Have you ever written a piece of poetry? Though I’ve only written a few, there is something wonderfully vulnerable about the process of creating a poem. It’s different from traditional forms of writing. Very. There is a nakedness in the crafting of a poem. As if the soul is being bared and shared with those on the other end. Vulnerable.
Let’s share in this vulnerable moment together. Here is a poem I created this afternoon, after a few days at the coast. It occurred to me on my afternoon walk. Actually I wrote it on that walk, and it is now that I share it with you.
Our darkest hour is nearly here Hold onto what you hold dear, as There will be a prescient light, Which you can call upon tonight
Though pain is life, And life is pain, Know There is no other way
Through strife and hardship We must fight to know the life that’s been brought to light
A journey, Our right, so Don’t fear, and Take flight
In those times Of Darkened night, When the soul is stretched beyond, And there’s fright
Take solace Dear friends And don’t Give up the light
Be true to you, Also take care, and Please don’t despair
Though alone you feel, Alone you are not As we all share the same Birthright
For in our shared humanity Is where Your connection will flourish And last
Through the connections we share The brighter the light becomes As we can all understand Both passion and strife
They are equals you see Both necessary for life
Take care of yourself And love long this life By sharing yourself among those With more plights
Remember always their plights Are sources for all And share with them the resourcefulness You know
A purpose-driven life. What does that mean? Any idea? Okay, well, as with most things, there is no one way to think about purpose, or life. Lots of ways to think about these concepts. And, for sure, they are just that, concepts. As humans we often become confused about the meaning we derive from concepts. Why?
Because we create meaning to make sense of the world. And, we create concepts or stories with the language we use to describe our experience. I’ve written about this in other posts, yet it is also instructive here. Why? Because searching for purpose is something that humans spend a lot of time, and money on. Is it necessary? Not sure? Let’s take a look.
What does purpose have to do with life?
How many times have you heard someone utter the phrase, I found my purpose! Yep, me too. And, I’ve uttered that phrase myself. What’s the issue with this way of thinking?
One issue is that if we find purpose outside of ourselves, then it can be taken away. Make sense? Sometimes people land the job they’ve always wanted, and believe the job, or the company, will deliver the purpose they’ve been looking for.
I lived the majority of my life this way. Yep. True. Yet, what I’ve come to realize in the past three years, is that purpose, like all concepts that are created in language, live inside of us. Period. Then what does that mean for people that are in search of purpose?
It means that they will never find it in the world. Not until they find it within themselves. There really is no other way. What we create within us, can never be taken away. Why? Because we’ve created it, and it lives within us. Not accessible to others, unless we choose to invite them.
This may be hard to believe for some, and for others may make perfect sense. We create purpose in our lives. Period.
We are the active agents in creating purpose, and all other concepts that are derived from language. They come from within. Has always worked this way, and will always continue to work this way. What about people who say they’ve found their purpose, and that their purpose lives in the outside world? Depends.
If they’ve created that purpose from within, then when circumstances change their purpose will remain. However, if their purpose is attached to something that lives in the world, and does not live within them, then that purpose may fade. Why is this so?
Because life is full of change. The world, everything around us and within us, is always in a constant state of change. Constant. And, what happens with change?
Where there is constant change, it is only a matter of time before that which we’ve attached our purpose to also changes. And, when it does, there goes our purpose. Extremely painful. Let me give you an example.
When I was first married, we lived in a couple of different apartments in Los Angeles. After a few years, we were ready to buy a home. Hard to do in LA. However, we persisted, and found one. A lovely little home.
In the time we searched for this house, many people told me things like, owning a home is the best, it is everything people say and more. Because my parents were homeowners, I believed that homewoning was a requirement. Owning a home became my purpose at that time in my life.
It was perfect. Our sons were very little, and we were on our way to homeownership. The issue, you ask? Well, this was in 2004. And, what happened in 2007 and 2008? Yep. The housing crash.
Though we ended up selling the house in LA, and purchasing one in AZ, we ended up foreclosing on that house in 2007. That was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Tons of tears. It was as if a part of me had been ripped right out of me. Why?
