“Life purpose is a choice rather than an experience. It’s something we decide about life.” – Dr. Eric Maisel
Just coming off the Christmas/Yule holiday, many have watched the perennial favorite It’s a Wonderful Life. (Were you among them? I admit I’ve never watched it all the way through. I need to remedy that!).
But, what if you’re not aiming for a wonderful life but, rather, a meaningful one?
But the book penned by him that I’ve found the most helpful has been Life Purpose Boot Camp: The 8-Week Breakthrough Plan for Creating a Meaningful Life. If you’ve ever struggled with existential angst—particularly questions of personal meaning, and especially if you’re a creative of any type—I feel you’d benefit greatly from this book (I know I have).
In the Myers-Briggs typology, the profiles most likely to experience this kind of angst are NFs (iNtuitive Feelers). The combination of the imaginative, idealistic and OMG-all-the-potential! of the iNtuitve persuasion coupled with Feeling’s subjectivity and relativism is a brew that flails, quests, gropes and/or gnashes the teeth in the search for meaning.
You can watch a brief interview about how to articulate life purpose below:
The interviewer asks Dr. Maisel for some examples of life purposes. He offered these:
- Strong Relationships
- Doing the Next “Right” Thing (Living According to One’s Principles)
- Making Value-Based Meaning
It can be in “menu” form (listing what’s important to you)—or in crafting statements that encompass several things (incorporating values from your “menu” of life purposes).
And, what we find meaningful five years ago (or even last year) may not be all that meaningful this year.
As we change, so do our values, priorities and—yes—our life purposes.
Dr. Maisel goes on to stress that the most important component to meaningful living is to orient yourself, each day, towards your life purpose.
In the interview—and in Week 7 of the book—he explains how to create what he calls a Life Purpose Icon—a tangible image (or symbol) that captures your life purpose choices.
Just a universal symbols like a cross, Star of David or pentagram evoke great significance and associations for some religious folks, a personal symbol can also become a strong icon anchoring us in our deepest values—as well as a motif leading us to our best selves and a life full of meaning. (I just got an image of Batman’s Bat Signal glowing in the sky… Ha!).
So taking Dr. Maisel’s examples from the interview, how might we distill those life purposes into icons? Well, it will be personal, of course. But here are some symbols that I’ve brainstormed:
Activism – A symbol hinting at the type of activism, perhaps? Social justice may be Scales. Environmentalism might be a Tree. Animal rights could be a favorite furry, scaled or feathered creature. Non-violent resistance could be a peace sign. Some health advocates associate colors with particular diseases they’d like raise awareness for (e.g. pink for breast cancer, purple for Alzheimer’s, red for AIDS, multi-color puzzle piece of Autism, etc.).
Service – An outstretched hand? Connecting hands? A wrench?
Strong Relationships – A chain? Two tethered hearts? Stick people in a circle?
Creativity – Painter’s palette? Quill pen? Musical notes? Light bulb?
Doing the Next “Right” Thing (Living According to One’s Principles) – Exclamation mark? Check mark? Asterisk? Justice or Judgement Tarot card?
Obviously, there’s no wrong way to create a Life Purpose Icon because it’s personal—whatever is meaningful to you.
In this vein, choosing a Word of the Year (or three words) is another way to focus on what truly matters to you. Over at Inc.com, Megy Karydes shares her 5 Tips on Crafting an Inspirational Mantra (that you can use all year long). For some, this method is more goal-oriented rather than meaning-oriented—but you can still use it to distill your chosen life purposes.
At qz.com, Rose Spinks encourages us NOT to make New Year’s Resolutions (she calls them a “scam”) but, instead, create what she calls a Life Thesis. I love how she sums up her article:
As it turns out, when you take away expectations and shame and pressure, humans tend to be rather intelligent about choosing what’s good for them. Chances are, if you craft a thesis that truly honors what you want your life to look like, your daily habits and actions will align to create that life, too. It’ll feel less like a moving target, and more like finding your center of gravity.
After seeing three Tarot books published in 2018 (!)—five full-length books in the last ten years—I feel a drawing towards process. I’m moving away from words and mandates like “productivity”, “publicity”, “sales”, “accomplishment”, “professional” and “business”. In fact, as I was talking earlier this evening to my husband (about, what else…meaning!—especially in terms of art), I uttered the phrase No End In Mind.
That is, play. Creativity for creativity’s sake. Enjoying the journey without a destination.
You don’t see a 3-year-old ponder self-worth, artistic prowess or marketability, right?
My values are changing. Have changed.
And so are some of my Life Purposes.
I’ll make some icons to reflect those—as touchstones for the upcoming year. Reminders of where I’m at now (not where I was, or even where I think I want to be).
What about you, dear Reader? Have you pondered your Life Purposes lately? Made choices as to what they are? Or even created icons, symbols or talismans to reflect those Life Purposes? Do share in the comments below!