“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you figure out why.” – Mark Twain, birth name Samuel Clemens, American author and humorist, most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1835-1910)
One of the seeming great mysteries in life is why we’re here and what we’re supposed to do with this life we’ve been given. Many of us struggle for years trying to find the answer – as if that answer is suddenly supposed to pop into our heads or appear before us like a shining beacon in a dark and stormy night. If only it were that simple, right?
Still, the goal to discover your life’s purpose does have merit and is something that each of us should spend some time and effort on. It isn’t going to consume our every waking moment, nor should we allow it to become an obsession. So how, then, do we set about finding, discovering, learning about and embarking upon our life’s purpose?
We do this one day at a time, just like anything else. For one thing, we can’t inhabit any other time than the present moment. We don’t live in the past, for that is over. Similarly, we cannot be in the future, for that time has not yet arrived. All we have is the here and now. In this, there is tremendous liberation. We can let go of the baggage (the guilt, shame, pain and depression) of the past and not concern ourselves with worries about the future. Instead, dive in and tend to what needs doing now, finding pleasure in the smallest actions, interacting with others on a deep and personal level, and feeling the peace and appreciation that comes with accomplishing goals that we deem worthwhile.
Yet, even with a concentration on the present, sometimes the proverbial light bulb does go off and we experience the brilliant clarity of knowing – or feeling – why we’re here. It might be on the birth of our first child that we know instinctively that we are here in order to bring this life into existence, to welcome and nurture it and love it without reservation. Sometimes after a near-death experience or a significant personal tragedy all things become clearer. We don’t agonize over the minute details of life but see what’s truly important to pay attention to. Therein we might find our life’s purpose – or get a better sense of why we’re here, even if what we’re supposed to do is still a bit vague.
What if you live every day doing each action to the best of your ability and still don’t have a clue why you’re here, and what your ultimate purpose in life really is? This isn’t something to worry about. Illumination often comes in small increments, like a glimpse of someone familiar through a gauzy curtain. You get a quick glance, but don’t yet see the whole. And that’s fine too. Sometimes the briefest of looks is enough to ignite the fire of enthusiasm, ratchet up the motivation, increase the curiosity and fuel action.
Life is lived in action, not passivity. To discover your life’s purpose may take some time, but the efforts you expend in living will make the discovery all the more worthwhile when it does happen.