Because the purpose I had created in language, lived outside of me. When the house foreclosed, then, it was a visceral experience of loss. Losing something so dear, and so important to me. Really was painful. And, why was it so painful?
Because the concept of purpose that I created was that being a homeowner was not only the next step in my life, but was also a step that would bring me peace and security.
What followed? A ton of shame about foreclosing on that house. Shame followed naturally because I had created a purpose that lived outside of me, and that purpose was attached to a particular way of being, and result. Painful. Yet not the only way to create purpose. There is a different way. Let’s take a look.
How can we create purpose in our lives?
When purpose is created from within, it’s never about what’s outside of you. Not ever. Purpose is derived from the actions you take inside of the manifold things that you do. Period.
The main difference for me, is that I don’t have a particular purpose, outside of living my life fully in every moment. This moment, then the next, then the next. And, the purpose that is derived from within is generalizable to all contexts.
A walk on the beach; a conversation with a friend or loved one, a meeting at work, writing this post. Same. They all feel similar to me today. Was not always the case.
When you have a purpose that starts inside of you, the world looks and feels different. Why? Because you are more present to each moment, and all of the wonder that lives there.
When we are able to get outside of our minds continuous longing to be busy, to find purpose, we can be more still. And, in that stillness, purpose is actually kind of a funny concept. What purpose does one really need in this life, but to live; and, live well?
How do you create purpose? Well, that is up to you. You can look, and be on a continuous quest for something that is already inside of you. Many people, including myself for most of my life, live that way.
Or, you can begin to understand that we are the active agents and creators of our purpose. And, in each moment a purpose can be created from within you, no matter what you are doing. Anything, at any time.
For instance, I am now at the coast for a couple of days. Nice. Upon arriving, I walked on the beach for a little while. Just walked. Was beautiful. Then I came back to the tiny, and I mean tiny, room I’m staying in, and meditated for 30-minutes. Now I’m finishing up this post. Then, I’ll get dinner, and then, don’t know.
Doesn’t matter. What comes in each moment will come; and I’ll see it as it comes. Life is actually quite exhilarating that way. No conceptualization of how it will be, or what I’m supposed to be doing. Just doing. That’s all.
What actions can you take to create purpose in each moment?
Live life fully – whatever you are doing, be present to that context, and fully enjoy each moment. When we are not present, and are thinking about other things, we miss our opportunity to create our inner purpose in that moment.
Be the best iteration of yourself – when we give everything we have in every moment, regardless of what we are doing, we are living purposefully. Give your all, always.
Create your purpose from within – create your purpose from within you, and create it again, and again. Each moment, of every day. That’s living a full life.
Be who you reallyare – your inner purpose will come from who you really are, not a performance based upon who others think you are. Be who you are, and your purpose will show up.
Stay engaged with all that you do – we have so many things that we can do, and contribute to. Phew, so much to do. And, being engaged in all that you do, is important to creating that inner purpose. Engagement means getting the most out of everything you do. Important.
Let go of expectations you have – when we have expectations about how things are supposed to go, we set ourselves up for disappointment. And, there is no purpose in disappointment. Don’t expect, just be present and do.
Alright, there are a few actions you can take to begin to create that inner purpose. Funny. It’s already there, you just need to slow down, be present, appreciate everything that is in front of you, and experience the life that is there to be lived.
Let go of the life you think you should be living, and live the one that is right in front of you. You will see, feel, and believe in your new found purpose, whatever it is.
As I’ve written about in other posts, my father died last July. Up until that time, the only other real death I had been exposed to was that of my grandparents. Not the same thing, when you have a parent pass away.
The pain that came with my father’s passing was excruciating. Yet, it was necessary and needed for me to feel that pain. I’ve spent the better part of my life running from my emotions. Covering them up with drinking, eating, anything really, to keep the pain at bay. Totally unaware and disengaged.
I read a blog post recently about the benefits of crying by Maja on Lampelina, and it reminded me of the necessity and need to be aware of our emotions, and to feel them, and to release them.
When I was unaware of, and disengaged from my emotions, expect for the ones that I was able to feel and release, such as anger and frustration, I had tons of pent up shame, sadness, and grief. Still do. I am now doing these emotions, which means I cry often.
