whom he disagrees on various topics as “losers”.

To my way of thinking, if you can create a win-win situation, instead of a win-lose situation; then everyone can be happy because everyone feels like a winner. Life doesn’t always work out that way and sometimes you end up losing, whether it is in a sports event or maybe at work or in your personal life. In those times it is often hard to see a win for yourself.

Perhaps the win is in how you handle that adversity. It is a win of the soul. Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela endured years and years of what most would see as a loss, suffering in prison for his anti-apartheid activities. Yet Mandela did not let his imprisonment conquer is will and his soul. At the end of each day of imprisonment Mandela could claim another day of winning – a victory of his soul and spirit over those who sought to break him.

In our day-to-day lives, there are many opportunities to win, perhaps by sacrificing of your time or money in service to others. Is it a win if you give up doing something that you caregivermight have wanted to do in order to help someone who perhaps struggles to do anything at all? I think so. Is it a win to spend time with a shut-in who otherwise might just sit and stare out the window at traffic going by? I think so. Is it a win to take the money that you otherwise might have spent on another pair of shoes or another outfit and donate it instead to help those without any shoes and standing naked or in tatters? I think so. What do you really lose in those situations, when compared to how much you gain (win) in your soul?helper

Perhaps as you start each day, instead of praying “Lord, let me win today” you should focus your prayer instead on, “Lord let me find a win in service to You and others today.”  If you can achieve that you are a winner and the rest will take care of itself. Be a winner today!

You may find pleasure, but joy finds you…

November 20, 2015

 “Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within.”  –  Eckhart Tolle

That’s an interesting little quote with a depth that is not apparent upon a casual read.  We do have many things in our life that bring pleasure, sometimes fleeting and sometimes memorable. We even see this is our lexicon, i.e. “It was a pleasure to meet you”; “it brings me pleasure”; ”It was a pleasurable experience”; “I took great pleasure in that.” The experience of pleasure is almost always associated with something or someone external to our self.

mother and children
Joy on the other hand is most often discovered from within. Of the two emotions, joy is the more powerful and lasting and the more meaningful. I like the way that Rollo May put it –

Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity.”

Joy is found in doing, rather than just thinking and most often in doing for others.caregiver I’ve written a lot here about service to others as being a noble and worthwhile goal, but it is also a path to joy, as was expressed well by Rabindranath Tagore –

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

I have also written here a few times about the effects of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) on our lives and how it holds us back from doing the things that we want to do and the things that we know are right and that we should be doing. We hide behind walls that we build to protect us from the things that we fear. They may be physical walls, but most often they are mental and emotional walls that we construct. Those walls prevent us from reaching out to help that person who is somehow “not like us”. The walls prevent us from trying things that are new and different, especially if they involve people who are new and different. We build those walls to protect us from hurt and unhappiness and sadness; but, as Jim Rohn says,

heart in barbed wire
“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy.”

The point is that you cannot go through life protecting yourself from all pain and disappointments, from all bad decisions, from all failed relationships, from the sadness or the hurt that life has in it. Out of the survival of those travails that life throws at you will come joy. Ralph Ransom put it this way

 “Before the reward there must be labor. You plant before you harvest. You sow in tears before you reap joy.”

So, let life happen and find joy in the journey. Snoopy joy

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. – Greg Anderson

Let joy into your life. Don’t build those walls to keep everything out.  Have a great and joyful weekend. I joy in writing this post and hope that you find some joy in it too.

It’s all about the pursuit of your purpose…

March 19, 2015

I forget why I was there, but I saw this quote on web page of quotes recently –

“Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of Happiness” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

I thought about it and decided that I might twist it around a bit and say – “Life finds fulfillment and happiness in the pursuit of purpose.”

I’ve posted here before about having a purpose in one ‘s life and actually most people may have more than one purpose going on and they don’t all have to be helping handsserious, “change the world” types of purpose. Parents often express purpose in the raising of their children and making sure that they make the best of themselves that they can. As the children grow up and leave, many shift their life’s purpose to helping others. I suppose that there is purpose in pursing happiness; although I’m not so sure about feeling a sense of fulfillment out of that pursuit. I suspect that happiness and a sense of fulfillment might better be described as being by-products of the successful pursuit of a purpose in life.

The dictionary definition of purpose is – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. In life, you could substitute someone into the definition to come up with “the reason for which someone exists.”

For many just the continuing struggle to exist at all supplants purpose. Survival isn’t really purpose, but it’s all that many people have time for in life. For those who are blessed with a life in which the basics needed to survive are taken care of dispairthe next level of consciousness often hungers for some purpose to it all. For some that comes easily; those driven by a passion to serve and help others. For some it is a lifelong quest in search of something about which to become passionate. Many pass through phases where they mistake the pursuit of excellence in a sport or a hobby for purpose. Some allow the pursuit of wealth or power to masquerade as purpose in their lives. Many confuse their love and feelings of responsibility for a life-mate or for their children as their purpose. Certainly there is purpose in protecting and providing for both and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction at a job well done for them. At the end of the day, all of these people find that something is still missing in their lives – real purpose.

So, before I go too far down that deep philosophical path, suffice to say that finding your purpose often means finding a way to serve others, to put others needs before your needs and to set aside prejudices and fears about those who may be differentcaring or in need. I have met a number of people who have not only found their purpose, but who have embraced it with a passion that is evident in everything that they do. Sometimes these are people who volunteer at organizations like Meals on Wheels or Community Sharing. Sometimes these are people who have dedicated their lives to working with and saving those who have troubled lives. Sometimes they are just relentless fund-raisers for worthy causes and sometimes they just dish out soup at shelters.

