What absolutely lights you up inside? By “lights you up”, I mean, fills you with passion, joy, and enthusiasm for more of this thing/person/situation. Do you know the answers to these questions? We can be lit up by an inherently positive experience, such as collecting old cars, creating art, cooking for others, traveling, writing, sports, etc. Or, our passion can come for overturning negative issues. For instance, eradicating sex slavery, overturning racism, feeding the hungry, finding a cure for a disease, etc. Humans experience passion for many things in life. However, most of us have a strong passion that lives in our hearts, blood and souls.
Many people already know their “passion” and are living energized and guided by it, but some humans are not so aware. Today’s blog covers the anxiety caused by confusion regarding the meaning and purpose in our lives! This may sound like a 1st world problem to some, but this struggle can cause great ennui and significant anxiety in human beings.
Listen to George Bernard Shaw’s quote about living with meaning and purpose. “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” While I am sure none of my readers are “feverish selfish little clods”, due to dominant cultural messages many of us can become confused about why we are alive and what we hope to gain from our time here in this universe.
“Have it your way, & look out for number one”, are predominate cultural messages most of us have heard repeatedly, but are they wise slogans? To live my life only for myself, in sole pursuit of my own happiness, does not bring a sense of meaning, purpose, or even long-term contentment. Living only for oneself may seem like the American dream as evidenced by some movies, TV shows, & popular music. However, if you believe having it all and always getting our way is the preferred option for human beings, why are selfish people so unhappy? You would need to turn a blind eye to the gossipy papers and magazines. You would have to ignore the often poor behavior, addiction problems, and relational betrayals that seem ubiquitous to many Celebrities no matter what their race or culture.
There is plenty of evidence that George had a good understanding of some of the benefits of living with meaning and purpose. If you look at studies of generosity and happiness, a very strong correlation is always discovered. Another benefit of generosity is a strong decrease in anxiety levels, along with an increase in awareness of how all humans are connected. I have volunteered overseas in developing countries. I have witnessed first hand, races of people who have very little material goods, but are full of love, joy, and gratitude for simply being alive and having a family. Many seem to have a strong sense of purpose, living for the good of the group, tribe, city, etc.
But you needn’t go overseas to help others, to make a difference, or to develop a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Those options are available right in your own hometown. It helps to know your passion, your purpose. What is your sense of purpose in life, why do you believe you are you here? These do not have to be spiritual questions, though they often are. They are great questions to ask ourselves as we move forward in life. It can be easy to spend years on auto-pilot, just making a living, collecting possessions, buying every new device, and just getting by. Rather than putting effort and time into crafting a life that fits our desires, purpose, and passions.
Frederick Buechner wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meets.” Though these words were written many years ago, they still are relevant. As I have attempted to live these words my life has deepened and become richer than I could have imagined.
So, all that said, What is your meaning and purpose? What really lights you up inside? How does your sense of being a part of the human race impel you to reach out and make a small (or large) difference in your sphere of influence, or in the world in general. We tend to admire those people who make a great difference. People like, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, The Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, Oprah, etc., but we might not consider what kind of effort and sacrifice it cost them. What passions and desires for the world’s betterment lives or lived in their breasts? And, how much time, money and energy have they sowed into the field of their passions and in the culture at large.
Being a hero/heroine is something many of us aspire to, Joseph Campbell spoke copiously about the heroes journey. Though, to become One also means that we must struggle, sweat, and often suffer, three things most of us don’t enjoy much. But great passion and great deeds come from great dreams and great effort. What great or small dreams live in our hearts, sometimes unknown and maybe unspoken? If we are not already living them out, can we begin to connect with them, begin to listen to them? Every great journey begins with a small simple step. What is yours?
1.) What does light you up? Is it easy to answer this question? Perhaps you have several things, which one burns brightest for you? If you don’t know, take some time over the next weeks to perhaps listen to your heart, to your life, and to the circumstances that you find yourself in.
2.) What dreams are you already living out that began with a passion? What bigger dreams may you be a bit afraid of trying? If so, besides fear, is there any other blockage to beginning to live toward your dream?