I know when there is a need within me to cry, because the familiar emotions of anger and frustration will surface, which is the first sign that I am holding onto, not paying attention to, and avoiding my true feelings.
Many people live their whole lives this way. One of the issues with this, outside of the negative health ramifications, is that when we avoid difficult emotions, like shame, sadness, and grief, it keeps us from truly living.
We cannot lead a rich and full life without an awareness of our emotional selves. Further, we must regularly work at, or practice our emotions, and be in touch with them, no matter how painful they are. Actually, the more painful the emotions, the more the need to be in touch with them.
Though I have experienced love throughout my life, it is only now that I can fully experience love in a way that is almost painful. It is cliche to write, you must know love to know loss, and you must know loss to know love. However, it is true. More true than I ever really knew.
Today, on this Memorial Day, I’m thinking about my father quite a bit, reflecting upon the pain that he had and held, which went unprocessed. It fills me with great sadness. Yet, I know it happened as it was supposed to. And, I know that one of his legacies is having a son that is in touch with his emotions today, more than ever before.
That I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and get in touch with my emotions means that I can stand for his grandsons, and help them understand, when they are ready, their emotional selves. This is the essence, for me, of love and loss, and the pain that can come in both.
I have never before known pain that functions this way. Pain that is both healing and transformative. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding pain, and that was my confusion. Because it is through pain that we can receive the greatest gifts of understanding.
We can better understand ourselves, and all of those around us. Today, love and loss, and the pain that comes through both, are more alike to me today than ever before. Though I once avoided my pain, I now welcome it, as I know that the pain I feel through love and loss are needed to live the fullest life possible.
I love the ocean. Love. Growing up in Southern California meant that the ocean was never far away, and was, in some way, part of your life. I have tons of memories of going to the beach with my parents as a kid, as a teenager with friends, and less so as an adult, though I have many memories of the time I worked at the beach.
The smell of the salted sea is one of the most profound of those memories. I also always had an inner knowing that it would be there. Just to drive by and take it in, and in those moments, to live in awe and wonder.
As a kid, we took family trips to the beach often. We lived about 30 miles from the beach, which, at that time, was about a 45-minute drive. My sisters, parents, and I would set up in the sand, towels demarcating your space for the day. Then we would play, in the sand and, of course, in the water.
On the way home from the beach, we would always stop for “big sticks.” if you’ve not had a big stick, you are missing out. Well, at least the 7 year-old within me thinks so. These ice cream treats are made out of pineapple and orange, and are delicious on a hot sunny day. Just make sure to not forget them in the car when you get home. They are not so good once they’ve melted, though I’ve eaten many that way.
As I grew older my longing to be at the beach grew. I would often go with friends in the morning, afternoon, or early evening. The time of day mattered less than being there, though you get a different experience dependent on the time you go.
There is something so calming about looking out over the open sea. The vastness of the ocean, it’s size and depth, is hard to comprehend. However, just looking out over it, you, or at least I do, get a sense of the scope of your own self in relation to something that size. Humbling.
When I was a young adult, I used to drive to the beach just to take in the majesty of the open water. On days that were particularly difficult, seeing the ocean created a renewed perspective for me, reminding me that my immediate woes were temporary.
As I’ve mentioned, I also worked at the beach for a time, only blocks from the open water. Drives home during that time were particularly beautiful, taking in the ocean as the sun was beginning to dip behind the horizon. Beautiful, and breathtaking.
When our first child born was little we used to take him to the beach often. He would play in the sand, run around, make sand castles, and splash in the water and waves, just as I did when I was his age.
When our youngest was born, we decided to move from Southern California to Arizona, so our youngest son did not get to know the ocean as his brother, mother, and myself did. Though, he has since, and loves it as we all do.
I remember being in Arizona those first couple of months, being away from the ocean, with no real possibility of seeing or experiencing it. I have to say that that first year, I did have some increased anxiety about being away from the ocean. I felt as if I was boxed in, or in some way limited, without access to the ocean, which I had so come to cherish.
When we decided to move to Oregon, and I was looking into the local culture, I remember finding that the ocean was only 50 miles from where we were moving. Oh Joy! I was so excited. Going to the coast, which is what they call the beach in Oregon, was one of the first things we did, once we were settled.
