THE BLOG
01/06/2013 10:43 am ET Updated Mar 08, 2013

The Joy of the Purposeless Life

Let's talk about another cliff that we are facing at this time of year. No, not the fiscal cliff, but the "Let's Figure Out My New Year's Resolutions" cliff. If the prospect of sitting down and summoning your purposeful intentions for the upcoming 2013 year daunts you a little, take heart, you are not alone.

It's that time of year when spiritual and self-help leaders encourage us to take stock of our past year's accomplishments (or, God forbid, lack of) and summon our next year's. Now is the time to identify our goals and write down our New Year's resolutions along with the steps we commit to take in order to manifest our dreams and visions into reality.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for taking inspired action to fulfill our goals. A clear, organized mind is the best asset to success. I am also an enthusiastic visionary and planner. However, the "let's empower ourselves" line too often gets blurred with the "let's find our true purpose" line, leaving many people unnecessarily scrambling to find this chimeric, pied-piperish big goal which eludes capture: our life purpose.

There are countless courses out there to help us define our life's overriding purpose. None of them are free, and most of them are helping someone else's business purpose. If you are like me, you've tried a few with very little long-lasting success. Sure, our worth barometer gets pumped up for a while. The excitement of finally aligning ourselves with our true destiny is a "high" that sells at a hefty price!

Invariably though, like any high that is generated from outside sources, this one is followed by a disappointing low when our life goal seems to be shifting through the fingers of destiny. Hmm.... Well, maybe that wasn't our real purpose after all. Maybe we should still search our minds and hearts and find the big one, the one that will carry us through life without ever having to ponder the big questions again.

If only it should be that easy, right? The truth is that very few people have an identifiable, sustainable life vocation, or true calling, that shapes their walk through life and keeps them centered, from the inside out, to fulfill their actions in the world. These people are easily recognizable when we meet them: Their life is a continuous expression of the work they are doing in the world. They have dedicated their entire being to their cause, regardless of success or failure (this is an important distinction that the self-help community generally fails to mention), and oftentimes the cause eclipses their own personal needs or the needs of people around them. Their purpose on earth is to embody their cause and to shepherd it to the world.

These blessed souls are far and few in between. The rest of us are beating to a different drum, the human life drum. Our purpose may not look like anything special or distinct to the outside eye, however, it is no less powerful and worth living. But you won't find it by taking a course or filling out a questionnaire. This purpose is intimately personal and unfolding moment to moment. It is so close to us, woven into our daily lives, that we usually miss it altogether because we are busy looking elsewhere, again, for the big one.

What if our purpose is exactly who we are at this very moment and what we are doing right now? Ask yourself: Which part of me really wants to nail down this elusive life purpose? Is it my mind, my heart, my soul, or my ego? Am I confusing my passions, hobbies, or work endeavors for my life purpose? If you innocently inquire within, in silence, and open yourself for honest answers to come to you, you may be pleasantly surprised. Chances are you will also feel a sense of relief and peace from stopping, even if just momentarily, the self-created drama of hunting down the overriding reason why you are on the earth!

The soul doesn't need a reason to be here. It just is. We, as human beings alive on the earth, are completely purposeful. Every breath we take and move we make are right on target. If we don't have the awareness to recognize that the ambition of purpose clouds our true, authentic calling, then we may need to spin on the spiritual wheel a while longer. Most of us know better, but we pretend not to. Let's face it, it's easier to continue the search or to try several important life purposes on, than to settle into living life in the present moment and to show up for it exactly as we are.

A lot of people accomplish a great deal of good in the world and the holiday season brims with heartwarming stories of exceptional expressions of human compassion. But, authentic purpose doesn't need to look important or to affect change. As a matter of fact, it may not have any outwardly expression. How about that for a new concept? Maybe purpose is still a way for the egocentric mind to steer us further away from living a life anchored in peace and love. It keeps us looking over there, while life is happening over here.

I speak from personal experience, believe me. I tried to identify the important reason I am on this earth, and every time I did (or I thought I did), life always pushed me forward and purpose which seemed set in stone yesterday looks very different today. The rush of excitement and the feeling of victory that I felt were temporarily comforting, but they were followed by real sadness and disappointment when the density of purpose gave way to a less tangible, yet much more powerful, simple state of being. Over the years, purpose became softer, less ego-identifiable. It went from being an outward expression of my deepest desires and goals to an inward wisdom that dropped into my heart and quieted the search.

There is a difference between fulfilling our worldly desires, our dreams, our hopes and merging entirely with our life experience. One doesn't negate the other, but if finding the big purpose keeps us living on the outskirts of our lives, we are not there yet. Purpose to the ego looks very different than purpose to the entire being that we are. It' s ok to leave it undefined, or even to not find it! Life's journey takes care of keeping us right on purpose, whether we recognize it or not.

My purpose is to live life as it comes, to weather the ups and downs and all the in-betweens with an open heart, to be responsible for my actions and reactions. I have goals and ambitions fueled by an enormous amount of passion. Some of these goals get accomplished and many of them do not. That's life. If there is another overriding purpose to my life, I am happy to say that it is none of my business! If you have an overriding purpose, congrats and enjoy the feeling! But if you don't, I invite you to join me and to relax in the knowingness that we are on a fantastic life ride full of opportunities to feel the full spectrum of human emotions -- including the joy of a purposeless life.

Toni Emerson is a writer, a holistic coach and a spiritual activist.

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