We often hear about certain people leading a purposeful life. This is usually in relation to some recent success they had winning at a sporting event, winning a best actor award, or being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But do we have to be fabulously successful at some glamorous profession to be able to feel purposeful in our life, or is there more to it than that?
Though there are many ways we could ultimately live purposefully, there are five basic habits exhibited by all people who do so. When you follow these habits yourself, you will lead a fulfilling, purposeful life as well.
Habit #1: Live in the present moment.
What is it we're thinking about when we're not focused on the present moment? We are either regretting the past or worrying about the future. But will regretting the past change that it happened? Do we have the ability to control something that hasn't even taken place yet? Of course, because the answer to both of those questions is "no," all that we're left to be concerned with is the present moment.
At the very heart of a life that is lived purposefully is the idea that all things in life happen for a reason. When we experience hardship, it's here to show us what we're supposed to learn so as to be able to grow. When we're disappointed by the outcome of something, it's because we're supposed to be open to a new opportunity for which we wouldn't otherwise be available. When we focus only on what we're doing right now in the present moment, we're affecting the part of the world that we actually can change.
Habit #2: Focus on one thing.
When we go through our day-to-day life, we often feel the need to multi-task: We watch TV or play with our phone when eating, we distract ourselves with conversations at the same time we do our job, and we do chores and other household activities when we talk with someone on the phone. But here's why this is a problem: No one thing ever gets done to satisfaction, and at the end of the day we've only ever done a marginal job of everything.
In contrast, when we remain focused on one task at a time, we finish it to completion before moving on to the next task. This helps us to not only do a far more exceptional job, but we also give ourselves an opportunity to find a sense of joy and wonderment in the most minute details of our life. This exists as a natural extension of living in the present moment. If we're only ever focusing on one thing, we won't ever be preoccupied with anything beyond our immediate situation.
Habit #3: Make changes today, not tomorrow.
Often, we wait to make changes. We wait until after the holidays to go back to our diet, we return to our exercise routine after our vacation is over, and generally set deadlines for off in the future for us to take first steps at going after a new goal. But delaying our participation in intentions we've set for ourselves means that we are essentially delaying our purpose. If something is important enough to us to the point that it will help us to fulfill our reason for being here, why would we wait for it to happen?
As an alternative, it will help us to fulfill our purpose when we make changes to our life today, not tomorrow. If you want to reform your diet, start with your next meal today -- not tomorrow's first meal. If you want to take up a new endeavor, take a first step right after finishing this article. Start now, before you've lost yet another opportunity to fulfill your purpose.
Habit #4: Be of service to others.
Imagine two people, both of whom make and distribute their own clothing line. One uses recycled materials, refrains from using animal products, and pays livable wages to their employees. The other uses raw materials that requires significant resources to extract from the earth, incorporates animal products like leather, and employs slave laborers. One shares the earth with others, the other takes from it. One serves others, the other does not.
A mistake that people make is to think that extracting resources from the earth, using animals, or employing people with slave wages is wrong. Really, though, these actions just burden the person through the fear of running out of materials or frustrations with issues like labor struggles. Our ultimate purpose is to serve others, for it is in the act of service that we find the greatest potential for fulfillment. Rather than live from a place of fear and selfishness, we live from a place of connection and inclusivity. Because it creates lightness and a sense of loving kindness toward others, serving simply reinforces our reason for being here.
Habit #5: Practice.
Every day, we are presented with an opportunity to practice. When we practice our craft everyday as a lifestyle rather than just a job, we breathe life into it. It could be a physical, mental, or spiritual practice, or it could be all three. The practice defines our life and what our purpose is for living. We may be many things to many people and have many interests, but we only commit full, daily attention to the craft to which we are dedicated.
The difference between a life of fulfillment and one of discontentment ultimately comes down to our intention to practice growth every day. We go beyond the limitations presented to us by our mind or body. People who like to talk about living a fulfilled life practice only when it's convenient to them, but people who seek true fulfillment practice when it isn't.
It is practice, after all, that makes purpose.
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