We’ve take many trips to the Oregon Coast since then, and I do now know that I will, at some point, live, or have a place, at the beach or coast. This I know, like I know that I breathe.
On one of the last trips we made to the coast, sometime at the beginning of last year, I recognized something that I had not thought about, nor really heard in a long time. The sound of the ocean.
Do you remember being little, and picking up a cool seashell, and having someone say, “put it to your ear, and you can hear the ocean.” I remember the first time someone said that to me. I was perplexed, and very little. I did as they instructed, and sure enough, I could hear the ocean. Wow! How cool that was, and how could that be?
Knowing that the shell was capturing ambient noise, was not so important then, nor is it much important now, for it is the memory of the sound, which focused and drew my attention in. As I’ve written here, I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, and part of that draw is the majesty, the beauty, and the vastness. And, it is also the sound.
I love the sound of the ocean, the waves coming in, and going back out. Crashing on the beach head, and against other surf, splashing against the reef, and breakwater. Lovely.
On that trip last year, I also realized something else. The sound of those waves coming in and going back out, I realized were a mirror for our own breath. It sounds exactly like our breathing. Just like it. When I recognized this on that last trip, it was one of the most beautiful realizations I’ve ever had.
Maybe that is part of why I am drawn to the ocean. Because it lives and breathes just like we do. The waves come in and they go back out, in, and out. Just like our breath. It just happens.
I believe we are connected to everything around us. A tree, the sun and moon, the ocean, all of these things live outside of us, and they also live inside of us. All made of the same elements.
I’m so glad that I had that realization last year. It has taken my lifelong love of the ocean and amplified it. Though I don’t get to the coast or beach as often as I like, they are always with me, and within me. I know this to be true. And to be close to the ocean, all I have to do is pay attention to my breathing, and the ocean comes alive. Breathing in and out, just like the waves coming in and out. Again, and again.
I used to believe that inspiration, imagination, and innovation were all concepts that you needed to find. Similar to my post on motivation, I believed these concepts lived outside of me. As if, I could find them somewhere in the world.
And, it is true, we can see something that inspires us to imagine and innovate, however, what we see has very little to do with what we are actually seeing, it is, rather, the filter through which we see that matters.
What we see, and how we see, are products of how we think. If we believe the world is full of inspiration, we will find and see inspiration. If we believe the world is uninspired, then know matter how hard we try, we will not see inspiration.
Obviously, if we find and see inspiration, we will be inspired. And, conversely, if we do not find and see inspiration, we will be uninspired. If this is true, then, we can never really find anything outside of ourselves. What we see is a mirror of how we think. It all starts with us.
Finding inspiration is a process of looking inward. And, looking inward is the only real place you can find anything. It is the process of developing oneself, and creating inspiration that gives birth to imagination and innovation.
Funnily enough, when you find your inspiration, and you begin to imagine, dream, and innovate, these actions double back on themselves. Meaning that once you find inspiration within, your creative capacity is unleashed, and the imagination and innovation that comes forth breads more inspiration. A full circle, if you will.
At this point, you may ask, how, then, does one find their inspiration? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to find your inspiration, yet can tell you how I found mine, which may serve as a catalyst for your own search.
Finding My Inspiration
Finding my inspiration began with a personal quest to understand my own suffering. It started about three years ago when I took a job that, at the time, I was not fully prepared nor developed enough for.
Every morning I would awake to the “I can’t do this” mantra, and after 6 months of this kind of thinking, and a great deal of less sleep than is optimal, I began to question my thinking. At that time, questioning my thinking simply meant that when I had the thought, I can’t do this, or this isn’t working, I would question whether or not that was actually true.
Questioning my thinking, and remembering that the context I was working in was but one aspect of my being, not my whole being, began to shift my thinking. Additionally, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I began to start seeing a life coach once a week, and did two powerful leadership development programs.
The ability to question my thinking, even then at a very minimal level, seeing someone once a week, and developing myself, created a space for me to start creating new thinking patterns.
During that first year, I also worked on my diet, and began, what I called then, breathing. This breathing was my first foray into meditation, which I continue to practice today.
