This week’s post was going to be about how finding your life purpose was nothing more than cultivating what it is that brings you joy.
This idea hatched after watching a fascinating conversation between Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo about Gilbert’s new book that I can’t wait to read, Big Magic. And I saw the joy that came from Gilbert as she discussed her work, and it clicked that no matter what kind of work a person does, whether write or save the environment or make coffee, that work brings joy if done well and with the right intention.
And I wondered: What if it all the doing, the purpose-finding, that we obsess over is superfluous? What if the underlying purpose of it all was to fill the world with more joy?
But then I had a few rough days last week of not feeling good enough and like my hard work wasn’t bringing results fast enough. And even though the work felt meaningful, it hardly felt joyful.
Then I remembered something else Gilbert said: figuring out your life purpose is really a matter of deciding which shit sandwich you want to eat. Because nothing in life is perfect or easy, and really loving something and committing requires the willingness to eat the corresponding shit sandwich.
Gilbert shared the story of another really talented writer she knew who gave up because he couldn’t eat those gnarly sandwiches. And she looked at those sandwiches and said, “Are you going to eat that? Because I’ll have it.”
That’s how much she loved writing — enough to waitress and collect nothing but rejection slips for years. Yes, Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer whose Eat, Pray, Love inspired a movement and was made into a movie — basically the epitome of success for a writer. And she persevered through years of rejection notices and waiting tables to get to where she is now.
Does that sound like, “Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were once walls?”
I follow a lot self-help/enlightenment gurus on Instagram, and one in particular is always talking about following the path of ease. “What feels easy and expansive?,” she asks. “Do that.” But sometimes really important things cause a tremendous amount of resistance, and sometimes that resistance is the signal you’re on the right path.
I mention this not to poo-poo someone else’s idea that has clearly worked for her, but to say that it’s okay to struggle, and sometimes we need to do the hard things because they’ll create long-term joy. Perhaps meaning is a better litmus test for life purpose than ease.
What feels meaningful? What’s important to you? What do you continue to do even though it’s hard?
This doesn’t always pertain to life purpose. You may feel resistance to meditating, working out, eating healthy foods — any number of things that are good for you but may feel difficult at the time. Some days I force the broccoli down, not because I like it, but because it’s good for me.
Some days, you make decisions based not on who you are right now, but who you want to become.
Because most good things in life come from hard work and perseverance, from continuing even when you’d rather be watching The Real Housewives.
The tricky thing is that sometimes we do need to stop. Our body or life sends us signs that we’re headed the wrong direction. How can we tell the difference?
I think that sometimes things don’t feel right. They’re hard, but they don’t feel meaningful or good. And then there’s pushing through when the little person in your mind is saying, haha, you can’t do this because you suck. And that’s when it’s probably good to keep going.
Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference, and that’s why it’s so important to know ourselves, so we can develop that understanding of when to push and when to stop.
I felt inspired to write this note was because my own mind gets so caught up in all these messages that things just happen and it’s magic. We all get sold on this idea of ease because we so desperately want it to be true, and nobody ever talks about their struggle — especially struggles related to life purpose.
That’s a big reason why I do it. Because I know I’m not the only person who struggles. People give up all the time because it’s hard, and they think, “Well maybe it’s hard because it’s not meant to be.” That’s a shame. Good things come to those who persevere, and it makes the victory that much sweeter.
The spirituality behind this is: How can we persevere, doing those things that feel meaningful while staying full of as much joy as possible?
How can we pursue the meaningful, even during the difficult times, while keeping perspective and realizing that our life purpose and work isn’t the only thing that matters, but rather one thing that matters?
The more we can connect with the universe, the more we know intuitively whether we’re on the right track. And frankly, the right track doesn’t always feel easy and full of light. Sometimes things feel hard. Sometimes we just have to eat a shit sandwich because it’s the right thing to do. Because it tastes bad, but something deep, deep inside ourselves keeps screaming, “JUST DO IT!”
And then you do it and you feel limitless, like you can conquer the world because if you can do that, you can do anything.
What has been your experience while searching or living your life purpose? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image by Daniel Ramirez via Flickr