You can kind of tell when you meet one of these people because they are usually handshakealways happy, even when they are dead tired from the toils involved in pursuing their purpose. They’re happy  because they are also people who are feeling fulfilled at the end of each day and who are excited about getting up the next day and doing more. How many of us can say that about our daily lives?

Maybe most of us just haven’t found our purpose yet. I get glimpses of purpose during periods of volunteer work; but I can’t honestly say that I have found my purpose yet. I’m pretty sure that I won’t find a single, big, show-stopping purpose for my life; but, rather, that a bunch of things that I can have passion for and find fulfilment in doing may be what I sense that I’m missing. Perhaps writing about it and about things like the human trafficking problem that I recent wrote about is also a part of my purpose. I just feel like there is more; so, I continue to search.

Have you found your purpose(s)? I you have, good for you; and if you haven’t, keep searching.

Only you can make it all right…

July 3, 2014

“Everything will be all right in the end.  If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”  (From The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel–British Film), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I like that line from the movie because underlying it is the thought to never give up, never quit, never reach the end until things are all right – until you have reached whatever goal that you had for that situation. That doesn’t necessarily always have to be a win; it just has to be an outcome that you are happy or satisfied with at the time.

In recent World Cup matches, playing to a tie, scoreless or otherwise in some matches was all right – the team still advanced in many of those cases. In life coming to a point in which neither side has to feel a loss is all right, too. Sometimes that is a win-win situation, where both sides feel like they scored a win in the deal (which is what we strive for in the real estate business); and sometimes it’s just deciding to quit while neither side is “ahead” and declaring a truce on whatever issue was driving the battle (a good strategy in marriage many time).

angry coupleThe alternative to accepting a tie or achieving a win-win is the dark side of this little saying. That occurs when people focus on an end-game that requires revenge. Seeking revenge means that the game can never be over, since one side or the other will be put in the position of having to get even again. That is a no-win game that should be avoided. For some people it is hard to find a way to stop that cycle, to call a truce and abandon the revenge game. For them, that would feel like a loss, which of course they have been fighting to avoid. For most, perhaps it involves embracing the concept of forgiveness. Here’s a good quote that I found about that –

 “Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, ‘You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me.’ It’s saying, ‘You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.”  ― Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller

If you think about that little quote, it is allowing you declare a win to yourself while reaching a draw caringon whatever issue has been driving the relationship between you and the other party. You have forgiven them for whatever you believe they did or whatever position they have taken. Boy, will that frost their patootie. Now, in order to get revenge they’ll have to forgive you, too. Maybe you can have a contest now to see who is the most forgiving of the other. All right then, it’s not the end until everything all right.

Getting back on the plus-side of life; there are things in life that will never be all right – homelessness, hunger, abuse, discrimination and more; so, there will always be things that you can continue to work on making right. You can join the efforts in service with other volunteers to deal with those issues and always have something to keep you busy. At the end of each day you will have a reason to get up the next day and continue the battle, because it’s not all right yet, so it’s not over.

Maybe you can’t tackle world hunger or homelessness or abuse and bullying, but you can do something about them where you live and wrestling them down to zero in your town or village or city will feel like a major win. All you have to do is look around you and see the things that aren’t right and then start doing something about them. Start today. Start on your block and work your way out from there.

Remember that it’s not over yet because everything is not all right. You can make the difference.

Eleven Hints for Life – 11 of 11

March 20, 2014

11. Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, ends with a tear. When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one smiling and everyone around you is crying. – Unknown

babyWow, this little hint certainly covers a lot of ground – from birth to death – and in between has time to witness the beginning and end of a relationship.

Interestingly, it harkens back to tip # 6 about smiles and smiling. I think it also borrows from tip # 7, since you get to the end of life with a smile, not by holding back; but, rather by doing. The smile on your face is because you don’t have a bucket list, you have a list of things accomplished in life.

I suspect that the Irish have the right idea about funerals in their concept of a wake – a celebration of the life of the funeraldeceased. After all, that person is now in the only place where he/she will live forever – in our memories.  So, why not celebrate those memories and have a good laugh about those times, rather than a tear.

I would add to the advice of our hint some of these quotes –

“There isn’t so much to be afraid of, out there. I can remember thinking it was funny to find that out, on the last night of my life; I’d spent the rest of it being afraid of everything.”

― Nick Hornby

“When the time comes for you to leave this earth, if it doesn’t become a lesser place with your absence, then you have wasted your life.”

― Shaun Hick

So, this hint is really more about advice to the living than end-game advice to the dying.  Don’t waste your life and don’t be afraid of everything. Remember that a life given in service to others is one that will never be forgotten. Having said that, it is important to note that a life given in service does not always mean that you have to drop everything, sell everything and abandon everything and run off to some foreign land to serve soup to the poor. Sometimes we get hung caringup on what how we can serve others or how much. We get worried that our little daily acts of service don’t each have much impact. I would offer this quote –

“The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts.” ― Gorden B Hinckley

Do what you can, where you can and when you can to serve the needs of others. Some days that might involve doing big things and on others it might just mean making a kind gesture to someone who just needs encouragement. The idea is to get out of your self-centered mode of living and recognize and act upon the needs of those around you.

Finally, here’s my own personal Bonus Hint – Hint # 12

For a long and happy life, exercise three things daily – your body, your mind and your faith. Have a great life!