All of these choices helped me be more open, flexible, adaptable, and resilient. These choices also gave me more clarity, which, when working on a dynamic team, in an ever changing and fast paced environment is very important.
Being more open, flexible, adaptable, and resilient, allowed me to take, and give, feedback in a more constructive and healthy way. And, letting go of the notion that I should know the answers to every issue that would arise, opened me up to learn more about myself, and to learn more from all of the people around me.
When you begin to truly understand yourself, and begin to take in all that people have to offer, you find that inspiration is everywhere, and in all things. Again, it is the inspiration you find within yourself, that then translates into “finding” inspiration in all things.
Finding inspiration is a matter of how you think about who you are, what you do, and how you relate to everything in your environment. If you believe that you matter, that your relationships to those in your environment matter, and that ultimately your impact matters, you are doing inspiration. You will also find that inspiration goes out from you and affects others. We can call this reciprocal inspiration. It is infectious, and wonderful.
Unlocking your Creative Potential
When you are inspired, your imagination will become more active, which will, if you are open to it, translate into more innovation or creativity. It is also important to understand that this renewed, or new, creativity comes with a requirement to continually be open to all new experiences, even if they feel uncomfortable. Meaning, that it is in the unknown where the most creative and innovative works can be realized.
There is so much freedom that comes from this kind of thinking. Freedom from the constraints and limits that humans typically put on themselves, which, of course, constrict inspiration, and the corresponding imagination and innovation.
When you are ready to live a life full of inspiration, you can take the necessary steps to live that life. Living this kind of life does not come without difficulty, yet it is inside those things that are difficult that personal growth, and transformation can take place.
You can only realize your fullest potential by going outside of your comfort zone, finding your own inspiration, and then letting that inspiration fire your creative potential. You are a creative being. We all are. You simply have to be open to being all that you know, deep down, you are capable of being, and trusting that inner knowing.
Inspiration, imagination, and innovation, live within each of us. These qualities are everyone’s, not just a select few. They are, after all, human qualities, and you are a human, so you have them, and only you can unlock them and realize them for yourself.
What is the difference between conceptual thinking and execution? And, what lives inbetween the two? Let’s take a look.
A concept is considered an idea, intention, or plan to do something. Though conceptual thinking is needed and necessary, without the execution behind the idea, intention, or plan to do that something, nothing real will exist in the world.
I often think that people do very well at the thinking part of leading a concept or idea into a planning phase, yet often times during the planning and the following execution phases of a project, traction falters, and the project either stalls, or drops completely. Why is this?
I believe it has to do with the myriad of stimuli we find ourselves dealing with every day, combined with the habit of continually firefighting in whatever business we find ourselves in.
Two years ago I went to an all day strategic thinking training, which included people from all spectrums of work, from line workers, and administrative and operations personnel to company presidents. And, what did all of these people, including myself, have in common? Every one of us was spending more time working in the business rather than working on the business.
When you spend more time working in the business, you are reacting, and firefighting, which, in effect, keeps you on track to reproduce the same outputs and outcomes that you’ve already been producing. You are effectively treading water. If you feel this way about your work right now, you are not alone.
I learned a lot from that strategic thinking training, and one of the most important takeaways was that I was not alone. We are all trying to work on our businesses, or our marriages, or our relationships, yet we continually, without being aware of it, reproduce the same results every day, which keep us stuck in the same place we were yesterday.
To become unstuck, you must not only think, or conceptualize a different future, you must then actively create it. One step, or action, at a time. Otherwise you will continue to get the same results as you’ve always gotten. And, what did Einstein say about that: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
We cannot attain different results without “getting out of our lane.” We must remove the blinders that keep us in the same lane, and venture out into unknown territory. Uncomfortable, yes. Yet, these are where the jewels of life reside. The rare and wondrous moments of growth, are when we stop reproducing the same thing we had yesterday, with the same result, and take a different action, or set of actions, giving us different results.
Conceptual thinking and execution are both needed. When you have both, you have the ability to create new future realities. And, inside these new realities, you have the opportunity to live life in new ways. Ways that were previously unknown and unavailable to you. Regardless of the context.
