What’s my Life Purpose? What’s Yours? This generation has become obsessed with the quest for finding their role in life, their ‘thing’. This is what happens when you have too much free time, and too many choices. You get very confused and despondent as a feeling of ‘I’m missing out on something special’ sneaks over you.
The Search Is On
Countless books, guru’s, and motivational type folk are constantly telling us to, Find Your Life Purpose to achieve inner happiness. Not satisfaction, not contentment, but an almost delirious joy of abundant, thrilling, ‘synapse searing’ level of happiness. It’s out there, all you have to do is find it…
A Quick History Lesson…
In the past, the working classes and the poor made up the bulk of the population, and their ‘life purpose’ was to survive for as long as possible in the face of some pretty overwhelming odds. Plagues, poor food quality, lack of clean water, and war all combined to shorten the average persons’ life span dramatically. It is only in recent times that we in the industrialised / civilised / modern world have had access to better food, clean water, and a safer environment (less wars, more laws!) as well as a reduction in the number of hours worked each day.
No longer do we labour day in day out, living hand to mouth. Modern technology has combined to give us even more leisure time. Household technology such as washing machines have reduced the ‘man’ hours needed to maintain hygiene. Industrialisation means that no longer do we need to forage, competing with other members of our society for food, timber, and any other resources needed to stay alive. Now, all we have to do is drive to the nearest store, wander up and down air-conditioned aisles packed with foods, and return home. Yet, amazingly, we still complain at having to do that!
At work, we now take for granted a 40 hour week. At the very least, many of us get two days off each week, plus public holidays, and best of all, 4 weeks off a year to travel about. Pretty tough eh? It was never like this in the past. In the not so distant past, workers only had 1 day off each week, and the church demanded that you spend most of that sitting in a pew. Holidays were only for the idle rich, or royalty.
Back to the Future
So, with all the free time our modern lifestyle has given us, all the benefits of leisure time, family time, travel, and access to great medical facilities, you’d think we’d all be pretty damned happy. Apparently not.
In fact, on average, I think we’ve actually managed to achieve a level of misery that would stun our grandparents. If my Grandfather was able to see my house, car, conditions of work, and how I spend my free time, he would marvel at my success. Compared to his house, and limited working conditions I’m living like a king. But am I happier than him? Probably not.
You see, his life was pretty simple. As long as he had access to limitless cups of strong black tea (some with a dash of rum), tobacco, and some time in his boat, he was satisfied. His home was a fairly spartan affair, and the range of technology inside very limited, a washing machine, a gas oven, and a radio (really, that was it. Even into the 1970’s, when the only other addition was a black and white tv set). He saw houses go from gas lights to electric lights. He didn’t own a car, he owned a pushbike. It was all he needed to get from A to B. Buses and trains were available for any longer trips.
Compare his house and life with todays’ average home. I’ve got more technology in my dishwasher than he had in his entire life. I live in an air-conditioned mansion compared to his little, weatherboard two bedroom house. A two bedroom house that that was home to him and seven others! And their pets (including dogs, chooks, goats and horses).
He was content. And by comparison I should be living a life of undying elation, but for some reason, there’s a feeling inside that is niggling me. Is this all there is? Having more, buying more, wanting more?
If buying more stuff bought joy, then as a society we would all be walking around with manic grins plastered all over our faces. But when you go to the shopping centres, or downtown, you’ll notice that most people aren’t smiling, or looking very happy at all. We’ve all got the same illness… Is this it? Is that all there is?
A Life Well Lived
There is something missing today from the majority of our lives that wasn’t a consideration for previous generations. Serving others. Giving up free time for the benefit of your community.
You see, I was fortunate enough to read a eulogy that had been sent to me this week, and afterwards I sat in front of my computer like a bull that had been struck with a large hammer. A life of service = a life of happiness. A life of selfless giving made this person very special, gave her character, and a driving sense of purpose. There appeared to be no ulterior motive in her decision to take on the burden of more charity work other than to make her community a slightly better place. Contrast that with the modern motto of “What’s in it for me?”
The other thing that struck me reading the eulogy, were the things that were missing. For example, there was no mention of what type of house the person lived in, how many gadgets she had, what ‘latest gear’ was available for her use, what TV shows she liked, how fancy her clothes were, etc. Instead it was filled with memories of meals cooked, time spent together, the little things she did to make her family happy, places visited, shared memories, both good and bad. Above all else was the legacy of helping her children develop the ability to think for themselves, encouraging them to improve, challenging them to never be satisfied but to keep pushing, to keep finding their boundaries and crossing them. And all this while serving with various community groups, in schools, and sporting clubs! ‘Not Giving’ did not appear to be an option for this wonderful person.
These are the grains of gold that make a full and well lived life.
Serving others, in even the smallest ways, makes you feel wanted, and isn’t that really what we all crave? To live a life of happiness, we must learn to serve, joyfully, and without restraint.
And folks, that is going to be a very hard thing to sell…
Well, my search has only just begun. This year, I was determined to find My Life Purpose. I’ve devoured books, tapes, DVD’s. Spent time in deep thought, pondered possibilities, knuckled down, drawn diagrams, planned and plotted. And I’ve slowly become a better person for all of it. A better person with an awfully long way to go I might add…
My first step will be to start Serving my Family. Seeing my regular tasks around the house, and all the other jobs that I’m doing (or putting off), not as bothersome ‘things’ that keep me from doing the activities that I love doing, but as an expression of my desire to make my family happy. Be it by digging a new garden, reading a bed time story, painting a room in colours that my wife, or children would like, or taking time out to spend some ‘fun’ time with them. Doing the messy jobs, the little annoying tasks cheerfully. Yep, cheerfully. Without complaint, or making self congratulatory (or whiny) noises.
Big Ask 🙂
Serve my community. There isn’t a charity in existence that isn’t screaming for volunteers. Our generation has seen the death of Apex, Lions is on the ropes and bleeding heavily, Meals on Wheels is taking a battering as well. And they’re the biggies. There are countless hundreds of other community groups going begging for lack of volunteers, and they are all worthy, but which one to choose…
Well, feel free to join me over the next few months as I find out…