How do you do this? First, you must be prepared to be uncomfortable, as the journey to creating new realities through new conceptualizations and corresponding new executable actions will be new territory for you. Because humans feel most comfortable inside their already created patterns or habits, living outside of them is uncomfortable.
If you are prepared for such discomfort, the process is not altogether difficult, and must also include an openness to all that is happening, and all those around you. Meaning that things will happen that get in the way of the actualization of your created concept, or you may forget about it at times.
The most important thing to remember is that becauses things happen that get in the way does not mean that you cannot still attain that goal. Building a new habit around a new goal is difficult, yet people do it all the time.
Persistence without resistance is key. Meaning that when things get in the way, know that these things are there for a reason, and that it is okay. Don’t resist what is happening, and continue to persist.
For instance, I’ve wanted to learn another language for a long time. And, have created the opportunity to do so, yet for the past two weeks, I’ve not studied very much Now, I could get frustrated, effectively resisting reality, and give up. Or, I could accept reality as it is, reserving all of that time and energy spent on being frustrated, and put that time and energy into studying.
In order for anything to exist in the world, there must be both concepts and actions that execute on those concepts. And, to do both requires an understanding of how most human beings typically operate, which is inside of their comfort zones. A comfort zone that will produce results that are similar to the results they’ve produced in the past. And, there is nothing wrong with that.
However, if you are looking to produce extraordinary results, you need to be prepared to conceptualize and execute outside of your comfort zone. In that territory that is unknown to you, until it is known. And to know, that once that territory is known, it will be time to create something outside of your now larger comfort zone. This is the process of growth, and you are never too young or too old to grow.
This week I’ve been reflecting upon the old age question: what is the meaning of life? Also asked in other ways, such as, what is my purpose? Or, what is the purpose of life?
Just a moment ago I finished a Friday email to the team I work with, the subject of which was purpose. I used to think that purpose, or the meaning of life, if you like, was something that existed in the external wolrd. That the meaning of life was something that would show up, or was something that I could find, purchase, or attain.
I’ve since come to realize that this notion is a fallacy, one that can induce a lot of suffering whether your quest comes up empty or not. The realization that the meaning of life does not exist outside of you, creates an understanding, then, that the present moment is all that we really have.
In the present moment we have the opportunity to be all that we wish to be, to make all of our goals, wishes, and dreams a reality by creating the actions necessary to reach those goals, wishes, and dreams. The present moment is the one right in front of us now, and then now, and then now.
The present moment is about living in that moment, accepting all that it contains, no matter what happens. It is knowing that whatever happens is in some way connected to all of the goals, wishes, and dreams that we have. Even when we are unable to understand how whatever is happening is connected to those goals, wishes, and dreams. For me, it is especially true in those moments.
There was a time, not long ago, where all things unknown frightened me terribly. Today, I know that to live fully, to live presently, we must not only accept all that is unknown, we must also come to love it and live for it. It is inside all of the unknowns of life that life becomes extra vibrant, and special.
For me, life is about fully expressing ourselves in every moment. Living each moment with the fullness of our entire being. Serving ourselves well, and serving each other likewise.
Life is about inspiration and creativity. About finding inspiration in the smallest things in each moment. A leaf, a tree, a rainy day, a smile, a touch. It is about creating within each of these moments the human being you want to be, desire to be, and giving of yourself fully, while also filling yourself with all of those around you.
Life is about creating a purpose in each moment. And, recreating that purpose over and over again, moment by moment, and day to day. It is about living at the edge of what we believe is possible in the world, and then going past that edge into the unknown.
Live at the edge of what you know. Embrace all that is new. And, create from those spaces. Create the life that you want, the life that you desire. The meaning of your life is your creation, and it is your creation every moment of every day.
The past month we’ve seen unprecedented changes, across the world, country, and here locally. I’ve been thinking about all of these changes, and the fact that post-COVID-19, if there is such a thing, will be a whole new normal. Life as it once was is over.
I’ve also been thinking, and doing more creative things this past month. Writing more. Visioning more. And, overall, experiencing more creativity. With work hours, if you are lucky and are working, less than pre-COVID 19, there is more time. More time to think, and ponder, yes, and to also do, and be.
Question for you:
What have you created since the onset of COVID-19?